Minecraft: Craft your own experience

Randomly Generated Minecraft Terrain

Randomly generated terrain in minecraft means each map is different. Image from http://www.nucleocide.net

Being on the market for a year and a half now, the popular indie game Minecraft shows no sign of stopping its growing popularity and seemingly cemented cult status. It has gamers who predominantly play other genres, like myself, switching to the sandbox game with nothing but good things to say.I can say, as a gamer whose genre is predominantly the first person shooter, having the first clan I join in over five years be one of the first clans to have a minecraft dedicated division sure is a testament to how fun this game is. Fun, however, is in the eye of the beholder. Many people have expressed disinterest in the game and even go as far to de-legitimize the game because it doesn’t have the normal structure we’ve come to expect from games. So why is minecraft so popular? What the hell is minecraft anyway?

Minecraft is mainly a survival game, but the coupling of survival and creativity is what has made minecraft so popular. Influenced by Infiminer, Minecraft is very much about building structures for protection, creating land for living and defending yourself from the night, but minecraft has also developed into a blank canvas for professed artists and normal players alike.

Visually, minecraft is very reminiscent of early 90 video games. It’s 8-bit graphics, at first, may not be pleasing to the eyes of gamers who frequently play games like Modern Warfare or who have their eye on the new installment of Battlefield series, but after a few moments in minecraft your eyes adjust and you begin to have a palette for the game. The sunsets are spectacular, the starry sky at night is nothing short of romantic (if you are playing SMP, otherwise it’s just another lonely night), and the landscapes have the ability to be completely jaw dropping; high mountains that skyscrape into the clouds, deep valleys with waterfalls and blooming flowers, and completely arid deserts that stretch for miles under the heated minecraft sun. It’s no wonder, then, that the randomly generated landscape is half the fun and appeal of the game.

Of course we know that, especially with indie games, the graphics are the least likely reason for gamers to play. So how does minecraft play? What exactly does one do in minecraft?

Gameplay in minecraft is very simple. Minecraft has no plot, no storyline, no antagonist or protagonist and no missions or general direction of what to do. That might be disorienting for most people but once you grasp that fact, it opens up a world of free play that has made sandbox games like Grand Theft Auto and Fallout 3, so popular.

minecraft snow

A randomly generated valley with nowfall. Image from PCgamer

To begin, there are two versions of Minecraft. First there is the in-browser, free version called Creative mode where all the cool stuff in the paid version of minecraft is taken away and players have access to all the blocks in the game so they can just build and create things. The survival aspect of the game is taken out and anyone can build anything. It’s popular for people who don’t own minecraft but want to experience a small section of what it has to offer,  but also for people who own the game and just want to build. The second version is the actual game that your purchase and download and it’s this version that is survival minecraft.

Survival Minecraft implements day and night cycles, weather conditions, and mobs that spawn at night. With resources found in-game, players can create tools what will help them defeat monsters, heal themselves and create structures to help fend off attacks. This is where minecraft gets fun, as you build up resources you start to expand a small hut just big enough to hold you and your one chest into a massive castle or an intricate working of underground tunnels. You can begin to create whole cities or your dream house. I’ve known many people to build an underwater house, or a home floating in the sky. The possibilities are endless, but if they do come to an end and you can’t think of anything else to build, starting a new map is as easy as a click away. Since landscapes are randomly generated with each new map you are guaranteed to not have the exact same map each time. One map you may have spawned in a low valley by the sea and in another you map spawn in he middle of a snow storm.

Community in minecraft is so far the biggest appeal. Because minecraft is still in development there are always new version with new features being created by Mojang; the company that creates the game, and Notch; the original creator of the game. Notch has made it extremely easy to develop the game alongside of official updates leaving the official minecraft forums laden with modifications, add-ons and texture packs that make the game look and feel like something completely different. By far the best mod to have is the Mo’Creatures mod which adds in a host of animals and mobs to the game to make it feel more like the wilderness and make the game even more dangerous a night. From foxes and tamable horses to werewolves and ogres, the add-on adds a more complete feel and wide variety to the animals in-game.

mo'creatures

Three of the creatures available in the Mo'creatures minecraft Mod. From left to right: Lion, Unicorn and Werewolf.

So now that we have a small overview of how minecraft works and why it’s so much fun, what’s the catch? There has to be a catch.

Criticism of Minecraft by gamers who play minecraft are very rare, it’s one of those games where you are completely aware of what you’re getting into when you purchase it. So any criticism is more like rehashing the “fair warnings” given before purchasing.

For example, Minecraft is still in beta mode and as such there are a lot of bugs and a lot of features that aren’t currently implemented that will be in the full and final version of the game. The game is frequently updated, which is good because it keeps the game constantly new but also proves the developers take an active interest in the game and community. Updates can be a pain though as the constant updates make the add-ons cycle out fast, forcing creators of those add-ons have keep up with updating the add ons to work with the new version. This leaves players with long gaps in between updates and getting to use their favorite add-ons, and sometimes it even means some add-ons die out as soon as they are enabled. Thankfully, however, the more popular mods are pretty well-kept.

Final Verdict.
Minecraft is a game that’s hard to describe and even harder to explain so the only real way to know what minecraft is and how to play is to actually play it.

3/5 TNT’s

As much as I love minecraft and can only say good things about it, the fact still remains that it’s not completely finished yet. As such I need to give it a fair review and take into account the bugs and the features left to be implemented. So I will give it 3 out of 5 minecraft TNT blocks.   That being said, for only twenty dollars it’s an amazing game that supports the sandbox genre, encourages community and creativity, and it just plain fun.

You can check out Notch’s blog here, the official minecraft forums here and even give feedback to what you’d like to see in minecraft here. Who knows, your idea might be implemented in the next update!

Also, click here for a special video.

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