In July 2009, Valve head and all around awesome guy Gabe Newell said the following:
“What I think would be much better would be if the community could finance the games. In other words, ‘Hey, I really like this idea you have. I’ll be an early investor in that and, as a result, at a later point I may make a return on that product, but I’ll also get a copy of that game.'”
Incredibly, as if Valve was foreshadowing something big to come, Minecraft had already began development at that time and was allowing people to do this very thing starting a month earlier. Over the next few years, the public could not only watched this game grow and develop in ways few could expect, they could take part in it’s very creation and what it has become today is a direct result of the contributions of it’s fans. Is this a great game or a failed experiment?
Minecraft… is a sandbox game.
No, it’s not like Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto, it’s a sandbox in the same way a real sandbox actually is. It’s a game without objectives, where you make your own fun and do whatever you want.
When you start a game, you choose a game mode and given a randomly created block world, your new world is infinite in every direction and can have everything from rolling hills, to towering snow covered mountains, hidden dungeons and vast deep oceans. At it’s most basic level, you can remove and place block like legos, and create new blocks and tools through the games crafting system. At night during the survial mode, exploding creepers, zombies and spiders come out that can kill you, so you have to take shelter to protect yourself through the night.
It may sound simple, but as you wrap your head around the powerful tools, your fortifications will take shape and become your own. You’ll also need to eat which means creating a farm and ranching animals, you need to find iron and other new resources to create new items, and before you know it, you have a whole complex or town that is unique to you. It can be easy to drain hours tending, defending and tweaking your space, but the game shines best when you decide to adventure into the world beyond your walls with your newly made weapons and armor (Don’t forget, this world is literally infinite in size). You can create a portal to another world call the nether, a dangerous world with its own wealth of discovery and fortifications, in the normal world there are abandoned mines and dungeons, there is even another mysterious world beyond that you can discover after collecting items from the game’s most deadly creatures and uncovering its deepest secrets. The game even offers an online mode so that you can build and explore with your friends and share your creations.
Even after playing the game for so long, I still occasionally encounter experiences similar to my first time playing.
Recently, I used the nether as a sort slingshot by building a new portal in the nether a distance away from the one I arrived in, this teleported me into an abandoned mine filled with gold, diamonds and monsters. I’m an experienced player who as been playing since summer 2010 so I came prepared expecting the unknown. I gathered as much as I could carry, fought the monster backs and in my careless wandering, found myself incredibly lost. I set to dig my way out, being very careful not to have gravel or sand collapse on me so I can survive with my prizes. Then as I climb, suddenly sand and water poured through my ceiling. I swam up and out not knowing where I even was at, and nearly drowned, but made it. At the surface, I found myself just off the coast of an unexplored island. I swam to shore and quickly try to find a high peak to see if I could visually find my way back. I scaled a near by mountain but I could see no sign of my or anyone else’s settlement (I was playing online for all this). Worse still,the night was starting to fall and it wouldn’t be wise to wander the night and risk dying and losing everything I have worked for at this point. I quickly cut down a near by tree and threw together a quick shelter out of cobblestone, just before night fell, with that I was able to make a workbench and furnace safely where I took some of the iron ore and redstone I found in the mines to make a compass pointing to my home (compasses in this game are set to the last place you slept) and waited for night to pass. Once daybreak arrived, I take off running in the direction the compass, eventually leading me to a vast ocean. I then whipped up a boat with the last of my wood and took sail (sort of, there are no sails on the boat). As I continued following my compass on this vast ocean, night was starting to fall again and just as it was about to get dark, I see a tower… It was one of my friend’s building, I had made it!
I didn’t need the compass anymore, I knew exactly where I was now and was able to make it to my village with all my treasures. The best thing about all of this was that it was completely unscripted, the stakes were real, and I overcame the challenge. Experiences like that are rewarding in a way that I have never seen in any other game, it’s kinda hard to explain really. The best part of that adventure, I was able to take all of those resources and make an automated mine cart system that connected my village with my friends’ right through the desert.
So is Minecraft a great game? Yes.
It also stands as one of gaming’s greatest achievements, as a grassroots game that challenges how games can be produced, proves that someone can make a website with a game and a buy it now button without the help of a publisher and inspires the imagination in ways no modern big budget console games can ever do.
Simply put, Minecraft is the first steps towards proving that gaming can be something special beyond the scope of what movies, music and book can ever be, both creatively and commercially.
NOTE: This review reflects the PC version of the game, the XBLA was not available during the time of review, should there be any major differences once it is release, the review will be revisited. Until then, consider this our comprehensive review.
Release Date: November 18, 2011 (PC) Spring 2012 (XBLA)