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
Books Games

Tempted by an older Monster Manual edition

I popped on to the Book Depository site to check out the availability of the D&D Monster Manual, and spotted a 12 year old edition:

I don’t think I ever used that older edition, it’s not available, but I still felt a little tempted! 

Even though I prefer digital formats when it comes to most of the things I do, I like the idea of playing Dungeons and Dragons on paper.

It feels like the sort of game that could be better with physical books, paper character sheets, physical dice … that sort of thing.

Of course not everyone has the opportunity to play in person these days, and I do like many of the digital tools we have. Still, doing it all on paper appeals to me.

Categories
Applications Games

Playing Dungeons and Dragons with Discord

I really enjoyed this Sly Flourish video about how to play Dungeons and Dragons with Discord:

I play DnD with my wife and daughter at home, so I don’t have an immediate need for this. At the same time, there are loads of people who find themselves playing remotely, so this is a compelling option.

Other tools

Even though we play in person, I’ve been using a number of digital tools to help manage our games.

DnD Beyond

I’ve been using DnD Beyond quite a bit lately. I’m trying out the paid, Master Tier subscription to manage our campaign. The subscription enables me to create encounters based on the characters’ levels (that translates into somewhat more accurate difficulty estimates).

I also like that I can share the digital books that I’ve purchased.

The Combat Tracker is terrific, and helps managing initiative, and monster damage a lot easier. This works hand-in-hand with the Encounter Builder. I’ve realised that creating encounters from within the campaign manager/page allows me to create campaign-specific encounters.

The DnD Beyond character sheets are also terrific. I only use the online version for my character, and my wife has switched over to that version for the most part, too.

The new digital dice are really nice too. I’m looking forward to trying those out too (although I think I prefer physical dice on the whole).

Notion

Notion has been really useful for my campaign notes, and tracking the party’s progress through a campaign. I add maps, tables to track overall encounters, XP awards, and even individual encounters (there’s some overlap here with the DnD Beyond Combat Tracker).

Options like inline tables, internal links, and other Notion blocks are proving to be really helpful, although I’d like to build page templates that I can start a new adventure with.

There are a number of terrific digital tools available to us. They add to in-person games too, and can really enhance online game play if you can’t meet up to play your games.


Image credit: Jack B on Unsplash

Categories
Games People Podcasting Wellbeing

Just geek out and walk

I just went out for a walk in a nearby park. That shouldn’t be particularly noteworthy except for the times we find ourselves in. What made the walk especially enjoyable (well, aside from being out in glorious weather), was the opportunity to just geek out over this interview with Felicia Day on the Id10t podcast a while ago:

I loved her appearance in Critical Role, Campaign One, in the Trial of the Take adventures (parts 1 and 2):

As an aside: I really enjoyed watching Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Wil Wheaton, and Will Friedle playing Dungeons & Dragons. I think Gina and I binged the four episodes (episodes 3 and 4 are here and here) over the course of a few days.

Anyway, back to that Felicia Day interview. The more of her work I see or hear, the more I appreciate that she does what she does. Her interview gives some wonderful insights into her personality, and even some of the services she uses day to day (at least at the time of the interview – I love these sorts of insights especially).

I’ve been listening to podcasts when I run, and go for walks (it helps with the monotony of the paths I have to keep to with local restrictions on movement due to COVID-19), and I’ve had this one queued for a while now. It’s well worth listening to if you’re a Felicia Day fan.

Categories
Games Mindsets People

Jocks playing Dungeons and Dragons

When you think about the types of people who play the game, you probably don’t think of jocks playing Dungeons and Dragons, but they do.

The stereotypical DnD player is probably a pimply teenager in their basement, or something, but this doesn’t give you an accurate picture of who is playing the game these days at all.

I’ve started getting back into Dungeons and Dragons in the last few weeks, and I really like how the game has evolved, and is very much going strong.

The people who are championing the game are diverse, and passionate about it.

I’ve just started watching some streamed DnD games, and really enjoyed this streamed game featuring Jocks Machina from June 2018:

There’s a great background interview for this game here, too:

I love this paradigm shift where people like these burly actors and sports professionals, who you wouldn’t expected to be into DnD, are super passionate about it.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Alex Chambers
Categories
Design Games

Machine assisted bowling – this might be considered cheating

This is funny. Pretty sure this doesn’t comply with bowling rules (whatever those may be):

I’m not sure if this is a real robot, but it’s pretty awesome either way.

Categories
Coding Games

My son stumbled into emacs … to play Tetris

My son is a Tetris fan lately. He’s competing with my friend in South Africa (they’re both playing the same game, and sending boasting screenshots by WhatsApp). He came to me with his laptop (actually mine, I’ve loaned it to him) over the weekend, excited to show me how he’s playing Tetris on the MacBook Air, in emacs

He doesn’t really appreciate quite what emacs is (or Vim, for that matter), but he definitely loved this version.

Categories
Applications Coding Games

How hard could it be to setup a Minecraft server?

My son and his friends are getting back into Minecraft, and they’ve been playing on some random server that they have some issues with.

I gave it some thought, and decided that I could set up a Minecraft server for them on a Digital Ocean. I mean, how hard could this be, right?

It turns out, it isn’t that easy. At least, I’m hitting a wall with this after my initial setup. So, what I did was the following:

  • I first created a droplet on Digital Ocean, with a view to following this guide I found somewhere;
  • I installed the current Minecraft Server version on my shiny new droplet (via SSH);
  • There were a couple tutorials for configuring the server (here, here, and even here), but all I think I managed to do was install a bunch of stuff I don’t know how to use.
  • I did register a custom domain that I’m mapping to the droplet for when I eventually figure out how to configure the server.

I’ve reached out to a couple gaming colleagues to see if anyone has any ideas. In the meantime, I’m tempted to just go the official Minecraft server route if I can’t figure this out.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Randall Bruder