Crafting in Minecraft is boring and unexpectedly brilliant

| Tuesday, November 2, 2010
On the surface Minecraft appears to have just about the same auto-run crafting as WoW. Stick stuff in a furnace with fuel. Arrange materials on a workbench and click the result as many times as you want and have materials. There are little bits like figuring out the ideal fuel amount to minimize waste, but frankly that's looking for trivial detail, since wood is infinite (just make sure to plant your saplings), so you're saving little more than trivial bits of time. And I don't find all that much amazingness in the material choices. I do like my diamond shovel for massive projects, but generally I just use a lot of stone and sticks: very very cheap to make and replace. Even stone can be unlimited thanks to lava flows and water.

But there's another crafting that WoW cannot even compare to: building.

The tools aren't the crafting. They're the equivalent of arclite spanners: make it and move on to the good stuff. The good stuff being the big stuff we make. Some people g so far as to make basic computers. I prefer more basic, practical designs: 'doors' which automatically close if there's a water or lava leak, bunkers which allow me to hit enemies without retaliation and still get the loot, or even just something as basic as a pile of dirt becoming a scaffold for building something far greater. Once I figure it out I can make basic circuits with this strange ore I found, but that's for another time. Or traps for mobs! That trigger bombs!

Of course many of the designs are already figured out, but the variability of the world makes them still less mindless than crafting in WoW. Terrain varies, so traps must be adapted to suit it. For example, the airlock I mentioned earlier is very simple, but I found that I didn't have the free space to build the normal design: I'd be bonking my head all the time and I like open doorways, so I tweaked it ever so slightly to increase the headroom with no loss of functionality. I'm making it sound like more than it is, which is that I just shifted one of the torches up by a couple blocks. It's a trivially simple change, but I could make that change and it made a difference.

One I figured out on my own was a wall which enemies cannot climb, but will still let water through, perfect for protecting my fields from stray cows. This same design can be adapted to the bunker that lets me hit without being hit back. Again, it's very simple, just a line of blocks spaced one block above the water: too high to climb, but because of how enemies swim, they will not go under it either. Actually chickens might, but they don't seem to like water as much as cows, so they aren't as big of a problem. It's so simple, easy, basic, and trivial, but it's still more complex than crafting in WoW.

I'm almost certain this is just an unreasonable comparison because different games have different mechanics, challenges, and goals (or total lack thereof), so there's no way to add that sort of adaptive yet incredibly basic crafting to WoW. But then again, why not just a bit of inter-genre, inter-game theft of ideas?

Since writing this I've gotten into basic cannon design. Cannons in Minecraft are based on the simple principle of: explosions make things move. Thanks to some of the strange physics, players have figured out how to use water to prevent their cannons from self-destructing. Usually. A misfiring cannon will not only destroy itself* but may also blast gigantic craters into anything nearby, or sometimes far away as well.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Engineering minigame!

* An obsidian cannon cannot self-destruct, but it is an extremely time-consuming material to gather and its near-invincibility makes it very hard to tinker with existing cannons.


Celendus said...

I'd also like to take a moment to say how brilliant the new biomes are. Huge sweeping deserts, dense forests, frozen tundra, crazy mountains and rolling flower-covered fields.

Jarome said...

I haven't yet played with redstone, and having started a new world with the update I lost a huge supply of the stuff. I get distracted from such things by exploring caverns and the compulsion to get rid of irregularities in the stone structure. The result being a labyrinthine dungeon with flattened floors and many stair cases. Consumes a fair bit of time with large cavern networks.

I also like putting arboretums deep underground with skylight access, which require a gross amount of digging. I'm still trying to find an effective way to get grass underground, without having to wait on grass to grow down a descending spiral of dirt.

So much to do in the game.

Tesh said...

I've argued many times that players want and often *need* this kind of control to make a game world really click. It's not easy to translate this to multiplayer games (people are jerks), but even a touch of Minecraft in an MMO would be a beautiful thing.

Glyph, the Architect said...

One day, I will figure out how to built a computer in Minecraft that runs Windows. And on that Windows computer, I will run Minecraft.

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