This is Minecraft. Paul and I, along with a few other mates have been playing this deceivingly simple-looking indie game for a few months now. It’s been made in Java, and is currently in pre-alpha, yet has gathered so much interest the maker has all but turned his full attention to the game, even quitting his day job so he can focus on adding more features to his game, which has the potential to be massive upon its release. In its current state, the best feature is the multiplayer creative mode. It’s all about building stuff out of square shaped bricks – think virtual Lego, only everything is made of differently textured cubes. We have been slowly building up our own little world, and I thought it could be fun to take you on a tour of our weird creations. Welcome to the Realm of Bal’dock. Be warned, this post contains a ton of pictures.
The first thing you see when you spawn is this. There are five of us who have mostly contributed to our little country: Paul, Robbie, Ivan, D, and myself. Ivan is the one responsible for our truly essential network of roads. Bal’dock used to be a confusing mess of fields and forests, but Ivan brought a bit of order to things and constructed a ton of cool little paths and roads to follow. In the distance here, you can see one of the first things Paul made: two enormous towers. We’ll go there later…
If you look straight up from the starting point, you’ll see a handy compass which D built. He’s good at stuff like that, too.
A short walk away is the first bit of interactive coolness – my hedge maze. I didn’t plan this at all, just built it as I went along, but it turned out kinda cool.
This is the exit, and this tunnel leads up to a cool little zeppelin that D built. I figured it would make a decent goal for getting through the maze alive…
When we first got Minecraft, Paul had the idea of building the tallest thing we could. These towers were the first big creation, and they are literally as tall as anything can be within the game’s engine. We also made our own custom skins, and here is Paul dressed as Luigi.
Paul loves things to be neat, and so spent ages building the steps inside each tower to be fully symmetrical and perfect. It was worth the effort, but he did go wrong at one point and had to destroy, then rebuild about half of the steps in the second tower. The game is so easy to play though, it’s still fun when things like that go wrong.
The view from the top of the towers is pretty cool. You can see all the little forests and lakes which the game pre-generated, but also all the stuff we’ve made – the hedge maze is just under and to the right of the crosshair, and in the far distance in the middle is Ivan’s enormous castle. On the far right, in the distance you can see Robbie’s black tower. We’ll pay a visit there soon enough…
If you look straight down from the top of the towers, you can just make out something in the water…
Yes, Ivan thought it’d be a good idea to recreate Andrew Ryan’s underwater city – in a pond. I helped tunnel out some of the rooms, but Ivan did most of the hard work.
We learned the hard way that building cities underwater is slow and tedious. Luckily Minecraft has a sponge tool that when placed will force water away from it, giving you a dry patch to work with. Its really useful when you accidentally break one of your carefully constructed walls and your entire underwater room gets flooded. The first time this happened I was simply amazed that the game had such a cool feature – it allows you to tunnel moats and rivers anywhere you want.
Walking away from Rapture and the towers, along Ivan’s path, you may stumble across a rather large hole.
I wanted to dig a massive hole from the surface down to the centre of the earth, where the lava is. I had a plan to put something down there… Ivan kindly helped dig the giant crater, which took FOREVER. The game’s controls are very simple: left click to destroy a block, right click to place a block. Luckily when you want to destroy large areas, you can simply hold the mouse button down for a constant swipe that’ll destroy blocks continually until you let go, or the blocks go out of your range. Eventually we hit the lava, and he logged off for a well-earned break.
This is what he saw when he came back on. I tried to make a Terminator ‘thumbs-up’ but it looked crap, so I changed it to this demon thing.
After climbing back out of the hole, I came across this shed. I think this was the first thing I built in our world, and someone added the swimming pool afterwards.
When you make a Minecraft world, you’ll find yourself building all kinds of stuff. Bal’dock is littered with unfinished buildings, statues and random failed experiments. A fellow workmate tried to build this castle, and gave up. The lazy git.
Then he tried to build a sky-fort. Then gave up. The lazy git. Another thing about Minecraft, you can’t fly, so if you want to make something big, you have to physically build your own steps and platforms in order to reach higher places. The result is these tall spire type things dotted next to your creation. We tend to remove these after, of course, but during the making of anything, you’ll often see scaffolding all over the place.
It’s great for making pictures too. There’s loads of people who have recreated sprites of game characters and things as giant, flat statues. D made this bear.
Dominating the skyline of Bal’dock is D’s sky-bridge. I think he made this as a way of seeing the entire map, but I think its just awesome. Yes, that is a space invader in the distance…we’ll see him up close before this tour is up.
At the top, the view is pretty spectacular. You can see pretty much everything in a 360 degree view (except the underground stuff, naturally). In the foreground you can see a small space rocket that I attempted to make (it looks even more rubbish when stood next to it), and to the left is my giant unfinished tree-house. Minecraft’s maps are pretty big, but We’re promised the finished game will have an option for maps that are even bigger than Earth itself.
In this one you can see the towers in the distance, partially obscured by D’s compass in the sky. To the left is the blimp at the end of the hedge maze.
Then you spot this. Easily the biggest man-made building in our world, this is Ivan’s truly epic castle. It’s technically still not finished, as you can see theres a lot of green hilly bits in the middle. But its still bloody impressive. We’ll go have a closer look in a minute, but first there’s something else to see from up here.
The platform of the sky-bridge is made of glass and you can look down through it like those glass-floors you get in some tall buildings (I’ve stood on the one at Blackpool tower – stomach churningly scary).
If you peer over the edge you’ll see another of D’s ingenious creations. It looks rather flat from up here, but if you’re feeling brave you can leap off and try to land in his mouth… You can’t die from falling in the multiplayer creative mode (you can in singleplayer), but I still get a little queasy whenever I fall from something high up in this game. It’s ridiculous because I never get motion-sickness or anything from any other games, yet I get it frequently feel my tummy go in this pixellated place. I guess I did a bit from base jumping off mountains in Just Cause 2, now I think about it…
As you can see, I missed his mouth. But at least you get a good view of how 3D he is from here. D’s great at making interesting stuff like this.
Check. This. Out.
Ivan made an awesome ‘soldier’ skin from Team Fortress 2.
Ivan’s castle is truly brilliant – he’s crafted it so painstakingly that you can walk in and around every single wall and along the top of the keeps and watch towers. There’s even underground catacombs, and a maze of tunnels. This thing has taken a ton of work, and the result speaks for itself. Though I’m sure it’ll be even better when he’s actually finished it.
One of the most rewarding things about Minecraft is the more effort you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. We’re so used to taking game level design for granted, its even more satisfying when you can walk around a complicated structure you’ve built yourself. There’s an art to building accessible paths and it’s actually made me appreciate other games design even more.
Another good example of what the sponge tool can help you build – Paul made a submarine base.
I think I was a little inspired by D when I made my lava-demon. This is his giant skeleton climbing out of the sea, and its vastly superior in every way. Little details like the fingers dragging through the sand make it even cooler – I’d have never thought to make something like this. Its easy to forget that Minecraft is still simply about building stuff out of small cubes.
Just along from the skeleton, and near to the castle’s gates is this creepy-looking path…it seems to lead towards a giant forest with a dark tower beyond that…
All seems pleasant enough at its base…there’s even a small moat and some hedges…
You go inside through a big archway, and start climbing the stairs…its dark in here. Halfway up is a tiny window which you can peer out, and catch a glimpse of the sky-bridge and the castle on the horizon.
At the top, there’s another awesome view of the land below, but you are forced to move on…you notice a small staircase leading downwards…
So, Robbie built a dungeon. And its the coolest dungeon ever. The staircase opens out onto this spacious chasm filled with lava and old rock staircases and crumbling walls. Its like Moria or something.
Making your way across the chasm you see a crystal-like obelisk. Yes, that’s real water running through it. One time during the building process, Robbie flooded the entire chasm. When water hits lava, it turns it to solid rock, and stops glowing red. I was worried it would stay like that forever, but luckily after some extensive sponging, we managed to get rid of all the water and the lava heat slowly spread its way across again.
Theres a tunnel under there which leads to one final area of greenery.
This mini garden of eden must be the source of the water. Its very nice, but now we must turn back and make our way to the surface, for the tour is almost over…
I don’t actually know how he managed to get multi-layered lava like this, but its a nice touch.
At the top of the dark tower is one final awesome view of The Realm of Bal’dock. Feel free to shed a tear, as this journey is over. We’ll keep adding to our world for as long as the pre-alpha goes on, but as I understand it, the guy intends to phase out this part of Minecraft gradually as he finishes polishing and adding the features to the final game. We’ve all pre-ordered it, it cost about 8 quid if I remember rightly. The full game promises to have zombie defense game modes (build a fort then defend it from hordes?), and the newest trailer showed the guy messing around in a movable minecart. I hope it turns out as good as it looks, but we’re already having an awesome time messing about with this game. I can’t recommend it enough, so go check it out if you’re feeling creative.