Minecraft - Block building for everyone

Michael Quach at

minecraft-faceing-sheep-01

"The water! It's coming! SPONGE everything!" and "There's a cow on top of my fortress," are just two of the many, many ridiculous exclamations that have sprouted from people playing Minecraft. Minecraft is a game of terror, creativity, and long nights of staring at blocks. It's like playing with a version of LEGOs in first person that's socially acceptable for adults to enjoy. The game's low resolution may put some people off, but give it a chance and you'll soon become immersed in a world where realistic high definition graphics aren't needed in order to have an enjoyable experience.

Minecraft has been rapidly improving over the past few months after its lone developer, Markus ‘Notch’ Persson, left his job to concentrate all his free time on Minecraft. Even before the Team Fortress 2 blog mentioned Minecraft, the game had already established a following of loyal players who preordered the game. The preorders made up 12% of the userbase and were given access to the Survival mode in which the player must fight and gather resources in order to live through night. The free-to-play users only have access to the Classic creative mode, a sandbox for players to build what they want without worrying about getting killed. According to the Minecraft stats page, the conversion of preorders has increased by 19% of users since the TF2 blog mentioned Minecraft. With the publicly available data, Persson has grossed over 900,000 in U.S. dollars, not counting the fees and taxes taken out of the transactions.

With the TF2 blog update and our interview with Persson, the game was able to garner over 1,000 sales in under a day. Since then, the popularity of Minecraft has increased to a point that even the servers could not handle the load when SeaNanners, a member of Machinima.com, created a video inviting his 200,000 subscribers to join him in the world of Minecraft. By the end of that day, 2,900 users had purchased the game and over 12,000 had registered on the site. How can one lone developer have such a huge success?

Built one block at a time.

The level of interaction Persson has with the community is not something you will normally see in highly anticipated games from the larger development studios. Here is one developer showing that he really cares about the game and the community, enough so that he shares his goals, respond to criticism, and even throws in some fancreatedcontent on his blog.

Along with his involvement with the community, Persson has created a game that's really fun to play either by yourself or with your friends. It lets every gamer be as creative as they want and use their imagination to roleplay just like they did when they were kids, but in a game that any adult will be comfortable playing. The sessions that I've played with friends always turn into a competition to see who could build the best looking fortress, the nicest pool, or who can be the best interior designer.

Mr T pities the fool who doesn't like pixel art.

With the release of the Alpha survival, the interaction in the Minecraft forum has skyrocketed. There are threads on creating logic gates in the game, minecart booster designs, traps (with doors and without), fan art of monsters in the game, and building tips to make the most out of your time. I’ve been pouring over the Minecraft wiki trying to gleam what I can on crafting, grass growing speed, and creating circuitry and trying to apply what I’ve seen in in the videos into my own world.  One such video on making structures with lava and water proved useful in my game to make a gentle sloping mountain so that I could build some railroad tracks down into my base. On my first night trying it, I got so into making the mountain that I didn't realized that I'd just spent twelve hours layering the blocks on top of each other until I had reached my goal. 

Oh wow, it's been twelve hours already?

For an Alpha, the game itself feels quite polished and I've only encountered one bug (which would cause me to get stuck in the air as I move towards a new area). Terrain is generated procedurally and a player could walk in one direction for hours and never reach the edge of the map. Monsters are so terrifying that players have literally had nightmares about it where even the slightest sound resembling a monster, such as bacon frying makes them cringe in horror. Persson plans to roll out seasons, more dungeons, traps, and more crafting templates for the game, and even add an Adventure mode.

The biggest draw for me to Minecraft is being able to build with my friends as we gaze in awe at the products of each other’s creativity. We help each other build massive structures with one player acting as the architect, directing our every movement, every block placement, in order to create the masterpiece. We'd spend hours just plopping down blocks after blocks, digging tunnels to each other's houses, and making traps that would lead to the bottom of the map just to grief with each other. 

Once the beta is released with fully-functional multiplayer, I'll happily introduce my non-gaming friends to the game, because this is, without a doubt, the best independent building/survival game I have ever played. With two different game modes available groups of friends can keep to the usual (make a bigger and better looking building than your friend) or join up for a co-op survival where we fend off monsters while building a stronghold together. 

My lone warning those who have not yet played Minecraft: if you're not a patient person and are looking for instant action, this game is not for you. However, if you're the kind of person who likes city building, planning, and doesn't mind spending hours, or even weeks, on creating your art, I can guarantee that you'll love this game.