Minecraft is an "Indie" video game which was developed in Java by Markus Persson (aka 'Notch')
and has become massively popular with millions of people all around the world, including
yours truly. Despite its popularity Minecraft is also one of the most underestimated games, and I
think some of that is fueled because of its rather simple appearance. But looks can be deceiving...
So, time for some serious advocacy!
A blocky world
In Minecraft everything is a square block, there are no curves or circles. And at first
glance this is something to get used to, also because it can make Minecraft look rather
simplistic. But Minecraft is much more than merely a simple looking environment
which tries to mimic the real world a bit.
An often seen misconception is that because Minecraft looks simple the gaming mechanics
are also considered to be simple. Surely this game is much less taxing than those which
try to create very realistically looking images? Well, you'd be wrong ;-)
In the end a realistic looking environment (Skyrim for example) still consists of a
simple skeleton layer which has a skin applied to it. The only thing the engine needs
to do is load the appropriate sections.
Minecraft on the other hand has an environment which fully consists of blocks. Everything is
a block. The sand, the dirt, the grass, the flowers and also the stone and several minerals
which you can find underground. This means that every part of an area can be changed. But as a
result of that the engine will need to remember all those changes as well. After all: you don't
want to spend hours on building a house, then traveling to another location only to discover that the
house is gone after you got back.
This is me in my own Minecraft world...
There is usally a lot going on in an average Minecraft world, and the world itself is
affected by several specific gamerules. For example: grass blocks will spread their grass
(texture) onto adjacent dirt blocks. If any liquid is placed (only known types at this
time are water and lava) then this will spread out. Lava will actually destroy dropped
items and set certain block types on fire (like wood), water on the other hand is pretty
much harmless and can actually transport dropped items.
A Minecraft world also knows different 'zones' called biomes which each have their
different temperatures, which in its turn can also have its affect on the world. Water will
actually turn to ice in an colder environment, and ice will turn back into water when it's
melted. Either by placing a heat source nearby or placing the block in a warmer area.
A world also has a day/night -time cycle and the weather can change from clear and sunny
(as shown in the picture above) to rain which can even trigger a thunderstorm.
It is that massive attention for detail which can make a Minecraft world so inviting to play
in. And this only covered the 'physical' world mechanics. Usually there are also animals
walking around ("mobs") which follow specific behavioral rules of their own. And
then there are the crafting mechanics...
Finding resources, and using them...
In order to survive in this world you're going to need some decent tools. So where to get
those? Simple: you make these yourself. There are several materials which you can use to make
("craft") tools and weapons; ranging from wood, stone, iron, gold to diamond (which
is also the best material in the game). But it's not just weapons used for combat. A shovel
can be used to easily dig up dirt, an axe is used to chop down trees and wood, a hoe can be
used to prepare farm ground, shears can be used to shear sheep and remove leave blocks
from trees. And speaking of farming ground: that can be used to plant seeds and vegetables
so that you can grow your food. You may have guessed it: in this world hunger is also a
thing, so you need to stay fed.
And this is only one small example of all the things you can do. Take for example a tree. If
you chop it down you'll get wood log blocks. Eventually also the leaves will decay which
creates a random chance of them dropping a sappling. You can plant those after which a new
tree will grow. But back to the wood logs. You can craft 1 wood log block into 4 wooden
plank blocks. Then you can use 2 plank blocks and craft those into 4 sticks. Sticks are
important in the game, you need those for creating most tools and they're also used to
make torches and ladders.
My inventory, one log block gets me four wooden plank blocks.
Now you're almost ready to make your first tools. There's only one problem: the 2x2 grid which
you see above can only be used to craft very basic items. If you want more then you'll need
some extra equipment: a crafting table. You can make that by using 4 plank blocks. This will
give you access to a 3 x 3 grafting grid which can be used to make all sorts of items.
Take those plank blocks for instance. Apart from crafting hand tools you can also use them to
make chests, slabs (a slab is the half of a plank block), stair blocks (these can be used to
climb), fences, fence gates, signs, boats even a jukebox to play records in!
And the goal of the game?
This is what I like best about Minecraft: there really isn't a specific set goal. That's also
because Minecraft is the kind of game which you never really finish playing. There's always
more to discover and something different to do. Also very important to know: Minecraft is the
type of game where you decide how to play it. A truly open world game.
However... Once you managed to open the portal to one of the two other dimensions,
the End, you'll soon encounter the offical end boss of the game: the Ender dragon. If you
manage to defeat it you'll be rewarded with the most unique item in the game (the dragon egg)
after which the portal leading back to the main world will open. Once you step through you'll
trigger the in-game credits and that more or less marks the 'end' of the (survival) game. Of
course things don't have to stop there, not by a long shot.
The End dimension with the Ender dragon.
Because apart from the portal which will take you home you'll also notice another portal
opening up. This one can take you further out into the End where you can find the so
called End cities which contain other hostile mobs and ways to obtain even more rewards.
And of course, all the blocks and items which you find in the End can be taken home where
you might be able to use them to enhance your existing buildings or to build completely
But Minecraft is a game which never really 'ends'.
And there's even more...
What I described above is only the 'survival' part of the game. Minecraft can be so
much more. Lets say you simply want to build some things and you don't really feel like
trying to find all the materials you might need. In fact: what materials can you find anyway?
Well, not to worry because Minecraft also allows you to 'cheat'. The game has 3 specific game
modes which you can use. The default one, described above, is the survival gamemode. You can
take damage, will grow hungry and you can only use the resources which you find around you to
create things of your own. Next there's the so called 'Creative mode'. You will no longer take
damage, blocks break instantly, you won't grow hungry and to make things even more special you
can also fly! And if you open your inventory screen you'll notice that you gained access to
every block in the game. This is ideal if all you want to do is to build something
without having to worry about getting enough resources.
In Creative mode you get access to every item in the game, even ice!
Then there's a third gamemode: adventure mode. Adventure mode is much like survival mode
with the main difference that you can no longer break any blocks. That is... Not unless the
map maker allows you to break certain blocks. Adventure mode is normally used to play maps made
by other players. There are tons of those out there. People have made all sorts of adventure
maps for Minecraft. Ranging from simple mazes which you need to solve, dropper maps in which
you need to jump down and somehow land without dying, and there are even gamemaps. Playing a
game of battleships for example is perfectly possible in Minecraft!
And finally there's a fourth mode called spectator mode. Now you'll become completely invisible
to all mobs and other players, and you can fly through the world. So: you can fly through
every block in the game. This allows you to get a complete overview of the world beneath the
surface. You can also click on mobs to take over their view. Then you'll see the same thing
which the mob (or the player) does.
Also noteworthy: a Minecraft world can be fully customized to meet your demands. But I'll share
more about that in another section.
Welcome to my creative redstone world ;-)