Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ax's Favorites on Steam... Evidently

According to Steam's recently played list on my profile you can get an idea about what my apparently favorite games are... perhaps the wrong idea in some cases. I present here my top 20 but not necessarily... with caveats. Also note, this is just what Steam has tracked.

Fallout 3
No joke, and this doesn't even include all the hours I logged prior to owning it on Steam, which was probably another 200 hours to estimate conservatively. Also does not account for my children's play time.

Plants vs. Zombies
This one is a shared effort. At one time, the whole family was obsessed with this game. However, we haven't touched it in perhaps years. It'll take a long while before it's eclipsed.

Garry's Mod
Another family effort, I play it with the kids, and the kids play it on my account.

Bethesda's Action/RPG Hits
More Fallout and Elder Scrolls... I must like those. True.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
It was my obsession at the beginning of the year. My youngest son is also a fan. As I've mentioned, it takes alot of grinding, replaying earlier levels, so take that into account.

Scribblenauts Unlimited
I enjoyed this creative, huge and yet simple game. No regrets.

Saints Row IV
Truly addictive gameplay, but I've said enough about it already.

Team Fortress 2
This one is all on the part of my children. I don't like this game... it has absolutely no appeal to me.

Batman: Arkham City
The second in the Arkham series, and the best I've played. We'll see how Arkham Knight GotY compares around the time of the 2016 Summer Steam Sale. Until then, I have this on PS3 now, so it's unlikely I'll continue to rack up hours on the Steam version.

Half Life 2
I do like this game, but I've no doubt my kids have put some hours on it.

Alan Wake
A favorite in past years... I've played through it a couple of times, including the DLC chapters. Would prefer to have it on PC3 eventually.

Portal 2
Truly a favorite, but it's pretty short when you get down to it, and this represents several playthroughs.

Duke Nukem 3D.... I mean Forever.
As a duke fan from of old, I gave this a fair shot without eyes clouded by recent shooters... cover based, I think the term is? I thought it was decent, had a pretty good time, and don't regret it. Could've been better. Personally I think the Duke as a star scenario was played out by its release, and should've been an out-of-shape hasbeen still hitting on girls in their twenties (humiliatingly). This would demonstrate some self-awareness and become the springboard to a triumphant return to fame.

Dark Messiah of M&M
A great action RPG, but very linear. Features kicking, which is always good.

Batman: Arkham Origins
I honestly can't believe I played it this long. Dag, what am I doing with my life? Regrets? I have a few...

Fallout 4
Conspicuously absent from my top games article, this is worthy of an article unto itself. As much as I looked forward to this game... I haven't enjoyed it as much as I thought I would. I haven't been motivated to play it much. So what's my deal? I'll..... fill you in later! For now, suffice to say... I'm just not in a Fallout mood.

DC Universe Online
Really? This is in my technical top 20? I don't recall getting that much out of this... certainly not to justify pouring 42 hours of my life into a superhero MMO. Okay... so running up buildings was fun, but I have Saints Row 4 to fulfill that now, without all the MMO rigamarole.

So there you are... my supposed top 20 according to Steam with my context added. Take a look if you wish at my further top games, but I can assure you that there are games I played less that brought me more joy, and ones I played longer that brought me less. It's quality time over quantity, and with that, dear phantom viewer, have a great New Year's and a wonderful 2016!-

Monday, December 28, 2015

Top Games of 2015

It should go without saying this is my subjective opinion based on what I have played in 2015 (not necessarily released in 2015), so don't go saying "you're wrong!", because I can't be wrong about what entertained me. Take that mythical reader! Oh, and since I'm coming up with these on the spot, they are in no particular order.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
I can say hands down that this is my game of the year. It just did everything right in terms of gameplay and story (despite the missing mission 51). The number of hours I've poured into it eclipses even minecraft at this point (at least for this year). It is a testament to Kojima's masterful storytelling that he was able to evoke real emotional responses to characters in this game. You form a bond with your soldiers on Mother Base and with your support buddies. I'd say how, but that'd be spoilers, you really must see for yourself... and experience the guilt (mission 43) and grief (mission 45) that comes with it.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Back at the beginning of the year I was totally obsessed with this game, enjoying its gameplay and music. It was rather grindy, but as I said before, that music was motivation to keep trying.

Minecraft Modded 1.7.10
This year I made three custom modpacks. One I created for playing with my kids at home, and the other two were the third and fourth versions of Axpack, my single player packs. Also note that I did very little map making during this year, and that was strangely refreshing... at least in terms of not being drained by the experience.

Saints Row IV/Gat Out of Hell
This was one I played through repeatedly and to completion each time. The gameplay and story were that enjoyable and was never boring or felt repetitive. Running and jumping/flying through the city was tons of fun.

Tomb Raider
I had not finished a Tomb Raider game since the original. This was a good game to come back to. The jumping, hoisting, and shooting was varied with not too frustrating puzzles. I liked the experience and look forward to playing the recently released one.

Shadow of Mordor
Lord of the Rings with the Batman: Arkham battle system. Though the PS3 version had some pretty maddening load times between the menus and action (1-5 minutes... I kid you not!) the gameplay was great and the story was a decent one... not remarkable, but it seemed to fit into the LotR lore fairly well. The nemesis system is brilliant, and really motivated me to track down the orc scum who killed me and end them before they got too powerful. I have purchased it (but not yet installed) during a Steam sale, so I plan on giving it another shot (when I have 40 fricken GB free) and am confident my PC can play it better.

Dragon's Dogma
This game has been my recent conquest. A great hack-and-slash, action RPG with epic battles like Shadow of the Colossus. Yes, you can climb big foes and stab them in the head... awesome!

Two Worlds 2
I haven't invested as much time in this one as I perhaps would like. See... it doesn't control well which makes the battles awkward. It looks good and seems like an interesting world. When I get the time to invest in it, I think it'll be enjoyable.

Shadowrun: Dragonfall
It's one I play in spurts, but I love the combat, the mood and feel of the Shadowrun world.Choices have consequences and sometimes you just have to live with them... it's not always viable to just load up an old save. The first one was very well done and I expect the third, Hong Kong, will be as well.

Choice of Robots
A text adventure in which you are a robot developer, and make decisions about how to raise your personal robot and your life pursuits. I've played through to several endings, including:
a) My military robot killed me when I wouldn't join its insurrection against humans.
b) My robot was brow beaten into obedience and I had a happy romance ending.
c) Another military robot who obeyed better, but I decided to take over the world... of course!
d) Focused on making hippy-dippy medical robots and my robot fell in love with me.
e) A militant capitalist, I did whatever it took to get filthy-stinking rich. Did so, and had to develop a robot body when my meat one pooped out.
...and yet there are still so many more possibilities!

Back to the Future
The first Telltale adventure game I've tried, and it is very well done indeed! The voices are spot on, even for those who didn't reprise their roles. I love the series and this does it justice.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Spark of Something

I've made some decent progress in Botania... having created the Terrasteel Agglomeration plate, I believe that surpasses what I've done before. It set up a wheat farm on my hill for the seeds required, automated by MF Reloaded Planter and Harvester. To make things more interesting and to pursue a few mods I was acquainted with, I decided to add in Ars Magica 2, Dragon Mounts, and Mo' Creatures.

Ars Magica is a magic system I dabbled in before but did not make much progress in. It seemed more interesting than Thaumcraft and more intuitive as well. I have the basics set up on my second floor.

Dragon mounts allows you to create eggs that the titular flying lizards bring into being. There are several types possible, IIRC based on the environment the egg is hatched in.

Mo' Creatures is a mod that adds a bunch more things that want to kill you, but from what I've seen it's not unbalanced. The hp on the monsters are reasonable at least. As a result, the lands around my tower are prowled by werewolves at night. Makes things interesting.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

AxPack 4 Progress

I have tested what I'm calling AxPack 4 for about a week now. A major snag with getting the mods to play nice was biomes o plenty having a tiff with Erebus over biome IDs, so I had to muck about in the config files. Something was borked, so I had to erase the configs folder, then uninstall both and add back Biomes O Plenty.  I don't know if Erebus will play nice now, but I don't feel like letting it back into the fold yet.

Turns out Railcraft operates independently of Buildcraft now, so that's tidy. Actually, I didn't strictly need RC for the stated reason, Steel, because Mekanism's method works just fine. I've gotten into Botania but am dismayed that passive generation flowers decay and it can no longer be disabled in the config. The creator says it's to motivate upgrading to better flowers... fair enough.

I am currently holed up in an Artifacts tower that I cleared. Troublesome clay golems in the basement. I actually ended up throwing some other mods in that I forget... mostly utility. Overall, I'm pleased with how it turned out. It is lacking a certain "je ne sais quoi" but perhaps what it needs will occur me later.

Got the digital miner running quickly.
Mekanism machine wall
First floor of the tower
Silk touched diamond ore doubled in the enrichment chamber
Cooking for blockheads kitchen
Beginners Botania setup

Oh, and or course I set it on Easy and did my standard commands:
/gamerule mobgriefing false
/gamerule keepInventory true
and a new one....
/gamerule tfEnforcedProgression false
Eliminates the arbitrary progression system for Twilight Forest!
Glad to have that one handled! 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Axpack: The Next Generation

I've created several modpacks at this point. It's always a process of creating a base pack of my essentials and then progressively adding more as I think of them. They tend to be all over the place by the time I get finished with them, and by finished I mean I tire of my progression through it and quit playing.

So, this time I plan to... plan out the modpack in an orderly manner with goals in place for each mod added. I want a relatively compact pack with not too many resources and perhaps some consistency with theme.


See this post


Biomes O Plenty - I appreciate the variety on the overworld, Hot Springs especially.
Railcraft - I do love marble... I mean quarried stone.
Natura - An interesting nether is needed.


Just a note that I need to edit configs to eliminate any overlap. I don't want the same ore from different mods if I can avoid it.
Tinkers Construct - Adds those Oreberry bushes. Might disable those. Adds Ardite and Cobalt to the Nether, so that's good for the Nether.
Nether Ores - Nice to have more reason to bother with the nether.
Mekanism - Steel, Copper, Tin, Osmium... fairly compact really. Allows Bronze.
Railcraft - Steel, though you get that with Mekanism as well. Also, Dark Mineral meteors, Sulfur (good for Mekanism) and Saltpeter. Possibly silver and lead... not sure. That might just be compatibility with other mods that add those. Also has the feeding station... need that.
Dense Ores - Saves me a few whacks with a tool... worth it.


My choice for generating, storing, and moving power and resources is:
Mekanism - I love wind turbines. The energy cubes and cables are easy to use.
Big Reactors - Down the line, it'll be good. Oddly fun to make.
Draconic Evolution - This power thing is new to me, so I want to be able to explore it.


Pam's Harvestcraft - Pam... add variety! I like the gardens particularly.
Cooking for Blockheads - and you.... make it convenient!


Tinkers Construct - Hammer and upgradable, customizable, and namable tools.
Open Blocks - Gotta have those elevators, and other niceties as well.
Extra Utilities - Yeah... all those reason I mentioned before.


Mekanism - The machines for refining ores and squeezing every possible bit of use out of each piece is simply the best (x5 ultimately). Additionally, the jetpack is the best I've used and the teleporter can cross dimensions. Nifty things such as the atomic disassembler and robit as well.
Minefactory Reloaded - Farming and tending animals.


Applied Energistics - In the end, I'll want an AE system so I don't have to fiddle with recipes so much.
AE Stuff - Add that thing that does the job. Convenience.
Jabba/Storage Drawers - I want separate organization for my commonly used resrouces though.
Bibliocraft - Aesthetically pleasing shelves and such.


Botania - Mostly because you can apparently get excalibur. Also, I know the basics and meant to learn the mod better. Provides a nice variety of "things to do".


Ruins - I'm avoiding the samey Roguelike Dungeons in favor of points of interest dotted over the terrain. Nothing obtrusive, but interesting.
Artifacts -Adds those towers, but could make things interesting. Lets see if this really is overpowered.


Hardcore Ender Expansion - It's expected now.
Twilight Forest -  I just like everything about it.. as long as progression is turned off!


Chisel - By definition, aesthetic.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Minecraft Mods Commentary (Part 2)

Below I have detailed some mods that I like, are good, but not required, followed by ones I can happily ignore, and then the ones I actively avoid.

Always Nice to Have

Chisel - I love variety. This adds many varieties of common and special materials, just for aesthetics.
Bibliocraft - Furniture. Really brings a room together. Includes shelves for out in the open storage.
Ender Storage - A chest and bag thats let you access the contents from anywhere.
Iron Chest - Upgradable, progressively bigger storage chests.
Twilight Forest - The new progression system is crap (don't tell me where I can't go!) but the interest this adds in great. Ore hills are wonderful resources balanced with danger, and the bosses are always fun to battle.
Roguelike Dungeons/Ruins - I do like exploring. These provide the opportunity.
Hardcore Ender Expansion - Makes the End interesting, adding incentive to explore.
Mariculture - Makes underwater interesting.
Natura - Makes the nether interesting!
Biomes O Plenty - Makes the overworld interesting!
Project Red - Adds the classic gemstones and some nice world generation.
Railcraft - Good way to get steel. There are trains apparently. Requires Buildcraft... so quarries by extension... although the Ender Quarry is better.
Minefactory Reloaded - Despite the foul taste in my mouth from the Tree of Darkness... has some really useful machines for farming.
Apple, Milk, Tea - Adds more food and some appliances.
Useful Food - Allows you to make simple sandwiches from vanilla bread and meats, so in that regard, better than Pam's.
Dense Ores - Pockets of more ore drops... so saves a little time.
Big Reactors - Ultimate power! Generates and awesome amount of it.... and they don't explode.
Draconic Evolution - Endgame power generation and more dragon fights.
ICBM - There are just times you wanna nuke something, y'know?
Applied Energistics -  Surprisingly, I CAN do without this one if there are other storage options. I don't particularly care for the slow start with the seeds growing in water.


Fossils and Archaeology - Seems like one that requires alot of work and space with little unique payoff.

Artifacts - Gotta say, pretty unbalanced. Also... seems to hate world generation, resulting in corruption.
Chemcraft - I have not found a compelling reason to peruse this mod. It seems like it might add too much, and I don't like unnecessary bloat.
Terrafirmacraft - My experience with this one has been largely frustrating. I can appreciate it at times, but it just seems to make tasks tedious.
Chococraft - Liked the old FF games, but this doesn't grab me. I'd rather have magitek armor or the FF summons, frankly.
Computer Craft - I keep my coding and adventuring separate. May be great, but I don't feel like learning a new language for the sake of a mod.
Advanced Genetics - Some experience with this, mostly due to becoming blood brothers with that guy that once... but it's alot of work. I can't say it's not worth it, but I might not be incentivized to try if it takes too long.
Morph -  It won't deter me from a pack, but I will not use it. It doesn't fit... that's all. Why can the player do this? It doesn't use any resources, so it seems a bit overpowered. 

The Dregs of Mod-manatee

Below are some that will cause me to avoid a modpack if they are included.

Galacticraft - It's about the journey... not the destination. It's a great deal of work and very little payoff. Each moon/planet is practically a palette swapped version of the one before. Lots of work to get there, and the only reason to come is to leave.
Infernal Mobs/Grimoire of Gaia/Lycanites Mobs - Each adds many monsters (mostly hostile) with hit points out of proportion to the scale of the game that drop alot of clutter items. They attack unprovoked during the day and night and usually in groups.
Orespawn - As above... only massively, ridiculously more out proportion. I thought the epic rules for D&D were bad, but this is orders of magnitude greater than I ever thought possible.
Metallurgy - Adds too many ores, muddying the waters and making common ores harder to find. Also, alloy too easily in the TC smeltery.
Chocolate Quest - This one is a mess. I like dungeons, but these are ridiculous. More hordes of monsters, same combat as ever. Might as well just reskin a zombie.
Gregtech - In the name of needlessly complicating things, I am Captain Gregtech!


Minecraft Mods Commentary (Part 1)

There was a time I despised modded Minecraft. The problem was that I was introduced to a modpack and expected to understand all parts of it immediately. There was no established starting point and perceivable progression. It was a massive chore to learn that involved many windows of the modpack's wiki pages open simultaneously. Later came questbook driven "tutorial" type modpacks, and those worked better. So after years of playing modded, I can't go back to vanilla without getting bored very quickly, Is this all there is? I could be using a quarry, but no... an efficient pickaxe'll have to do. The nether could be interesting for longer than 15 minutes... but isn't.

So, having quite a bit of experience under my belt with mods, modpacks, and creating my own packs... I'll record some of my thoughts on how various mods measure up.

The Essentials

Damage Indicators - Perceivable consequence! I like to know how effective my hits are besides the vague feeling of "it takes several hits to kill" or "that went down quickly". Seeing the exact numbers gives players a better sense that they are doing well.
Voxel Map - My personal choice for mini-map/big map, and location marking. It allows easy teleportation to markers and is relatively unobtrusive. The death markers do tend to accumulate though.
NEI - Allows you to look up recipes for items. Too useful to ignore.
WAILA - What am I looking at? This tells you. Some additional plugins give other useful information.
Treecapitator - Honestly, this saves so much time. The bigger the tree, the longer it takes, but when you consider the time saved on huge trees just navigating to the highest limbs, you gotta have it.
Fastcraft - The larger your modpack, the more necessary this becomes. Amazing how in its absence the game just comes apart on you with lag.

The Best of the Best of the Best, Sir! .... With Honors!

Tinkers Construct - The somewhat tedious early game gathering of simple materials to build the multiblock structure will pay off well when you get your hands on a hammer. The tools can be modified with materials to make swords sharper, tools more durable and capable of silk touch. (Requires Mantle)
Extra Utilities - The Chandelier and its big brother, Magnum Torch! These items what prevent monster spawning are enough of a reason by themselves... I never liked the look of covering the ground in torches. Also includes the golden bag of holding for on hand storage and the golden lasso for capturing creatures, and the Ender Quarry, a good alternative to the more cumbersome buildcraft one.
Mekanism; EnderIO; and Thermal Expansion/Foundation/Dynamics - Power struggle! Three way tie. Each provides great suite of power generation, storage, sorting, and machines. (Thermal requires COFH Core). Mekanism has the best jetpack and upgradable machines in my estimation. The EnderIO staff of traveling is pretty nifty.
Open Blocks - Elevators. One block, simply crouch or jump to go between them.
Pam's Harvestcraft + Cooking for Blockheads - Pam's adds a great variety to plants and food, wheras CfB provides manageable interaction with the former.
JABBA; Storage Drawers - It's nice to have a way of sorting that lets you see your resources in the open.

(Next Time)
Nice to Have (for aesthetics or adding interest)
The Dregs (some to avoid).