Sooooo…. Minecraft has been around for a few years—Since 2011, and for early adopters, since 2009. And somewhat like Portal when it first came out, I used to see references to it everywhere, and a huge fanbase, and I had no idea what people were talking about, or why a game like that would be so engrossing for so long. To dispel my ignorance, I even watched a ton of “Let’s Play”-type videos showing people playing the game, to get a feel for what was so great about it. I didn’t get it. And for several years now I just didn’t care. I saw Minecraft cakes, and lamps, and creeper dolls… and it just completely baffled me. Why did such a shitty-looking game have such a big fanbase? I likened it to the many strategy-type games I’ve played in the past, thinking about how mindnumbing it was to harvest and mine for resources, then battle with strangers in multiplayer and hold up this MMO mentality while playing… ugh… sorry… I just didn’t want anything to do with Minecraft.
Then, the other night, I caught an ad for the Skyrim/Minecraft crossover expansion that’s coming out soon, which made me start thinking about Minecraft again. The commercial featured tons of settings and landscapes built from the ground up with new assets, but all in Minecraft.
I thought to myself, “That’s actually pretty amazing, but who has the time or interest to mine for all of those resources, just to build a scale model of a town from a game that already exists?” I did some Googling and discovered Creative Mode in Minecraft, which affords the player the ability to have unlimited resources, access to all possible blocks, and full creative freedom to build whatever they want without being attacked by creepers. And while doing this, I discovered completely astounding creations by people who have built all of Westeros from A Game of Thrones to scale, every version of Hyrule from every game possible, lots of locations from Resident Evil, settings from the Metroid games, and of course tons of things from the Elder Scrolls series including the entire Imperial City to scale. Don’t get me started on what people have done with the Lord of the Rings series…
I felt my brain exploding a little bit. Minecraft started to seem really awesome, at least as a platform to creatively build things. And above all else, creative building games almost always top my list.
Here’s a little bit of background…
If I’ve played a game and it has a construction set or a building option, I will try to build my current residence in it, to scale. It’s sortof an obsession that usually expands to building other peoples’ houses, favorite locations, scenes from artworks, etc… All the way back in the days of Doom, I used to try to build my school and house out of the assets. I did it in Duke Nukem 3D, I did it in RPG Maker, SecondLife, I failed miserably at trying to do so in the Elder Scrolls Construction Set, and most importantly, I did it numerous times in every version of the Sims. (We’ve talked about this before…) I’ve even fully modelled my last apartment in Google Sketchup, but there’s no “play” in that, and it started to lose its fun factor. But all of those games and programs have their limitations, and glitches, which really sours the whole experience at some point. Sims houses are limited to houses in specific lot, though quite robust and pretty amazing now that you can customize the colors of everything. SecondLife only allows you to build in sandboxes unless you buy a plot of land, plus you’re limited in how many polys you can have in a specific area. That was pretty fun to build things at any scale, but I didn’t really like the forced multiplayer aspect. People are weird.
But Minecraft… There’s something about the simplicity of the graphics, and the creative limitations that sets it apart. It’s not burdened by limitations regarding glitches, quantity, space, or unenjoyable gameplay… There’s something charming about those retro blocks…
So I downloaded the free demo the other night. I was sad to discover that it didn’t include a Creative Mode, so I jumped right in to Survival. I died immediately. I either drowned because I didn’t know how to swim, or a spider bit the shit out of me. I got better. The world was charming. The feeling of mining a block and collecting its resources had a perk to it that I haven’t felt since the retro-era of gaming. That well-designed, invigorating pop of success, great sound effects, responsive controls… I was surprised at how strangely great the graphics actually were, and the immersiveness of it all. And then nighttime came, and I was chased by some weird teleporting slenderman nightmare, then killed by skeleton archers. I realized how important it was to build some sort of shelter in the daytime, even if it were made out of blocks of dirt until I could figure out how to make better building materials. It struck me how there was literally no instructions on how to craft things on your own. I crafted a few things by guessing. Planks, a crafting table, some different colored dyes, figured out how to dye wool… But I didn’t want to build a house out of wool, and settled for planks. Obviously, I didn’t close up my roof in time and got slaughtered by a skeleton archer atop the trees.
It was becoming addictive… At least an hour had passed without noticing. I went to bed and came home yesterday, killed some pigs for food, managed to build a better house, and started mining beneath it, Googling recipes for items so I could make torches and a pickaxe so I wasn’t digging with my hands anymore… I started finding cobblestone, and iron ore, and coal, gravel, and flint… Built a door and watched as the zombies pressed against it while I mined into the night, watching them burst into flame when the sun rose. I was thoroughly engrossed. And there were 20 minutes left on the demo. So I bought it.
And then I miserably started a game for Kyle which threw him in the middle of a motherfucking jungle of trees, where he proceeded to dig a hole in the ground and box himself in at night. I opened a hole to see what was going on outside, which immediately got him killed by baby zombies carrying eggs and knives!!! Aaah! We started another level in a different biome, and then he played for several hours, and Kyle continued to leave his house roof open and wonder why archer skeletons kept getting in and murdering him at night. Also, wizards!
I finally got the game back, and I started a Creative Mode game on a flat-land world, speckled with weird, green, leaping jelly-blobs of all sizes. And I began my usual scale creation of our apartment building, debating whether or not the stairwell should be 3, 4, or 5 blocks wide, or if I should try to make walls out of colored wool/stained clay, or just stick to normal building materials so it wouldn’t look insane from the outside. Completely addicted, and I probably played until about 12:30am. I’m not done yet with the apartment, but once I’m done I’m going to try to complete the whole building, then the buildings nearby, and probably start rendering the rest of the town. Because apparently this is what Minecraft does to you. I’m probably doomed.