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December 18th, 2010
03:35 pm
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Minecraft
If you do any video gaming, you're probably aware of the indie phenomenon called Minecraft. Even if you're not a gamer, you've probably seen various Minecraft memes around the Internet, such as the guy who was using the game to build a scale model of the USS Enterprise.

So far I've been observing the phenomenon from a distance - partly because I assumed that (like most games) it wouldn't run on my aging, GPU-less Mac Mini, and partly because I assumed that (like its fellow one-man indie mining simgame Dwarf Fortress) its primary appeal was to a small, super-hardcore player base.

I have discovered that I was wrong on both counts.

And I can confirm that, holy crap, this game is addictive.

It's a game best summarized as "action Legos." You run around its low-res, procedurally generated world; bootstrap yourself from naked tree-punching into a huge array of tools, armor, and weapons; and then move beyond basic survival into large-scale construction, all while fighting off various hazards to life and property.

And starting fires for fun.

mah base is on fire
("I went to your house last night, Dad called me the human torch.
Got a little pissed at him, so I burned down your front porch ...")

The moment that I really realized the full potential of the game was shortly after starting my first world. My spawn point was almost literally within line of sight of a cave with a vein of coal at the entrance (coal is one of the most critical early resources - you need it to craft torches so that you can clear territory and prevent monster spawns). The cave itself went deep into the earth. Once I crafted some basic tools and a stack of torches, I decided to descend and investigate it ...

... and that single cavern went all the way from sea level to bedrock, sprawled out over an area the size of several city blocks.

It took me two days to explore the cavern. I had to make base camps. I set up a workbench and furnace in a safe room in "Camp Alpha" (elevation -26m), and a second set in "Camp Beta" (elev. -51m), overlooking a scenic (and oh-so-bright) lava sea.

The entire time, I would be advancing from light into darkness - amid the moaning of zombies, the chittering of spiders, the twang of skeletal archers firing nigh-invisible missiles, and the occasional panic-inducing "SSSSSssssss" - dashing forward to plant a torch (they don't illuminate until you do), running back to a semi-defensible position while switching tools to my sword, and fighting off the bad guys. Occasionally, I'd stumble through a gap in the ground and fall to a deeper part of the cave, at which point I would engage in a mad orgy of torch-placing as I sprinted in the general direction of Away, hoping to find (or dig) a passage back to the relative safety of my methodically cleared areas before the monsters wiped out my fall-damage-drained life bar.

It was two days of lo-rez Diablo.

That was more than worth the €10 (about $13.50) that I paid for it. And that's not even scratching the surface of the construction midgame/endgame (like the lighthouse I built with the 100-foot-tall diving board at the top), or the nail-biting sniping battles with ghasts in The Nether.

If you want to buy this indie game, now is the time. On Dec. 20, the game is officially going from Alpha into Beta, and the price is going up. Anyone who pays for it before then has been promised free updates for the life of the product.

I've also got a gift code for a free account, and I'm going to be offering it to one of you guys in a day or two. Details to follow in a subsequent post. :)

Current Location: ~brainstorm
Current Mood: tiredtired

(17 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:lienne
Date:December 19th, 2010 12:24 am (UTC)
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Yep, Minecraft is pretty fantastic.

What's that item in your 7 slot? I don't think I've seen it before. *squints* Mushroom soup?
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From:baxil
Date:December 19th, 2010 01:52 am (UTC)
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Mushroom soup indeed! I took this shot after finally establishing a foothold in The Nether, so I came back with a few speckled mushrooms to finish the recipe.

On my second major exploration of the Nether, though, a ghast fireballed the ground near me, broke through a thin spot, and I fell into the center of a mile-wide lava lake. :( There goes all my lightstone dust and adventuring gear.
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From:lienne
Date:December 19th, 2010 02:59 am (UTC)
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Such are the perils of the Nether.

Me, I have this bad habit of forgetting to light my home base properly so that when I flee inside and slam the door behind me at sundown, three zombies lurch out of the shadows and eat my face. Or I'm carving out a new house at night and I mine a gravel stack that, unbeknownst to me, extends right up to the surface, and there is a zombie on top and he jumps down and eats my face. XD
From:mithent
Date:December 19th, 2010 01:13 am (UTC)
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I keep resisting this, thinking it has limited appeal, as you mention. I heard about the game leaving alpha, and how now is the time to buy, but that still didn't really tempt me. However, I think I may be persuaded now, finally.

I've played Wurm Online for a little, which has a similar fantasy-world survivalist milieu. Notch worked on that game before making Minecraft, in fact. Wurm has better graphics (though that's a matter of degree), but is incredibly tedious. You can accomplish great things, but expect to work for days on end to accomplish the smallest of them. It took me so long to flatten an area to make my home that I was essentially fed up with the game by the time I was done.

I resisted Minecraft, having only tried the free version which permits only free construction. That was neat and all, but not very exciting. But your tale here sounds much more engaging, and for the sake of £8.45 to guarantee all future updates, perhaps I should get it now.
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From:baxil
Date:December 19th, 2010 07:11 am (UTC)
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The pace of the game is vastly different from Wurm, based on what you describe. Basic bootstrapping (for what you need to get tools, torches, and stone for a house) is quick, and flattening and building a basic house completely from scratch is a 10-minute job. I say this because the Minecraft day-night cycle is about 20 minutes from sunrise to sunrise, and for the first 10 minutes of the game you're racing to build shelter so you can survive the night.

Survival Mode already has more potential than the free-build version that's available on the website, and the wiki suggests that other modes are planned as the game advances. (Modders may add in further options, as well.)
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From:kevynjacobs
Date:December 19th, 2010 02:01 am (UTC)
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That Enterprise-D is really cool.
I can't seem to get Chrome to load the online version.
[User Picture]
From:siege
Date:December 19th, 2010 03:39 am (UTC)
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The whole game is written in Java, so if Chrome is having any trouble with its Java plugin, the game won't work.
[User Picture]
From:kevynjacobs
Date:December 20th, 2010 08:13 pm (UTC)
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Firefox worked.
[User Picture]
From:siege
Date:December 19th, 2010 03:41 am (UTC)
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You'll find me as Zeeth_Kyrah in-game, usually on Esbern's server.
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From:baxil
Date:December 21st, 2010 11:16 pm (UTC)
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Nifty! I'm getting involved in multiplayer fairly slowly, and I've got a lot of local friends inviting me to their games, but I'll see if I can look you up sometime.
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From:siege
Date:December 23rd, 2010 05:25 am (UTC)
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You know what, Esbern's server is currently offline, and the domain account appears to have expired (might be a college break thing, but I dunno). Would you be willing to connect me with a good server?
[User Picture]
From:xydexx
Date:December 19th, 2010 08:45 am (UTC)
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I found out about it looking over voltbang's shoulder. I just spent the past 4 hours building a huge castle and digging tunnels. Horribly, horribly addictive little game.
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From:goldkin
Date:December 19th, 2010 09:02 am (UTC)
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Welcome to the fold. I tried desperately to not get in on the craze, up until I realized just how much I needed a collaborative building sim to aid my creativity (supplanting Second Life and several years of writing that I've decisively not been doing, but that's another story).

I generally play a very safe game, torching and extending my digging downwards until I hit a geode, mining it out, and repeating the process. It took me maybe four hours to make it to The Nether the first time outside of multiplayer, which I'm pretty happy about.

I generally play on a private server one of soreth's roomies runs. You're welcome to stop by anytime, modulo a PM or IM for the URI. (This generally applies to anyone interested in collaborative building with monsters enabled).
[User Picture]
From:siege
Date:December 23rd, 2010 05:27 am (UTC)
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I'd be happy to try multiplayer with monsters, especially now that monsters mostly work.
[User Picture]
From:terrana
Date:December 19th, 2010 09:18 am (UTC)
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Welcome to the Collective. We've been expecting you. :)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 20th, 2010 04:45 pm (UTC)
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HA!

The seed I planted back in early October has successfully sprouted! You only thought you could resist the tempting pull of Minecraft, but it has CLAIMED you!

[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<evillaughter?length=20>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

HA!

The seed I planted back in early October has successfully sprouted! You only thought you could resist the tempting pull of Minecraft, but it has CLAIMED you!

<EvilLaughter?length=20>

But I'm sucked in too, so I can't disagree. My starting area is loaded with clay and has this nice overhung cave with a lake in it. Think a small mountain with an oval cut out of the bottom and you have the right idea.

I'm trying to think of something to build for it. I want to make a ginormous castle*, but I'm still scouting for somewhere to put it.

Or an evil mastermind's hideyhole where nothing can get in.
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From:baxil
Date:December 21st, 2010 11:15 pm (UTC)
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Clay! I'm envious. On some maps that's rarer than diamonds.

I've only got about 30 lumps of clay myself. Not nearly enough to make anything nice out of brick. I've tried using the boat search technique, but it's still a little awkward.
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