Minecraft – Growing and growing and growing…

We’ve had a surge of hits in the past few days, and it’s 99% because of Minecraft. I’ve covered the game before, and took you on a tour of a world we created in the ‘classic’ version of the game, but a LOT has happened in the land of cubes lately, so I thought it was a good to have a little catch up…

So, to start off, Minecraft is officially in Alpha now. This means it’s full of bugs, lacking in many features, but oh-so-very-playable. Notch, the genius behind the mini-project-turned-mammoth-indie-hit has been working mostly by himself for the last year, but thanks to all the attention the game has been getting he’s now working on it full-time and with a small team of employees and everything. It really is becoming a runaway success and according to the stats page on his site (which was cute to begin with, but it now seems mildly unprofessional to keep in plain view) the game has sold over 200’000 copies. At €9.95, it doesn’t take a genius to work out how much money he’s making – its flippin’ mind-blowing!

The game has been so popular in the last couple of weeks that the website itself ground to a halt, and Notch was forced to switch off all of the server-side functions that handled payments, so for a few days the game was free to play. This simply generated even more interest, and now that its all been sorted and the site is back up and running properly, the game’s going through another boom – Notch blogged about how so many people are “buying the game faster than the payments can be processed!” Oh how terrible that must be…

A randomly generated lavafall. A cow jumped into this moments before I took the screenshot

Theres a heap of new features, with more added on an almost daily basis. 3D clouds, flowing water, a new lighting engine which gives torches a nice glow and procedurally generated maps (they can literally go on forever) are some of the visual highlights. That zombie survival mode I mentioned last time? It’s pretty much there already. The single player survival mode has a day and night cycle, with cows and sheep roaming about the grassy fields and sandy beaches during the daytime, and as night falls all manner of nasties come crawling out of the dark caves to stalk the landscape. If you don’t find shelter – or build up some decent weapons – you won’t make it through even a single night. It’s absolutely terrifying. Building yourself a nice little safe haven and lying in wait for the sun to rise and burn any straggling zombies is certainly an experience.

The crafting is simple yet surprisingly deep. Literally everything can be destroyed and rebuilt as an ingredient for something else – tutorials explaining how to get the most out of your loot is under development, but right now the Minecraft Wiki has a great list of recepies for crafting the essentials. Trees are turned into wood, which in turn can be made into sticks, which can be used as handles for swords and pickaxes. Animals can be hunted for leather, which is good for making armour, or you can eat the meat they drop to boost your health. Different materials can be harvested more efficiently depending on the tool you have. Axe’s chop trees down fast, and pickaxe’s are great at mining minerals such as coal and iron. You can also make a boat for travelling on water, a forge used for smelting, and you can build a storage chest to keep all your loot safe (if you die, you drop everything on the spot, and sometimes it’s not always possible to find your way back).

Cubic cows and pixellated pigs roam freely during the day.

Minecraft is the perfect example of a simple idea executed brilliantly – you’ll always feel rewarded in some sense simply by exploring, gathering, and building and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s unusual to experience a game during its development, to play it while it’s still being built and refined and that makes it feel even more involving. I heartily encourage anybody to join in and come along for the ride, because this thing is only going to get better from here on.

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3 Responses to Minecraft – Growing and growing and growing…

  1. Stu says:

    Right, I’ve played it! Well… sort of.

    It’s essentially MSPaint 3D… I think I prefer Maya…

    • It’s certainly basic with regards to the chunky pixel textures, but it’s definitely an indie gem; whether it’s all down to hype – or just blatant coolness – 953,936 registered users and 278,802 purchases to-date on a game that’s still in Alpha is bloody impressive! Clearly it’s not for everyone, but I’ve found it pretty addictive so far. It’s definitely worth having a blast in multiplayer, since running around building things with a buddy can be a blast.

  2. Robbie says:

    My God I love this game. It’s getting updated so often my client tells me it’s out of date every other day. I might leave it for a month or two, then when I come back I can see what new features have been added and what’s been fixed.

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