Just one more rock to DIG!
Unless you've been under a huge rock, several huge rocks or deep in the lands of no internet lately...there's a little game you might just have heard of, it's a game that's sweeping the planet by storm and it has become quite an addiction for many people. I can't talk to folks on various places without them mentioning the game either. From Bioware's offices to the halls of my journalistic peers, Minecraft is the name of the distraction and once you get hooked by it...it's hard not to let go.
The game is simplistic and graphically it doesn't really shine, it doesn't need to - Minecraft is an advert for the adage that: Gameplay is King.
Notch, aka Markus Persson is the kind of indie developer that many people dream of being, a guy who had over 600,000 Euros in his PayPal account all from the Alpha version of this extremely addictive game. Minecraft Alpha is the version that you pay for and whilst it is in Alpha at only 9.95 Euros the game is a steal for the sheer amount of playability and content that you get.
So what is Minecraft?
When played properly it's an engrossing PC game time-sink that will steal your life away and put a dent in your work. I should be reviewing Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, no, I'm writing about Minecraft because basically - I want to...
Once you go there, check out the whole page, see the various links like community and so on...you'll get the idea of the massive support for it already. There are in-game editors and so on for just about everything to do with this little Java game.
It's a game about survival, mining and crafting. Let me paint you a picture, you spawn with nothing and the world around you is all blocks, blocks of sand, dirt, gravel, stone and so on. You see blocky trees and you can punch wood. It breaks, now you have wood in its most unrefined state...quickly you gather more since the sun is going down slowly and when the sun goes down the monsters come out at night. This rather interesting world has been created randomly by the game and both the upper and under surface has been built, built for you to explore. So you get enough wood and open your inventory by pressing I.
Up pops the crafting screen, where you can place the wood you have and now you can make refined wood. Once you have refined wood you can make sticks and now you have all you need to mine effectively for a short while until the tool you craft breaks. But you can't yet make that tool; you need to fill your crafting screen with 4 blocks of wood. Now you have a crafting bench that you can deploy.
Quickly you put that next to a likely looking rock wall as the sun dips ever lower. Open that with a right click and suddenly you have a larger crafting grid. After experimenting (or checking the Minecraft wiki on crafting) you can make a wooden pick. After a few experimental cracks at the grey stone blocks you're now chewing through stone and picking up the debris. Once you're in a tunnel you carve a small room and nip back outside to break down your bench and bring it back inside.
With the remaining wood...you craft a door and now the monsters can't get you!
You cut a window in the rock to see out and watch the sun die until the land is pitch black and you can hear them, the zombies lurking around out there...lurking for your brains!
Not just zombies either, Creepers and Skeletons, not to mention spiders. But you're safe in this room. You wait till sun up and go exploring some more, finding more resources and even some coal and now with these you can make torches - torches that burn forever at the moment (that's set to change, see later on in the article).
With torches monsters won't spawn close to the open flame, so you can explore at night and find more resources, get more wood. Now you can make more sticks and even ladders. You're armed with a stone pick after getting more stone and you make more tools...a shovel, an axe and a hoe for tilling the ground. Now your little stone room isn't so little any longer, it's pretty big and you've built a wall around the entry - you have a small fort.
Then you decide to dig down, down into the very stone below you and down you go, being careful since you can drop into an unexpected cavern or even deadly lava if you're careless when exploring. So the cycle of resource gathering and digging continues until you've carved out a small underground kingdom that the dwarves of Moria would have been proud of. You've made signs, minecarts, smelters...and the rest. See: http://www.minecraftwiki.net/wiki/Crafting
There's no other game that fosters such a natural sense of exploration and growth, many MMO's try to get this kind of thing and they have a structure. Minecraft is a pure sandbox game and there's no story except the one that you create as you tunnel through solid rock, each new discovery leads you onwards. If you find that elusive third diamond for instance you can make a brand new diamond pick and now you can cut tougher materials, and stone a lot quicker.
You'll find that you establish small outposts in the dark, lit by torches...
You might also try and build things, since you can place any block back down with a simple right click from your inventory toolbar. You can build some incredible things in Minecraft with a little effort and a friend of ours is building the Space Battleship: Yamato...by hand, I've seen it and it's incredible already.
Brian, you are a crazy and awesome madman!
Then there's the Enterprise D, whilst not built by hand the guy has actually built the damn thing using a program to transfer the map across to Minecraft - no small feat.
I'm going to link you to ars technica for this one: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2010/09/the-true-story-behind-the-amazing-minecraft-enterprise-d.ars
Minecraft is also set for an uber update timed around Halloween, the Boo update is supposed to change the game even more and add even more variety. Seriously, this is the best kind of game that you could hope for and proves that indie developers are just as good as the big boys - and in this case just look at Boo.
I bought the game recently and I've dug an incredible amount of tunnels, caverns and built a whole plethora of cool stuff.
The Minepedia wiki is awesome and best of all there is support for custom skins, texture packs and even more. Did I mention multiplayer? No, it's a bit buggy at the moment but basically you can host or join a shared world where you all craft and build, you can't kill mobs just yet since that's bugged but there's a fix on the horizon and as Boo suggests, things are going to get a lot more interesting.
Notch, you are a genius...a crazy money generating genius and we salute you. Everyone should get Minecraft.
Seriously, but don't be surprised if it destroys your productivity and time.
I'll be back with a proper review of something, once I dig myself out of this lava pit.