Minecraft Monday: Mega Man Land Part 1

MinecraftToday I want to start a new project here at Infinite Lives. Over the PlayStation Experience weekend, I saw a few people sharing the Lootcrate Mega Man 2 items, including Game Informer writer Michael Futter sharing a really awesome pixel art of the Stage Select screen from the same game a fan made for him. Which got me thinking that I could do something like that too – even though art isn’t even close to the list of things I’m good with. I figured I have a bunch of old LEGOs, I can probably make something along those lines. But I wasn’t going to go with Mega Man 2 – it’s been done before. Instead, I wanted to go with my personal favorite game in the series – Mega Man 4. In particular, I wanted to create a scale replica of the portrait/mugshot of Pharaoh Man with my LEGOs. Well, I started that project last week and quickly learned that, even with a childhood’s worth of LEGOs, I’m woefully unprepared to make it work. But what I did decide to do was use the next best thing – Minecraft.

Mega Man 4 Stage Select

I’ve been a big fan of Minecraft since I first played it years ago. It’s both a wonderful outlet for creativity, and at the same time, there’s some pretty in-depth gameplay in Survival mode. I’ve never really sat down with Creative mode and made something before, but with Mega Man, a series that I really enjoy, I made the effort to sit down and do this. What started as a proof of concept for the LEGO project, making the portrait for Pharaoh Man with wool blocks. What I quickly came to realize was that since the LEGO project is a scope that’s a little beyond my current capability; thanks to the larger map size, Minecraft allows me to make an even bigger project. So with that in mind, I set off to create Mega Man Land, a whole world dedicated to the Blue Bomber. Last week I completed the first major component of the world – the stage select screen from Mega Man 4. It’s a scale replica – 256×224 pixels, 57,344 total blocks.

Mega Man 4 Title Screen

What I did come to learn in doing the stage select screen is that the current set of dyes in Minecraft is great for blues and greyscale – but reds are missing a good option for mid-range tones, and a light green option is a bit neon for some cases. As for going forward, I expect to explore some other options for certain tones – as it is, in the stage select screen, I ended up using sand as a flesh tone/light color. There’s also the issue of animals in the world – even using creative on a Superflat world. Because of that, each screen that gets built will be fenced in to keep the pigs and cows and sheep and chicken from sneaking on them. The first portion of the project, the stage select screen, was done – next up is the title screen for the game, followed by some detail work – each Robot Master sprite, along with the Blue Bomber using each weapon as well. After that is done – hopefully all this week – I’ll either be moving back in time to Mega Man 3 or hitting the next game (and the first I actually owned in the series) Mega Man 5. MM3 features a really detailed background to the stage select screen, with the title spelled out throughout the screen – while MM5 has a bit more detailed border to each Robot Master. Either one will feature a few difficult sections, but the payoff will be pretty sweet. I’ll have an update next Monday on Minecraft Monday.

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Weekly News Recap – Week of December 8, 2014

After what was a pretty busy news weekend last week, this week has been a bit slower. We did get a nice DLC release from Bungie, which has been taking up a good chunk of my play time, along with messing around in Minecraft again.

Destiny The Dark Below

DESTINY’S FIRST DLC LAUNCHES, BRINGS MORE DESTINY TO PLAYERS
I’ve talked a couple times this week about the new content in The Dark Below, Destiny‘s new DLC pack. The bottom line is really that the DLC is more Destiny, good and bad. The story is still sparse, but a bit more tangible this time around. There’s still a pretty solid focus on grinding your gear up – especially if you upgrade to the new Level 32 capped gear; or get the new Raid gear, which is awesome, but needs tons of Radiant Material to max out. The good part is that the core formula for Destiny – meaning the actual gameplay – is still really fun to play. The new missions have some pretty cool looking environments, the new strike has a really awesome feel to the ending section, and so far, the new raid has been just as good as the Vault of Glass. If you’ve been enjoying Destiny without the DLC, I think you’ll continue, and if you do decide to buy it, I think you’ll still enjoy playing the game for a while longer.

Advanced Warfare Cover

SALES FIGURES FOR 2014 SHOW ACTIVISION DOMINATES
In what should really not be a huge surprise, the sales numbers for the year are starting to come out, and so far it looks like 2014 was Activision’s year. Between Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Destiny, the publisher really cleaned up. Going into the end of the year here, it’s really not too hard to think why – EA didn’t put out a Battlefield game this year, and their two big names – Titanfall and Dragon Age: Inquisition are both pretty niche games. Titanfall I’m sure did well this year, but not being on all consoles may have hurt it. All things considered though, I think next year is already shaping up to be even bigger for both publishers.

Super Smash Bros for Wii U

SMASH BROS. NEW AMIIBO ITEMS SELL JUST AS WELL
One other bit of sales data that I saw is that currently, the new Amiibo figures that can be paired with Super Smash Bros. For Wii U have been selling at almost a rate of 1 figure per copy of the game. Not being super familiar with the actual behavior of the Amiibos and how exactly they translate to the game, I’m a little surprised at just how well they’re selling. On one hand, I can understand getting one along with the game, but I doubt that every copy is being sold with one, meaning people are buying multiples. From a collecting standpoint, sure, I can get it. In fact, I would go buy the Mega Man one right now, even without the game (or Wii U for that matter) just because Mega Man is that cool. I think it also speaks to not only the dedication of the Smash community, but also the Nintendo fanbase. The Amiibos aren’t something I think you’d see Microsoft or Sony try, but Nintendo does it, and fans eat it up, right or wrong.

Destiny – The Dark Below: Launch Impressions

Destiny The Dark BelowToday marks the release of the first major expansion for DestinyThe Dark Below, bringing with it a whole slew of new stuff to play with. From cosmetic items like shaders and ships, to actual player gear, the additions hit all the major points in Destiny. The DLC also brings with it a few new story missions, strikes (1 for Xbox), some new Crucible maps and a raid to test all your new items out on. There’s a lot to take in, so let’s hit some of the highlights now, that way you’ll have a head start on your friends when you jump online.

Eris Morn

First off, when you land at the tower, you’ll notice a new face – Eris Morn – has landed and acts not only as a vendor, but also provides you with The Dark Below missions. You’ll need to visit her to grab the missions the first time, then they’ll unlock on The Director. It seems like Bungie is trying a little more with story this time – the opening cinematic that has been in game for a week or so now helps set the stage for Eris’ arrival, and she has more dialogue giving you the missions than the Speaker ever did. But she’s more than just a mission-giver. She also acts as a vendor, selling items unique to the DLC – primarily related to the Hive. Not only does she have unique bounties, and a reputation to gain tied to them, but she also has new emblems, shaders, and class armors. Just looking at the previews for them, they all look really quite cool – I especially like the Mark of the Hidden for Titans and the final armor shader. Eris also has a new set of consumables to look at – two items that are necessary for upgrading weapons that you earn through the DLC; ammo synthesis pickups, and the final items she has are the coolest ones. With the DLC’s new raid you need Radiant materials to upgrade that gear – well Eris offers a way for you to essentially swap you materials. If you get Radiant Shards in the raid and you need Energy, you can go to her, and for an extra fee, you can switch them one at a time. This helps eliminate a huge chunk of RNG in running the raid.

Just based around the first mission that Eris gives you, it looks like Bungie has definitely been playing with their tools a bit. While the general flow of the mission wasn’t terribly different from any other mission in Destiny – spawn in, fight waves of bad guys, find boss, kill boss; little parts of it were varied enough to feel fresh. The most obvious is that the missions are using parts of the world that hadn’t seen much play before. The first missions spawns you in on Earth where the Fallen Devil Walker is in the Sepiks Prime strike, and you move backwards through portions of that strike. There’s a continual boss character that appears in multiple missions – Omnigul, the Waker of Crota – a Wizard with an Arc shield that has a mountain of health at this stage. In the final boss fight for that first mission though, you encounter Sardoc, an Ultra tier Knight. Nothing out of the ordinary, except for the continual debuff that removes your double jump ability – and his very aggressive attack pattern using a sword of Crota against you. It’s a tough solo fight at level 28, and the fight also has periods where Hive Darkness pools open and there are poison zones to avoid. It’s really unique compared to the vanilla missions, especially on Earth.

Crota

There’s still a lot to see – I’m working my way through the story missions, and plan on running the strike and possibly the raid tonight with my fireteam. I haven’t yet gotten one of the new weapons, although I did buy a shiny new set of gauntlets from the Crucible Handler to help me break level 30. One thing that I’m not particularly pleased with though is that Bungie didn’t add in any new achievements, even though they’ve added in plenty of content that would lend it to some. Between the Tumbler Sparrow, the Sword of Crota, new missions and dead Ghosts, I’m sure they could have come up with some achievements in there. Still, it’s a pretty substantial breath of fresh air for Destiny, the new content feels good, and is just what the game needed to bring back players that may have gotten tired of it. Just in time for the Christmas rush too.

Weekend News Wrap Up

This past weekend was probably the busiest news weekend we’ve seen in December in ages. Between the Video Game Awards on Friday night, and the weekend’s PlayStation Experience; there was plenty of stuff to talk about. A couple big new games got announced, some nice new trailers and gameplay footage for upcoming blockbusters and quite possibly the most evil, diabolical troll ever. Let’s hit some highlights.

Street Fighter V

STREET FIGHTER V, DRAWN TO DEATH, DAY OF THE TENTACLE ANNOUNCED
Some of the big new games that we hadn’t yet known of from the weekend to get confirmed included the newest entry in the long running Street Fighter franchise. There had been some leaks and rumors last week indicating that we’d see it – and they turned out to be right. The biggest shocker in the announcement had to be that Street Fighter V will be PS4 and PC exclusive – through it’s entire lifespan. That’s a major win for Sony – Street Fighter still holds a high place in the fighting game world. Sony also announced David Jaffe’s new game, Drawn to Death, which looks…interesting. An arena shooter that’s set in a high schooler’s notebook almost seems like it was purposefully created for controversy. But that’s kind of how Jaffe has always done things – see Twisted Metal Black‘s stories and God of War‘s nudity and violence. It could work out and be awesome, but we have to see more. The other side of announcements was that we’ll be seeing a bunch of remastered versions of old classics. Grim Fandango will be showing up on PS4 in January, and they announced an HD update of Day of the Tentacle – a classic old adventure game.

Final Fantasy VII

SQUARE-ENIX PROVES THEY’RE EVIL WITH EPIC TROLL
Going off that idea, Square-Enix took the stage at PlayStation Experience in what might possibly be the most evil, diabolical troll I’ve ever seen. As they took the stage, the screen behind simply had a giant logo for Final Fantasy VII – prompting everyone to think a true HD remake was on the way; which would fulfill their tease from when they debuted the PS3 way back in the day. Of course, Square-Enix would go on to dash all those hopes and dreams by saying that it’s only the PC release of FFVII, with no real updates coming to the PS4. This continues to boggle my mind, because I just think that if Square-Enix did release a true HD update, they would have a console seller on their hands. I know I would pick up a PS4 just for it. I suppose we’ll just have to make due with the upcoming Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III.

No Mans Sky logo

NO MAN’S SKY, UNCHARTED 4 SHINE ON PS4
Speaking of console movers, Sony had new footage of two of their spotlight games, both showcasing the gameplay we can expect. Uncharted 4 had a live stage demo, which had a pretty interesting hiccup, but can be forgiven since it’s still so far out. One thing was sure though – that game looks incredible, and looks like it’s taking the series in a fresh direction while remaining true to form. Could be a major winner next year, we’ll see. And on a somewhat other level, No Man’s Sky took the stage and showed off an impressive demo of just what that game will entail. No Man’s Sky blew me away at E3, and every bit of news I see just continues to make me want to pick up a PS4 for it; and also fully impresses me with just the sheer scale of the game. Add in some non-exclusive games in next year and I think we have a bonkers year ahead of us.

Weekly News Recap – Week of December 1, 2014

This first week of December has been a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to news. On one hand, Halo, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Destiny all saw new patches hit this week, so there’s plenty to talk about there. But on the other hand, developers have been a little tight lipped about major new announcements, in anticipation of The Game Awards tonight, and PlayStation Experience this weekend in Vegas.

Destiny The Dark Below

PATCHES FOR EVERYONE!
I talked a bit about the most recent Destiny patch earlier this week, as Bungie prepares for the launch of The Dark Below. The last two patches for Destiny have made some pretty noticeable changes to the behavior of major portions of the game – for the better in my opinion. Streamlining the upgrades on Exotics is a great move, and being able to bring them up to the same level with the new Exotics in The Dark Below ensures they’ll be useful for a long time. Halo: The Master Chief Collection got yet another patch, fixing what seems to be the same issues they have been for weeks now. While I’m glad that they are putting out patches consistently, the fact that every patch seems to come with the caveat that they’re working on the next patch already, and that that patch will address the same issues again, is starting to get a little grating. I think that 343 Industries is starting to get close to the point of no return for the Christmas season and it’s going to be really important to get it up and running smoothly soon. Finally, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare got a massive patch this week that addresses pretty much every aspect of the online components. Exo Survival got some exploit fixes, and the multiplayer side of things got huge fixes across the board. Weapon balancing was done on all the weapons that clearly needed it, map exploits were addressed, and game modes all got tweaks to score length and communication to the player. It’s a huge patch, and has actually gotten me back into playing the game – especially since Halo is still a chore to play online.

Halo Master Chief Collection

THE GAME AWARDS STREAM TONIGHT
Since Spike TV isn’t airing an award show this year, Geoff Keighley instead created another awards show to replace it. The Game Awards will be streamed live tonight on the online components for PlayStation and Xbox, and since Viacom isn’t part of the show, I would expect it to actually be less over-the-top and be more respectful towards the industry. Usually at these shows we see a bunch of new trailers and announcements, so I would expect to see the same this year – although Microsoft already has said that they are not announcing any new games at the show. Whether that’s marketing trying to pull a fast one, or they are in fact not announcing any new games remains to be seen.

SONY DSC

PLAYSTATION INVADES VEGAS THIS WEEKEND
This weekend is also the PlayStation Experience, being held in Las Vegas. Since the PlayStation brand just turned 20, Sony figured that the brand deserved a party – and what better place to have a party than Vegas. Bungie is being coy about showing something at the show – in their weekly update it sounds like they’ll be showing some of Crota’s End off. Beyond that, I fully expect to see a bunch of new content from Sony’s main franchises. I would not be surprised by any announcements – I think anything is on the table for Sony since they’re in such a good spot market-wise. If I had to bet on a major new game being announced, I would put my money on either God of War or Twisted Metal showing back up. Regardless, this weekend is going to be packed with major headlines, so keep your eyes up.

PlayStation Turns 20 – My Experience With PlayStation

Today Sony’s PlayStation turns 20 years old. If that doesn’t make you feel old as a gamer, I don’t know what will. While I may be primarily an Xbox gamer these days, a huge part of my gaming history took place on PlayStation consoles. So to celebrate the milestone, I thought I’d look back at my time with Sony’s PlayStation.

SONY DSC

When I first got into gaming, there were only two names in the game – Nintendo and Sega. I had gone from an NES to a Sega Genesis as a kid, and in the second half of the 90s, the next wave of consoles were starting to come. Sega had flooded the market with a new console seemingly every year, which really meant that the next Nintendo console I think had a really good chance to clean up. Then Sony threw their hat in the ring with the PlayStation. In that latter half of the 90s, I was the odd kid out in our group with the PlayStation – most of my friends had the N64. But having a PSX let me play a bunch of now classic games when they were still fresh. Resident Evil, Final Fantasy VII, Twisted Metal all saw regular time in my console.

From a gaming standpoint, the PSX may have had one of the more important innovations (along with the Dreamcast later on) in that they had controllers with two joysticks. At that point in gaming, that was a major innovation. Directional Pads were the order of the day, and had been for consoles since the NES. Look at any controller out there now though, and the twin sticks are ubiquitous. PSX also paved the way for disc based game consoles – which would also go on to be the only way to go. The PlayStation was the first console to sell 100 million units, and that success would continue with the PS2, which would go on to be the best selling home console of all time.

PlayStation 4

I think looking at the PlayStation brand, the PS2 is really where Sony’s console shines – it had some of the best games out there, and had some extra features to push it to the top. Thinks like backward compatibility with PSX games, potential online connectivity and easy DVD playback all helped at a time when those were novel ideas. Combine that with games like Final Fantasy X, Grand Theft Auto III, Guitar Hero, and Kingdom Hearts to name but a few, and it’s not hard to remember what made the PS2 so awesome. I was a huge proponent of the PS2, even as I started to expand my gaming horizons. That console generation was the first one that I had all three of the main options – PS2, Gamecube and Xbox. I would look to that time as when I really decided that gaming was going to be my future, and that’s in no small part due to the fun I had on PlayStation. One of my very favorite gaming memories actually took place on my PS2. It was my senior or junior year of high school and I was replaying Final Fantasy VII, and we got hit by a huge snow storm. School was cancelled two days in a row, which also meant no basketball practice. Instead of sleeping late, I got up, turned on my PS2 and played that game all day long, both days. That snow storm is the whole reason I was ever able to get a Gold Chocobo and go get Knights of the Round.

While I haven’t been a huge PlayStation gamer in recent years, it’s more due to the approach that Xbox has taken and the success of Xbox Live. With where we are as a community though, I think the PS4 is clearly the better option right now, and I am very much excited to see what next year brings us across the board.

Destiny Update 1.1 – The Final Push to The Dark Below

Destiny The Dark BelowOn Monday, Bungie put out the 1.1 Update for Destiny, following up on the last patch from a couple weeks ago – while this patch doesn’t really add anything particularly substantial, the little tweaks it added are really nice and help set the table for next Tuesday. So in advance of The Dark Below, I thought I’d offer my take on the 1.1 Update and what it means for Destiny players going forward.

First off, the major bulk of the 1.1 Update is focused around upgrades and behavior for Exotic weapons. A number of Exotic weapons got tweaks that impact not only their upgrade nodes, but also their stats and behaviors. For example, Thorn got some attention – the Mark of the Devourer perk does more damage over time, and the clip size and reload also received buffs. In general, Exotics that needed buffs got them, and the ones that needed some nerfs got them too. The other major change to Exotics comes in the form of them no longer needing Ascendent materials to upgrade. Instead, the later damage upgrades just need weapon/armor parts, as well as a destination material; until you reach the final upgrade. That final, max upgrade requires a new item – an Exotic Shard – which can be acquired from Xur for 7 strange coins, or by dismantling unwanted Exotics. Legendary items will still need the Ascendant materials.

Destiny Invective Shotgun

Another small, but very noticeable, change relates to the destination materials. Instead of having to go into patrol for hours to grind chests and material spawns, you can now obtain them in a number of other ways. First, completing the Daily Heroic mission will give you materials, based on what level you do it at – and what planet the mission takes place on. Secondly, completing the daily patrol mission bounty also gives you a stack of materials (I think it’s 10) of whatever planet the bounty was for. Doing this bounty also lets you get a bunch more while doing the patrol missions. Finally, going to either the Vanguard or Crucible quartermaster, you’ll see that you can now purchase destination materials for 10 respective marks, in exchange you’ll get 20 of whatever you’re buying. This just makes upgrading Legendary and Exotic items that little bit easier. They’re eliminating part of the grind, but the experience requirements are still going to mean you’ll be grinding away.

Finally, Bungie today released a little bit more info about how gameplay will be tweaked a little next Tuesday with The Dark Below. Some of the points the mention were related to the Exotic changes that they put out Monday, but there was one new bit of info as it relates to Exotics going forward. With The Dark Below, the light level will be raised up to 32 – that means our current weapons will eventually be outclassed. As such, Xur will offer an upgrade for Exotics at the price of one Exotic Shard – and all the progress in the item be reset. I saw a lot of people getting worked up about it – and on one hand, I get why. Exotics take forever to get maxed out, and wiping all that progress seems kinda cruel. But on the other hand, this isn’t being forced on the items, and ultimately it behooves players to upgrade them to 32. Whether they make upgrading them easier or not, I don’t really think it’s too huge of a deal – not needing Ascendant material will make that much easier.

Destiny

All told, I think Bungie is going about this first Expansion in a pretty good way. They put an intro cinematic into the game for the DLC in an attempt to perhaps add in some story behind it. Whether it translates to actually story content in the DLC, who knows. But it does look like they are actively listening to fans and adjusting the game based on what they hear. New Crucible content, including two new playlists should help flesh out a PvP that’s actually pretty fun when it’s balanced. Assuming the launch is smooth, I think there’s a good chance that The Dark Below will do well.