The weakness of Minecraft as an explorer game

| Friday, September 30, 2011
Minecraft has one really big advantage over any other game for explorers: no one can spoil it for you. No one can pressure you to spoil it for yourself either. Everything is yours to find.

But what is there to find?

Obviously there are minerals and a few neat places. And the edge of the world where everything goes crazy.

Beside that, what is there to find?

I think the fun of exploration comes from three areas. First is uniqueness: what we find is different from what we have seen, and as an added bonus we may feel that we are one of only a few to have seen it. Second is beauty: the place we find, perhaps a view, is beautiful. Third is humanity: A pile of rocks and ancient ruins are different because of the human element, even if both are essentially just piles of rocks.

Minecraft locations lack a significant sense of uniqueness. While they are all different, most places of the same biosphere look essentially the same. Only rarely will anything really strange appear. Maybe that's actually a strength. Beyond this, the "no one else has seen this" element is missing, because while no one else has seen it, much of it isn't worth seeing, and that condition applies equally to everything from the first tree you see to the very furthest edge of the world.

Minecraft doesn't do beauty. This isn't a knock on the graphics; it just isn't a game that generates beautiful places.

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.

P.S. You might have noticed that this is the second post today and the first one has mysteriously vanished along with Kring's comment. The first post had some excessively large inaccuracies, so it may come back later after I fix it.


Bronte said...

But I don't think spectacle was ever the goal for Notch's masterpiece. Minecraft is about using your imagination most of all, and coming up with what you want to make of the world that surrounds you and the tools given to you, within the operational rule-set.

Edenvale said...

When you do go and explore, if you have a compass with you it will always point to the block you spawned in on. That is the games magnetic north.

From experience, if you lose your compass, you can make another one & it will still lead you back to your original block.

Verilazic said...

I'm not sure I agree with you. I think the landscapes Minecraft creates can be rather beautiful. Also, very rarely you run across something unusual enough to feel unique. Easy example: the sinkhole in the 404 seed world. Even though that's been shared with many people now, it's still an example of something effectively unique. There have been times when I've just spawned new worlds and flown around them looking at the landscapes. At first, I was searching for a spot that was perfect for what I wanted, but after a while, I just wanted to see what was on the other side of the next hill.

Kring said...

The charm of exploring is that you are able to see something that other people could see but won't see.

Exploring is no fun if everyone sees everything.

Exploring is no fun if other people can't see what you see.

Video Game Philosopher said...

Minecraft needs a historical creation engine like Dwarf Fortress. Doesn't require them to program NPCs or anything, but generate a bit of terrain that looks like a person built stuff there...imagine stumbling accross a half destroyed house that you didn't build.

Klepsacovic said...

@Bronte: I didn't mean to make this a dig at Minecraft, just as a way to analyze exploration and the motivations for it.

@Verilazic: Okay that was amazing. I take it back!

@Kring: Exactly. But I wonder, does YouTube compensate for some of that?

@VGP: That would be neat. I wouldn't be surprised to see something like that added at some point.

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