WORMSKIN

1/21/2011

Minecraft: Outdoor Survival and Doom just dropped acid together

Minecraft is a PC game that has completely blown what little was left of my mind. Generally speaking, I rarely play video/computer games because they bore the shit out of me. The story games are the very nadir of Railroadism for the most part, with stuff like Planescape: Torment being a notable exception. And anything that requires me to have excellent hand-eye coordination is so frustrating that I wonder why I even bothered. As far as DEX goes, I'm a solid 6.

But Minecraft is an altogether different animal. The gist of the game is this: You're stranded on a massive (potentially endless) landmass. You can use the various materials you find around you to build tools, shelters, clothing, weapons, etc. Everything is hunky-dory during the day -- you can explore, kill a few cows and pigs, build stuff or whatever. But when night comes the bad things creep out of their hiding places and, man, they want to kill you dead.

When you start a new game, Minecraft generates a new world using a complex potpourri of algorithms that I don't pretend to understand. And as you explore that new world, the algorithms keep on pumping to add more terrain. Ad infinitum. I've heard some people estimate that the biggest possible Minecraft world would be eight times the surface of the Earth. But you'd have to be running a supercomputer to store it all and chances are you'd spend years upon years exploring for something that size to be generated.

The setting is intense in scope. Not only can you crack your way through mountains using your trusty pickaxe (make some spares because all your tools have a life-bar that drops as you use them), but you can dig deep into the bowels of the world. There's good stuff down there like diamonds and obsidian which you can use to make very durable tools and armor and some kick-ass teleportational gates. There's also vast cavern systems, lava, monsters that never sleep, underground rivers and lakes and gods know what else.

The graphics are not fancy. The style is strictly representational versus the hyper-realism of most modern games, so Minecraft will not put much strain on your graphics card. It's got a decidedly Old School look. Here are some snaps from my game:

Exterior view of my fastness at night. The farm animals love
it here.
The heart of the fastness. Where I build stuff and keep my shiny
objects.
The portal I keep in my cellar.
A river of lava in the Nether. All portals lead to this place.
You can build  portals there too that lead back to the Overworld.
I've got a little network of 'em.
A cove not far from my fastness.
A cavern system. Remember to pack a crapload of torches. It's
easy to get lost down there.
If you're into immersive games that you can still pick up/put down at a moment's notice, Minecraft has a lot to offer. At the moment it's still in the Beta phase and can be purchased for $20 and some change. The game is being polished and expanded all the time, and by purchasing Minecraft you basically subscribe to the updates. As it is, Minecraft feels complete and runs great on my Compaq. Highly recommended.

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