Boo to Notch.
I had quite a lot of work to do last week. And guess what? I spent waaay to much time in this silly little game called Minecraft just mining and crafting. When I should have been on the phone digging up work, I was hiding from the dark digging for iron, gold, diamonds, and firestone. When I should have been building software, I was building deep vaults and air pyramids. When I should have been fearing incoming bills, I was being scared out of my wits by creepy noises coming from somewhere beyond the wall.
Notch. It’s all your faults I tells ya!
Minecraft is an interesting little game with an interesting business model, both of which a somewhat counter-intuitive. Especially to conventional thinking.
First, the graphics and gameplay.
Minecraft uses a really basic graphical style which does run counter to conventional wisdom. Fortunes are sunk into giving games the best graphics possible. Even some casual games gave million dollar budgets these days. Minecraft on the other hand doesn’t obsess over state of the art graphics, in fact it uses the low end graphics consistently to give itself something of a retro look.
And I’m not sure if ‘better’ graphics would do anything to enhance the gameplay, which is also really simple. But in that simplicity, there are a large number of choices.
Crafting is simply a matter of putting resources or blocks into a crafting panel in a certain order and shape to get a tool or item out. Put a couple of sticks and three diamonds and you get a diamond pickaxe, or a diamond axe depending on where the diamonds go. Put some metal and sticks and you get rails. It’s really simple, and intuitive once you get the hang of it.
Similarly, dig up some stone and you get a block of cobblestone. Drop that block along with others, and you can create a building, statue, column, stairs, whatever. On my last game, I built a spiral staircase on top of a hill up 10 squares into the sky. Then built some dirt scaffolding and created a base on top of that, 28×28 squares, and then built a pyramid on top of that. Then I followed the spiral down through the earth until the bedrock to start mining diamonds.
That, I think is the addictive nature of Minecraft. It’s a sandbox, but there’s always a bit more to do. When i thought I was about ready to quit for a while I’d come across a blue block. Aha! Diamonds. The quest continues. Even my coffee got cold. (Very rare.)
The other counter-intuitive thing about the game is the business model.
Minecraft is in alpha. That’s right, the game hasn’t even reached beta and the developer is taking pre-orders in order to fund the development. This strategy has been so successful that in the days following the Paypal lockout, over 60,000 customers paid 10 Euro each to download and ‘test’ the game. You don’t hear of that kind of thing happening very often. In fact, with MMORPGs it’s often the opposite complaint made after release, “I don’t want to pay to beta test this game!” (Said in a rather cranky fashion.)
So, my recommendation?
Give it a go. It’s only 10 Euros, which is about $14 Australian. (Not sure what it is in US these days.) It’s not a bank buster so even if you don’t care for the graphics or gameplay it’s no big deal, and you get to support an indie developer.
But whatever you do, don’t try it if you have other stuff to get done.