Tuesday, December 7, 2010

there, covered in ash, covered in glass

Had a very odd comment come in on the shop blog:

I fool infer from a scarcely any of the articles on your website at this very moment, and I definitely like your tastefulness of blogging. I added it to my favorites entanglement page list and will be checking stand behind soon. Cheer report register in view my site as well and fail me conscious what you think. Thanks.

I had to publish it. Had to. It was too weird to delete. But the strangest thing? Was that inference to follow their blog...which I have no way of accessing, as it was an anonymous comment.


So a while back, Turner asked what was the deal about Minecraft, anyway? And I started writing, and got almost an entire entry before I realized--I'm going into how one plays Minecraft, now why. And I may end up publishing that at some point, but that's secondary. How has little to do with why. And why is the question a lot of people are asking, not just Turner.

(I finally decided to go with a round sun and moon option. Surprising how effective it is, watching it rise and fall.)

Why the draw? It's not the graphics, right? Free-to-play games now have insanely high-end graphics, so much so that many systems are starting to stagger. Even browser games are, these days, surprisingly sophisticated. So what is it about the land of cubes that draws us in?

1. Creativity.

Imagine the world as your canvas. You are the only inhabitant of a demon-haunted realm, sure, and that can be a down side, especially at night--but what you do between running from monsters and learning your way around is up to you. Make a castle. Make a fort. Make a sailing ship; make a spaceship. Recreate the planet. Or do what your instinct drives you to do--the only limits are the limits of the game itself.

Each individual map is, on average, six times more vast than Earth. Notch, the designer of the game, has said it is not an infinite map base--but that someone would need to play for approximately six years straight to go everywhere on the map. That's a lot of terrain to explore, to farm, to dig, to mine, to build.

2. Innovation.

Nearly every day, as the game is developed, someone comes up with a new way to use the game, or finds a new bug. The game is in alpha now--it's not even close to beta yet, and at times, it's glitchy as hell. Some of the glitches become major exploits, and are weeded out in the next update--and the updates are frequent. This is a living, growing thing, there's little that's static about it--and even the 'fixed' game mechanics reflect this.

I mentioned farming. You can farm wheat for bread, by harvesting grass from woodland areas. You can farm reeds in sand by the shore of the eternal sea. If you really care to, there's a way to make fences, and you could conceivably fence in a large enough area to keep track of cows, sheep and pigs that spawned. Sheep give wool which makes art (with enough wood); cows give leather (which can be used to make armor); and pigs can be killed for their meat (which, once roasted in a furnace, heals half your hearts per little piggy chop). If you can't--or don't want to--be ambitious enough to farm crops or animals, then make a fishing rod out of spider-string and wooden sticks.

If you don't want to farm, you can explore, digging down to endless caverns deep beneath the earth to do battle with the creatures of the deep. If you're really jonesing for adventure, dig deep enough to find diamonds; make a diamond pick; find lava; throw water on it; then laboriously mine out the obsidian. Ten cubes of obsidian in a rough square gets you a one-way pass to the Nether, which arrived on Hallows' Eve, and is creepy beyond all reason.

3. Competition.

I'm sure there is competition aplenty in Multiplayer mode; I wouldn't know, I never play Multiplayer. I play Single Player. Can you have competition all by yourself?

Absolutely. I have a not severe, but noticeable, fear of heights. Every time I build a tall structure, I face that fear. And it hasn't stopped me once. It's slowed me--because I can't build up that high without having that shiver down my spine. But Monolithia? More than four stories high, each story twice my height in the game, and I built it, block by block, on my own. I was the only one there; I was the only one who could. And I was able to get it done.

Or take spiders. I'm not afraid of spiders, I like spiders, but for the past six months I have had increasingly terrible spider nightmares. (I know why now, and I'm not going to go into it; suffice it to say that for someone who likes spiders, this was horrifying.) Spiders are one of the monsters in Minecraft, and they have a unnerving ability to jump directly at you and you die.

This is bad. And at first, I loathed the spiders in Minecraft, because day or night, they attacked me. But steadily, day by day, night by night, I began to overcome that atavistic fear. I learned how best to defeat them, and learned to take even death in stride.

Or let's talk jumping. For most of my life, I have been bad at jumping in both arcade and console games. In fact, in Runes of Magic, there's a perpetual Easter mini-game that I fail at, every year. Every single year. Because I can't jump up the little platforms to save my life.

In Minecraft? I'm learning to jump. I've gone from being afraid of heights to measuring distances and jumping with equanimity. It no longer bothers me.

The only one you have to beat is yourself. The only one you have to heal is yourself. Take of the world what you can use, and give back in terms of structures, trees, reeds...You can stay within the fixed terrain of the world you discover, or pave it over and build skyscrapers; it's up to you.

Why play Minecraft? Because it exists in the pure spirit of game, itself. You can eke out a meager existence in a scratch-built hovel; you can build a working computer for simple calculations. Nihilistically, you can blow everything up and start over.

Ultimately, it's entirely up to you. And that's the draw.


turnerBroadcasting said...

Wow that's really neat. Thank you!

You know, I've been shifting my focus lately in gaming to more of a development role. I did alot of work with wowEdit and then when I left warcraft I decided to peek back in and take a look at what they were doing with cat and they really updated strong in this last patch. They Norris'd all of Azeroth. And I sort of realized, that's what the real draw of the game was to me... that you could do with it almost whatever you wanted.

I guess I sort of went out through the top with Warcraft.... sold my toons. I'm pretty sure I'll go back in again sometime when they get up to level 100, but I am worried about how addictive games like this are...

I play Civilization 5 these days. I know. Boring. But it turns me on.

I'll try Minecraft.

turnerBroadcasting said...

Oh, by the way Emily. If you look at the syntactical structures of your really weird comment on your shop blog - like a good detective - you'll find out what is really going on.

Here's the quote:

"I fool infer from a scarcely any of the articles on your website at this very moment, and I definitely like your tastefulness of blogging. I added it to my favorites entanglement page list and will be checking stand behind soon. Cheer report register in view my site as well and fail me conscious what you think. Thanks.

Ok, so. Let's take the like "cheer register report register in view my site"

This is a classic example of chinese to english translation. The happy character would be in front of the line, heading up and down the page - asking you to hit his site and painting it in happy colors.

And its pretty obvious he wants a link back. But they made an error and ended up anonymous. They were probably testing the script because as its written, it asks you to link back but doesn't give a profile.

So what you go there was mistranslated, automated - chinese junk mail.

Hank Rucker said...

Lovely. Very nicely said...

Speaking of Minecraft, if you have some time to kill and we are both around, I would love to show off what I've done with my world...

Emilly Orr said...


I can't run 5, but I get why you like it. My favorite game, hands down--past Diablo II--was Alpha Centauri, the expansion set for Civ IV, I think. Built on the same concepts, added aliens. Trippy and a whole lot of fun.

As far as the bad Chinese alliteration, you're likely right. And it would have worked (in their view), if they had only left a link to the other site...

Emilly Orr said...


A while ago, trial and error determined that one could archive their world (usually I use .7z, but on occasion .zip) and upload it to a Google Docs location, and presto, instant new world to explore.

How'ver, if you're talking about Multiplayer options, be happy to come see what you've done, just have no clue about Multiplayer Minecraft. :)

Emilly Orr said...

Oh, Turner, one last thing--

"They Norris'd all of Azeroth."

I don't play WoW, likely never will, but I have friends that do, and between them, and articles I've read online, if I'm reading this right, they've killed that particular world or section?

Because this seems to be the biggest bitch with Cataclysm--not that it's not in keeping with Blizzard policies (because it so is), but because there were some fundamental quests with cooler-than-average rewards that people used with their friends to get them online and playing, and with the coming apocalypse, they have no idea if their game tutorials, YouTube postings, or personal invites will have any fraction of application in the new layout.

Some people seem pretty pissed off about this.

Hank Rucker said...

Well, there are two ways, one would be Skype screen sharing, which isn't perfect, but is passable.

The other would be for me to see if making a multiplayer world would work using my singleplayer world map... That could be cooler, really.

Emilly Orr said...

And apparently it works as a server world! Whee!

Almost makes me tempted to flip you a copy of Monolithia's world, or as I've taken to calling it--Undertunnels of MADNESS.

turnerBroadcasting said...

@emily - yes, they destroyed big pieces of the Azeroth landscape, and they introduced thousands of new quests.

Not sure about what they did with the existing questlines but I imagine you'd have to change them since what once was a green field is now a glowing chasm of molten lava. Kind of hard to traverse at level 1...

Emilly Orr said...

Yeah, that would be.

"Walk ten paces forward, turn to the left. There'll be a Night Elf waiting at the corner...no, wait, he melted. Oh, wait, you melted, because you're both standing on lava. Never mind..."