So You Just Build Stuff From Blocks?

Herr McDowall swept by today to carry out one of his customary hauntings, and more specifically to let me see Minecraft an indy game that’s been sweeping the internet for the last few weeks. The game is the work of a single Swedish developer Markus Alexej Persson (AKA Notch) and is currently still in the alpha stage. It is; however, remarkable complete and playable. It is also exceptionally addictive. The graphics are intentionally primitive and functional, but they also have a charming eight-bit-esque style that harks back to games from the late-nineties. In fact the first thing that El Kat and I thought when we saw the game in action was it reminded us of remote controlling imps in Dungeon Keeper.

The premise of the game is deceptively simple. You inhabit a fully three dimensional world with a landscape made up entirely of different types of blocks.  The entire world is procedurally generated as the player proceeds through it and no two worlds will ever be exactly the same. At the moment the game is mainly a sandbox construction game.  Most of the game revolves around mining the block you need and arranging them to create blocky structures as you see fit. You can use the raw materials you collect to craft tools which make building easier, and you can also make weapons and armour to protect yourself against various hostile monsters that roam the land.

The world has a dynamic day-night cycle which can be followed by watching the (square) sun or moon rise in the east and travel across the sky to set in the west. During the day the world is a pleasant affair with cute pigs, cows, sheep and chickens bounding happily through the pastures of grass covered blocks, but at night things get very sinister. Once the sun is safely below the horizon the monsters begin to spawn. The grumbling zombie, arrow flinging skeleton, giant jumping spiders and of course the creepers… There are no street lights in Minecraft’s world, unless you make them of course, so night time becomes a dangerous game of cat and mouse with these vile creatures. Thankfully the sun is deadly to them, and you need only survive the night to escape them. The skeletons and zombies amusingly burst into flame as soon as the sun’s rays hit them. The spiders become timid and docile, leaving only the ever present threat of the Creepers. The Creepers are worth mentioning invidivually as they’re perhaps the most interesting of all the monsters. They’re unaffected by the sun’s rays so they linger on into the day. They don’t make any sound so it’s very easy for them to creep up on you, and worst of all their primary means of attack is to run into you and explode violently. Needless to say this happens a lot. Sometimes they seem to coordinate their attacks with two or three of them coming at you from different angles. Their ability to vaporise structures and equipment can be annoying, but it at least adds an element of excitement to the game and normally death isn’t a great inconvenience at least, and if you’re quick off the mark you can run back to the point where you died and retrieve all the items you were carrying.

I’ve considered buying the game before, but was put off by the fact that the only payment method that the site accepts just now is Paypal, but after having a shot thanks I guess I’ll need to bite the bullet and get it. If only to scratch the rapidly developing itch that comes from only getting a brief shot of a game.

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