Tag Archives: gaming

“I QUIT DOTO”

I call this one "Death Prophet Throws The Game"

I call this one “Death Prophet Throws The Game”

I’ve been playing a bit of Dota 2 recently, and when I say “playing a bit”, I mean I’ve played, on average, between five and six games per day for the last 30 days. That’s a decent amount of Dota.

It was enough that I didn’t even get a chance to dole out a Game of the Year award for last year, and enough that I haven’t played anything else for the latter half of 2013. My game backlog grows ever bigger, and all I can really be bothered playing is Dota. This must be what addiction feels like.

A recent-ish update introduced ranked matchmaking, which assigns you a real, visible rating of how good (or bad) you are at Dota. From the Dota 2 blog:

We actually track a total of four MMRs [match making ratings, a numerical representation of how good or bad you are at Dota] for each player:

  • Normal matchmaking, queuing solo
  • Normal matchmaking, queuing with a party
  • Ranked matchmaking, queuing solo
  • Ranked matchmaking, queuing with a party

The spread of MMRs for normal matchmaking looked a little like this, with various MMRs calculated according to percentiles (higher is better):

5% 1100
10% 1500
25% 2000
50% 2250
75% 2731
90% 3200
95% 3900
99% 4100

It’s also worth noting the following, pointed out by the same matchmaking post on the Dota 2 blog:

Note that this distribution is from normal matchmaking. We don’t know yet what the distribution will be in ranked matchmaking, but we expect it to be different. The players who participate in ranked matchmaking will be more skilled, more experienced players. We anticipate that any given player will have different expectations and play the game differently in ranked matchmaking compared to normal matchmaking.

I was reasonably happy with my solo MMR after I completed my 10 calibration matches. I ranked in at 2357, which, according to the percentile table above (i.e. if we’re assuming the percentile distribution is the same for ranked as it is for normal matchmaking), put me smack bang in the middle of the Dota 2 player distribution, slightly better than around 50% of players.

The idea behind ranked matchmaking is not only for plays to play in what is supposed to be a more competitive environment, a more “elite” subset of the Dota 2 players (only players who have played around 150 games online can participate in ranked matchmaking), and some of the time, that’s exactly what it is.

But then there’s the rest of the time, where ranked matchmaking is — and I put this in the nicest way possible — a festering cesspool of the worst Dota 2 players, ever.

The problem, as I see it, is that people in ranked matches take it way too seriously. Sure, it’s supposed to be more competitive, and sure, it really blows when one person on your team is letting the entire team down, but for some reason, ranked matchmaking attracts some truly unattractive individuals and personalities. I can understand not randoming in ranked, I can understand not playing heroes for the first time in ranked, but I can’t, for the life of me, understand why every other person in ranked is a complete douche.

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Nvidia’s ShadowPlay and One Angry Earthshaker

fraps movies settings

Occasionally, I put gaming-related videos on YouTube. For all of those videos, I’ve used Fraps to capture in-game footage, and as far as software-based capture tools go, it isn’t bad. I’ve been using Fraps for a few years now, and for the most part, I’ve been pretty happy with it.

That said, there are a few things about Fraps I don’t like. For starters, it creates massive files on disk — it works out to be about 1.2GB/minute for 720p footage at 60fps. There’s no option to record at arbitrary resolutions, only your display resolution or half size, whatever that turns out to be1. And enabling Fraps usually kills my FPS, which usually gets me killed in whatever game I’m playing. The frame rate drop I experience in certain (read: more recent, more demanding) games turns me off recording unless I really want to, otherwise I’d probably record far more often than I do. That, and the massive hard drive space requirements for recording.

But like any in-game capture tool, the worst thing about Fraps is that I have to manually enable it whenever I want to record something. That’s fine if I know something cool might happen in advance, or when I know I’m going to do something which I might need footage for later, but I honestly couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve done something epic and wished it has been recorded. So many times I’ve missed out on capturing some real Kodak moments, and all because FRAPS wasn’t recording. The “workaround” for this, if you can call it that, is to have Fraps running all the time — but when gaming sessions go for hours on end, I have neither the hard drive space nor the low-FPS tolerance for that to be a viable solution.

shadowplay settings

Enter Nvidia’s ShadowPlay.

In Shadow Mode, ShadowPlay automatically records everything in the background. It records up to the last ten minutes of gameplay in the background, which you can then save to disk if you want by pressing the appropriate key combo. Do something epic, and want to have a permanent record of it? No need to gripe about not having Fraps turned on and recording to your friends over TeamSpeak, because ShadowPlay already recorded it for you. All you have to do is save the recording.

ShadowPlay is also great because it doesn’t produce massive files when recording footage. It uses the GPU to transcode your recordings on the fly to H.264 (which is why you’ll need a GTX 600 or 700 series graphics card), resulting in reasonably-sized files, and best of all, there’s no performance hit that I’ve noticed thus far. (For comparative purposes, 1GB of hard drive space gives me roughly three minutes of in-game footage with ShadowPlay at 1080p/60fps, compared to under a minute with Fraps at 720p/60fps.) There are alternative software capture tools that can perform similar compression on your recordings, but those use CPU power instead of a dedicated H.264 encoder built into the graphics card. And since my CPU is a few years old now, I don’t really have those CPU cycles to spare when I’m gaming.

ShadowPlay has a manual recording option too á la Fraps, in case you want to go down that path. But having something sit in the background silently recording my every move is great, and means I don’t have to think about what I’m going to be doing next and whether I want to have that on file for later. It’s like having an instant rewind for anything.

There’s always room for improvement though, and ShadowPlay is no exception. It needs the ability to record voice input, for starters. If I’m communicating hilarious things over TeamSpeak but all the recording captures is my teammates’ responses, then that’s not very useful. And I have to do some more thorough testing, but I’ve had a few recordings with a number of graphical glitches too. Then again, Nvidia have labelled it a beta for a reason, so I’m sure it’ll get there.

But for now, ShadowPlay is pretty great. Reasonably-sized files, little to no performance hit when recording, and the best part is, it means I don’t have to worry about turning on Fraps before doing something cool. What’s not to love?

ShadowPlay makes recoding game footage an afterthought, which is what it should be — because you’re supposed to be playing games, not thinking about whether you want to record what you’re doing in games.

About the video2: OK, so, there was this one game of DOTA 2 I was playing, right. We had an Earthshaker on our team who wanted to play him like a carry — constantly going 1v1 against other heroes. Dude thought he was invincible, even after he died three times in the space of two and a half minutes. After he died he’d usually ping-spam the map, resulting in our Death Prophet getting worked up and shout at him over in-game voice. It was hilarious, right up until the point where Earthshaker revealed he had a mic after all, but apparently only used it to abuse other teammates over voice. We lost the game, of course, but it was really strange. Almost like the dude was drunk or something.


  1. Since I game at 2560×1440, the native resolution of my display, half size turns out to be 720p, which works out well enough for YouTube purposes. 1080p would be great, but recording at full size and then down-sizing is too much work. 
  2. I had to upload the video to Vimeo because YouTube blocked the audio because of the Lady Gaga going on in the background. But the audio is kind of the best part. And yeah, sorry about having the not-very ad-free Spotify going on in the background. (The new Lady Gaga is just OK, IMHO). 

Winning (and losing)

Dota Dire Ancient Gone

If there’s a universal truth, it’s that people don’t like losing. Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you that losing sucks; anyone that tells you otherwise is either lying or a sadist.

The question is: do I take winning too seriously? There was one time, years ago, where a friend and I were playing Left 4 Dead. We were in a co-op match with two other folks, and I was shouting obscenities into our team’s text chat in an attempt to get the other players on our team to do something useful. After the match, the friend I was playing with pointed out “that guy” that was trying to get the team to win. I pointed out that “that guy” was actually me, and things were pretty awkward from that point on.

I’ve played a number of DotA 2 games now. As of writing, dotabuff says 249 real matches, with perhaps an extra 10-15 versus bots on top of that. At the moment, my win-loss ratio is sitting just under the 50-50 ratio, at 124 wins to 125 losses. Anecdotal evidence (i.e. the dotabuff profiles of a number of friends who have played hundreds of more games than I have) leads me to believe the matchmaking in DotA conspires to keep you around a 50-50 WL ratio, but with a good enough team, you can beat the odds.

Despite what you may believe, the number one influencer on your win-loss ratio isn’t yourself. At least, it’s not about yourself as much as it is about other players. For example: if another player on your team, in a different lane, decides to die repeatedly to one of your opponents in the early game, then that opposing hero now has a level and gold advantage. And even if you’re playing to the best of your ability, there’s very little you can do from preventing that opposing hero from dominating the rest of the match. From there, your fate is all but sealed: the opposing hero which received early kills dominates teamfights, and hence wipes the floor with your team. Eventually, through no fault of your own, you lose. Good game, sir.

But I’ve played enough games of DotA 2 now to realise that it’s a little more complicated than that. I’ve seen my share of impressive comebacks and last-gasp pushes that result in a win to know that the balance in DotA is incredibly delicate. What one player does or doesn’t do can tip the scales in your favour, or lose you the match. Didn’t deny the tower when you had the chance? You lose because the enemy all gained gold. Didn’t carry a TP scroll when pushing? You lose because a Nature’s Prophet decided to teleport into your base and demolish your ancient with his army of trees. Spent too much time jungling instead of pushing with your team? You lose because your team just lost that 4v5 teamfight, the enemy pushed, and you lost a tower and barracks.

Don’t get me wrong, good team work is of the utmost importance in DotA 2. It’s why I gently push others to be the best they can be if they’re having a bad game, because good teamwork means you can bring a game back from 9-0, their advantage. 30 minutes in, and it’s 16-32, still their advantage. We’re behind in kills the entire time, but when we finally take their ancient, the scoreboard reads 44-54, still in their favour. You’ll notice I went 2-17 in that match. I contributed almost nothing to that game, and yet we won. So how does that work, exactly?

Teamwork.

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Tough Crowd

Remember that one time where I managed to get a Divine Rapier as Drow in a public game? Good times, good times.

Remember that one time where I managed to get a Divine Rapier as Drow in a public game? Good times, good times.

Hi. My name is Benny Ling, and by the time you read this, it will have been a week since the last time I played badly in DotA 2.

It might not be the end of semester (at least not for me, thanks to some fortuitous mechanism), but once again I find myself playing games when I should be doing something else. I’ve dipped my toes into the world of Los Santos in GTA V, I’ve wandered through the tall grass in Pokémon X, and I’ve fed the opposition in highly-strung matches of DotA 2.

I remember it almost as if it were yesterday, even though it was actually 29 days ago. I was playing Faceless Void, and for those who aren’t familiar with DotA, Faceless Void is what they call a “hard carry” — that is, he can carry the game, but only if he gains a significant advantage in terms of gold (and therefore items). Faceless Void has this really cool ultimate ability called Chronosphere which temporarily stops time within a sphere, where only he can move around — once you get the right items, you can do some real damage to the opposition who were unlucky enough to be caught in your Chronosphere.

But hard carries, by their very nature, are incredibly easy to kill right up until the point when they get their items. Think of them like a Magikarp before the awe-inspiring Gyrados — the Magikarp has essentially no defences, and no real attacks. Almost any Pokémon can KO a Magikarp, but it takes a much stronger Pokémon to take down a Gyrados, the evolution of Magikarp.

It was in that fateful game that I experienced, first-hand, how tough the DotA crowd can be. We lost that game, of course, but it was honestly the second time I had played Faceless Void in a public game. I did OK the first time I played (well, we won that match, anyway, and I was 9/9/6 in terms of kills, deaths, and assists), but what I’ll always remember is the abuse I copped because I played badly. Some of it was my fault — like the time I managed to trap an allied hero in a Chronosphere and get him killed — sure, but the team as a whole was doing pretty badly. Only two heroes out of five had any kills at all, and by the time our ancient fell, the numbers weren’t exactly pretty.

As much as I deserved some of the comments — “Faceless doesn’t even have boots” — I was made to feel as if I was the sole reason our team was losing, when it was really our shared fault. Two other heroes had died more times than I had, so I could hardly be blamed for our eventual loss, right?

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Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light

At the heart of it, Metro 2033 is about camaraderie. You're not a Ranger, but friends help out friends.

At the heart of it, Metro 2033 is about camaraderie. You’re not a Ranger, but friends help out friends.

I think I restarted the original Metro game probably five or six times. It wasn’t because I wasn’t very good at it, or that I didn’t enjoy it, but every time I’d get up to one part, but then I’d run out of filters and die in the harsh environment of the post-war Moscow. Or I’d come up against innumerable enemies, waste all my ammunition, and die. Or maybe I’d lose my way, frantically run around trying to find the next area to go to, run out of filters, and die unceremoniously in some dark corner, panting for breath as everything slowly faded to black.

I probably played through the first few chapters five, maybe six times, each time growing more and more frustrated with a game everyone was raving about, all because of its incredibly atmospheric gameplay and fantastic plot — an atmosphere and plot I was being denied time and time again, due to my own inability to survive on the irradiated surface.

It even got to the stage where I wanted to play through the game so badly, wanted to experience it for myself, that I looked up cheats for “infinite ammo”, or some kind of god-mode invincibility so I wouldn’t have to worry about using my hard-earned military-grade rounds buying filters for my mask whenever I got the chance. I’m usually against cheats, but in this case I was making an exception. I was desperate to play the game, but it seemed as if the game didn’t want to be played. At least, not by me.

So I played other games. Every time Metro 2033 came up in a Steam sale, I pushed away the guilt of never having played what was by all accounts a fantastic game, ashamed I couldn’t even beat it on the easiest difficulty. My pile of shame grew, but Metro 2033 sat squarely on the top of the pile.

It wasn’t until Metro: Last Light came out that I read a review of Last Light that said the first game was supposed to be played as a stealth shooter. Then it dawned on me almost as if I had just stepped out of the underground tunnels of the metro and into the harsh sunlight above ground: that was exactly what I had been doing wrong all along. Instead of sneaking around in the shadows, crouch-running through the tunnels, I had been going in all-guns blazing. Instead of conserving my ammo, I had been neglecting my knife when only one or two enemies were between me and my goal.

Metro2033 2013-05-17 10-39-08-30

Looking back at it now, I’m reasonably surprised I didn’t think of playing 2033 as a stealth game. I must have restarted the game some five or six times without changing my play style, each time expecting to Rambo through sections with wanton abandon and then dying out in the unforgiving tunnels and surface. But after learning about playing it as a stealth game, everything changed. Suddenly, I had more filters than I knew what to do with. My knife became my best friend for dealing with one or two bad guys, and ammo, while not exactly abundant, became plentiful enough.

The game changed.

Instead of a game where my every thought was on survival and finding enough filters, it became a game about exploration and discovery. Fear was replaced by a curiosity that could only be sated by exploring every nook and cranny for supplies, with little fear about how many filters I had or which direction I was going — although that could also be attributed to my compass, which always lead the way to the next objective, to the next rendezvous.

Sections that had seemed impassable before due to the numbers of enemies between myself and my object now seemed easier, somehow, either by use of stealth or a little ingenuity on my part. The game didn’t become any easier, necessarily, but the simple act of playing it differently meant that I could see and explore places I wouldn’t have had the chance to had I just sprinted through rooms filled with enemies.

I started to enjoy the game.

And what a game it was. The reviewers and critics were right: Metro 2033 was as deserving of every accolade it earned, and for good reason. As an introduction into the subterranean life of a post-nuclear-war Russia, it was unparalleled. As a look into the life of one individual’s journey through the dark tunnels of the Metro, the harsh wasteland of the surface, and deep behind enemy lines, it was an awe-inspiring experience.

Forging your own path was easier if you shot out all the lights first so that you could remain unseen, as indicated by your handy watch. Stealthily taking down enemies wherever possible meant you raised the least amount of suspicion, meaning a longer time undisturbed looking for ammo, military-grade rounds, or secret caches filled to the brim with ammo, filters, and military-grade rounds.

"Does this helmet kind of remind you the NCR Ranger Combat Armour from Fallout 3, or is it just me?"

“Does this helmet kind of remind you the NCR Ranger Combat Armour from Fallout 3, or is it just me?”

But as much as you thought you were the silent killer lurking in the shadows, you never felt overpowered compared to the enemies you encountered — human or otherwise. Part of the reason you had to sneak around in the first place is because you’d quickly run out of ammo if you had to engage the enemy, particularly during the section where you’re between two sets of enemies on either side, where you have to jump around and avoid being spotted. The only time you feel on top of things is when you’re journeying towards the D6 compound with your fellow Rangers — only because there’s safety in numbers, and even then, only when those numbers are comprised of the Ranger elite.

In terms of gameplay, Metro 2033 is a shining example of how to do stealth right. There’s parts where stealth benefits you greatly, combined with parts where you can’t stealth due to environmental conditions, and just have to run and gun. Your watch helps you immensely, and paying attention to it is usually the difference between a successful stealth attempt and tens of soldiers being alerted to your presence and opening fire.

The plot of Metro 2033 isn’t too bad either. You meet a couple people and do a few things along the way. You’re never completely alone except for a few short parts here and there, and you always have a clear sense of purpose, even when you’re given the freedom to roam around an underground establishment or and above-ground environment.

For the most part, other characters will be there to guide you through various sections. It’s a little hand-holdy at times, but means you’re never really thrown into a situation you can’t handle. I usually hate escort missions, but this isn’t like that at all — if anything, it’s more like a reverse escort mission where you’re the one being escorted through the bowels of post-nuclear-war Moscow, being taught survival tips and tricks along the way. If another character tells you to jump, you don’t even have to ask how high, because he’ll tell you.

The introduction at the start of the Metro 2033 is brilliantly executed — the whole “play through this first part, then flashback to the beginning of your journey, playing though until you come back to this section again” aspect is a plot device more frequently used in TV, but it still works here. It creates enough intrigue to get you hooked and just enough action to blow you away, at which point it dials it all back a few notches so you can start to ask questions and get truly into the plot and story that Metro 2033 presents during the course of gameplay.

Make no mistake: Metro 2033 is a great game.

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Mass Effect Weaponry

monkeydseehr: Weaponry - Mass Effect [◼] | hexington

monkeydseehr: Weaponry - Mass Effect [◼] | hexington

monkeydseehr: Weaponry - Mass Effect [◼] | hexington

via monkeydseehr: Weaponry – Mass Effect [◼] | hexington.

Top to bottom, left to right:

N7 Valkyrie — the two-round burst is more annoying than helpful, in my opinion

M-55 Argus — three round burst coupled with a relatively slow firing speed, avoid

M-37 Falcon — the only mini-grenade firing weapon worth using is the Striker Assault Rifle, this just seems like a worse weapon by comparison

Phaeston — a decent alternative to the Cerberus Harrier, if you haven’t unlocked that

N7 Valiant — the only thing that lets down this reasonably-fast-firing sniper rifle is its 3-round mag size

M-90 Indra — haven’t actually unlocked this weapon yet, although from memory it wasn’t too bad in single player

M-13 Raptor — a fast-firing sniper rifle that’s probably closer to an assault rifle, but I think I’ve only seen it used successfully in one game

Javelin — the small delay between pressing the mouse and the Javelin means you constantly have to follow your target with the mouse, which takes a bit of getting used to, otherwise, it’s actually the sniper rifle that does the most damage. The scope is a little unorthodox.

Scorpion — sticky grenades might seem like a good idea, but they rarely are. Doubly so if you can’t aim

Arc Pistol — one of my favourites, able to be either shot as-is or charged up and shot. I use it whenever I’m using a biotic character, although I know people that favour the Scorpion as a secondary for characters that don’t have to consider cooldowns

M-358 Talon — a pistol that fires like a shotgun? Since when did that seem like a good idea? I haven’t used this in combat though, so I can’t tell you how it fares in-game

Fresh as hell Pokémon X/Y boxarts

Pokemon ElkSwag

Pokemon Come At Me Bro

The designs are essentially the same for North America and Europe, aside from the local ratings boxes. Which one do you intend to pick up — Pokémon ElkSwag or Pokémon Come At Me Bro?

via Fresh as hell Pokémon X/Y boxarts The designs are… – Tiny Cartridge – Nintendo 3DS, DS, Wii U, and PS Vita News, Media, Comics, & Retro Junk.

Cannot wait for Pokémon X and Y. Thinking I’ll skip Black/White and go straight to X and Y (also, the first time the name of a Pokémon game hasn’t been based on a colour).

And yeah, totally getting Pokémon ElkSwag.

It Shouldn’t Be This Hard

Now she was dead…

Alternative title: “that’s not what she said!”

I’ve been thinking about buying a 3DS XL for Fire Emblem Awakening, but Nintendo’s decision to region lock their hardware is making it harder than it should be.

In an ideal world, I’d be able to walk in to any good gaming retailer in Australia, pick up a 3DS, and be on my merry way. And in theory, I can totally do that — provided I’m happy with missing out on a massive (okay, decent) selection of games.

Thanks to a combination of region locked 3DS hardware, strange decisions by publishers, and the very nature of a Japan-centric games company, if I buy an Australian 3DS it means I might not ever get to play titles that are released in the US. That’s crazy.

To be fair, this has always been an issue for Nintendo. I completely understand when games are released for the Japanese market that aren’t available in other regions, as much as I want to play the latest Phoenix Wright or Professor Layton title at the same time Japanese folks get to. I get that titles need to be localised for non-Asian markets, voices need to be re-done, etc. But when titles suffer lengthy delays or aren’t released for other markets outside the US, then that’s when I start to take notice and get angry. Fire Emblem, for example, was released in the US back in February. Europe and Australia, however, didn’t get it until late April — why? What possible reason could the publishers have to delay a title that was already localised for English markets an entire two months after the US release?

No possible reason that makes any kind of sense.

I already own a PS Vita, and for the record, Sony does a lot better on the region locking front for the simple reason that the console and its games aren’t region locked. At all. The US and Australian PlayStation Stores are different regions as you might expect, but I’m no stranger to that — the iTunes Store is exactly the same. If you buy a Vita, you can set it up with the US PSN store pretty easily, and your console will buy and download games no problems. Switching between the two stores can be done, but doing so frequently isn’t practical as it involves a device reset every time. In the year or so I’ve owned a Vita, I’ve never wanted to switch to the Australian PSN, and I can’t see this changing anytime sooner — the game selection on the US PSN is far superior to the titles offered on the Australian PSN, games are released earlier, and they’re usually cheaper, too.

If I want to access a larger selection of games and games released months earlier (and, not to mention, cheaper), then it seems the obvious solution is to import a 3DS XL from the US, right?

Well, kinda.

Nintendo, in their infinite wisdom, also region-lock their games. A US Vita can play Australian-bought games just fine, but a US 3DS will only be able to play games bought from the US. No problem, I can just download them directly from the eShop and call it a day, right? Wrong — I don’t know whether it’s a publisher thing or just a Nintendo one, but for some crazy, insane reason, about half of 3DS titles sold at retail can’t be bought from the eShop. Again, don’t ask me why, because I just don’t know.

In contrast, the PSN offers a much wider selection of games than are offered at retail: not only Vita-exclusive titles, but also PSP ones, PS One classics, “minis”, and the best thing about it is that every title released at retail is available for direct download on the PSN. Like it should be.

So if I do buy a 3DS from the US, here’s how it stands. I won’t be able to buy local titles. No big loss, but it does kill off that instant-gratification factor that comes with buying from a brick-and-mortar. Any game I do want to buy which can’t be bought from the eShop (about half of all the titles available), I’ll have to import from the US — although given the lead times for Australian games so far, any delays in getting the game due to shipping will still mean I get the game before it’s released locally.

My point in all this is that it shouldn’t be this hard. The Vita and its games aren’t region locked in any way, and that’s a massive plus in my book. Anything else is making it harder than it really should be.

Now, if only Amazon had the colour 3DS XL that I want in stock, and if only they would ship it to Australia. But that’s a tale for another time.

A Short Guide On How To Not Suck At Gold/Platinum Difficulty in Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer

MassEffect3 2013-05-03 01-27-17-15

I’m pretty sick of complete noobs trying to do Gold and Platinum difficulty in Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer and failing on early waves, so I thought I’d write a short guide on a few general tips and strategies. In no particular order…

  • Be at least level 18 for Gold, level 20 for Platinum. Anything else and you’re asking for a bad time. You might not think too much of those extra points, but those tier 6 evolutions of your powers can make all the difference in the world.

  • For crying out loud, take gear and equipment. At the very least, take gear — that’s the square in the bottom right corner of the equipment screen, for those who have never done so (also, shame on you). Gear isn’t a consumable, so it lasts for more than just one game.
    When you’re taking gear, take gear that will help out your character. If your character is a biotic/heavy pistol person, then take the Commando Package. If you’re a Krogan Warlord and like doing damage with melee and shotguns, take the Beserker Package. You’d think some of this stuff is common sense, but you’d be surprised…

  • Equipment is also a must. You can get by without it, but you can do some pretty cool things with ammo and weapon bonuses, such as Warp ammo for increased Biotic damage on targets, or setting up biotic/tech combos with Disruptor ammo and Tech Burst, or Warp Ammo and Warp. Again, take ammo and weapon bonuses that complement your character.
    The extra damage that some ammo bonuses applies helps out more than you’d think — 35% more damage is about twice as much damage as a maxed passive skill tree can afford you in terms of weapon damage, for example.

  • Don’t waste your Medkits in the heat of battle. Mash that spacebar until the little line is almost gone, then use the Medkit — and only if the situation calls for it. I wouldn’t use a Medkit on Wave 1-5, because if you’ve flatlined and no-one revives you on those earlier waves, chances are you won’t make it to the later waves anyway. Might as well save that Medkit for when you actually need it.
    Medkits are best used in a last-gasp, I’m-the-last-man-standing-and-it’s-the-last-enemy-on-wave-10 situtaions, where the difference between using a Medkit and not using the Medkit is winning the round, and not winning the round. If there’s no immediate danger around you, you might as well sit out that little countdown until your knight in shining armour comes to rescue you, or you bleed out.
    There’s no dishonour in bleeding out, either — if it’s a particularly early wave, you really have nothing to lose (unless you’re carrying the team, which is a different kettle of fish).

  • Similarly, use those Cobra Missiles properly. Look, I hate Phantoms as much as you do, and as tempting as it is to pull out your launcher and blast that Phantom back to the depths of hell from whence it came… don’t. But two Phantoms? Maybe. Three Phantoms or more, though, and you’ll have to get in line. Try not to waste those missiles on a single enemy of any kind — like Medkits, they’re best used in a oh-crap-everyone-is-down-right-next-to-me-and-there’s-two-Brutes-here-with-two-Banshees-on-the-way kind of a situation. In those kinds of cases, go nuts.
    Oh, and it’s generally a good idea to aim your missiles at the ground. Many a person has been mocked in-game because their woefully-aimed Missile missed the group of three Banshees and sailed clear off the map — get close, aim your Missile at the ground, and watch those suckers drop. The splash damage on the Missile is around 3-4m, and anything within a 2 meter radius is dead, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be aiming at the ground — long range missile launchers? Generally a bad idea for the same reason that you might miss (unless you’re planning for the missile to hit a wall or something, but the invisible walls and whatnot might put a spanner in that particular plan).

That’s pretty much it. Your own gear/loadouts/characters will determine how effective these few tips are, but they should work for pretty much everyone. If you don’t have any Medkits or Missiles, then what I like to do with the Store is save up all my credits until I’m done playing for the night/day/whatever, then buy all the 99000 credit packs I want, leaving the last set of 99,000 credits for three Jumbo Equipment Packs, which replenishes my stores of Cobras/Medkits as well as ammo/weapon bonuses.

Minecraft Redux

I’m not very creative. I wish I was more creative, sometimes, but the fact of the matter is, as much as I want to be, I’m not very creative at all.

Which is kind of funny, because I’m playing Minecraft again, a game that demands creativity when you’re building stuff.

Only in creative mode, mind you, because I want to build stuff. I see things all the time that inspire me to build their equivalents in Minecraft, and creative mode is the only way that happens within any kind of suitable timeframe.

inception-diagram

There’s a scene in Inception where Cobb explains to Ariadne how in the dream world, our minds create and perceive the world simultaneously, allowing us to get right in the middle of that process by taking over the creating part.

That’s kind of what Minecraft in creative mode is like. Kind of.

At first I thought creative wasn’t the way Minecraft was supposed to be played, but then I realised that if you just wanted to build stuff, it is the only way you are supposed to play. Survival Minecraft hampers creativity to the point where you’re just doing meaningless work for the sake of being able to create; even the smallest project (say, a 64×64 inverted glass pyramid) takes weeks of in-game time.

Survival Minecraft is kind of like adding people to Circles in Google Plus — lots of work for very little return. I’ve come to realise my time is now becoming more and more valuable, and the less I waste on bullshit work like farming wood to make glass or digging out an entire desert worth of sand for that glass then sitting idly by while I wait for that glass to be smelted, the better.

If you just want to build stuff in Minecraft, play creative mode where resources aren’t an issue. Anything else is just a waste of time. Building epic structures in Minecraft is great — less so if you have to admit you spent days or weeks in-game just to build a small glass pyramid.

Anyway, I’ve been building stuff, most of it inspired by stuff in real life. I find cool stuff on the web occasionally, and bookmark it to build in Minecraft. One thing I’ve built recently is the smaller enterable apartments from ARMA 2’s Chernarus map, the ones that look a little like so:

arma 2 apartment

I made a similar thing in Minecraft, which doesn’t actually look too bad compared to the original. Most of the design elements are there, and even the interiors of the apartment are similar, even though I’ve added my own spin on things here and there.

minecraft apartment

And as much as I want to create my own original designs, I’ve been drawing heavily from other games, too. There’s a building that looks strangely reminiscent of Dr Bryson’s lab from Mass Effect 3 (complete with auto-opening doors and automatic lighting that turns itself on at night and off in the morning), a castle design that I’ve ripped off from a different server I played on, and even the famous Rostiger Nagel, a famous German landmark.

For now, my creativity mostly encompasses building Minecraft interpretations of real-life things. I wish I was more creative, but that’ll have to do.