Joe Sparrow / Illustrator - Animator - Designer / 07758224292 /

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

minecraft: this game was made for me

so, minecraft is an indie game that just got big enough to receive a shout-out on the tf2 blog. if you've never seen it before it actually looks something like this:

Wow, you might say. That looks like a game that maybe came out a decade ago. Well, the point is it's developed independently, meaning that no big company like Capcom or Ubisoft or (shiver) Activision has gotten their hands on it yet. It's actually developed by one guy, a fella called Notch, who based it on some open-source code from another, simpler game called Infiniminer. As such, it's like another big indie hit, Dwarf Fortress (another favourite of mine), in that it accepts certain graphical limitations (if you think this game looks primitive you should see Dwarf Fortress, it's like playing the matrix) in lieu of being able to develop the gameplay to a highly detailed - and, importantly, fun - level.

The gist of the singleplayer game is literally this - you're a little guy with a green shirt running around a gigantic world made out of cubes, with tons of botanical, animal and geographical features. The game generates the world as you run, so it's technically infinite (see the massive map at the bottom), although obviously with bigger map sizes you're going to have some memory issues. Your little guy can do two things - dig and build. You can dig, or remove blocks, to get resources, and then you can spend those resources in inventive ways to make new blocks or more complex things like stairs, minecarts, boats, windows. digging takes a while, but in this way you can build pretty much whatever you want if you're patient.

The above map (which you can generate using an external program) shows the cave systems that lurk beneath the surface of the map, generated purely for you to explore. But beware - on the surface, you might find such harmless animals as pigs, cows and chicken wandering around for you farm or hunt - but underneath, in the darkness, there's the constant danger of a monster appearing. walking skeletons, gelatinous blobs and giant spiders are merely three of the dangers that await, and the dreaded creeper...

... which trots around before running headlong at you and exploding (all the while making this unnerving hissing sound). Doesn't sounds scary? Just try playing it. The game works on a day/night system too, and monsters such as these spawn in darkness, whether underground or at night. This makes the nights a terrifying ordeal of barricading yourself in your little self-styled fortress and battling off mobs of skeletons trying to destroy everything you've built.

It's the kind of thing you have to be pretty obsessive to indulge in - the fact that you need to do so much digging to even be able to build the simplest of structures makes it something you have to invest quite a lot of time in to get anything out of. But. Imagine it in multiplayer (a soon-to-be-added component of the game). I'm serious, think of what that would mean. Team bases being hastily constructed to protect the clan from the nightly armies of monsters. Helping out smaller fortresses to gain a better foothold in the area or ransacking and annexing their bases and making undeground tunnels to connect them all into one super-base. What about spurning the surface altogether and making a morlockian underground society, battle-hardened and wary of overworld miners unwisely digging down too far? What about building an underwater fort, inaccessible to all but the most determined adventurers? What about forsaking forts altogether and roving across the land, raiding forts too small or inexperienced to defend themselves against human opponents?

The game just entered alpha testing and already so much stuff has been fixed or improved. When you hear people talking about the multiplayer being able to potentially host hundreds of people in a single cohesive world, I really start to wonder if this game was just made for me. A lot of other people are wondering the same.


Jonathan Harris said...

Eh? I was under the impression this has had multiplayer for ages. I've seen tons of videos of structures people have collaborated to build (such a big model of planet earth).

Joe Sparrow said...

yes, i forgot to clarify on that. the only current multiplayer available is like a "fun" mode, where you can fly around anywhere and make any kind of blocks you want instantly (without having any resource system) and there isn't any health or items or anything. the singleplayer mode is called "survival", and you have to forge items and weapons and farm pigs and stuff and it's a lot more like an adventure game. The multiplayer version of that is what notch is currently developing.

the casual multiplayer was popular on /v/ for a bit - that's where you got all the different coloured blocks and people were making big things like worlds and such (I got involved in a server that made a giant version of minas tirith shown here I and a lot of other people got bored of it eventually, though (griefing was also extremely easy). Most people are just waiting for survival multiplayer to come out now I think.