Playing nicely in the Sandbox

When the kids every born, I decided expose them to technology as early as possible. To have them use it day to day and understand that its an everyday part of life, which can be used for education and entertainment; a tool, rather than a privilege. This obviously had, and continues to have its own challenges and requires a patient and hands on approach, especially when playing together in a digital space. Sometimes their own natural curiosity and adaptability when it comes to using technology has not always made that easy.

Gaming was always going to part of how the kids used technology, and Pinky Pie’s desire to explore the world of Minecraft, due largely to interactions with children she attends school with, simplified the issue of finding age appropriate games that would not only let her explore her creative side but also provide an excellent way to help develop problem solving skills in a fun way.

For those that are unfamiliar with the game Minecraft, it s a procedural driven sandbox game, which is available on a variety of different platforms, from Xbox and Windows 10, to Playstation, Android and IOS devices.  (The mobile device version of the game does not have the same features and capabilities of the Desktop and console versions, but the core game modes are present, and its still quite a fun little game.)

It allows it’s players to  explore a world, gather resources and use those resource to build equipment and structures. I’m still learning this crafting skills and while I like to fancy that I built my self a quite a nice little survival bunker, I am reliability informed that what I have essentially built  is a cave with a door on it (children can be so cruel at times).

There are a number of different modes, to suit various tastes, these include Survival and Adventure modes (where you can play through maps created b y the online community). There is also a creative mode, where you have access to all of the possible resources and buildable items, but there is no risk of be eaten or attacked by any of the animals or monsters which roam the game.

As the kids both have iPad mini’s and frankly I got sick of having to share the xbox, I installed Minecraft pocket edition on both devices and gave them a quick tutorial on how to use the mobile version of the game.

Pinky Pie leapt into the world with much excitement and enthusiasm, creating over time, in creative mode, massive structures, citadels, structure of awe and wonderment, and then proceeded to fill these structures pieces modern art, paying homage to that most aloof and ambivalent of household gods…..the cat….MILO !!!! PRAISE BE THE LORD OUR CAT !!!!

Groot, also playing in creative mode, preferring to explore the world, above and below, (In a couple of instances digging through to the bottom of the world and falling into open space….score one for the flat earth society or as we like to call them today…the US Republican Party); also experimenting with the various resources, equipment and wildlife that could be accessed.

There were 2 thing I did not know about the Minecraft pocket edition. First there is TNT, the explosive, which in creative mode was readily available in limitless quantities and secondly it is possible for one table user use to enter and interface with the world of another tablet users when connected to the same WIFI network.  What do these 2 things have in common ?? Well dear reader let me tell you.

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon, the kids where entertaining themselves, playing Minecraft in seperate rooms…when suddenly a simultaneous cry of excitement and horror…followed my Pinky pie screaming …….GONE ITS ALL…. ITS ALL GONE…..MILO IS GONE  !!!!!!!!!

It turns out, that Groot had entered Pinky’s world and found her largest set of structures  and had then proceeded to deploy several dozen crates of TNT throughout, placing them close enough together that the explosion caused by one, would cause the dentation off the next and the next and …well you get the idea……….it was, what  Groot confidently assured me was “The Coolest Explosion Ever!!”

After I calmed Pinky Pie down and explained that Groot didn’t understand that he was destroying her world, and everyone had sufficient time in their corners…..we sat down together and figured out what had happened.

During the post-mortem, we collectively decided that we would keep to our seperate sandboxes with out asking permission first, and that if we were going to share a sandbox we would play together and in the same physical space.…I now keep my iPads backup in case of future “incidents” …. Its a brave new world I guess, as a parent I will have problems and challenges that my parents never had to deal with, but the more things change the more they stay the same… long as no one desecrates the statues of the household God!

Walking War Robots: Live. Die. Repeat. Fun. Week 1.

Like the tide of battle, my enthusiasm for Walking War Robots has ebbed and flowed throughout the week. But In spite of lacking variety in some areas, it’s a game that’s managed to keep me coming back, so far at least.

Stamping about in a giant metal mech and blowing up other robots is fun, especially if you have a pre-existing love of mech warfare. Which is why I’ve found myself still playing Walking War Robots (WWR) this week, even though the game is a little repetitive.

Firstly, let’s talk about maps. In particular the lack of maps. Despite not playing more than a few games a day, I’ve been fighting on the same three maps.
And over.

And over.

It’s all starting to feel a little like Edge of Tomorrow – but without the prospect of waking up to Emily Blunt every day. According to the WWR Wiki, there’s four maps available. But so far my heavy metal feet are yet to tread the snowy terrain of the Yamantau map. [Edit: Ok, I’ve now experienced Yamantau, but it still seems to be the least frequent map I’ve encountered in my first week.]

There’s also a lack of variety in the missions. Every mission is a team ‘control the beacons’ mission, with victory also granted if you manage to destroy all enemy robots. Oh what I’d give for a free for all arena battle. Or some small team battles. Or just something else now and then to mix things up a bit.

And yet, despite these limitations, I’ve come back to WWR for a few battles each day. At about ten minutes a match, it’s easy to quickly dip in and out of the game. Being randomly assigned a team for each match also avoids the hassle of organising people to play at a specific time, and a lot less guilt if you do happen to need to drop out of a match early.

I’m still learning the best tactics to use when fighting with different mechs and armaments, which is helping to hold my interest. If you want to last the full eight minutes, it really pays to give some thought to the best way to fight with your chosen war robot and its arsenal.

Of course, the lengthy times taken to upgrade various weapons also helps drive repeat ‘play’. If you can call logging in simply to kick off a new weapon upgrade ‘playing’.
A week in and the limitations of this game are obvious. Yet back I go day after day for a couple of rounds of metal on metal mayhem. A fortnight or a month from now it may not have the same day in, day out appeal, but I can imagine it being one of the games I pick up when I want a quick hit of multiplayer fun.


Need to Know

  • Available for iOS and Android
  • Multiplayer – online only
  • Free to play
  • In-app purchase: in-game currency or experience multiplier.

Walking War Robots: Surviving Day One

 There’s some experiences you never forget. Like the first time you strap yourself in to sixty tonnes of stomping steel battlemech and stride through a war town landscape with rocket fire ringing in your ears.

My first serious ‘mech’ experience was an arcade based game at Timezone, back in the 90s. After a lengthy wait in line with another dozen eager mech pilots, I ponied up my cash and was strapped into a near life-size cockpit. For the next ten minutes, I and my fellow pilots chased each other around a virtual battlefield, our individual machines literally shaking and rattling with every explosion. Given the state of technology at the time, it was an incredibly immersive experience, and a hell of a lot of fun.

There was also the memorable but unfortunate time I was playing one of the MechWarrior games and discovered how easy it is to blow a set of PC speakers if you turn the bass up too much. The rest of the missions on that computer just didn’t feel the same without the satisfying thwump of exploding enemy mechs.

Although I’m not a hardcore fan of mech games, I do have a soft spot for piloting giant robots into battle. Which brings me to my first twenty four hours with ‘Walking War Robots’. (hereafter referred to as WWR)

There’s no discernible plot to this game, and no complex moral dilemmas for your character to solve. What you get is exactly as is advertised on the box – walking war robots. Giant walking robots that you can equip with a progressively more deadly arsenal of guns, rockets and energy weapons.

WWR is an easy game to pick up. Select your first mech, pick your weapons and join the battle. The controls are fairly intuitive, so before long you’ll be unleashing a fiery cascade of cannon fire on your foes. Just be aware that this is one game where more experienced players may actually respawn more times than the newbie – your number of respawns in a round being determined by how many mechs you have in your personal hanger.

Playing on my iPad, there’s enough visual detail to make it clear you’re striding between skyscrapers rather than just solid blocks. But as I soon discovered, the environment is indestructible, so no matter how many rounds you hammer in to a building, it’s still going to look picture perfect. Structures also seem to offer the same amount of cover no matter how many missile hits they take. Still, it’s a small quibble in the scheme of things.

In my first day of casual playing I’ve learned the basics of the game, upgraded some of my weapons, and even earned enough to buy some additional mechs. It’s been fun so far and now the challenge will be how long WWR can hold my attention for.

If you’re a long term WWR player, I’d love to hear in the comments what keeps bringing you back to this game.

Need to Know

  • Available for iOS and Android
  • Multiplayer – online only
  • Free to play.
  • In-app purchase: in-game currency or experience multiplier.