Blockstorm – Early Access Preview

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BlockHeads

Another early access preview and another Minecraft clone? I can hear you groaning already! But unlike some of the other voxel based releases we have previewed here at Frugal Gaming, Blockstorm is rather good, in my opinion at least.
Now I bought Minecraft early and I’ve spent many a happy hour with the base game, but that’s as far as I’ve ever taken it. I have never tried any of the mods or been on other peoples servers, it’s all too complicated and time consuming for me. Whilst I know there are FPS mods for Minecraft, (hell I even saw a TitanFall game mode on YouTube the other day), I’ve never been interested because unless I can click one button to launch the game I’m just not interested. That’s where Blockstorm comes in.
Available now on Steam Early Access for a penny under £9, Blockstorm is Minecraft with guns, but that’s not all. Anyone who has played a FPS will be immediately at home with how the game handles and the game modes on offer. The usual WASD and mouse controls work very well, RMB to aim down iron sights and LMB to unleash whatever weapon you’re using. Whilst the shooty controls are tight, movement does at times feel a little bit slow, especially if you’ve come off the back of something like COD.
With hopefully more game modes on the way, the only ones available at the minute are Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Assault. Whilst the first two need no introduction, Assault splits the player into opposing teams, those who must assault or defend an area of the map. It’s without a doubt the most tactical mode and also gave us the biggest laughs and the most fun.
There are multiple load outs at your disposal, each set-up has a main weapon, a sidearm and explosives of some type. All the weapons look great, made up of the tiny blocks, cute and yet just as deadly as their real life counterparts. The twist here is that each weapon has a different weight, and whilst I’m not 100% sure at the time of writing, it does feel that the heavier your load out the slower you move. This is a great idea and although the weapons still need a bit of balancing, the play-off between lightly armed yet swift, or a tooled up but slow tank do add to the tactical aspect of the game.

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Being a voxel based game opens up a whole bevy of options during the fire fights. You can build and demolish nearly all of the blocks in the game. Want to play the sniper and pick off targets from a distance? Then find yourself a nice hidey hole and block up the entrance so the enemy can’t flank you. Having trouble getting into the enemy’s base in Assault mode? Why not tunnel to victory? It does add something not seen in any other FPS and can lead to some hilarious moments.
A fully featured level editor, the same piece of kit that the developers, Ghost Shark Games, have used to create the pre-baked maps that come with the game is available for everyone. Just think about that for a minute. An endless supply of levels limited only by your imagination and that of the community. Anybody fancy recreating Doom?
The creativity doesn’t end there either; the devs have also included the character editor that they used to create the multitude of pre-sets available, from Robot to Gorilla or a Chef. The inclusion of both these editors is a great idea, however they do take a little bit of time and effort to get used to. Some tutorial videos for these would be great, and whilst the developers have set up a wiki page for the game at the minute its empty. I’m hoping that as the both the community itself and the content it creates grows, the people at Ghost Shark introduce some way to showcase the new content and curate it to, let’s face it there is always an element of absolute rubbish to wade through when it comes to this sort of user created content.

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Being a completely multiplayer game, it seemed right and proper to get some of the Frugal Gamers together to preview Blockstorm. What was only going to be a 30 minute session stretched into something much longer. Here’s what these guys had to say!

Mark Kerry

Blockstorm offers a great combined experience- if you love Minecraft and love Call of Duty you’ll love this. The iconic Minecraft voxel style that has seen a rise in popularity since the hit game first landed, and the ability to dig your own nest along with an online FPS experience is really refreshing and makes for a different experience every single time.
One thing that really interests me is the level creator, an awesome feature in which you can build your own level, host a server and play with friends or random players that join. This is great as it gives you the freedom to explore your own creativity and then test your creations out against players from around the world!
Watch this space closely, I can’t wait to see this in its final release form.

Moaning Bastard Karlos Morale

OK it’s fun in multiplayer. I’m pretty sure that the guys will have poured sugar all over this title because we DID have a pleasant evening playing together – but the same could be said about most functioning multiplayer games. Blockstorm is as basic an FPS as it’s possible to get, chucked into a Minecraft-esque engine.
Blockstorm comes across an undercooked proposition in its current form. The biggest issue currently is the lack of options in terms of interactivity with the landscape, in terms of what players can add in a given game. You are currently limited to adding a single block colour coded to your particular team. A range of block types, possibly with different effects, would make for a more interesting and dynamic landscape to play the game in. With that in mind, the load outs are also shallow and offer little in the way of options – some more development of the weapons available to offer more significant advantages and disadvantages would greatly aid play variety. Currently there are clearly optimal weapons on a given map and no incentive to deviate.

Bwortang

Like finishing a jam doughnut without licking your lips, describing Blockstorm without calling it a Minecraft FPS was going to be tricky. This simple block-based shooter with it’s destructible and construct-able environment allows for several weapon load outs as well as a variety of characters ranging from Rambo to a chef.

Currently only 3 vanilla game modes are available in Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Assault (which is an attack/defend mode). Further game modes would be appreciated and I’m sure are in the pipeline. With a map and character editor the fun is only limited by the communities imagination, If they could migrate some Minecraft fans across and fill the servers with players on custom maps, in a budget price range they’d be onto a winner.

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Have You Got What It Takes To Beat The Cubes? Back To My Opinion.

Blockstorm is off to a good start and I’m definitely looking forward to playing more, however there are some stumbling blocks the developers need to overcome. Player base and price, and they are both intertwined.
Whilst I understand it’s very early in the games life, there are just not enough players on the servers. This morning there was one server with six people playing, at other times over the last week when I’ve tried to play there has not been a soul online. A multiplayer game without multiple players is not a game at all. This preview would have been virtually impossible if the other Frugal guys hadn’t jumped in and it’s such a shame because Blockstorm is a whole lot of fun, especially when playing with friends.
I do feel, at the minute at least, that Blockstorm is just quite simply overpriced.A little lower in pricewould be about perfect for me. People wouldn’t think twice about picking the game up for a few quid but £9 is getting towards the considered purchase price. A cheaper price would mean a lot more people playing in theory, which would immediately raise the value of the game, not to mention the amount of fun to be had, levels created, and the general buzz around the game would be much higher.

Blockstorm has got a lot going for it, I and a couple of the other guys had a lot of fun in our multiplayer games and I really want to continue playing. It’s a cracking idea that would appeal to lots of gamers. Console players would lap this up! But it needs to walk before it runs and those first steps need to be building and maintaining its community. I really hope that in a years’ time I’m still playing Blockstorm and a whole lot of other people are too.

Blockstorm is available via Steam Early Access and can be found here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/263060/

 

You’ll End Up with the Companies You Deserve: The Minecraft Meltdown

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You’ll End Up with the Companies You Deserve

Apparently, some cretins have accused Mojang of being ‘literally worse than EA’ in recent times due to a perceived change in their stance over how servers for Minecraft can be monetised.

Let’s take a look at this:

  • Mojang made a game called Minecraft.
  • Millions of people bought the game, either in its final version or in one of its Alpha/Beta iterations.
  • Mojang allowed people to make content for the game – indeed, it was designed in such a way as people could run servers by themselves.
  • In the Licensing Agreement for the Minecraft it’s made clear you may not make money from Mojang’s products.
  • A de-facto partnership was formed with the community as Mojang agreed that people could monetise video content about the game. A great many people profited from this – including Mojang who gained thousands of hours worth of free publicity for their title.
  • Mojang recognised the costs of running servers for the game and allowed for charging players for access by those who operated the servers.
  • As is the way of things, monetisation spread out from simply paying for access to include paying for cosmetic items and in-game upgrades and boosts.
  • Mojang were incredibly busy continuing to develop their flagship title in addition to other games.
  • Disgruntled people contacted Mojang asking for refunds for “their hundred dollars back their kid spent on an item pack on a server we have no control over.”
  • Mojang’s recognised people were being asked to pay for gameplay on these servers and decided to end this practice by enforcing the already existing EULA.
  • Predictably, the internet lost it’s shit.

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Mojang responded by releasing a statement clarifying what you were allowed to do with respect to monetising your Minecraft server. Edited highlights below:

You are allowed to charge players to access your server
So long as the fee is the same for all players, you are allowed to charge for access to your server. You are not allowed to split your playerbase into paying, and non-paying users, nor can you restrict gameplay elements to different tiers of player.
You are allowed to accept donations
You are allowed to accept donations from players. You are not allowed to restrict gameplay features in an attempt to make money.
You are allowed to provide in-game advertising or sponsorship opportunities
You are allowed to put adverts in your Minecraft worlds to help with costs.
You are allowed to sell in-game items so long as they don’t affect gameplay
We don’t mind you selling items in game, but they must be purely cosmetic. We want all players to be presented with the same gameplay features, whether they decide to pay or not.
You cannot charge real-world cash for in-game currency

Provide your customers with loads of info
If you do decide to monetise your server, you must clearly state that the purchase is not associated with Mojang.

These rules are making attempts to prevent Minecraft servers becoming “pay-to-win.”

Those running the servers have, in some cases, taken to running petitions and trying to gather support on reddit in order to make their case. They evidently disagree with the ‘changes’ that have been made and want to continue to bilk the players on their servers.

Let’s face it, profiteering on the back of someone else’s video game was always going to be a short-term prospect. Of course you’re butthurt, you were making a considerable amount of money and now Mojang are cutting off some of that revenue stream. The problem is, they’re being pretty damn decent about the whole thing.

Minecraft creator, Notch, has made it difficult for you by having the temerity to be a game designer first and a money grubber distant last.

“Mojang does not exist to make as much money as possible for the owners… at the end of the day we choose to do what either makes the most sense for our products, or the things that seem like fun for us.”

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If you seek to make money on the back of someone else’s creative endeavour, you need to be clear of the ground upon which you stand – and how it might shift at moments notice. After shipping 50 million units on various platforms, you’d better believe there’s some serious legal clout behind the Minecraft name. To all intents and purposes, Mojang have ‘made their money’ on this game. Whine about the server community being destroyed all you want, but Mojang can do what they like; beholden to no-one but themselves, it’s fortunate for you that the company didn’t want a cut of your takings in the first place. All they seem to want to do is protect the quality of the experience for the player base. If only most developers and publishers saw things the same way.

The sense of entitlement from those running effected servers is staggering. Causing headaches for those developers who try and do a good turn for everyone by sharing within the community is going to push them to less open in the future.

Persistent bleating is likely to cause even nice guys like Notch to go the Goodfellas rout of, “Fuck you, pay me.”

Sources

Notch’s personal blog – http://notch.net/2014/06/literally-worse-than-ea/

Mojang website – ‘Let’s Talk Server Monetisation’ – https://mojang.com/2014/06/lets-talk-server-monetisation/

Bjarn Bronsveld’s Petition – Change your EULA – https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/mojang-change-your-eula

reddit.com discussion – http://www.reddit.com/r/admincraft/comments/27dy0q/1710_forces_you_to_accept_the_eula_before_you_can/

Block Story – Early Access Preview

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Block Story – Early Access Preview
PC
Developer: Mindblock Studio, LLC

Have you ever played the game where you have to try and not think about a pink elephant?
No?
Well it’s pretty simple; try not to think about a pink elephant.
It’s a tricky game, because the salmon-coloured pachyderm forces its way into your mind like, well, like an elephant.
A similar game can be played by trying to play Block Story and not think about Minecraft. As a voxel built open-world with items to craft and structures to build, comparisons are inevitable. However, as one of the statistically almost-insignificant number of people who has never played Minecraft for more than a minute or two, I am going to keep my focus on what Block Story does – rather than how it competes with its rival.
Whether or not you think there’s any room for Block Story in the market is immaterial – it’s here and you can pick it up for a pocket-friendly seven quid.

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Now that’s out of the way, let me tell you about Block Story:
The world of Block Story is created entirely out of blocks. Blocks of sand, blocks of rock, blocks of tree etc. These can all be destroyed and harvested in order to make new items. So far, so familiar to anyone who has played this style of game before. The landscape is generated randomly before you head into the game and, once complete, you head out into the 1st person world that is yours to shape and re-shape as you see fit.
There are two quite distinct game modes here, one is an adventure which gives you an RPG approach to making your way in the world. The second is a creative mode that offers you instant access to all of the exciting blocks, bits and bobs that would otherwise take a donkey’s yonk in order to get. Both of these are a resolutely single player experience. The developer has plans in the future for a multiplayer release but it will be a separate title, not an addition to this one.
Adventure mode tries to spice up the ‘classic’ harvest and craft gameplay by introducing npc’s who are desirous of you to fulfil their questing needs. These are split into ‘gather me X numbers of Ys’, or ‘kill me A number of Bs’ quests. Hopefully, in time these will become a bit more fleshed and out and the folks you meet in your world will get a bit more personality. This aspect by itself could be enough to convince a lot of people to try the game since it offers something markedly different from other games in the genre.

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I was surprised by the amount of crafting scope the game has to offer during my play time, given that you can craft rings, weapons and armour as well as cars and boats – and it looks as though this will expand in the future. Crafting is done by arranging materials on a grid in order that they somewhat resemble the shape of the item you’re trying to create. Happily there is also a recipe book within the inventory that explains how everything is made so you know what items you need to work towards in order to make progress. Some recipes are locked off at the start but are unlocked through completing quests – there are plenty of blocks to play around with from the start however. Vendors inhabit your world, ready to trade you blocks that you might not be able to craft to begin with – it is a good feeling to lay down those first brick foundations for your new house on the beach let me tell you, even if that house is occasionally beset by the odd giant spider or ‘Barlog’ (yes, I know, I see it too) that’s climbed up one of my shafts. If I’d have known that was how it was going to go from the start, I’d have named my new world Australia and had done with it.

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If I have one strong complaint that I hope the developers address during this early access phase, then it is definitely the strength of the monsters versus the amount of damage you are able to inflict. Given the number of quests that involve killing a number of beasts, it takes an unnecessarily large amount of damage to put one of them down. Given that combat is hardly one of the games strengths, it seems a curious decision to highlight this by making you spend a long time doing it. Still, balancing hit points is a minor issue and can be easily tweaked, right guys?
Block Story seems like it would be interesting to people who are looking for something a little different from their world-building games. It has enormous scope for you to craft the world to your liking – the developers claim that the world will go on forever upwards and downwards. I tried this, and dug down until I got thoroughly sick of the brick bashing noise. There’s some weird beasties down there and I didn’t find an end to it. Plenty of lava though.
If you felt like your Minecraft experience would have been improved by questing, dragon pets and boss monsters to battle, you could well do worse than check this out.

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KIDS EXPERIENCE:
I gave this game to my 8 year-old daughter to have a play with and she gave the following testimony.

“Yeah, it’s fine.”
“…”
“Oh I like this bit because you can build a house and it’s sort of got built in stairs.”
“Dad, can I have a biscuit?”
“The water is stupid, it’s not like real water at all.”
“It doesn’t work, it’s broken you can’t… oh no wait… oh… huh.”
“Dad, can I play Block Thingy again?”
Make of this what you will.

Block Story is Available on Early Access Steam for £6.99