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Defending Quests, Tekkiting Tekkit

Although I had a fairly miserable time of poor gaming prospects, it seems that good gaming times are here again, at least for a little while.

Defender's Quest:  Valley Of The Forgotten

As far as I can tell, this game was not made in Game Maker, but it looks like the game engine would certainly have been up to the task.  Somehow, I had missed how much RockPaperShotgun was gushing over it and managed to pick it up, a year later, polished and decked out with more content than it originally released with, on a Steam sale for a piddling 5 clams, 66% off.

Having played a bit of it, I'd say it would have been a reasonable bargain at full price.  It's a fairly nice marriage between:
  1. Tower defense games - your ultimate goal in every scenario is to prevent waves of enemy from reaching the protagonist.
  2. Roleplaying games - your "towers" are actually characters you recruit, equip with weapons or armor, and level up.
  3. Self-consciously corny fantasy plots - it is indeed a corny plot, and the character dialogue is often deliberately goofy, but it somehow manages to keep its fantasy apocalyptic edge.
I think a special note should be paid to the music, which actually reminds me quite a bit of Chrono Trigger throughout.   Any music inspired by a Squaresoft classic can't be bad!

Of course, what really makes a game like this work comes down to the tiniest of balance details, and it's clear that the developers have spent some time balancing it.  It's extremely tight, leading to some exciting moments where I'm just barely able to manage a perfect score by psi-lightning zapping opponents just inches away from the hero.

If you ever reach a point where you can't make progress, just go back and replay some earlier scenarios on higher difficulty modes, and this will let you accumulate "scrap," levels for your heroes as well as unique items.

Overall, Defender's Quest is fun, even addictive, experience.

Minecraft Revitalized By Mods, Yet Again

Thaumcraft!  Of all the mods I've used, this one strikes me as the most indispensable.  Millenaire may be optional now that Minecraft 1.4.5 introduced testificates you can trade with, but Thaumcraft really brings the magic to the world.  Unfortunately, Thaumcraft was not compatible with the latest version of Minecraft, 1.4.5... until now.

Imagine my excitement when I heard about Thaumcraft 3.  A whole new version of Thaumcraft!   Well, as it turns out, my excitement was slightly misplaced.  Anazor (the creator of the mod) has done away with the whole idea of melting things down into "vis" and "taint" and piping them around, and that's a pity because I really liked setting up alchemical networks dripping with purplish liquid life essence.  A lot of the cool stuff, like seals, may no longer be in Thaumcraft 3.  (I say "may" because it could be I just haven't found the seals yet.)

Does this mean the mod is old hat?  Well, actually, the longer I play Thaumcraft 3, the more I realize these changes are actually a step forward from Thaumcraft 2:
  •  "Vis" and "taint" have mostly been replaced with a system more respective of the actual blocks and items in the game world, which actually lends well to the sense of "concrete virtual space" in the game.  Everything in the game is considered to have "aspects," for example a chunk of wood would have aspects of wood and plants, a torch would have the aspect of light, and a chunk of rotting flesh would have aspects of flesh and death.
  • Research is less random in that it's really more a matter of finding things of the appropriate aspects (which you discover through trial and error) in order to forward your research.  I do sort of miss how the timed aspect is gone, as research now progresses as fast as you hit the research button.
  • The enchantment table that converted "vis" into enchantments may be gone, but I guess that it was in conflict with Minecraft's default enchantment table anyway.  Now that experience is being dropped from mining and smelting, too, there's no real shortage of it to invest in enchanting.
  • The repair table is gone, but Minecraft now has an anvil for that anyway.
  • The first major implement of Thaumcraft 3, the wand and its associated crafting tables, replace a wide range of various Thaumcraft equipment.  The result is a lot more flexible and less cluttered on the Minecraft block IDs.
  • The second major implement in the game, the crucible, is focused heavily on the idea of transmutation.  Put some water in the crucible, boil it, toss some stuff in, and wave your magic wand.  What you get is based on the ratios of the aspects of the things you tossed in there.  It's a deeper, less abusable method of transmuting Minecraft matter than what you'd see in Equivilent Exchange.
  • The seals (may have been) removed because you now have golems who are happy to perform tasks for you autonomously. 
I suspect the greater part of Thaumcraft3's revisions were built for adding unique functionality and compatibility with the kinds of mods you'd see in Technic.

Speaking of Tekkit...

A friend of mine has set up a Tekkit server, and I've found myself rather overwhelmed with the sheer mass of plugins that Tekkit uses.

Of particular note are the mining turtles from Computercraft, which have greatly optimized my plumbing about for minerals near bedrock.  I also find using the computer consoles from the same mod to be the easiest way to set up redstone pulses.  (And then I found out about timer blocks, which are even easier!)

I'm also just now getting the handle on the use of pneumatic tubes, which make moving items around where I need them much easier, and that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Redpower2 brings to Tekkit.  (One dislike about redpower, though: I hate the micro blocks, they're just a ton of item bloat for minimal benefit.)

An inclusion that is simultaneously the best and worst of the Tekkit pack would be the Equivilent Exchange 2 mod (a name no doubt inspired by a certain anime/manga series I know).

EE2 the best because I just love what it lets the players do.  Of particular note are the items of power, such as the interdiction torches that knock back enemies and the talisman of repair that automatically keep my equipment in tiptop shape so long as I'm carrying sufficient covalence dust, and there are many more items of power besides that.

EE2 is the worst because the energy condenser completely defeats the purpose of building factories to produce things by simply allowing you to take one completed example of that thing and break down whatever blocks you want to make it.  If you pair it with an energy collector, it will essentially generate things for free by harnessing light, which is just plain cheesy considering that light is not a limited resource in Minecraft.

If I was designing EE2, and serious about the idea of "equivalent exchanging," I would get definitely get rid of the energy collector (which essentially produces something for nothing) and maybe get rid of the energy condenser and transmutation tablets too but, if I decided to keep them, limit them to creating the kind of raw materials that had never been through a crafting table in order to preserve the necessity to create factories to produce stacks of anything more than very rudimentary.

That said, despite my finding EE2's freedom to create whatever item you want to be borderline cheating, I could certainly recognize an easy path to power when I saw it, and wasted no time in building a EMC power flower of my own:

Equivilent Exchange "EMC power flowers" are named for their shape.  Start with an energy condenser block,
put four energy relay blocks around it, then connect an energy collector block to each side of the relays.
The energy collectors are placed so as to get good access to light, as they convert this to EMC.  The goal is to route
the maximum amount of EMC to the energy condenser, which uses EMC to duplicate any one thing you give it.
This situation sort of underlines the main weakness of Tekkit: when you've got several different mods made by different creators in the same mod pack, there's going to be balance disparities.  For example, Buildcraft introduces miners and quarries which are intended to cost 100-1000 times as much as mining by hand, but ComputerCraft mining turtles do mining for you for a little coal or even nothing (depending on what version you are running and barring any effort you made in reprogramming them).  How does this compare to a Railcraft tunnel bore?  How about a EE2 destruction catalyst?  All different balances to achieve the same aim of faster mining.

The easy solution is for the players to regulate themselves to whatever means they find appropriate.  However, it is difficult for players to identify balance issues on their own and, even if they can, it's a slippery slope to the path of least resistance.  (Such as me knowing EE2 EMC power flowers are problematic to the balance but making one anyway!)

I barely scratched the surface of the Tekkit bundle.  Computercraft, Redpower, and Equivilent exchange are just three huge mods of many (and, even limited to those three, there's much I've yet to do).  A few days is not really enough to get the full grasp of what Tekkit is capable of; a few weeks may be insufficient time, as Tekkit has a ton of content in it.

But, actually, I'm hoping to be even more productive than that...

I'm keeping an eye out for GameMaker to run another sale like it did in autumn.  If it doesn't happen by the end of the Holidays, I'll probably end up getting it anyway, but I'm hesitant to spend the full $99 on the enterprise edition until I know that it's going to serve me and I'm going to serve it (by investing the time in actually making things).  [Edit: The very next day after I wrote this, it did go on sale, and I've no longer that excuse not to be developing in it.]
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