Minecraft: A Retraction

| Monday, October 10, 2011
I would like to offer a partial, sort-of correction to my earlier post The weakness of Minecraft as an explorer game.

I had not been keeping up well with the changes coming out, partly because when Minecraft updates, unlike WoW, I am not stuck sitting staring at an update screen with ample time to read the patch notes (mage armor has a new, unique icon). So I miss stuff. And the new stuff often doesn't appear in old worlds, since they have already been generated.

Well, I made a shiny new world and let's just say I was wrong.

Minecraft locations lack a significant sense of uniqueness. While they are all different, most places of the same biosphere look essentially the same.
Let's see, to start off, I have never started in a tree. Or on top of a tree. In the middle of a very dense forest. I am going to have a hell of a time once I make a flint. From there, I wandered my way toward what I am pretending is north (this is not based on looking at the sun, but off what my subconscious decided; H0 d=north) and there I found mountains of great mountainousness. And cliffs. After some digging the night came and creepers came and my unfortified position got blown up and I fell very far. Somehow I thought the first night had been changed to be safe, so I'd not bothered to wall off my stairs.

So already stuff looks different different. That was before I went out to the desert. Not so far away I found a town. A town which I initially suspected was filled with zombies, based on the zombie sounds. It turns out there is a cave system directly underneath the town. I'm in the process of excavating it, a process I began because initially I assumed the sandstone was a sign of buried Egyptians (my world education is a bit limited, but as far as I can tell, Egyptians turn into sandstone when buried). If I had read the patch notes I would have known that sand compacts into sandstone after 4-5 blocks. Anyway, town with scary things under it, much more interesting than the usual barren world.

Minecraft doesn't do beauty. This isn't a knock on the graphics; it just isn't a game that generates beautiful places.
Sunrise over the dense forest actually seemed a bit beautiful. And the town was sorta nice. I'm surrounding it with sandstone walls in the hopes of creating a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Also, so I can dig out under it and just worry about scaries in the caves without also worrying about scaries from everywhere else.

There are no people in Minecraft. There are none before you and none after you. What you find is the result of chaos and is meaningless.
Technically still true (in single player), but the NPC towns do imitate some sort of people having been there. T addition of Enders, a new type of mob which moves around blocks and may decide to attack you if you stare at it [insert feminist joke] adds some sort of pretend intelligence shaping the world, albeit randomly.

A pile of rocks and ancient ruins are different because of the human element, even if both are essentially just piles of rocks.
The piles of rocks have been supplemented with pretend ancient ruins, and not just the empty villages (why are they empty? SCARY! Real answer: Notch is busy). There are also, or will be 'soon', secret stongholds of the Enders, places of mystery and unknowns, both known and unknown, as well as unknowns knows and known knowns.

Minecraft is still a randomly generated world of random stuff, but it doesn't look quite as chaotic as before and imitates the existence of intelligent life, becoming a stronger explorer game in the process.


Jondare said...

Just wait till you find a mine: they are HUGE, and i mean REALLY huge.

Me and some buddies spent several hours just trudging around inside of one, exploring caves and braches, clearing out spiders and getting loot.

It was awesome.

Bronte said...

This has to be the longest in-beta game out there. It looks like you have rediscovered your love for MineCraft. Perhaps I should dust of my own!

Tesh said...

I kinda like the empty villages. It's like the Hitchcockian horror; the scary stuff is what you *don't* see. Why are the people gone? What made them leave?

...sometimes a desolate, abandoned town isn't really empty, it's just populated with conjecture, fear and paranoia. Once again, the biggest part of enjoying a game is in your mind. Great games feed that, rather than try to be explicit about everything. Human imagination is so much stronger than any multimillion graphics suite.

Klepsacovic said...

@Jondare: The caverns are huge enough!

@Bronte: My theory is that it will never leave beta. Why should it? Sales seem to be perfectly fine anyway, and beta is a free pass for bugs. :)

@Tesh: My current theory is that they left after they realized that the whole place is on the verge of collapsing into a very deep, very deadly cave system.

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