Minecraft is a game, nay a lifestyle, that has taken over the public consciousness like no other game since World of Warcraft. It’s a bonafide pop culture phenomenon that has been referenced and even spoofed on everything from South Park to YouTube. In fact, it’s even spawned its own ‘sub genre’ of ‘building’ games such as Terraria and Castle Miner, a genre which wouldn’t have ever existed if it wasn’t for one man and one vision.
The genius behind Minecraft is its simplicity. In the most basic of senses, it’s a virtual Lego kit, only a limitless virtual Lego kit that is constantly expanding and can be shared with friends around the world over the internet. It’s an open world game in the most literal sense as there are no defined ‘goals’.
In fact, it wasn’t until years after it was first released that a definitive ‘end’ was added to the game, and even that was less of a conventional ending and more of an easter egg for patient fans. The only real goals in Minecraft are to build and survive, and as the game continues to grow and thrive (there are currently over 33 millions users worldwide) on everything from PC’s and Mac’s to Tablets, Smartphones and even next generation consoles, these are goals that will only grow more malleable and dynamic.
Minecraft is split into 4 gameplay modes, namely ‘Survival’, ‘Creative’, ‘Adventure’ and ‘Multiplayer’. Survival mode is the default mode, which sees players cast in the role of a nameless protagonist who must forage for natural resources and craft items out of them in order to keep him alive. The world you’ll be dropped into will be randomly generated so it’s technically never the same game twice and depending on the difficulty level selected, monsters might spawn at ‘night’ (the game runs on continuous day and night cycles) that you will either have to shelter from or fight. As well as having to fight off monsters you also have a hunger bar that will drain over time.
Once the hunger bar is fully depleted, the health bar will begin to do likewise. To stave off hunger you must (obviously) consume food on a periodic basis otherwise you will perish. You can also be killed by large falls, by drowning or by falling into a lava pit. Items that can be built include everything from axes and spades to metal armour, swords and even emeralds, which can be used as currency in the games internal inventory system.
It starts as a deceptively simple inventory management game with light crafting elements and slowly, organically builds into one of the most immersive experiences available in modern gaming. ‘Creative’ mode offers a far more relaxed experience where there is no hunger bar and the player is given the lion’s share of the inventory items from the get-go. This means that the game truly becomes a virtual Lego play-kit, which has been used by players across the world to create some of the most impressive game worlds ever conceived.
There is also a thriving community of players who use the tools in creative mode to build faithful reconstructions of famous buildings, vehicles and characters. ‘Adventure’ mode was not added until version 1.3 and exists to allow players to create and share their own ‘levels’ with the Minecraft community. The rules are similar to survival mode, only they are restricted depending on what rules the maker of the map wishes to allow. It works in a similar manner to the popular PS3 game ‘Little Big Planet’ only the tool set here is far more diverse and the players are far more imaginative. Finally ‘Multiplayer’ offers exactly what it says on the tin, a multiplayer environment for players to engage with one another in each others worlds or to engage in player versus player combat.
Much as in adventure mode, players are allowed to create their own rules and guidelines for multiplayer maps so the potential here is practically limitless. Players can also work cooperatively, a facet of the game that has made it incredibly popular amongst younger gamers and benevolent older gamers alike.
As Minecraft effectively created the genre it now dominates, there are few predecessors to compare it with. Persson has said that he initially drew inspiration from the games ‘Dungeon Keeper’ and ;Dwarf Fortress’, but as the game’s development progressed, they began to feel more like blueprints from a by-gone era.
Indeed, the only games Minecraft can really draw comparison with are the games that followed in its wake. Terraria for example is effectively a 2D Minecraft in all but name. It’s perfectly functional and addictive, but lacks the feature set of its elder sibling. The first person perspective of Minecraft is always what made it feel so limitless and two dimensions just don’t offer enough scope for exploration and invention. ‘Ace Of Spades’ meanwhile is a Minecraft clone with first person shooter elements that lacks the scope of Minecraft but adds a surprisingly deft FPS experience into the mix. Ultimately however, there is only one Minecraft and there will always only be one Minecraft.
It’s said that too many games these days are soulless sequels and generic rip-offs. Minecraft however, threw out the rule book with its vintage, subtle graphics and rich, limitless gameplay. Expect Minecraft to be around for many years to come and then some for as long as there are creative gamers, there will be Minecraft gamers!
Minecraft was initially the work of one man, the Swedish programmer Markus 'Notch' Persson. It was an independent project that Persson initially only thought would act as a pleasing distraction from his work for social gaming company 'King.com' but became so much more as the project progressed. What began as a simple isometric 3D building game gradually accumulated RPG elements and more ambitious game mechanics. By the time the alpha was released in May of 2009 a significant amount of hype had been built up around Persson's creation and within a year he had set up his own company 'Mojang' to work on the game further with a staff of programmers. Now the company has 2 further games under its belt (the side scrolling shooter 'Cobalt' and the tactical, card based RPG 'Scrolls') and continues to not only update Minecraft on a weekly basis, but to port it to more and more platforms. By the end of 2014 it's unlikely that there will be any gaming or entertainment platform under the sun on which you can't boot up Minecraft and let your creative juices fly!
Write a review
You must be logged in to post a comment.