People first started suggesting I cover Minecraft on Bytejacker a little over a year ago. I messed around with it a bit and felt lukewarm on it. At the time, it was basically just a world of Legos – a cute sandbox you could dig and build in with others, but really nothing more than a technical demo. “Impressive for being made by one guy,” I thought. “I hope he can turn it into something.”
Fast-forward a year, and Minecraft is now one of the most amazingly fun sandbox worlds I’ve ever experienced. It terraforms a world for you at random, and you use the resources in that world to build yourself the necessities of life – structures, protective clothing, weapons and tools – while avoiding the dangerous creatures indigenous to the land. You do this either on your own private map or through a multiplayer server.
It’s really amazing. The worlds are gigantic, full of mountains and caves and oceans and rivers and life, man, just LIFE – I can’t count the number of times I’ve dug through a cave wall to find an amazing, Goonies-esque cavern waterfall, or climbed what I thought had to be the highest mountain I’d ever come across to find that my little in-game world was twice as big as I had ever imagined.
I usually hate crafting in games – if there’s a sword to be had, let me kill something for it and let’s keep it moving. Minecraft takes an approach that grabbed me from the start. It’s crafting feels like the equivalent of one of those “100-in-1 Electronics Projects” kits you’d get from Radio Shack. You just take these little modular pieces of the world – literally element it’s made of – and plug them together on a grid. Oh, whoops, I made a sword! Oh hey, look, I’ve got a boat now! There are complexities involved, to be sure, but they’re tucked away, working in the background.
That’s the beauty of Minecraft as a whole, and why you’ll see videos of people simply building the most impossible looking sculptures, or facing some of the most unpredictable natural events – because there’s so much complexity there that you’ll never have to touch. Just run around your world, do your building and exploring, and all the while Minecraft is directing rivers and lava flows, controlling the population of livestock, and pushing weather around you.
There’s so much going on that even if you don’t want to build a replica of the Starship Enterprise or a working subway system, you can just wander and be perfectly content. Games that are heavy on exploration have always appealed to me. The secret nooks and crannies that don’t hide special items, the ones that are just there for the pure fun of finding them – have always been my favorites. That’s exactly what Minecraft is – the pure fun of discovery and exploration.
My interview with Notch and a bit more about the game are in the video below if you’d like to find out more (sorry about the low audio in bits of it). In all honesty, though – stop reading about Minecraft. Stop watching videos of other people’s creations and funny glitches. Stop marveling over sales figures and development anecdotes. Jump in and start exploring. Start building your world.