Have they Ruined Ingress ?

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Work is very busy.   But Friday wasn’t bad.   I spent a lot of time cleaning up the messes and documenting, and finally got finished.   So that meant, I felt good at last about taking a 20-30 minute Ingress walk again; haven’t done that in two weeks or so.

Ie, Before Pokemon.

Outside the Story Tavern

Outside the Story Tavern Portal/Pokestop

Downtown Burbank is transformed.    3 pm on a Friday saw so many Pokemon players.   A group of four 20ish men playing in front of the Fuddruckers.    Three 15ish teenage boys pounding on the Chinese restaurant’s pokestops.   Solo 18ish teenage girl awkwardly walking along and searching for Pokemon.    Two 30ish men walking along with a tablet out and trying to decide where to go next.

Now me, I’m good.   I have been walking the streets of Downtown Burbank for 18 months or so, trying to avoid detection by anyone I know.    If they see me, I don’t want them to see me playing Ingress.   Ingress players are very thin on the ground and tend to be invisible; it helps you to play the game well.    Yet I’m sure some of them looked at me and said “He’s gaming”.   The stupid half-smile on my face as I spotted people might have tipped them off.   My walking straight to the portals/pokestops would have helped too.

My overriding reaction is – They’ve ruined Ingress !   How am I supposed to wander around invisible now ?    Anyone paying attention knows that these groups of people are playing a game, and I’ll be seen the same way.    I may be good, but I’m not THAT good; people are still going to make the connection, especially with all these other hamfisted players staggering around or sitting staring at their phones.

I remember my noobness in Ingress, oh yes, I was the same as you once young trainer.

Downtown Burbank, Saturday Morn 7/16

Downtown Burbank, Saturday Morn 7/16

The Ingress traffic is lighter.   No doubt about it, either Pokemon, or summer vacation, is making the turnover a lot less.   I did a lot of this, and cleaned out a bunch of green, and it’s still standing after Friday night.    So that’s good, as far as I’m concerned.

Not once did I start the Pokemon app during the walk – too much Ingress to do.   But I now have 230 pokemon and will need to evolve them soon.  Not much to do today, so I’ll be AR gaming if I can manage it.

I’m sure Ingress isn’t ruined, but I’m not welcoming the change in the game.

When you launch a game but don’t tell anyone how it works

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What is the maximum level for Pokemon Go ?    Not disclosed.   My previous certainty of knowing the answer – based on a CNET article – has been unsettled after multiple trainers report 20-ish levels achieved.

What is the maximum number of Pokemon in the game ?    It is suggested by my game that there are 133, but rumors of higher figures exist.

What is your inventory limit ?   Not disclosed.   I currently have a 350 item limit – which used to be 250 – and a 250 pokemon limit.

What do you get by owning a gym ?   “Stardust and Pokecoins”.   How much ?   Not disclosed.

What is the maximum level of a gym ?   Not disclosed.   How many gyms can you control ?  Not disclosed.

There is a real vacuum of information about this game.   Apparently the most important Pokemon is Gyarados.  Maybe I’m supposed to know based on Internet lore and from the past game wikis, but I never played a different Pokemon game.   I don’t trust a wiki for a different game, for my current game.

Fear my deadliest Pokemon.

Fear my deadliest Pokemon.

After one week of enjoying this, I’ve settled into Pokemon Collector mode.    I’m waiting until I get to “Max Pokemon Inventory”, then I plan to pop a lucky egg and evolve as many beasties as I can, keeping the top three survivors in CP for each Pokemon.    What remains to be seen is if it’s worth keeping any of the “Lower Tier” Pokemon.

For example, Machop evolves into Machoke.   If I have a Machoke, should I keep any Machops ?   It’s difficult to say.   I discovered that they both share the same pool of candy currency, suggesting I should just dump the little guys.

Niantic and Nintendo don’t seem to be trying to enlighten us, and I don’t have the programming savvy to take the app apart.   I’m sure someone is working on it right now.    Niantic is working on expanding the global launch, which in all fairness is a good thing for them to do too.    Given that I read one estimate of $1.6 million a day in Pokecoins purchased – and ONLY ON APPLE DEVICES – it sounds like they’ll be raking the cash in.

From what I can tell, the gym battles seem to be twitch based contests instead of the more cerebral/nerdy types of battles I prefer.   It doesn’t help that most gyms I see have 600+ CP Pokemon sitting on them that would lay waste to Pinsir.   I’ve even seen one beast with over 1000 CP daring us all to go after him.    So based on all of that I’m not really battling at gyms.   The first things to go to free space in inventory are healing and revive items since I don’t use them.

The nearest gym

The nearest gym

This gym changes hands several times a day, suggesting that the kids are much better at the gym battles than a “barely senior citizen” like myself.

How long can/will I find it interesting to grab more of the same 40 pokemon available in my area of SoCal ?   Not disclosed.

Poke-car plus Halfway To Max

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My favorite thing about Pokemon Go is, I now have something to write about.   Suck it, Writer’s Block !

Some of the mechanics of Pokemon Go are getting figured out.

  • It’s all about your level, and the maximum level is 20.    The level of your trainer controls what creatures you will see out there, so the higher level you are the better.    This makes me want to spin the wheel at every Pokestop (50xp each) as well as catching all the little creatures.
  • There do not have to be portals/pokestops nearby for you to find Pokemon.   I am finding them everywhere.   This is actually an important game improvement over Ingress, which if you wanted to play, you could only do it at a portal.
  • I hear a lot about people trying to find the little buggers.   The nearby ones show up on the bottom right, hinting that you should wander around and look for them.  I’ve not bothered with that yet, and I’ve reached level 10.   If one pops up, great.   If not, I’ll keep moving.
  • I do not think the Pokestops have a burnout time.   You can spin the wheel every five minutes and sit there forever.    So of course, my inventory is full and I keep discarding items.   I have a desktop pokestop.
  • The Gyms can probably have 10 levels – the 30 levels in the Beta changed.

Then there’s cargressing – that’s the term for playing Ingress in the car.   I suppose this is Carpoking or Poke-Car instead.   How does Pokemon play in a moving vehicle ?   I set out to find the answer since I got into these games because I crawl in traffic for hours every day.

The Pokemon show up on your phone even if you’re going 60 mph.   Good luck tapping one in time if you’re doing that, to start the capture battle.   If you’re moving at a reasonable 15 mph or even less, it’s much easier to tap them.   And that’s all you need to control that Pokemon – at that point, it will either be captured or it will disappear.

I’ve driven 10 miles with a pokemon in “combat mode” ready to throw balls at it, then stopped, then captured the thing.    I’ve done this multiple times too, driving along and catching one, then continuing to drive and catching another.    This leads me to the conclusion that Pokemon does not have a speed lock.

Pokestops seem to be the same, but the spinning mechanic pretty much guarantees you can’t spin many while driving past.    Add in the huge connectivity issues and you can forget it – this is a monstrously laggy game.

So one thing is very enjoyable about this – no matter where I am, a Pokemon might pop up on my phone to be captured.   So I’m finding the app is staying open now, instead of Ingress.    You keep Ingress open all the time for XM capture, which is not really that important anyway.

Now we're talking.

Now we’re talking.

Now, it does not bode well for longevity in the game if I’m halfway to maximum level after a few days.   Other than filling out my pokedex with all 133 beasties, I’m not sure I’d want to do anything else in the game.

The Pokemon Juggernaut

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Pokemon Go.    Today I am seeing it covered in Google News.   Not in the “You might be interested in” category, or technology etc.   This is being covered in the Big Story section.

Wow. Hard to believe.

Wow. Hard to believe.

I am smack in the middle of the biggest gaming phenomenon that I’ve ever been part of.    I can’t recall anything this big, where it literally hits tons of normal people, and I’m in it.   I counted 8 articles on Kotaku in the space of a few days, and Wilhelm did a good job covering much of the media hype.    People are even talking about this in my office – all these financial types with no interest in gaming.

Every news outlet is talking about this.    The Pokemon Go Subreddit is now one of the largest, I believe 4th most subscribers.   The Reddit memes and jokes are in every subreddit.    And again, Wilhelm did a great job linking up all the gamers blogging about it including sending yours truly some traffic.

The game has been out for less than a week – then again, that’s not that weird.    Movies are popular when they first come out and are forgotten in a few months after that.    But it’s out for one week, and everyone is playing it, and I do mean that literally.

Sunday.   My boy is back from camp and I’m letting him veg out.    But I’m going out to do a few things –

  1. Buy him a bike seat.
  2. Buy propane – camping trip soon.
  3. Ingress, Canyon Country is too green.
  4. Pokemon, if I remember to play it.

As I do the drive past portals I switch between Pokemon and Ingress, then come up on a spot with a gym.    I try out my first gym battle.   Blue has taken the portal with a single Raticate.    I try training/adding a Pokemon, which means I have to fight the creatures already there.   I lost.   I just tried out non-evolved and non-powered-up Pokemon with low CP against a 300 point creature and I got smacked down hard.    I glyphed the Ingress portals nearby and got ready to drive off to the next spot.

And what do I see  ?    A gang of about 6 kids walk past, clearly playing the game, and take the gym for Yellow team.   They put a 400 CP monster to guard it.    I smile and drive off.

With phone on dashboard, your trainer runs like a maniac along the roads at 45 mph.

With phone on dashboard, your trainer runs like a maniac along the roads at 45 mph.

Then I get to the bike store.    This is a neat spot – directly behind it is a cluster of four portals (A church property) I can use to blue up a significant chunk of Canyon Country.    But why is that guy idling in the parking lot of the church for ?   I spy the Pokemon app on the passenger’s device and snicker.

I didn’t end up snickering for long.    While I bought the bike seat and Ingressed, no fewer than FOUR vehicles showed up to Pokemon the area.   I waved to the one couple, who looked at me standing outside of my truck with interest.    The universal greeting seems to be to hold up your phone and smile.   That’s when I realized, this game is BIG NEWS.   When they say everyone is playing it, they ain’t kidding.

Evolving a Rattata to a Raticate.   I told you this one would the first.

Evolving a Rattata to a Raticate. I told you this one would be the first.

As I ran the rest of my errands I saw other people walking and staring at their phones – the tell seems to be holding the phone vertically, which is how the AR in the game works.   I turned off the AR view but most people apparently don’t.    The spot by the drug store that had a lot of Pokemon did not disappoint for the live version – I captured six in this little alley by a dry wash, amusingly represented in Pokemon Go as a river.

On the way home I stopped by a different gym and tried out my now-evolved creatures against yet another Red gym.   I burned down a thousand points off of it but it stayed Red.   That’s fine, I’m clearly outmatched here, a successful fight was good enough.   The combat is kind of stupid – tap the phone repeatedly.   Hope your Pokemon kills the other one.    I suppose if I still had good twitchy reflexes I could dodge and time things better but button mashing the screen – is that screen mashing? – worked well enough.

Grew this little guy up into a decent fighter.

Grew this little guy up into a decent fighter.

But that was yesterday.   Today, I’m at work in Beautiful Downtown Burbank.

There are a lot of Lures deployed out there.

There are a lot of Lures deployed out there.

I took my lunchtime Ingress walk across Downtown Burbank and was amazed at the number of people with smartphones out, probably playing the game.   I didn’t spy the game on anyone’s screen this time, but judging by the number of Lures in use (A cash shop item, no less – people are paying cash money already) there are multiple people/groups playing the game.

It would be better if it was actually a better game.    But it’s fun, for now.   And being part of a phenomenon like this is pretty interesting.

Accumulating More Knowledge

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I’m beginning to suss out the mechanics of Pokemon Go, now that I can actually log in to the game.

  • They DID introduce a point to the gym battles.   The team that holds a gym, will receive various rewards such as pokemon coins and stardust.    I have yet to participate in the gym battles, at least in the Live version, and this was not present in the Beta.
I have found a wild Machop.   Time to catch him.

I have found a wild Machop. Time to catch him.

Here is the "Non-AR" version of catching the Pokemon.   I like this one best.

Here is the “Non-AR” version of catching the Pokemon. I like this one best.

Once you work to capture the little guy, this screen pops up which does not use the phone’s camera.   He is at a distance from you – if you’re standing on top of him you barely have to throw the pokeball.    If he’s far away, you really have to chuck it.   This mechanic is well implemented, and irritating if you miss that one that is just too far away to hit.

You can also do the AR version.

You can also do the AR version.

It’s kind of interesting.   They have somehow figured out how to put the Pokemon characters onto an appropriate place in the camera stream.   It looks like they are standing on the ground, etc, in whatever your camera is recording.   My Machop sorta looks like he’s standing on my desk.

After throwing a couple of balls –

Captured !

Captured !

Then there is the Evolve/Power Up mechanic.

My toughest Pokemon, so far.

My toughest Pokemon, so far.

I have a number of Candy points (Ie, game currency).   I get some each time I capture a pokemon, or release them to the Professor.    (Who is this guy ?   I am probably supposed to know enough Pokemon to know, but I don’t).   The candy are specific to the Pokemon.   Squeal like a pig son !   If you want to evolve your pokemon, you need a LOT of candy for that specific type.    And there are three levels of evolution for each little beastie.

I also have some Stardust.   Unlike the Candy, Stardust accumulates when you capture only, and is a shared resource across your account.    Evolving is the thing you’d really like to do.  It makes your Pokemon a lot tougher.    Power Up makes them incrementally more powerful.

I wonder how long it will take me to accumulate 50 Candy for any one Pokemon type.    I’m laying bets right now, that the first one will be Rattata.

The levelling, clearly, is extremely easy.   I think I've caught 20 pokemon.

The leveling, clearly, is extremely easy. I think I’ve caught 20 pokemon.

Launch Week for Pokemon Go

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Pokemon Go was released worldwide over the last week.    The launch was anything but smooth as most launches go, but they did a few things right.

  1. They barely advertised the launch.   They seem to have let word of mouth do the work for them, which was good, in the sense it gave them more time to balance the server loads.   This was important, because….
  2. The login servers were overloaded.   Or something.    The number of times I tried to connect and got errors was just ridiculous.
This is how you play Pokemon Go for the first 3 days after launch.

This is how you play Pokemon Go for the first 3 days after launch.

I gave up and didn’t worry about it.     Strangely, this the most anticipated and hot game release I’ve seen recently does not have much of an online community or presence.

The beta was basically “Play the game for us!”.    I am sure there were ways to submit feedback, but I couldn’t get past the fact that it was beta (and therefore, not something they wanted anyone to access, only their testers) and there didn’t seem to be any determination to have us give feedback.   Maybe they got enough from others and I was just the load balancer, which is fine.

For the release, I am amazed at the number of places that Pokemon Go is popping up.    This game is all over Reddit for instance, with dozens of memes and jokes.   The real world has found it interesting as well, considering a player found a dead body because she was playing it, and Darwin does not want you going into their police station looking for a Pokemon.

My favorite graphic of the difference between Ingress and Pokemon Go

My favorite graphic of the difference between Ingress and Pokemon Go

Now – this is how it works, people.   They buy/rent servers and anticipate low for a game.   The fact that it mucks up the game experience is unfortunate, but they have to find out how many are really going to play.    I’ve been able to log in intermittently since then and actually play, so I’m assuming they are working on smoothing that stuff out.

Pokemon Go is a game about catching Pokemon and little else.    As you wander around the world, which has been sliced up into sections of environments for Pokemon, you find Pokemon and catch them.    “Gotta catch them all” – this is a refrain I’ve heard even as I’ve barely tasted the Pokemon Universe over the years, but it seems like an accurate way to describe the game.   Stop at a Pokestop to get gear for the game.   The Pokestops, are all Ingress portals.

It’s interesting what they did with the Ingress portals.    Some are present, but not all.   The Niantic team seems to have decided to keep only the ones that are not “too many” in an area.    The beautiful Downtown Newhall cluster of portals is not Pokemon’d – there are a few, but nowhere near the 100+ from Ingress.     And their function is mostly to give you pokeballs and other game gear.

Then there are the gyms.   Certain Ingress portals were determined not to be Pokestops, but Gyms instead.   At some point I assume they’ll patch the game and make them have a point, but for now, you can control a gym because… you want to control it for your team.   Many pokemon can be stacked on a gym to control it.    Other than that, it’s a bit boring.  There’s something called candy which allows you to level up your Pokemon, but I haven’t quite figured it out.

Because Pokemon and Ingress, in a sense, share the same reality-based environment, I feel very comfortable making Ingress my ARG of choice and playing some Pokemon at the same time.   So after you do your Ingress thing in an area and wait for portals to cool down enough for another hack, you can start up Pokemon Go and try to catch some little beasties.

What I’m very disappointed in is the loss of the Pokemon environments.   At one point in the beta, you could see them.   The map was a wonderful and colorful chaotic mashup of the real and the not real.   But sadly, they are gone, for whatever reason, and the map is just a flat cartoonish representation of the real world, with pokestops.

Level Up !

Normally I would take more screenshots, but I can barely connect to the game.   See the map under that ?

As I write this I’m again trying to connect and not having success.   Maybe next time.   Assuming I keep playing the game – this really is much more of a kids game than one for the cranky old geeks generation.

Pokemon Go for July 9th

Pokemon Go for July 9th

 

Statistics, June 2016

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Ingress

I find myself slowing down with Ingress.   Having a lot to do at the office is the main culprit, but I’m also getting tired of driving around to random spots (and the EXACT SAME random spots) for the game.   Still, I plan to never go below “Take one action a day, that helps the team.”

  • 34,060,000 AP.   That’s 1.7 million for the month, probably mostly early in the month.
  • 2,243 walking kilometers (IE, 1,394 miles), closing in on 2,500 for onyx.
  • 30,000 hacks achieved (Gold Hacker).
  • 1,795,000 MU scored.   That’s 51k for the month.   Still crawling along

I need to find time to get together with my buddy – now he’s got a smartphone and is ready for me to teach him Ingress.   It would be fun to play with someone else.    But of course, it’s summer, there’s no time for anything so far.

AdVenture Capitalist

I am at the 4,500 newspapers mark on Earth.   This is where the “guys on the internet” say that it slows down.   Seems accurate to me.    I should be ready for a reset soon, but in the meantime, all I’m doing is waiting a week to check on the game.   That’s not much fun.

Marvel Heroes

The promised DCL is not here quite yet, but the anniversary event continues until Midnight on the July 4th holiday.    This awesome event allows you to collect cake slices to make a cake – 365 needed – which then has a legendary item inside.  I’ve collected quite a few.

My current activity is maxing out the Legendary items my heroes have – 20 so far.   I’ve unlocked Deadpool but not levelled him to 60 yet, and I have 28 heroes unlocked.   I am sitting on a ton of game currency – 1,500 splinters, tons of the various currencies like worldstones.

The Danger Room is some of the best content in the game.   It’s hard if you pick a high enough level scenario (Blue or Above), and doable with the White or Green ones.   I am playing as many of these as possible mostly for the Merits you can earn.    I think, to pass Hawkeye on the Cosmic Trial, I’ll need many more ultimate upgrades than the simple two that he has.    I need 7,500 for my first purchase, and have 2,300 so far.

June has been absolutely fantastic in the game.   I wonder if I will continue to enjoy it so much without all the bonuses.   Still, who am I kidding – there’s always a bonus event going on in the game.    And importantly, I’m avoiding spending money because all the content I want to consume is not premium.   I’ve spent a bunch already and it’s paying off.

Surviving the Wallet Warrior

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After you remove the stupid combat from the mix…… the Vikings : War of Clans game starts to get interesting.

As usual with all games, first you have to figure out how it all works.   Most of the game elements are things you’ve seen before, but the key to understanding the game is to stay out of combat.    It seems like it’s all about combat, but I am finding I could care less for a few obvious reasons.

Everyone you want to attack has a peace shield up.   OK.   You can’t penetrate that.   For you to put one up, realistically, requires spending money and I’m not going to do that.    After spending forever building troops, you will find your troops smashed flat by the big wallet warriors of the game no matter what you do.    So first, get over the idea of combat.

Got beat up by the Big Man On Server

Got beat up by the Big Man On Server

Notice the numbers there.   I killed 19 of his troops defensively; no idea how many he has.    He killed 1,500 of mine.    I am guessing 10,000 of each Tier 4 troops, plus many bonuses, used to wipe me out.

No combat does not mean not to build troops.   Your troops get you resources, which are required to progress the knowledge and buildings in the game, and which you use to help your clanmates progress as well.    The best troops to build are the Tier 1 guys because they can be built fast, they move fast, and per point of food upkeep have the most capacity hands down.

The endgame starts happening after progressing pretty far in Building.

  1. Build a level 21 palace.   (Ready to upgrade to 19, once RSS are acquired)
  2. Build level 21 Oracle.   (Research building)
  3. Research Tier 4 troops.

The Tier 4 troops are required to have any chance at the combat.   Not only that, but pretty much maxxing out all the various upgrades, weapons, etc plus bonuses.    Perhaps it would work with enough Tier 1 troops too, but you probably need Level 21 in your town to support enough to make it work.

So I’m doing that.   Working towards upgrading all buildings in the town to 18, then planning to upgrade the palace.   And it’s a lot of fun, actually, because I am hunting the inactives and defenseless myself for their resources.

He won't mind. He quit playing.

He won’t mind. He quit playing.

Every town was built differently, before the guy/gal playing quit.   Some have good resources, and some have lousy ones.   Some produce fast, and some slowly.   Some are far away from you, and some are close.   And some were raided by your competitors and are thus empty.   This is where the fun comes in for me, knowing how to get RSS from the inactives.   And then you apply the formula.

  1. Get the RSS.   Produce it or raid it from inactives.
  2. Build a building/do knowledge upgrade.
  3. Dump your RSS to clanmates.
  4. Hide your troops.
  5. Get smashed by the enemy.

That’s the ideal setup – when they come, you don’t let them get anything.   It doesn’t always work out that way, but it was pretty close in the first screenshot posted.    Even better, is to just get enough RSS to do the next upgrade, then you rush the previously built one.   In this way, you have too many RSS for the minimum amount of time.

The tension in the game is you can’t build anything without a lot of RSS; but with a lot of RSS you are vulnerable to attack.   I could care less if my troops die, but losing the RSS, now that’s a real setback.

So progress onwards.   Endgame might come at some point, we’ll see if I can get the final upgrades built.   The amount of RSS just gets larger and larger, and harder and harder to acquire.   Should be interesting.

Pokemon Go Release Imminent

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The Pokemon Go Beta/Field test is ending soon – June 30.   I’ve been part of the test, and I’ve been asked not to disclose anything about it so I will not.   But a couple of things happening make it pretty obvious it’s coming soon for LIVE :

  • The Field Test app will stop working June 30.
  • Niantic Staffers announced at E3 that the game would be up “Early July/3rd quarter”.
  • It is the 3rd quarter.   This is big business, folks, and quarters count.

So I am hoping soon to get started on this game, and document my impressions at that point.    It’s like an irritating scratch that I can’t quite reach, playing the beta, and not being able to blog the experience.

The Birth of a Nuclear Fart

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I’ve been having quite a bit of fun with my boy helping me out in my single-player world in Minecraft, so we talked about it – Should we buy a Realms world once again ?    He thought carefully and said that it sounded like a good idea.

We’ll see if I can keep his interest for a month, but it’s worth a try.

So I purchased a Realms subscription ($8 a month is not bad, really) and immediately found out that it had changed since last year when I had the subscription.

Now, you can have ?three? worlds saved/set up and have one world active at any one time.   There are apparently a million minigames set up, which I don’t really have any interest in.    So I decided to create a survival shared world with the rest of the real-world crew of friends, kids, friends-kids that played last year.   Assuming they still have any interest.   My interest waned quickly, because creative mode is not really my style.   My son claimed he wanted to play Minecraft, but quit quickly.   All the friends loved it, naturally, and built a lot of neat structures.

So I can create more worlds if Survival doesn’t work out too well.

“Gee Son, what should we name the new world ?   We need a seed”

And thus, the beautiful world of NuclearFart was born.    This is a customized world with Iron generation increased a lot, along with a very small uptick in Diamond creation.

This doesn't look hospitable....

This doesn’t look hospitable….

After spawning in a desert, I ran over to the nearby desert village(Wheat !) and then chased after the first trees I could see.    We found some sheep there and managed to kill three of them for some wool.    But this left us out of time, and it became dark real quick.

So my son dug a hole, we jumped in, and we mined through the night cycle.    He found a buried canyon and started exploring, while I just ran up and down the stairs to make sure no skeletons would spawn.

Soon enough it was daytime, and we killed more sheep to have two beds available.   Now, if nighttime hits, we can just plop down beds to sleep through the cycle.

Sheep hiding from us back in the grass

Sheep hiding from us back in the grass

Time to make a base of operations, create some chests, and find something to do otherwise.   Then I’ll let the friends know the Realm is open again.    It remains to be seen if they’ll actually want to play a survival game.

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