Last year, I stumbled upon an amazing little PC game called Infiniminer
. With randomly generated maps concealing hidden treasures and deadly lava flows, it's no wonder I had a blast exploring the simple pixel-y world for hours on end
. The added ability to build blocks and create your own structures made it even cooler, even if your friends just blew it all up with TNT in the end. No one ever seemed too interested in collecting enough ore to win the game during our multiplayer sessions, but it was great fun nonetheless.
Sadly, the developer of Infiniminer dropped the project only a month after bringing it to life, though he did release the source code to the public
. I watched the development tree closely for a few months, waiting for some ambitious young lad to step up and push the game to greater heights (hell, I even tried to teach myself how to code for this purpose), but I never really saw much more than bugfixes. No new gameplay additions or anything for a spoiled end-user like me to be excited about.
But, despite its quick death, the multiplayer mining action didn't die with Infiniminer.
To be completely honest, I hated Minecraft
when I first played it. At the time, it was just a simple Java browser game that seemed to steal the first person mining concept of Infiniminer while simultaneously ignoring anything that made the original game so much fun and captivating. This ignited a burning rage inside me. I was madly in love with the concept of Infiniminer and desperately wanted it to be something more than it ended up being, so it was devastating to see someone actually picking the idea up and doing nothing with it.
I shrugged off my short stint with Minecraft's creative mode and went back to playing Infiniminer and later, Brominer
, which slightly satisfied my thirst for an upgrade (by adding things like water...get it? thirst? water? ha). After a while, I got burnt out on Infiniminer (though I would have restarted in a heartbeat if anyone wanted to play) and soon it was tossed to the back of my mind with the other games that never really became what I had hoped they would. It was a sad thing, yes, but I think I needed a bit of time for the wounds to heal so I could eventually give Minecraft a fair shot.
A year later, I finally did just that. And man, I'm sure glad I did.
Minecraft is quite possibly one of the most addicting games I've played in years (what is it about games with "craft" in the title?
). And it's not even the kind of addiction you regret, like hardcore drugs. Well, I suppose it does have just as much potential to ruin your life, but at least you'll be losing your wife and kids over something fun! I've learned to pace myself a bit more since I first started a few months ago, but I swear there was at least a week where I would play for hours every night. Now, I'm sure you're wondering how I went from fiery hatred for Minecraft to wanting to put my babies in it even more than my beloved Infiniminer. Well, let me explain.
Putting the "craft" in Minecraft
My first complaint with Minecraft when I originally tried it was the nearly complete lack of anything to do. Yes, you could dig up blocks and place new ones, but that was about it. You might argue that building crap was all I really did in Infiniminer despite the team-based competitive aspect of it, and that may be true, but I wanted more. More that Minecraft just didn't have in that early build. The new build, however, that I happened to notice my friend playing one day, had so much more to it. He was digging. He was exploring. He was crafting
Survival Mode is a very different Minecraft. The Creative Mode that I played is all well and good if you just want to hop online and make some pretty pixel art, but Survival is a man's game. You spawn in a world with nothing more than the clothes on your back (well, you might not even be wearing clothes depending on your character skin) and a dream in your heart. A dream where you're mining the shit out of everything and industrializing the hell out of this natural wonderland. Of course, Sam Walton didn't build his first Walmart with nothing but his blocky stump fists and neither will you. You'll certainly need some blocky stumps, but they won't be your fists. Oh no. It's time to punch some trees.
If you hold in the left click, you'll start flailing your fist about. If you move near an block of some sort, you'll start beating the crap out of it. Once it's sufficiently beaten, it'll break into a tiny floating block, which you can pick up and place wherever you want. It takes a bit of time to burst blocks when you're digging with your bear hands (this is funny to me because my current skin is Banjo from Banjo-Kazooie, so I'm making the joke whether you like it or not), but it's still quite easy to make a dirt hovel or start moving deeper into the bowels of the earth.
If you want any real digging power, you're going to have to learn how to craft some tools to aid in your adventures. Opening up the Inventory menu with the "I" key will display the obvious as well as a little 2x2 box in which you can craft new objects out of old ones. The process is simple; all you have to do is place particular items in a particular order on the grid and they will create something new entirely. Now, let's start simple. Place some hard earned tree blocks into the grid and you'll be granted 4 blocks worth of planks. Easy. Take those 4 blocks of planks and fill the grid with them, and you have your first workbench. Awesome.
Plopping your workbench down and accessing it with the right click opens up a world of possibilities. It's basically your crafting grid once again, but 3x3 this time, which leaves enough room to make most anything currently possible in the game. However, you'll need to gather the required materials and figure out how to position them on the grid to progress any further (or just look here for a quick reference). In a short while, you'll be crafting pickaxes and shovels to delve into the unknown below. Swords and armor to stave off the creatures of the night. Minecarts and boats to traverse this strange new world. Once you learn the ropes, the crafting begins and it doesn't stop. Seriously, it doesn't stop.
The world is your oyster, so I hope you like eating oysters forever
Pick a direction. Start walking. I don't know how patient you are, but I guarantee you will get tired of walking before you reach the edge of the map. Why? Because it never ends! The Alpha version of Survival Mode (the one all the cool kids are playing) will generate new terrain indefinitely. It won't all be there when you first spawn, but if you look off into the distance, you'll notice new scenery being drawn. This will continue happening for as long as you care to explore. Once it's there, it's there for good and you can build your world as large as your hard drive can handle (which is pretty large, considering my biggest save is just over 7 megabytes).
Now, there have to be some
limits in order to keep your tiny human brain from exploding out of your skull. If you dig down far enough, you'll hit a layer of unbreakable rock. Not a big deal, considering you'll see your fair share of rare ore, lava, and other goodies before your excursion is cut short. You'll find similar results if you build your looming empire too high as well. Despite these minor drawbacks, the sheer amount of land to explore is enthralling, even when you're not looking to build the world's largest strawberry. Sometimes the game will generate some really cool structures on its own and it's awesome when you stumble across them.
Multiplayer Mining Mayhem
Another much missed aspect of Infiniminer was the heavy focus on multiplayer. The whole point of Infiniminer was competitive ore retrieval between two teams, while Minecraft didn't offer anything more than Creative multiplayer for the longest time. Luckily, even that complaint was dismissed after multiplayer Survival was made available to the public. It kinda sucked at first; I could start a server alright, but trying to get people to connect was a nightmare. My friends and I were really excited about multiplayer (three of my friends even bought the game soon after I did to play with me), so we lost a bit of interest in Minecraft for a while.
A month or so later, I hear some news about the Minecraft name verification servers going down and the game having an impromptu free play weekend
. I already bought the game, so I didn't really care too much personally, but I still had friends who hadn't yet jumped on the blocky bandwagon and couldn't previously play online with me. So, I turned the server back on and gave it a shot.
This time, we got connected just fine, and the server did a great job of saving our positions and inventory as it should. I only managed to get online with one person during the free weekend, but that single online session made me realize how much goddamn fun this is going to be once I get more people to play. The most exciting aspect, I think, is what will happen once I set up a dedicated server in our house (I live with about seven other people, all of which are good friends that are all about Minecraft) and we have our very own world to create in. Any time, 24/7, anyone in the house will be able to connect and shape the world into something awesome. I'm really looking forward to checking in on the world and seeing what kind of productions my artist and engineer friends manage to conjure up.
It only gets better from here on out
Now, I've given you a few reasons as to why I went from hating Minecraft to making sweet love to it, but this one is the most important. You see, the best thing about Minecraft is that it's not even finished yet
! The brains behind the operation, Notch
, is pretty devoted to his project, and shows it every week with a new update. Not lame bugfixes like Infiniminer's, but completely new features every week. Each "Secret Friday Update" adds something new and fancy, be it coal-powered minecarts or snow-covered worlds. There's always something new and interesting to discover and that's what makes it so addicting. I can't even believe this is only the Alpha version. What's to come might be too awesome for me to handle.
If you're not completely sold on the concept, head over to Minecraft.net
and give Classic Mode a try. I really hate to point new players to Classic, as you can probably guess, because I don't find Classic fun at all, but it's currently the only way you can try any aspect of the gameplay for free (sadly, at the time of writing, Classic Mode is unavailable due to the whole server crash and all). Just make sure you know going into it that Survival is 999x better, so if it puts even the tiniest smile on your face when you build something neat, you should rip your wallet open and give Notch your money so you can play Survival. He's a super talented dude that did exactly what I was hoping someone would do with Infiniminer. He stepped up and took it to the next level. Shit, he took it to the next five levels. And he's still leveling.
Minecraft is currently €9.95 (which is about $13) and will jump to €20 once it hits beta, so buy it now! Once you've paid for an account, you're set for good, so there's no need to worry about paying more than $13 for a lifetime of Minecraft fun. Seriously, even if you get bored of what you're currently capable of (how could you?), there's always next week's update to look forward to. And one spectacular day, this will be a full, retail-quality game with achievements (don't judge me) and all kinds of different modes. I can't fucking wait.
Here's a fanmade trailer that's already been frontpaged, but I don't care. It's too awesome to miss.
LOOK WHO CAME: