The Joys of Minecraft: Story Mode

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I surprised Wyatt last night with the first episode of Minecraft: Story Mode. He was happy. Commanding the PS4 controller, he guided protagonist Jesse and friends to EnderCon.

“I really wish his name wasn’t Jesse,” Wyatt told me as I put him to bed later on.

“Jesse is both a girl’s name and a boy’s name.”

“Oh.”

And so it began.

The signature of all Telltale Games, dialogue decisions, reared their red eyes like a cave spider. I found myself scrambling to read all of the choices aloud with their corresponding button shapes. Stress. Filled. Chaos.

Dialogue timer is at the bottom of the screen (middle green bar).

Dialogue timer is at the bottom of the screen (middle green bar).

“Hit the triangle button!”

The boy presses the x button, calling someone on screen an idiot.

“Wyatt!”

“I’m sorry!”

Some games click, others don’t. And that’s okay. 

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Tabitha walked into the living room about the time a “hell yeah” was exclaimed twice in a row. One of those classic mom moments. The game had been fine up until then. Positive elements of friendship and being true to yourself had been explored before she walked in. I promise.

Five Nights At Freddy’s and Minecraft: Story Mode are spoken about with reverence in our home. Playground hype has carried the scares of Freddy’s and the tales of the Ender Dragon to our dinner table. I am happy to help the boy gain some playground cred. I’m just not sure we are ready to finish this block-filled adventure.

In fact, we are going to finish up the first episode and call it a day. Maybe we’ll revisit this series in a few years when he is older. Able to read the dialogue at a rapid rate and make decisions. Mature enough to understand the “hell yeah’s” being thrown at him.

We’ll continue exploring the regular version of Minecraft. Jesse will have to adventure on, alone.

Understanding Minecraft through Cooperative Play

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Over the weekend, Wyatt and I played Minecraft for a couple of hours. Straight. I’ve never really understood the game. Sure, I get that it is virtual LEGOS. You can dig caves, build forts, the imagination is the limit. But I didn’t understand Minecraft until I played it co-op with my son.

We started our play session separated from one another. I worked on a castle; Wyatt worked on a village/farm. Eventually we figured out that the game has an in-game map. We found each other!

Wyatt begged me to come see his village. So I did. But my castle called to me, come finish me! So I left. Wyatt followed. My castle soon became a joint creation, our castle. Glowing pumpkins, emerald blocks, materials I would never choose, the boy placed with relish.

Playing the game cooperatively, split-screen, allowed us to create our own in-game narrative. Our creations telling the story of a seven-year-old and a thirty-five-year-old living in a block-filled land.

We have built great things together. Cooperatively, through the magic of Minecraft.

I finally understand.

Wyatt (top screen); Me (bottom screen). Built a tower of light.

Sky Bridge

Wyatt (top screen); Me (bottom screen). Built an epic sky road that spans to a distant mountain.

Surf Report – Winds of Change – 7/25/16

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Surf Report

Welcome to the Monday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God / Life :

My brother-in-law gave me a devotional book for my birthday (Thanks, J!). Paul David Tripp’s New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional has been kicking my butt.

“At the end of the service where I announced my resignation, the oldest man in our congregation waited on the porch of the church for me. We were the last two to leave. He came up to me and asked if he could speak to me, then said: “We know you’re discouraged and we know you’re a bit immature, but we haven’t asked you to leave. Where is the church going to get mature pastors if the immature ones leave?””

Things have been hard at church lately. Winds of change. God has been reminding me to hold back and pray. I think we, as human beings, often run from the maturing process. Scrambling to find the ejection seat. Failing to remember what happened to Goose.

.: Gaming :

Wyatt and I played the LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens demo. Small smart mechanical changes aside, a LEGO game is a LEGO game.

That is it for this weeks Surf Report. Make sure to comment below and have a good week!

Song of the Deep – Lost in the current with my son

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The search begins.

As Song of the Deep’s protagonist Merryn built a submarine to search for her lost father, Wyatt looked at me:

“If anything were to ever happen to you, I’d build a submarine and come find you too.”

Preparing to dive.

Into the oceanic abyss we dove, deeper and deeper. The couch, our submarine. Wyatt deftly piloted the helm. Until controller dexterity issues arose when we encountered electrified jellyfish. Fighting with the sub’s mechanical arm while steering was just too complicated for him. So I took over. He watched.

In the abyss.

We journeyed through a sunken city, wondering what had happened to this lost civilization. Wyatt grew bored. He didn’t ask to pilot the sub again. Song of the Deep frustrated him. This coming from the kid who can hold his own in Guacamelee and PixelJunk Shooter.

End of Watch.

Insomniac’s Song of the Deep is a “passion project” influenced by Brian Hastings, chief creative officer at Insomniac Games. Brian said that he wanted to create a heroic character to share with his 10-year-old daughter. I applaud him for that.

This game is pretty.

I had hoped that the underwater beauty and awe inspiring moments were something I could actually share with Wyatt. The movement of the submarine proved to be too much of a barrier. Dated puzzle mechanics, such as adjusting light mirrors (ugh), further threatened to sink our voyage.

I wanted Song of the Deep to be more confident in itself to be different and new. Game mechanics resurrected from the era of Ecco the Dolphin come across as hazardous underwater currents. Currents I want to avoid.

Ecco lives!

Ecco lives!

Bottom Line: Song of the Deep is challenging and entrancing in it’s beauty. I like that I can play the game in front of Wyatt. I just wish co-piloting was a tiny bit easier. But skills will improve. Difficulty will be overcome. 

wavesplinter4/5 – Great game to play with your kids. Co-piloting may prove challenging depending on your child’s skill level. 

Wave SplinterTitle: Song of the Deep
Developer: Insomniac Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Reviews on: PlayStation 4
MSRP: $14.99

*Song of the Deep was reviewed using codes provided by Insomniac Games.

Nintendo Games and Tegotae

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Stephen Totilo, over at Kotaku, interviewed Shigeru Miyamoto last month at E3. He asked Miyamoto why Nintendo games feel different. Love the insightful response:

Miyamoto: So you know programming is all about numbers. The challenge is getting this kind of feeling into numbers. So there’s a lot of back and forth between the programmer and myself and the director. We really go in deep about how to create this feeling. We do a lot of back and forth.

Bill Trinen: It actually goes back to the way they designed the original Super Mario Bros., where when they tested it, originally, there was no Mario and there was no person. It was just a block. And you would press the button and see the block move. There’s actually a word in Japanese that describes what you’re talking about–the feeling–which there is no word for in English. In Japanese it’s called tegotae..

Read more here

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