Minecraft

Ladies and gentlemen, I officially caught the Minecraft bug. If you consider this for a second, it was inevitable. I am a massive nerd, and this game is like crack to my people. I resisted it for a while, but eventually it was stronger than me. And honestly, this is probably the best €15 I have ever spent. Or, you know, $20 which is I believe what it turned out to be at the current exchange rate.

I assume that everyone present already knows about Minecraft, right? No? What do you mean, no? Who are you, how did you find my blog and what rock have you been living under sir? Welcome to the internet, I guess… You must be new here. Very well, for your convenience I shall explain.

Minecraft is an independent sandbox game made more or less by a single guy which is estimated to have already made him over 5 million dollars. Enough to quit his day job, hire some employees and make development of the game his full time job. Cause, you see, the game is still in beta stage, and it’s author is constantly updating and adding new features, which everyone who has already purchased the game gets for free.

It looks like this:

Minecraft Graphics are very Retro

I see some of you recoiling in disgust. “Look at the size of these pixels” you say “there is no way this game was made in 2010″. That, my friends is by design. It is just the graphical style that Notch (the creator of the game) chose for his world. You have to remember that this game started as a solo hobby project, and it did not have a team of graphic artists to design it’s meshes and textures. And even if Notch had an army of designers at his disposal, a photo realistic Minecraft simply would not work. You see, the cubical blockyness of the game is the central concept that binds the whole game play.

You start the game in a procedurally generated world, made out of cubical blocks. Everything you see is made out of cubes – the sand on the beach, the rocky mountain, the grassy knoll, even that tree in a distance. Every single block is fully destructible, and upon hitting it several times it will usually pop into your inventory leaving a cubical hole where it was located. You can put any other cube from the inventory into that hole… Or for that matter anywhere else in the world. So, you can dig a hole in the ground and then use the dirt to build yourself a little dirt hovel. Or mine some stone and built a huge stone tower. Kinda like I did here:

My stone tower

The cubes neatly stack together and fit perfectly without gaps or overlaps. This mechanic is positively brilliant. Mining and stacking blocks is so simple, intuitive and straightforward that it takes only a few seconds to grasp. It is easy to learn, but difficult to master which is how games are supposed to be after all. The thing is, that this mechanic would simply not work with photo-realistic graphics. There is no way you could make stacking elements so easy and so seamless. It would either look ridiculous and out of place, or be much more complex and difficult to figure out.

But that’s not all. Minecraft as the name suggests has a very complex crafting system. You can combine the cubes you collect in the world to make a wide rage of better cubes, tools, furniture or various other items. For example, you can combine some sticks with some stone to make a stone pick in order to mine more efficiently. Or you can build yourself a furnace from mined stone and use it to bake bricks from clay in order to make brick cubes for your brick house. Here, for example is the interior of my house with furnishings and what not:

Inside of my minecraft house

Or you can make yourself a sword and a bow to defend your newly created house from zombies.

Yes, there are zombies in this game. And skeletons. And bunch of other monsters, chief assholes of which are the exploding creepers who absolutely love to blow up your carefully built constructions. They all come out at night with only one purpose in their life: to fuck your shit up. They are fairly weak and they move slowly, but they can be dangerous in larger groups:

Mr. Skeleton (left) and Mr. Zombie (right)

It is a game of exploration, crafting, building and survival. You need to build structures to survive, you need to craft in order to build, and you need to explore in order to find crafting components. And you have to try not to die while exploring. All of these separate game play activities are simple and intuitive but combined create a very complex experience. There is always something new to do in the game. There is always something there to keep you playing. When you are bored with building you can go foraging or mining. When you are bored with that, you can craft stuff and prepare building components. If that gets boring you can make yourself some weapons and armor and go exploring the world. Chances are you will come back with pockets full of rare and useful components you can use for building and crafting… Or you can just amuse yourself with totally juvenile stuff:

Don't judge me!

Much like my beloved Nethack, Minecraft has that “infinite replay” value. It is a pure sandbox with no plot, no story and no ending condition. Each time you start a new game it procedurally generates a totally random world for you to explore and build over. Not to mention the fact that Notch is constantly adding new crafting formulas and new block types.

It’s an excellent example of something I have been saying for a long time now. Graphics are irrelevant. Things that matter are plot, story and game play, with the two first items on my list being optional. Awesome graphics are nice, but they are merely just the icing on the cake. And you don’t want to make a cake just from the icing. You could of course try, and I’m sure that there would be people willing to try it, but it wouldn’t be a very good cake, would it? The icing might be delicious, but if you eat a while plate of it, you will probably be sick to your stomach. It’s the same with video games. If all the game has is graphics, then it is not going to provide you with a rich gaming experience. Sure it will be neat at first, but then you will quickly get used to the nice visuals and get annoyed how there is just nothing else to this game. But if you nail down the game play it is like having a delicious, nutritious and moist cake which doesn’t even need any icing to be tasty and filling.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while Mincraft does not look like much, it is really a fun game to play. Much more fun than COD: Black Ops for example.

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11 Responses to Minecraft

  1. Phil UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I remember getting interested in Minecraft last december. Notch had a free trial going so I thought I’d jump in a see what it was all about. There was no tutorial, and I had no idea what to do, so I started watching some Youtube videos for advice.

    Now all I do is watch other people play Minecraft. :) I’ve never really played it myself.

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  2. Liudvikas LITHUANIA Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    I tried to mine the whole world, but then I got sick of it and thats the end of my minecraft carrier.

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  3. Liudvikas LITHUANIA Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    *career

    I wish I could edit my comments. :)

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  4. Simon AUSTRALIA Google Chrome Ubuntu Linux says:

    Carving “dOOd” into the ground really ruins that scene.

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  5. k00pa FINLAND Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Bought it on alpha, played for a while, but now it feels bit boring…

    Mining starts to feel like work and I don’t have any “goal” to try and achieve. I am not so creative that I could spend hundreds of hours building stuff on this game, but if they add some kind of goals/challenges to this game, I will definitely try it again.

    And I agree, more fun than CoD: Black Ops.

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  6. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    @ Phil:

    Yeah, I’m really impressed by some of the stuff other people do in this game. My buildings look a bit pathetic in comparison.

    I also wonder if the folks that do the really huge awesome things (like the Enterprise model, or the working computer made out of redstone circuits) actually collect their resources or if they just use a map editor or server admin powers to get them. I would think the later rather than the former. I can’t imagine mining all that redstone.

    @ Liudvikas:

    I think the trick in this game is to give yourself projects. It can get a bit boring after a while. My last project was to build a huge ass tower. My current one is to connect two of my towers via a working railway.

    Oh, and when you get bored it is sometimes a good idea to just roll a new world from scratch. Or try some colab building with a friend. I’m planning to try that with my brother actually – set up a persistent server and then build shit together.

    @ Simon:

    No, not dOOd. Poop… I was spelling “poop”… Which I guess makes it worse… Sigh…

    @ k00pa:

    Yes, it does get boring after a while. It is interesting to play it with someone though. I introduced the game to my brother and he had some really cool ideas I have been wanting to replicate. For example he built a working railway with switches to control the cart movement.

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  7. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    +1 to the “need a project” thing. Once you’ve got yourself secure in your fortress, a nice deep mine, and plenty of the resources, it can get a bit dull unless you’ve got something in mind that you’re trying to achieve aside from the initial goal of those things I just said.

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  8. xWittaker UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    Hosting a multiplayer game on a home server is nice and fun if you’re doing survival mode. Setting it up on my ubuntu-based file server was pretty quick. Me and my brother play on it while using ventrilo (also hosted on the server). If one of you dies in a dungeon (which seems to happen rather frequently for us) you can enter the console and teleport the dead person back to the living one. It’s kind of like a coop fps, as long as one of you is still alive, you can get back to where you were.

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  9. Liudvikas LITHUANIA Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Luke Maciak:

    Well my project was to first gather every single cube, then build something massive. :D

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  10. MrPete GERMANY Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Oh yeah…
    I read this, thought “you heard about that somewhere else, so let’s try” and now…
    my eyes feel like sand grinded due to lack of sleep :p
    Graphics: none.
    Pride on building a house that’s so high up the roof-garden is in the clouds: Endless!

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  11. Liudvikas LITHUANIA Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    Talking about projects. I had a day when internet went down, so decided to play some minecraft. Began work on building a calculator in a giant dungeon :)
    And boy if I finish it before the next year, I’ll be super happy. Building circuits with giant cubes is hard work. :)

    Next on the agenda: It would be awesome to build Tiphares – http://gunnm.sioc.org/images/tiphares.jpg

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