All posts by Ammon

Lightning Review: Surviving Mars

Howdy! This is the first in what I hope will be an interesting set of “short” game reviews. I don’t plan to spend time grabbing screenshots or talking with other people, I’m just going to write my quick (for someone’s definition of quick) impressions and opinions (with words) and move on. Mostly this will be a vaguely organized brain dump.

Surviving Mars

Formally released one week ago (Mar 15, 2018) by Haemimont Games and Paradox Interactive, Surviving Mars is precisely what it says on the tin. It is a game about keeping martian colonists alive.

Nothing witty to share about this screenshot. It’s a secondary landing area where I’m mining rare metals in an attempt to keep up with my electronics addiction.

It costs $40 for the base, non-sale version. There are more expensive editions available, the priciest of which includes a season pass for future DLC for $35 more. The season pass promises 2 full expansions and 2 content packs, and can be purchased by itself if you already have the base game (same total price).

Haemimont is a veteran Bulgarian game studio responsible for Tropico 3-5, Victor Vran, and a number of games that I have not played. I have a generally good impression of them and the fact that they’re not the ones writing Tropico 6 is my big worry for that upcoming game.

Paradox is a Swedish publisher most famous for their complex military strategy games, many of which are the product of an in-house dev studio. They’ve also published a variety of other games, but the bulk of their products are simulators and the bulk of those are military in nature with steep learning curves.

There’s no in-game tutorial this time around (as the community tends to expect for a Paradox title, but not one from Haemimont). But they did partner with strategy game YouTuber Quill18 to sponsor an instructional video series for the game. I watched his first 3 episodes before playing for myself.

The game is available via Steam or GOG. Steam keys are additionally available through all of the normal resellers, including Humble and Fanatical. It nominally runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux… but the Mac build had major rendering and crashing bugs at launch (I was personally unable to get past the game’s initial menu screen). On March 20, they released a patch for OSX builds, but I have not tried it since then.

There is meant to be strong modding support (at least via Steam Workshop), and Haemimont has published a number of sample mods.

I have played 7 hours of the game on Windows plus whatever time I wasted trying to run it on the Mac.
Continue reading Lightning Review: Surviving Mars

i sii what you did there

Well, this post took me entirely longer to write than I planned. Actually it didn’t – 95% of this was done in January… but I was unhappy with just about everything about it and my entire family decided that it was a perfect time to get sick, so attempts at editing proved futile.

On the bright side, this extra delay allowed me to advance the character to GL6, which adds some interesting perspective to the whole mess. Also, this post may not be of very general interest… but it is a topic that interests me, so here we go.

– Al (Feb 9, 2018)

When I returned to 3k, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t expect my muscle memory to be able to take me directly to the ATM from the northern entrance to town. I didn’t expect the Witch and Warder guilds to have closed. I certainly didn’t expect to see mechanics for giving lower level players autoloading equipment in a game like this. But I did expect to see a new guild or two, and I was not been disappointed on that front.

This “new” (circa 2006 it seems) Sii guild appears to be based on a comparatively unique concept. Unlike, for example, the aforementioned Warders or the Juggernauts, who are based directly on Battletech’s Elemental armoured infantry units – which are not to be confused with the Elemental guild, who are… well, a bunch of elementals (like fire and water and stuff).

What follows is a (hopefully organized) explanation of this newfangled guild’s mechanics, and the things that make them interesting to me from a game design perspective. But like I said, it may not be of any interest to anyone other than myself (and possibly to new players of 3k who are trying to decide between the game’s roughly 20 guilds).

After several attempts at googling the Sii, I have found nothing but references to the guild itself. It’s possible that their exact analogue does exist somewhere in some sci-fi novel or show that I’m unfamiliar with… but I’ve read a lot and I’ve watched a lot more… so *shrug*

The sii are… well, they’re telepathic parasites.

Continue reading i sii what you did there

return of the three kingdoms

September 1996 changed my life forever. I was a naive college freshman trying to make friends with the other guys in my dorm. We were all part of a special technical program for younger students that I won’t go into now – but suffice it to say that we were a bunch of geeks.

The internet was still youngish and only one room in our entire building (a lab on the ground floor) was wired for ethernet. If we wanted to connect to the net, we had to tie up our room’s phone line. I had a 40mhz 486dx processor, 8mb of ram, and a 33.6kbps dial-up modem. This was better than half of the other computers on the floor.

Apart from all of the standard hobbies that one would expect (tabletop role-playing games, computer RPG’s, boardgames, MTG, SNES, usenet, anime, Star Trek, Babylon 5, Red Dwarf, etc…), many of my classmates spent a significant amount of time playing muds. Like a SIGNIFICANT amount of time.

And on September 6th of that year, under only the mildest of coercion, I dialed into the university’s modem bank, typed telnet, and logged into a mud for the very first time.

No client. Raw telnet. … Yeah.

Continue reading return of the three kingdoms

new year new blog

So, it is January of 2018. In one form or another, I have been writing “here” for almost 15 years now. That is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

I’ve talked about linux systems administration, video game development and depression. I’ve reviewed newly released anime and 10-year-old anime and free to play mmorpg’s. I’ve attempted various strategy game let’s plays and fiction writing challenges. I’ve speculated about the future of various games and theorycrafted ways to play them. I’ve apologized numerous times for not writing anything.

What I haven’t done is stick to a reliable release schedule 🙂

There have been times when I posted 10 times a week… and times when I never actually completed a post over the course of a year (as per recent history). But I’ve always been writing – even if posts never came out, there are stubs that never quite hit completion.

Seriously, though. My historical ratio of completed to uncompleted posts is rather poor. Right now, I have 16 things that I tried to write over the past two years but never got around to… and of them, I only feel one post is worth trying to finish… and IT was originally written in the context of Borderlands 2, a video game that shipped over 8 years ago. So maybe?

I want to set and stick to a schedule for the coming year, but at the same time I also want to increase the quality of what I produce here. I also want to start streaming gameplay (or game development) on Twitch and releasing video content on YouTube somewhat regularly.

I’ve contemplated scrapping all of this backlog of history in favor of a clean slate… but am not going to do that right now. If I wipe the blog, I’d only do so as part of a migration to a new domain – which is only likely to happen at this point if I somehow wound up making a living off of the blog… which, yeah. Nope 🙂

So… this is my semi-regular announcement to nobody in particular that things are going to be different. We’ll see how that goes.

Feature Completeness*

* For certain definitions of complete

It has been about a week now since I released Fairy Factions version 0.5.2 (not a beta) to the overwhelming silence of the unadvertised void. We’ve had about 100 downloads since then and no error reports, so I’m going to count that as a win.

This week, I will be composing an MCF thread and building a new wiki (or something) for documenting the mod in an attempt to actually attract more people to using it. I’ve never really cared about mod install rates before (with the notable exception of SMB’s AutoPackager – which he totally wrote because I asked him to, btw). But I want people to see this mod. It straddles the line very nicely between vanilla style play and heavy modding, and I think it would make a lot of people smile.

I have commitments for German and Italian translations, so that is also a thing that should get the ball rolling 😉

Fairy Factions 0.5.2 Features

But what exactly do I mean by “feature complete”? I mean that the current mod is stable on 1.7.10 and has all of the standard features from the original 1.2.5 mod that people would expect:

  • Fairies spawn as tribal factions in the world, surrounding a queen.
    • Except sometimes, lone fairies spawn as well.
  • Fairies come in a variety of subclasses: normal, guard, scout, rogue, healer, queen…
  • Fairies will fight back if attacked, but if you either kill the queen or kill everything in a group except the queen, the remaining fairies may be persuaded to join you.
  • Tamed fairies may be carried on your head, and will grant minor powers of flight (eventually they get tired).
  • Tamed fairies may be renamed by handing them a piece of paper, and may have their hairstyle changed by using shears on them.
  • Tamed fairies will generally follow their leader (but they’re not great at it), so can be assigned to a post by placing a sign down with their name on it.
  • Posted fairies will perform a variety of tasks based on tools provided in a chest near their sign:
    • A hoe will allow them to farm wheat, carrots, and potatoes.
    • An axe will allow them to chop any vanilla trees.
    • A fishing pole will allow them to fish in a nearby body of water of sufficient size.
    • Shears will allow them to collect wool from sheep.
    • Appropriate feed will allow them to breed animals.
  • Posted fairies will also attempt to farm sugarcane, but they’re terrible at it.
  • Posted fairies are also somewhat protected from poaching by other players.

Oh, and there’s also a fairy spawn egg now, because yay spawn eggs.

It works well, I’m happy, and my kids are happy.

But we can do more.

Plans for 0.5.3

I have already started on porting the mod to MC1.8.9 (since I don’t expect a stable Forge release for 1.9 to land for a bit longer – as it only formally released today). My port is making decent progress, and I’m mostly down to rendering issues before I can start testing it. My plan with MC 1.8 is similar to that for MC 1.7 – I am going to get it running and stable with as few changes as necessary, as quickly as possible.

So far, the only planned new feature will be ensuring that rabbit breeding works 😉 I can’t see how that could possibly end badly.

Whenever the 1.9 Forge update drops (hopefully in a couple of weeks), I plan on giving it the same treatment (adding support for farming beets, etc…).

Beyond that, I can’t say… but we do have a bunch of actual new features planned that I will be compiling somewhere public for people to discuss/vote on for when the time comes. At the very least, we want to add a lot of compatibility with other mods and would like to address the question of how fairies spawn and are tamed (especially in peaceful mode).

Fairy Factions

After several months of headaches and confusion, I am happy to announce the beta release of my official update to KodaichiZero’s Fairy Factions mod.


What was Fairy Factions?

Fairy Factions was an adorable utility mod for Minecraft 1.2.5 from back in 2012. It populated the world with little tribes (factions) of fairies that you could tame and use to defend your base and automate simple farming tasks.

It was very popular among a small subset of the community – and was easily my 5-year-old’s favorite thing in the game at the time.

But it didn’t last very long. The mod author quit modding and things were never updated to Minecraft 1.3.

So it’s back now?

Yes, it is back. As I mentioned, my daughter was a MASSIVE fan of the Fairy mod back when I introduced it to her. For years now, she has bemoaned its disappearance from our servers, occasionally loudly. And she has, on more than one occasion, asked me if I could write my own alternative version. We actually sat down some time in 2014 to work on something like that – writing design notes and building a rudimentary 3d fairy model. Unfortunately, I had to bail on the project because of real life… and more so than any other project I’ve left undone… that one really bothered me.

Fast forward to November 2015. I saw Kodaichi post something on a forum (I don’t remember what he was saying or what forum it was)… but I decided to contact him about the mod, and after a brief email exchange, he agreed to let me continue work on the mod and sent me the last working version of the code.

I spent the next 6 weeks porting the mod to Minecraft 1.7.10 and had a proof of concept build ready just in time to show it to her on Christmas morning. She was suitably happy, but I was also unfortunately not able to just hand over the keys to the mod because there were 2 showstopper bugs that prevented it from being more than a novelty to look at.

Fast forward a bit more to mid February 2016, I figured out what was going on in both cases and was able to finally soft-launch playable alpha builds of the mod. A couple of builds and a couple of days later, the mod is actually useful and stable enough that I’m going a bit more public with it and declaring the latest build a beta 🙂


2016-02-22_15.37.45 2016-02-22_15.35.13 2016-02-18_14.31.26 2016-02-18_12.16.33 2016-02-18_12.12.38

Licensing and stuff

My first priority is to get the mod running and useful for people, after that we can worry about adding features and porting it to Minecraft 1.8 (and eventually to 1.9).

I have a bit more information on plans for the project on the mod’s CurseForge site. I’ll get around to creating an MCF thread when I get around to it, probably when I declare the port 100% feature complete.

All source code (including that for the original version of the mod) is available on GitHub at We have agreed to release the project under the Apache 2.0 license and I plan on managing official releases for the foreseeable future.

Kodaichi’s original fiction and IP for the mod is not part of the remake, and is not being open sourced. Where there is need for further fiction and design, I plan on taking care of it. In fact, my daughter and I have several thematic changes planned for the mod’s future that will distinguish us nicely from any further projects Kodaichi may launch.