Categories
Games

A Minecraft Dungeons Adventurer’s Life

I purchased Minecraft Dungeons for the Nintendo Switch a month or two ago, primarily for our kids. They’re Minecraft fanatics, and they’d been looking forward to this game since they first saw the announcement. I was also curious whether this was a game that I could enjoy (despite the blocky graphics that I really wasn’t that sure about).

It didn’t take long for me to develop an obsession with the game. I believe I’ve logged more than 40 hours playing this oddly compelling game, more time than I spent playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, back when I was obsessed with that game.

Minecraft Dungeons seems like a simple, silly dungeon crawler game at a glance. The more time I spend playing the game, the more I appreciate just how smart, and immersive the game is.

Not just hack and slash (although it can be)

On the one hand, it is a dungeon crawler where you move through different adventures, collecting items, weapons, and slaying a variety of bad guys (I believe the technical term is “mobs”) that feature in Minecraft itself. There are loads of hidden secrets, secret levels, and variable challenge levels as you level up in the game.

You could play it as a hack-and-slash game, rushing to the end of each adventure to progress to through to the end. To me, it’s much more fun if you explore each level, and seek out the hidden treasures and secrets.

Simpler gameplay in Minecraft Dungeons

I spent some time playing Legend of Zelda last week for a few hours, and it reminded me how different the two games are. As I mentioned previously –

Legend of Zelda feels like an open world that continuously surprises me. The initial quest seems pretty simple: collect a number of special objects, and then head off to fight the Big Bad. Except it isn’t.

Completing the initial quest is just the start of an expanded quest with increasing variations, surprises, twists, and turns. There seems to be something new to explore in the former kingdom of Hyrule each time I return to play.

Legend of Zelda is a very permissive game, and the scale of it just amazes me. At the same time, I find it a more difficult game to play because it seems to require more physical coordination than I have. This becomes apparent when I’m fighting a tougher opponent, and am trying to remember which combination of buttons makes Link leap to the side, do a backflip, raise his shield, or do some other action.

In Minecraft Dungeons, the controls are pretty simple. This one swings your weapon, that one fires arrows (when you have), and these buttons trigger magical artifacts. Gameplay can become pretty crazy when you’re in the middle of so many mobs, you can barely see your character, and yet the controls are straightforward enough that I’ve developed muscle memory, and can play without thinking too much about the game.

A thoughtful game

Thinking that Minecraft Dungeons is a basic, kids game is simplistic. The more I play, the more I appreciate how much thought has gone into the game’s design, and how it all comes together.

I initially thought that once I finished the initial set of adventures, that I’d be finished with the game. Oh no, not only are there three difficulty levels (Default, Adventurer, and Apocalypse), you also realise that there are about half a dozen hidden levels that you can unlock for some pretty huge dungeons.

In addition, once you complete the adventures on Default difficulty, you can unlock a set of runes that, in turn, unlock a fairly gratuitous adventure where you plough through cow-mushroom hybrids called Mooshrooms to gather experience, and some cool weapons (if you survive).

Each adventure has a story with a common thread, leading to your ultimate encounter with the Arch-Illager who has subjugated the land with a magical artifact that it discovered. And even when (or if) you defeat it, there is an expansion pack that takes you through jungle settings where you meet new mobs (on each difficulty level too).

Go for the Hero edition

The game is available at two prices: the “standard” version, and the Hero edition. The cost difference is a few dollars, and the Hero edition unlocks the expansion levels for free (at least the jungle levels, and hopefully the frozen tundra biome that hasn’t been released yet).

It’s well worth paying the extra few dollars for the Hero edition.

A couple drawbacks

There are a couple drawbacks. Even though the game is available on the Switch, Xbox, and Windows, you can’t play with your friends across platforms. This is a real pity because the option to play with friends on the same console has you playing characters on the main user’s account, not the character you may develop through your own account.

What I mean by this is as follows:

  • When I play the game using my Switch profile, I have a character who I’ve built up over time.
  • When I play with our kids, I’m playing a totally different character that’s more of a guest on their Switch profiles.

What this means is that we can’t play with our respective, “main” characters on the same device. If we each had our own Switch, though, we would be able to play together, online (which seems like fun, based on my observations of our son playing with his friends).

All that said, it is fun playing together, and the way this works does tend to encourage players to spend more time playing together so they level up together. The game can be tough when you play solo.


Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

Categories
Science and nature

Adolescent sunflowers

My wife and son are growing various plants on our balcony, including three sunflowers. As with most adolescents, they are tall, gawky, and show great potential!

Categories
Miscellany

Powerful Deer – The Best GIF I’ve Seen This Week

We share a lot of GIFs in Slack at work, and one of my colleagues shared “Powerful Deer”. It’s probably the best GIF I’ve seen this week, heck all month!

Back to work … 😂

Categories
Travel and places

Light at the end of a short tunnel

I went for a walk to do some shopping this morning. One of the cool benefits of our new city center is a convenient, short tunnel to the mall.

It was nice to be out, roaming around the city a little, even with a mask taped to my face (it stops fogging up my sunglasses!).

On a related note, straws should be a little longer to make drinking while masked a little easier. 💡

Categories
Events and Life Mindsets

17 years and I miss my father every day

My father passed away 17 years ago, today (at least based on the Hebrew calendar – he passed away on 12 July 2003).

We commemorate the day with a candle that burns for 24 hours, and think about what could have been, the time we had with him, and what I could have done differently.

I think that, over the years, regret has given way to contemplating missed opportunities with my father and, hopefully, drawing on those lessons to improve my relationships with our children, my wife, and my family.

That said, it’s not easy for me. I can be pretty self-obsessed, and that isn’t a recipe for success in relationships where my focus should be on my loved ones around me. Still, like most things, it’s a work in progress.

This last week has been a tough one for my family for another reason. My uncle passed away last week after a brief battle with COVID-19. It was pretty sudden, and I think the family is still reeling from the week.

So, today as we commemorate the 17th anniversary of our father’s passing, our cousins, aunt, and our expanded family are mourning too.

Categories
Events and Life Mindsets Wellbeing

Reality tapping you on the shoulder

My family suffered a tragic loss this week due to the coronavirus. Last night, I read Om Malik’s post “The Pain of Distance“, and noticing reality tapping you on the shoulder –

If this is how I feel, I can’t even internalize how my mom must be feeling. She said it is cold. She didn’t even tell us about the fever. She can’t remember parts of the day. Even staying awake is tough. She is trying to be brave. She keeps saying it is nothing. And my dad is behaving as if there is nothing wrong. It is all so strange and all so sudden. You don’t realize the reality is just tapping you on the shoulder.

The Pain of Distance – On my Om

It’s easier to ignore a “common” cold. We see them every year, they’re part of our annual routines. Even that virus takes its victims every year, but we have a vaccine to help with it.

With COVID-19, we don’t have that. It doesn’t take long from the time you start to feel the effects of the virus, until you find yourself in a hospital bed (if you’re fortunate to have access to one, and act on the warning signs early enough), facing your mortality.

Pay attention when you feel reality tapping you on the shoulder.

Beyond that –

  1. Wear your mask over your mouth and nose;
  2. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, frequently;
  3. Keep a safe distance from others.

If not for yourself, do it for your family, and loved ones.

Categories
Events and Life Mindsets Wellbeing

Tragedy of Normalcy in the Coronavirus Shadow

When I walk around the city, and go for my runs, I see Israeli kids playing in water fountains, while their parents watch on. Few of them are wearing masks, or maintaining a reasonable distance from friends and relatives. Despite that, I empathise with people who lived in the coronavirus shadow during our initial lockdown, wanting to return to some semblance of normalcy.

In the shadow of a looming disaster

Then, I look around again, and I see how only a few wear masks over their mouths and noses, and make an effort to keep a safe distance. I feel like I’m watching a movie scene where people are unaware that their lives are about to be horribly torn apart by some unseen enemy.

Because that’s what seems to be happening here, in Israel, as we increasingly see headlines like this:

Virus infection numbers vault to record-breaking 859 cases in 24 hours

Virus infection numbers vault to record-breaking 859 cases in 24 hours | The Times of Israel

As much as I want everything to go back to how it all was before this virus fractured our society, I don’t think we can ever go back to the freedom we had before. Certainly not unless someone discovers a wondrous vaccine that reduces COVID-19 to a minor cold for the majority of our neighbours.

In the meantime, I see too many families behaving as if wearing masks is just a formality to avoid a fine from the police. Masks have become a fashion accessory for chins, and elbows for most of the people I see around me.

Some wear masks covering their mouths and noses, but not enough. For everyone else, the sun is shining, and there’s no need to keep apart. In the meantime, the virus’ resurgence started in schools, and instead of being horrified, we see school graduation events that cluster kids close together for dances, and photo opportunities.

Outrage doesn’t help. I just feel waves of sadness when I see this, and hope that perhaps there is some sort of magical bubble to protect our friends, and neighbours this time around.

This coronavirus is an insidious thing

This coronavirus is an insidious thing. It separates us at our weakest, and pulls families apart when they desperately need to be together. Parents diagnosed with COVID-19 are sequestered into hospital wards, and isolated from their families, fervently hoping/praying for their recovery, fearing that they may not.

I had a terrible thought: Imagine if a child becomes ill, and is isolated in one of these hospital wards. Will their parents be able to visit them, comfort them, or will their child be forced to face the fear of being sick, in a clinical environment, where they could lose their fight, alone?

It’s a truly awful thought, and yet we’re not doing nearly enough to keep our children, and ourselves safe.

When I look around at the people I pass, they don’t seem to have contemplated the nightmare that this virus could visit on them, and their families. Perhaps they don’t want to contemplate it, and prefer to pretend that everything is ok.

A cliché in Israel is the phrase: “הכל בסדר” – “Everything is ok”. It isn’t, and it won’t be for a while yet.


Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

Categories
Books People

All the races of Middle Earth

I enjoyed this introduction to the various races of Middle Earth:

I’m very tempted to try figure out which of Tolkein’s books delve into the history of Middle Earth, before the events of The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings.

Well, I know there are earlier books. I have a little research to work out where to start.