Friday, December 18, 2020

Don't Be A Creeper

I've been looking forward to Cyberpunk 2077 for [checks calendar] eight years, ever since that incredible teaser trailer dropped. I'm a huge fan of the cyberpunk genre, and while I haven't played the OG Cyberpunk 2020 pen-and-paper game, it has a strong reputation. I got increasingly excited as we learned and saw more of the game: it looked incredible, seemed oriented towards a variety of playstyles, and had lots of panache.

My vague plan was to build a PC shortly before the game came out so I could play it at launch. My current build dates from 2014, when I last upgraded to play Dragon Age: Inquisition. When I actually started planning a build last month, though, I realized what tons of people had already warned me about: There is an insane shortage in the graphics card market. Things aren't just overpriced: it is actually impossible to find cards in stock. Any new supply gets bought up in seconds, and often resold on eBay for three times the price.

I'm now tentatively planning to do that upgrade in February, assuming the market settles down by then. Which actually works out perfectly, as by that time the many many reported bugs will hopefully have been squashed, and my initial experience in Cyberpunk can be a good one.

So, instead of playing the latest bleeding-edge graphics-intensive game, I am diving into the blockiest, lowest-resolution game imaginable: Minecraft!

My brother has talked up this game to me for years. I've always been intrigued, but haven't taken the plunge before. I'm generally wary of open-ended games, as I either get bored or, worse, get obsessed, and spend way too much time in a game that never ends.

Minecraft has been a little different, as it's been a nicely social experience. A few months ago, my company decided to stand up a private Minecraft server, and use that as a social gaming outlet. In The Before Times, we used to have monthly Game Nights with board games and card games at the office after work, and people had been missing that experience. Minecraft isn't the same thing, but it's been a really fun place for folks to gather and mess around.

As I've learned, one of the awesome things about Minecraft is that it can be whatever you want it to be. I personally have gone through a lot of phases. For the first couple of months, while I was busy with Stellaris, I would pop on for our every-other-Tuesday "Minecraft Night". We voice-chat on Discord while walking around and looking at what other folks have built. After I started to get more interested, I began digging into the mechanics of the game and learning how to actually do stuff. I went through a long phase of spelunking and dungeon-crawling, descending deep into the earth to battle skeletons and find treasure chests and mine diamonds. More recently I've gotten on a building kick, upgrading my previous minimal forts to a more aesthetically pleasing and livable base.

I'll probably make a couple of posts on Minecraft. For this one, I mostly wanted to show off the amazing things my fellow players have created. We're playing on Survival mode (normal difficulty), so there are lots of torches everywhere to keep the monsters away!

So, let's start out with the office!

Nice logo!

Let's go through a tour. (I should emphasize that all of this is eerily true to life.) Here is the entrance right inside the front door, with pinball machines directly in front and the bike-parking space off to the right.

Looking into the main office area. Developer desks to the left, conference room upper left, pillars ahead.

This is where our designer and general manager sit.

And hey, here's my desk! Yes, they really are this shade of red IRL.

Call booths are upstairs.

And our conference room, complete with sound panels and mounted TV!

Looking out from the conference room through the glass windows.

Looking down on our lounge area from the upper developer balcony.

Heh... in real life this is a translucent roll-up door facing a high school and not a transparent window facing a farm. But the panels are very accurate!

Here's our kitchen and dining area.

Coffee and snack bar, leading back to the lounge. Oh and yeah, all of these plants are accurate recreations from the real office.

Within Minecraft, we have a bigger space underneath the office that is not as realistic but is a great space, and is often where we end up hanging out: there's tons of crafting stations, chests with materials, and so on there. Charles is a dedicated baker (in Minecraft) and always keeps this area well-supplied with plenty of cake.

The office, like most structures in this post, were designed and built by Rick, our company designer. It's pretty insane how much he's done! He'd never played Minecraft before, and it has been wonderful to see him creating amazing architecture in this space, as well as see how his skills and ambitions have grown over time. Here is the first building he ever made, a little house just outside the office which functions as a secure entry. (To keep the zombies and creepers out, we don't have a direct route into the office, so instead you enter through this building, then go through a tunnel and eventually pop out of our supply room.)

Rick wasn't content with merely recreating the office, and continued rebuilding seemingly the entire Mission District. Here is Sightglass Coffee, located next to the office, where I used to go every day for a delicious Americano.

I want a pastry so badly!

I'm not sure, but I think this might be ODC, Kristen's dance studio.

And of course there's Mission Dolores Basilica.

Next to Rick and maybe Mel, Charles has probably been the most active builder on this server. Charles has focused on the practicalities and resources to support all of us, including locating a billion torches everywhere. He also built this amazing farm, spending hours patiently leading in every animal, and then breeding them until we had enough that, like Scarlett O'Hara, we'll never be hungry again.

His most recent project has been this floating castle, and he's been working hard on getting a functioning railroad to connect it to the office.

Back to Rick's creations: Check out this awesome pirate ship, complete with illegal contraband inside!

Or this charming waterfront island home. I really love how this house blends in to the environment, unlike the "clear the land and build a structure in the remaining flats" that most of us have been doing.

The house is beautifully situated, with many fine views from the roof.

And there's even a cool garage with an adorable dog who can't wait to go for a ride in the car!

Random fountain:

Rick didn't even remember building this awesome modern house.

And then there was this creepy cabin:

Inside the cabin was a book:

And when you read the book THE DOOR SLAMS SHUT BEHIND YOU IT IS SO SCARY!!!

And this observation post:

Rick would hang out in this observation post and watch us as we run around inside the hedge maze to try and find the center, which contained the dispenser he created to give out fireworks.

Rick's current project is a museum, which looks absolutely enormous and is already impressive.

Meanwhile, Jack has been building a sinister volcano lair. (I should have taken these screenshots at night, it's especially awesome then.)

That's it for now! I'll probably write more later about my actual gameplay experience in the game, and maybe some of my own building ventures (which definitely pale in comparison to the examples above!)


  1. Wow, amazing builds all around! I have to ask, how did the team get the floating railroad working? I've always done mine as cobblestone 'chunnels' to avoid creepers, wondering if this would be an easier method?

    1. Haha - Honestly, I don't think the railroad is 100% working yet. I haven't checked in on it lately, but last I heard it was having some momentum problems. But what it comes to avoiding creepers, Charles' solution has been "place torches everywhere as far as the eye can see", and so far that seems to have been successful!

  2. Not enough powered redstone Gold tracks would be my guess from the photo. I haven't started laying down tracks yet this time around, but iirc 1/32 was the magic ratio for a level tract, though I never built on glass?

    Really cool seeing the inventiveness of your team, and makes me *almost* willing to join a server one of these days. ;)