For the past six months I have had many sleepless nights with my eyes fixed to my computer. When I do manage to pass out on my keyboard, I dream of a world with pixel characters and mountain ranges of digital blocks. When people overhear my conversations, they can’t decipher whether I’m a coal miner, a farmer, or a delusional apocalypse survivor who battles bow and arrow wielding skeletons. I am a hero in the eyes of my coworkers when I tell them stories of how I have built entire cities in a single day and bravely defended them from undead hoards through the night. I am an absolute addict, but it’s not a substance I fiend for. I am horribly, yet happily addicted to the fascinating world of Minecraft.
What exactly is this “Minecraft” I speak of? The answer is simple, but will differ from person to person. For some Minecraft players it’s a virtual blueprint allowing them to build architectural masterpieces of massive proportions. For others it’s a survival horror game that challenges them to create impenetrable fortresses of sanctuary from the dangers that lurk in the night. To me, Minecraft is all of the above, and so much more.
The game casts players in an open world with nothing to work with but their bare hands. As they harvest more resources, their inventory becomes rich with the blocks they pick up. With these blocks players can create tools that will allow them to mine and harvest quicker. The tools consist of a pickaxe, used to mine cobblestone and minerals; the shovel, used to harvest resources such as gravel and dirt; an axe to cut down trees; and a scythe to tend to the farm. Some minerals can only be mined by tools crafted from a specific resource. For example, a block of gold can only be mined by a pickaxe with an iron tip. All the minerals in the game have a different look and different use. Cobblestone and wood can create a player’s dream home. Sand can be melted down in a furnace to create glass for windows and underwater tunnels.
Each and every time a player generates a new level, that level is unique and one of a kind. The formation of the mountains, the bodies of water, the caves, trees, cobblestone; everything will be unique from one player to the next. Once the game is purchased, players have the ability to generate multiple levels to find the world they are comfortable to inhabit.
Minecraft has a day and night cycle that gives players a different gaming experience depending on whether it is a.m. or p.m.. During the day players are free of threats and are able to run about the world to gather the resources they need to survive and create. When the sun sets, the world is overrun by ferocious polygons that resemble various evil creatures. There are the zombies, skeletons, giant spiders, and exploding creepers. These creatures cannot enter through doors, leaving players comfy and safe when they are in their homes. The creatures also cannot spawn near light, giving players an advantage with their placement of torches. Those who are brave enough to venture into the night are given the luxury to create weapons and armor to protect themselves from the creatures. Furry K-9 companions can also be domesticated to defend their master from the bad guys.
Players can also tunnel their way into intricate caverns deep below the surface. Here the game’s most precious blocks, such as crystal, can be mined. Carving one’s way far into the depths of the world can be a tedious process, but that’s where the mine cart can come in handy. The mine cart is one of numerous different luxuries in the game. Players place down rail tracks to their desired destination, throw on a mine cart and go for a ride. Mine carts can be powered many different ways and can be set in a train-like fashion to carry all of the day’s loot back home.
Minecraft features multiplayer gameplay that brings a different dynamic where players are granted the opportunity to put their minds together to build what only one mind cannot. Some have built full-scale replicas of NFL stadiums. One group went as far as building a scale model of the Star Trek Enterprise-D. Equipped with switches, portals, elements, and a special stone to link them all together, players have produced some very intricate creations in their worlds. Players have even managed to make gadgets such as calculators and computers.
Although the graphics of the game are somewhat primitive, it doesn’t take away from the experience that players get from Minecraft. With thousands of user-created texture packs, the game has many looks. Ranging from a photo realistic texture, to a Tron theme texture pack, players have the power to customize their world to how they want it. Texture packs can be downloaded for free from various sites. The texture I use is called Mixcraft, and can be downloaded here.
Minecraft was independently developed by none other than Markus Persson aka “Notch“. He spent less than a year bringing the project to it’s Alpha stage (the game is now in Beta 1.4_01). Since the game’s release, it has become a worldwide phenomenon and is approaching 2,000,000 individual copies sold. With constant updates to the game, Notch ensures players that Minecraft will be an ever-changing project and will never necessarily be 100 percent complete.
Minecraft can be purchased from its official website, minecraft.net. The current cost is approximately $20 USD, but the price of the game will rise as development continues. If you aren’t committed to fork out the money just yet, a limited demo can also be played from the website.