Minecraft: my new favourite game

Later to the game than many, my first experiences of Minecraft were on the Xbox 360 in 2013 and Windows Phone in 2014. By the time the Windows 10 Edition came out I’d started many worlds on both versions, but I hadn’t progressed any of them very far.

At the time my biggest complaint was that there were multiple versions of Minecraft and worlds could not be synchronised between devices. The loss of my favourite world – when installing an update on my phone – made me give up until I could play anywhere.

It was fun, but I just couldn’t put up with the multiple versions and lack of backups.

Earlier this year I took another look at all of the editions of Minecraft available at that time and decided to take a bet on Realms for the Windows 10 and Pocket Edition versions of Minecraft.

Realms are essentially private servers hosted directly by the folk over at Mojang. This drastically improves on-boarding and allows for a seamless experience in-game. The world is hosted behind the scenes in the cloud, rather than on devices – resolving my biggest complaint with the game and allowing me to connect from mobile and PC.

In the summer of 2017, I created a new randomly generated world inside Realms and called it Scrumptious Kingdom with the intention of having a long-term space for my future wife and I to play Minecraft together.

We built a dirt hut on a hill right next to the spawn point, and since then it has progressed into an always-improving house with multiple rooms expanding out to the infinite world around it.

Scrumptious Valley comparison, June and November 2017:

I picked this version of Minecraft because I knew it had a future – the Windows 10 and Pocket Editions have since been unified into single codebase (Bedrock) and updated to all work together seamlessly (Better Together).

Now I can play in my world on my phone, tablet, PC, and Xbox One – instantly appearing wherever I left off.

Having consistency is exactly what I wanted. Now I have a world worth investing time in, improving the house, mining for resources, crafting new items, and taking on new challenges to progress the game.

Recently we defeated the ender dragon and gained access to more freedom with Elytra wings and more storage possibilities with Shulker Boxes. (Organising in-game items! Bliss!)

Every time I play this game I am impressed by what it has to offer and I’m excited about what is going to come in the new Aquatic Update, due Spring 2018.

Mavis Podcast

From pencils and paper, and each-others “weird quirks” to the current and future of technology, the hosts discuss whatever they like.

I thought this year would be busy for me, and I can safely say (in November) that it was even busier than I expected. Phew.

One of the new things I decided to take on this year was a podcast… and I’m really pleased with the results. While I haven’t had enough time to do as much writing on my website, I’m glad I have the podcast an outlet for some of my ideas… and excellent co-hosts to discuss them with.

I’ve enjoyed doing the first ten episodes of Mavis, and I look forward to doing more.

You can find out more about Mavis at mavispodcast.com, or follow @mavispodcast on Twitter.

Episode 1: I Hope I Won’t Be Dead in 5 Years

Starting with why Jules says “bing it” and doesn’t like Google, it doesn’t take long for the guys to discuss device authentication and Essential phone. Swiftly moving on to where the big-5 tech companies get their revenue from, and where it could go in the future.

Episode 2: A Coke Problem

Does a Lemsip count as a hot drink? The ongoing debate is sparked again, in a discussion of why Andrew doesn’t drink hot drinks. Then moving on to an introduction in to the hosts stationery, notebooks and daily-carries.

Episode 3: Package Full of Mess

Messy fountain pens, a Bing notebook, a review on the Kuru Toga Advance pencil and a discussion on how the hosts stay productive day in and day out.

Episode 4: Emojay

After clearing up some stationery follow up, including a revised review on the Kuru Toga Advance from Jordan, the guys discuss Windows Phones, Julian considering a temporary iPhone and a heated discussion on iPhone’s and Samsung Phones vs their release cycles.

Episode 5: It’s Not a Problem If You like It

Why wouldn’t someone clean out their tabs, and why would you use a handful of browsers at once?! Jordan and Julian try to explain. Andrew gets a new machine, but finds himself in a predicament. Slack vs Teams, why both and how do they compare?

Episode 6: Money Plus Sunset Deluxe

Recapping the Lemsip & hot drink discussion following Andrews brief illness, before moving on to follow up with the use of tabs, Jordans new Sharbo LT3 and the new Campfire Field Notes. Andrew then discusses his new iMac, the setup process and how he’s finding the trackpad. Finishing up with some casual talk about personal financial management, modern banking and how AI’s could help with management and investments.

Episode 7: The Notch

Julian fixes his Lumia 950 XL in a “smart” way. The iPhone 8 finally gets it’s discussion, back to Touch ID nightmares and more importantly, how will The Notch turn out?! Ending the show with a good old chat about gaming histories, feeling nostalgic and getting stupidly close to relapsing our addictions with games.

Episode 8: I’m Actually Daredevil

Follow up with RuneScape, did the hosts play it? Take a guess. What’s the difference between Redstone in Windows and Minecraft? Given the news of Microsoft and Amazons collaboration, how will Alexa and Cortana mingle? What are the pain points and how we’d prefer to interact with them. Jordan and Andrew are having sleeping problems, what’s good for sleep and what’s bad for sleep? How can we resolve our sleeping problems?

Episode 9: The Functionality? Stupid.

New Apple TV, Apple Watch, iPhone 8 and iPhone X. Issues with iOS 11 GM. Jordans new Baron Fig notebook set. Finishing up with some stories on how we got in to software engineering.

Episode 10: That’s When I Stopped Doing Birthday Cards

Welcome to the 10th Episode of the Mavis podcast! After the celebrations, we turn to hating on Facebook and discussing our issues with their stupid notifications. We also discuss the social ethics of birthday messages. Jordan picked up a new iPad Pro 10.5”, In which we then hate on iOS 11, or at least Jordan does. Initial thoughts for the first 2 episodes of Star Trek Discovery and finishing up with a surprise Field Notes review!

Project Scorpio: The Next Xbox

Last year, I upgraded from my Xbox 360 to an Xbox One S. At the time, I knew that “Project Scorpio” was going to be coming in late 2017, but the time was right for me and I wanted to move onto the Xbox One platform.

The fact the Xbox One S and “Project Scorpio” were announced at the same time was an interesting move. Game consoles aren’t usually announced so early, but this current generation (often called the 8th generation) of consoles is likely to be around longer than others.

Watch the Project Scorpio announcement

Both Sony and Microsoft have adopted the x86 processor architecture found in PCs, and while they’re still highly customised, the development of this common architecture is good for the console makers and the software developers alike.

We’ve already seen an updated PlayStation 4, so an updated Xbox just made sense and we’ll likely see more hardware refreshes in the future. I bet that games for Xbox One will continue to be developed and enjoyed even longer than the previous generation. The Xbox 360 stayed on the market for 11 years and its games can be enjoyed through backwards compatibility on the Xbox One today.

The message is strong

Microsoft has been very clear that “Project Scorpio” is a mid-generation refresh, but this time it’s a performance boost to the machine itself while remaining 100% compatible with the all of the Xbox One games and accessories currently on the market.

“The most powerful console ever.
Holiday 2017.” – Microsoft

They’ve also been clear that “Project Scorpio” has been designed for the fans who want the best. Microsoft stated that they wanted to make the most powerful console on the market – and it looks like they’ve achieved it.

A high-end version of the Xbox One

The performance updates on the machine itself are designed to enable 4K gaming and new VR experiences, though it is expected that existing Xbox One games will also see a general performance boost, even when displaying on 1080p televisions.

Even though it has been stated that there will be no games which will be exclusive to “Project Scorpio”, I have no doubt that there will be some games that will take advantage of the extra power and will be best experienced on the new machine.

Forza on Scorpio

Some existing Xbox One games (Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Forza Horizon 3) already include 4K assets, so the work to upgrade the games to work on high resolution “Project Scorpio” would be minimal. I wonder how many other games have already got high resolution graphics ready for 4K on day one.

Microsoft have really come together

One of the most impressive things about “Project Scorpio” is that it has been built with the full power of Microsoft behind it:

There’s no doubt that Microsoft is a hardware company and their expertise has also allowed for impressive cooling and performance tuning throughout the machine.

Scorpio

DirectX is now built in to the hardware. This is really impressive and means that the hardware has to do less work for games built using DirectX APIs.

Existing games have been profiled for performance and the telemetry of the software has gone into the design of actual silicon. This is a really interesting technique for Microsoft and may help direct performance improvements for their Azure cloud platform in the future.

“Project Scorpio” has been in the works for a while

I recently re-watched the original Xbox One announcement – it was really bad. They announced it just before E3 and had a focus on TV, entertainment, and the use of Kinect.

Since then, the management of the Xbox operation has changed and they’re now way more focused on the feedback of gamers and developers alike.

This time, Microsoft have been talking to industry experts from Digital Foundry, for the tech specifics, and to Gamasutra, to showcase what they’re doing for developers. This way, the industry experts can ask the questions the fans want to know and tell the story as they see it.

This is a marked improvement from what can only be described as a fumbled Xbox One announcement.

This could be the start of something very different

I’m really excited about what “Project Scorpio” has to offer and I’m likely to get one at some point in 2018.

I have a feeling that there’s more to “Project Scorpio” than just a hardware refresh and I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see changes to the way the games are delivered too.

If the Xbox One platform is going to be around for a long time, why bother creating a new game every time? There’s no reason why a games franchise like Forza or Halo couldn’t be delivered as a service with constantly updated content and graphics.

We’ll hear more about “Project Scorpio” at E3 in June. This will likely include the final name and design.