July 17, 2012
Did you ever make models? Perhaps paint Warhammer figurines? Remember how painstaking it could be but the satisfaction you got from when you finally finished? You didn’t need to over-complicate it with explanations or the greatest painting skills in the world.
Now imagine that you could have similar experiences in a game. That’s Minecraft, an unparalleled Swedish independent game that in comparison to other games coming out around the same time, it doesn’t make sense why it would be as popular as it is.
Minecraft is a first-person umm… sandbox? There’s no storyline, there’s no in-game training, there’s no rules, there’s hardly any objectives, the graphics aren’t impressive and compared to any other game, the gameplay is tedious and slow.
When I first heard of Minecraft I was very skeptical. The comparison to Lego kept cropping up, and while I was quite the collector as a kid, I didn’t understand the comparison was deeper than just the looks.
Minecraft is a continuously expanding world comprised of various blocks. These blocks include everything from naturally occurring log, grass, dirt, sand, etc. to fabricated blocks like bricks, wood planks, stairs, etc. You gather natural blocks to be able to craft them into other items that you can use to craft into additional items or blocks. Knock down part of a tree with your hand, get the log, craft it into wood planks, use the planks to make a workbench. Now you can craft tools using the workbench.
Gathering blocks is accelerated through the use of tools such as shovels, axes, pickaxes, hoes etc. and what each tool is made out of will influence how well it works if at all. For example wood tools aren’t as good as tools made out of stone, but you will need iron or even diamond tools to mine certain materials.
Most of the materials you need to craft with are found underground, which will require you to mine, hence the subsequent name of the game Mine/Craft as you constantly switch between the two. Also with a furnace you can smelt blocks to get new forms. Ores become ingots, and things like cactus can be turned into dyes for wool to make different colours.
So what’s the goal of gathering all these materials? To build with. What? It’s completely up to you.
This is where the genius of Minecraft is. You can place any block you pick up, and arrange them in any way you wish in order to create what you want to create. As the world continues to generate as you travel it’s said the engine can generate a map larger than the Earth itself. Resources therefore aren’t an issue, it all just takes time to gather.
The power of the internet provides a means to showoff your creations, with players building incredible structures like a 1:1 scale model of the USS Enterprise, a scale model of the whole Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings) land, and pretty much any other notable building worth replicating.
The addition of basic electrical wires and several other items means that electronic circuits can be built in game. Players taking on the challenge to build everything from CPUs and Digital Clocks, to various board games, RAM, hard drives, music boxes, and eventually even be able to play a “scaled-down” version of Minecraft, in Minecraft.
Pistons allow the ability to move blocks around, Noteblocks produce music, and players are only really limited by their imagination.
However you’re not alone in your wonderful land.
Introducing the mobssss. With friendly, neutral, and hostile mobs; Minecraft ensures that you’re never truly alone. Friendlies include sheep, cows, chickens, squid etc. the general assortment of farm animals, providing food so you don’t starve (which can happen), and also other items like leather, feathers, etc.
Neutrals mobs include wolves and zombie pigmen. If you antagonize they’ll come at you like a spidermonkey.
Hostile mobs are just that, hostile. Spiders jump at you from trees, zombies try to hug you while nibbling at your head, and skeletons fire arrows at you because that’s what they do. Then there’s Creepers, a creation made to force you to jump out of your skin at night. They don’t make a sound until they prepare to explode all up in your stuff, the subsequent “ssssss…” sound like a mix between a snake and a fuse, being the last thing you’ll hear. There are also Enderman, lanky black Nightcrawler beings that mind their own business until you look directly; at; them. They stand still and stare back, but as soon as you turn away they’ll be on you and you will have but a few precious moments to enjoy living still. If you run they’ll run faster, or they’ll teleport closer to you so you can’t get away.
Mobs are important for various supplies, so they aren’t totally avoidable. Without Creepers you can’t make TNT, without Chickens you can’t make cake, without Slimes you can’t make Sticky pistons.
The other major success of Minecraft is its ability to adapt. The Modding community for Minecraft is huge, and that feels like an understatement. There are two major avenues of modding, there’s game mods and texture packs. The former adds new things to the game, the latter reskins every single block in the game.
Modding also can be split between Single Player and Multiplayer. Anyone can run a server, while most larger groups opt to hire a server that has a Minecraft server installed on it, and suddenly you’re not only building stuff by yourself, but building with your friends and can actually show off all that hard work.
Modding your game can add anything from guns, aircraft, vehicles, to piping, industrial equipment, power generators, micro circuits, nuclear reactors, full RPG elements and probably anything else you could possibly want in your game.
With no tutorials built into the game, players rely on things like YouTube and independent sites like MinecraftWiki to get access to crafting recipes, tutorials on how to build certain things, and the best method for creating practical buildings like Auto-Cactus farms, wheat farms, animal farms, Cobblestone generators etc.
Through arranging blocks a certain way, players can make a portal to the Nether, a dark lava-filled place where other mobs reside as well as items unobtainable in the main world. If players play long enough they may even be able to make it to the Ender, where the final “boss” of the game lies. But most players will play for the sandbox elements, and not the goal of reaching the end of the game.
While Minecraft may not appeal to everyone, no one can deny its addictive nature for those who find their stride in the game. Long term projects keep you coming back, and the internet will continue to provide inspiration. As such I probably have lost months to a game that has no real rewards other then the satisfaction from building a creation that you can step back from and look at knowing you did it yourself.
Kind of like building a model, or painting a Warhammer figurine.
Storyline – 0/5 (There’s no storyline)
Gameplay – 5/5 (You’ll either absolutely love it or you’ll hate it)
Presentation – 3.5/5 (It’s blocky and proud of it, and with texture packs you can adapt it to look how you want.)