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Why we love Minecraft

3:16 PM on 10.15.2010 // Jordan Devore
  @DtoidJordan

It’s become an Internet sensation, an instant classic, and one of the best-selling independent games in recent memory. And best of all, Minecraft is still only in alpha -- there’s so much more on the way.

There seems to be a considerable amount of confusion, though. What IS Minecraft, and what do you do in it, exactly? Those answers are readily available online, if you’re willing to look. But when it comes to the web, many people aren’t.

Hopefully with this article, we can get you interested. You really are missing out on something magical.

It’s become an Internet sensation, an instant classic, and one of the best-selling independent games in recent memory. And best of all, Minecraft is still only in alpha -- there’s so much more on the way.

There seems to be a considerable amount of confusion, though. What IS Minecraft, and what do you do in it, exactly? Those answers are readily available online, if you’re willing to look. But when it comes to the web, many people aren’t.

Hopefully with this article, we can get you interested. You really are missing out on something magical.

{{page_break}}

LEGO-style creation

By now, you’ve probably seen one of those videos showcasing some grand creation in Minecraft. There was the Enterprise-D from Star Trek, a massive waterslide, and an entire minecart interstate, just to name a few of the more recent hits.

There’s a fine balance in Minecraft when it comes to resource gathering and creation. Left click on a block to break it down, right click to place it back into the environment; easy, but not too easy. I often liken it to building with LEGOs: finding the individual pieces you want might take a while, but the actual process of putting the blocks together is intuitive, and most importantly, fun.

A true sandbox

When you start up Minecraft for the first time, you aren’t placed into a tutorial. Hell, you aren’t even told anything, period. You’re presented with a vast, open world, and that’s it. It’s up to you to explore, to make up your own “rules,” and in a way, cater Minecraft to how you want to play it.

For some players, that’s a major turnoff. To an extent, they need to be told what to do in their videogames -- otherwise, boredom will quickly strike -- and cannot handle ultimate freedom. For others, the true sandbox-style game has finally been realized, and they couldn’t be more enthusiastic about it.

That’s the beauty of the two modes. In Creative mode, anything goes, if you want to set the game up in that style. Survival, on the other hand, has very deliberate elements that push you toward playing a certain way. This leads me to my next two points.

The randomness factor

The levels -- or, “worlds,” to put it more accurately -- in Minecraft are procedurally generated. In a game where your enjoyment is directly dependent on how imaginative a person you are, this is a big deal. I see those aforementioned videos and think to myself, “Man, I’ll never be able to create anything that impressive.”

But you know what I can make? A bridge connecting two nearby mountains, or a man-made island, or even a secret base behind a waterfall that’s inexplicably surrounded by a lava-filled moat. I can create those things, because the game presents me with the foundation to do so through its encouraging, non-linear maps.

Oh GOD turn around!

As I said earlier, Minecraft pushes you to do certain tasks, even if you don’t immediately realize it. Another way the game accomplishes this is by way of a day-and-night cycle. During the sunny hours, you had best collect resources and stock up while it’s safe outside, especially during your first few days. During the night, well -- that’s when the monsters come out.

Yes, Minecraft has monsters, and they will kill your face off. Building a shelter -- whether it’s a castle, a box, or a coffin-esque hole in the wall -- is necessary to live through the night. So while you are technically free to do whatever you want, it’s ideal to work on dungeons or above-ground buildings during this time. It's a clever limit on your in-game freedom. As they say, a complete lack of restraint greatly hinders creativity.

There’s also a certain thrill to be had from roaming the world when the skeleton archers, spiders, and zombies are on the prowl. I think just about everyone who has played Minecraft has experienced that one moment of sheer terror when they hear a noise, turn around, and see a creature staring them in the eyes.

Collective building

Don’t get me wrong, seeing your creations come to fruition is mighty satisfying. Even more satisfying, however, is sharing what you’ve build with your friends. Whether you want to expand on what they have started putting together, or be an absolute dick by griefing their structures, it’s once again your choice. Admittedly, pushing people off of bridges is more fun than it ought to be. Try it sometime, if you'd like.

The Future

As mentioned in the intro -- and unattractively shown in my pictures -- Minecraft is still in alpha. Anyone who has coughed up the thirteen bucks or whatever it is for the full game will receive all future updates for free. It’s crazy to think that this Game of the Year contender is only going to improve from here on out.

Personally, I’m desperately hoping for the Survival mode to expand. The potential is there for Minecraft to be the best island survival game ever made, if creator Markus Persson and co. can make the requirements for sustained life more in-depth.

That said, there are a million directions he could take this game in, and I’ll be happy with whatever he decides to do. He’s already proven himself to be a brilliant designer.



Jordan Devore, Managing Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure DtoidJordan Tips
Jordan is a founding member of Destructoid and poster of seemingly random pictures. They are anything but random. Disclosure: I backed Double Fine Adventure and Awesomenauts: Starstorm on Kickst... more   |   staff directory

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