Sunday, January 30, 2011


So after my crazy crunch hours earlier this month I suddenly found myself with a lot of free time.  I was used to the bustle of always having something to work on, so looked for something to fill all this new free time with.  I found Minecraft.  I’d been hearing about the game for months, but never understood the appeal.  It was only 15$ so I decided to give it a shot.

I quickly understood why this little indie game has sold over a million copies.  I’ve been a proponent of emergent gameplay for ages.  And this game is just that.  Emergent gameplay is when the fun of a game is generated by the user and not scripted by the developers.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a well written single player game.  Hell, I’ve worked on a few I’m very proud of (so go buy Dragon Age Origins, and pre-order Dragon Age 2!  Wink wink).  But there’s something exciting about emergent gameplay.  When something happens in a game and you know it wasn’t “meant” to happen, it becomes uniquely yours.


The idea behind Minecraft is simple, but genius.  The world is procedurally generated, so no 2 people get the same level.  It starts out as complete wilderness.  Hills, lakes, cliffs, beaches, etc.  And the game is infinite.  If you were to walk in a straight line forever, the game would just keep generating new content.  All in a charming blocky aesthetic, as though the nostalgic era of 8 bit were given a third dimension, and nothing else. 

There is no tutorial what-so-ever, and the player is dropped alone in this wilderness to figure things out.  It isn’t long before the player realizes he can dig up blocks, and place them elsewhere.  Essentially the world is built of lego and the player can rearrange the pieces however he sees fit.  At night enemies come out so he has to build a shelter to survive the nights.


Soon after the player realizes the game has a crafting system, and 2 of 1 block and 1 of another can create a new block with new properties.  Many of these blocks can only be found deep underground.  If the player digs deep enough he can find intricate cave systems with underground lakes, lavaflow, etc.  He ventures down into these depths to collect rare blocks to create a cooler world back up on the surface! 


And from here the player is able to create all kinds of structures, limited (almost) only by his imagination.  I’m sure many of you have seen the amazing things that can be created in Minecraft, including recreations of major world landmarks, or entire levels from other games. If not, I suggest simply typing in Minecraft at Youtube.

I had a lot of fun with it, but I found the one thing lacking was sharing.  Emergent gameplay leads to amazing creations and amazing stories, and these are the kinds of things people want to share.  So I looked into multiplayer.  Long story short, for such a simple game, hosting a server is rather hard on a typical machine.  But I found server hosts for as little as 15$ a month, so I figured I’d give it a shot and paid to have a hosted server.  It’s less than I paid for WoW for months, and this was a lot of fun.


I convinced Chad and Brett to give it a shot, and soon we were on every night, building structures and showing them to each other.  Over time our structures began to merge together into a community of sorts.



I made a wooden house circling a mountain, with a bridge to a cliff with a farm on top of it.  I made a water-themed night-club (built into a cliff behind a waterfall) too!  Chad is making a huge rooftop atrium with trees in it, and Brett made a tower that nearly blocks out the sun.  Super fun.  Like being a kid again, with a new set of lego!


A fantastic game I’m quite addicted to, and love logging on to build, and check out what my friends have built.  If you’re looking for a creative outlet, a new game, or just want to understand what all the hype is about, I strongly suggest picking it up.  Like I said, it’s only 15$.  And if you do get it, contact me for my server address and come join us!


No comments: