Zen and the Art of Base Building

So there is a game that is popularly known by all 14 year-old kids around the world as Minecraft. In it there is a popular creature called a creeper.

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This post is not about Minecraft.

This post is about a game that originally started as a flash game and has worked its way into the Steam marketplace. This game has captured my heart and is probably the only Real Time Strategy (RTS) game that I play. I mean sure, I used to play a little bit of Command and Conquer back in the day, but not nearly as much time as I have put into Creeper World. Here’s what it looks like:

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It’s simple, you have a base (which is in the top left corner of that picture) and you have to link up with those three green flower looking things.

The catch?

The blue liquid known as creeper slowly fills up the map and destroys anything it touches.

So the whole game is solely adding connectors to the base and amassing energy to give power to blasters and mortars which can repel the incoming creeper threat, all while trying to connect to the goals. Once all of the goals are connected to the base flies off into the sunset (a warp gate) to a better place (another mission).

For a game where the enemy AI is only as smart as spilled milk, it is ridiculously addictive. I would find myself building a fortress of collectors and reactors protected by dozens of blasters, repelling the threat while still somehow shirking off the true objective. These games are only supposed to be 10-20 minutes or so, but I would find myself spending 40-50 minutes filling up the map with as many units as I humanly could.

By the end of it, I understood the creeper. Like my enemy, I too enjoyed the sprawl, slowly crawling across the landscape as I completely annihilate everything in my path. What did it do? Flood the world with evil? How much more honorable am I flooding the world with industry!?

No fear of retaliation, I finally understand what it feels like to be Caesar as he parades through his conquered land. The creeper emitters are locked down, but I won’t complete the level just yet. I insist on harvesting all of the resources of this land before I move onto my next conquest. I am become creeper, destroyer of… creeper?

So, it’s safe to say that I grew a strange fondness for this game. I realized that I enjoy games that have a tipping point and then a victory lap to follow. Creeper World is no exception.

And then Creeper World 2 was released. I wasn’t as much of a fan, it had a different style of play that I just didn’t enjoy as much. Oh well, not much more to say.creeper.jpg

But then… Creeper World 3: Arc Eternal was released. It’s on Steam. I’m not sponsored or anything, but I’m pretty sure it’s just one dude who is developing these games because he enjoys making them, so I really can’t help but link to his page to support him.

This game is an overhauled version of the first and it came out a while ago, I’m just now writing about because I recently got an itch to play it again. Now you can destroy the creeper emitters and harness their power to build the most indestructible base ever to exist. No longer do you have to contain the threat and run away, now you can eliminate it.

It is overall a much better game than the first, and it has so much more to offer. It has more building types, larger map support, more terrain, more creeper, and more base-building zen. Best of all it has a super expansive collection of player-made maps which usually start with an ocean of creeper that you have to just blast your way through.

This is one of those rare games that I can’t help but give my gold seal of approval on. It is the Oblivion of liquid-enemy based RTS. I would say it is the Oblivion of RTS, but I’m not an RTS player so I’m not really the most credible source. Either way, I thoroughly enjoy playing Creeper World and I’ll definitely keep playing it for the years to come.

I Have Plants in My Windowsill

 

Among all of the other things that I do, near the beginning of last Summer I started growing plants in my windowsill. At first it was a couple of wildflowers and a purple coneflower, but it is safe to say I got hooked.

My apartment hosts random events to get its residents to be more of a community. A little before the beginning of last summer I went to one that involved growing some plants in a windowsill. They gave us some wildflower seeds, some purple coneflower seeds (I could have picked daisy or sunflower, but I chose this instead), some dirt, and a guac bowl to grow them in.

So I grew them, which unsurprisingly just meant that I watered them every day. And then I quickly realized that they would outgrow the guac bowls. So I went to Wal-Mart (not a sponsor) and three 5-inch pots. All three of them held two flowering plants each.

Then my first problem came: one of the plants just decided not to produce flowers.
Solution: I took it out of the pot. Unsurprisingly that plant that lived in its own single pot grew to become the most successful.

Then came my next problem: one of the plants decided to start falling over.
Solution: Simple enough, I propped it up against the window itself.

Then the next one: I wanted more plants.
Solution: So I decided to have a challenge and try to grow one of the largest flowering plants out there, the foxglove. The foxglove plant can grow a couple of feet tall and produce tons of flowers.

And with that came a new set of challenges.

Problem 1: All of the foxglove seeds sprouted. This might not seem to be a problem until you realize that foxgloves get pretty massive and take up a lot of space.
Solution: I just took two and gave them their own pots.

Problem 2: The foxglove started getting really big. And to top it off my other plants are growing really tall… in fact the other plants have now grown above the height of my entire window.
Solution 2A: Scrap the other plants. They started needing to be watered twice a day and were still dying because they were just getting too big.
Solution 2B: Give the foxglove bigger pots since they were very obviously outgrowing the 5-inch pots. I gave them 9-inch pots to sit in. That worked for a while.

Then a new problem arrived: These foxglove are much to big for my windowsill.
Solution: I built a dinky little frame for them to sit on so they wouldn’t be crammed against the window.

And finally, today arrived. The foxglove started to outgrow the 9-inch pots. So I got them a 13-inch pot.

And then I realized I had a ton of empty pots.

And so today the cycle of plant growing starts again. I put some pansy seeds into two 5-inch pots and some cactus seeds (didn’t know that was a thing until I saw the seed packet) into two other 5-inch pots.

I’ll try to keep this blog updated on what cacti look like when they are growing from seeds into full fledged cacti, because I honestly don’t know what that looks like myself. Please don’t post spoilers.

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Combat and Cooperation

So I play a little game popularly known as Grand Theft Auto V. If you didn’t know, this game is the center of a ton of discussion about whether or not video-games are good for society. Do they make people more violent? Do they let people blow off steam, making them less violent?

I don’t know and I’m not tossing my hat in the ring on that one.

But I will talk about my personal experience and my journey of aggression to pacifism within the game itself.

Let me give you some preface:

I’ve played plenty of Call of Duty, which is a popular multiplayer first person shooter.

In Call of Duty there are plenty of different game modes but none of them have choice, they just have strict objectives. Sure you might have a team to cooperate with but it all still boils down to completing the objective (which always has combat involved).

There aren’t people, there are teammates and there are enemies. I’m not saying that in a sociopathic way I’m just saying that in the sense that you are thrust into a warzone to complete an objective, and there is nothing else to do but to complete the objective.

And then I started playing GTA V.

GTA V multiplayer is a completely different game. It has no strict objectives until you get into a mission, it just has a giant world to free-roam in. And that giant world has tons of other players just roaming around, doing their own thing.

And this is where the disconnect happened, even in a world with as much violence, car theft, and explosions as GTA V, nobody likes to be bothered when their trying to do their own thing. If I’m going to get a haircut in the game I hate when I get shot at hundreds of times before I can park my car in front of the barber.

And yet, when I first started playing it I didn’t understand that, I just contributed to the onslaught on the people just trying to get a nice perm for their character.

And I had fun. Kind of. Not really though, because after I killed them a couple of times and then they killed my a couple of times it would just become a boring battle between me and perm-man.

And I stopped playing, not for any particular reason, but just because I had other games to play.

And then a couple of weeks ago I booted it back up and started playing it with a completely different mindset. I tried to cooperate with everyone who was willing to cooperate and distancing myself from the people who were more willing to start combat.

And it has easily become one of the most satisfying gaming experiences of my life.

It’s a strange thing that you can pull up to somebody walking on the sidewalk, honk your horn a few times, and after they get in y’all can head off on some adventure around the map. All of this with no words, no communication, no guarantee that they just won’t turn on you and shoot you.

And yet everything goes off without a hitch, pure cooperation with no communication.

In games like these it is easily more fun to try to initiate cooperation before you initiate combat.

 

My Plans for This Year

This blog doesn’t bring in nearly any traffic.

And as I’ve said before I’m never going to try to actively grow it, I have no intention of making blogging my full time job (or part time for that matter). So with that I don’t really have any plans for this blog specifically aside from getting a post out every week.

As far as Xylo-A-Day, my goals are very real and very simple.

  1. Get 100 subscribers and change my YouTube URL to XyloADay
  2. Get 10000 views (I know this is also YouTube partnership number, I have no intention of partnering if I have to monetize my videos, this is truly just a view count goal)
  3. Have 2 or 3 theme weeks (like the Zelda theme week)
  4. Have a video that is of a distinctly higher quality at least every month

I’m planning on getting some more prints done this year and if there is enough hype for some of them I might consider selling some. I don’t expect that to happen but if it does I wouldn’t object.

As far as APRDuneBuggy goes, I’m going to try to stream more often (or at least once a week) but once school starts back up I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ll need to put this on the back-burner.

By the end of this year I can probably get to 85 WPM average typing speed but I’m hoping that I can get to 90 WPM. Shoutout to TypeRacer.

Who knows what this year will bring? I can guarantee that it will bring good content.

Cubic Analysis

Classically, I like to start off with what this blog post isn’t:

  1. This isn’t an analysis of Timecube.
  2. This isn’t an analysis of cubic functions, or any sort of polynomial function for that matter (sadly).
  3. This isn’t a lifestyle post.

What we are talking about today is the one-of-a-kind thriller (horror?) trilogy Cube. Let that be a warning that spoilers will most likely be ahead.

The first of the movies was Cube. It was simple, it was low budget, and it had a small math puzzle. The main plot of Cube (and the following movies) is that a few people are trapped in a cube room, that is attached to more cube rooms, which in whole make up a giant cube.

They are not only trapped though, they don’t know how they got there, they don’t know how to get out, and to put the icing on the cake, some of the rooms have death traps in them. The plot is driven solely by the need to escape the cube.

The start of the movie consists of random characters that come from different backgrounds in an unexplained and mysterious environment. The end of the movie consists of random characters that come from different backgrounds in an unexplained and mysterious environment.

That’s right, other than a snippet from one of the characters, the movie leaves out a ton of details such as:
1. Who built the cube?
2. What is the cube’s purpose?
3. Why did they choose these people to be in the cube?

And that’s why the movie is good in its own unique way. It lets the viewer come up with their own canon. Watching it, the viewer can answer those question with whatever seems to be the most reasonable answer. This means that establishing that there is no lore was more effective for Cube rather than trying to come up with some lore that could be considered unreasonable or faulty.

This was lost on the next installment, Cube 2: Hypercube.

As the name implies Cube 2: Hypercube takes place inside of a cube that has an added dimension. They added more than that extra dimension though, they also added an separate reason for each person to be there. And they also added a corporation that backed the building of the cube. So now we have two questions of the three answered.

Then at the very end they give a half-baked reason for what that cube’s specific purpose was, thus kind of answering the third question.

They simultaneously answered all of the questions without giving any solid lore.

Then the third movie came out, which being a prequel, is aptly named Cube Zero.

I have almost no words for Cube Zero. It’s like they were aiming for adding as much lore as possible without actually having any effect on what that lore implies. It showed people operating the cube. It showed higher-ups to those operators. It pictured a dystopian government using the cube. It gave a reason for the people to be in the cube.

And yet…

Nothing felt established. The reason people were put in the cube was also disproved in the movie itself. There were weird religious overtones at times. The operators don’t know why they are there. The higher-ups talk about people even higher up. The dystopian government was never fully pictured.

Yet it relied on the lore to drive the plot, rather than Cube’s plot being driven solely by a need to escape.

It’s a strange concept to have a movie that strips almost the entirety of its setting and still maintains a driving plot, and I firmly believed that Cube achieved that.