Minecraft goes into beta, existential therapy

mc13.jpg Minecraft, the indie exploration/building title that took the gaming world by storm this fall, has left its experimental phase and entered beta. The price goes up to 15 Euros and the developers' focus moves to polish and content — and the development of a modding interface to let others add their own features to the game. With its low-fi, ultra-hip 3D lego set look, Minecraft can seem a faddish thing. John Brownlee, referencing Shelley's Ozymandias, explains the egomaniacal hook that lies beneath the surface, making people stick with it:
It's a solipsist's god sim, with all of the loneliness and pathos that implies. ...There's more to Minecraft than just a 3D set of building blocks to play with. Minecraft's setting itself is haunting, in that it forces players into a situation where the entire game is to answer this question: ... Are the massive castles or statues I built in any of my inevitably discarded Minecraft worlds really much different? Colossal works of deific arrogance conducted for the benefit of the author's own ego, then swiftly forgotten.
It's true: I constantly think that I'm going to take the places I've built in Minecraft (like my awesome floating island town, above) and share them with other players as a multiplayer instance. But really, who cares? Once you've seen one pixelated starship, European Cathedral or epic hollow tree, you've seen them all. Without the potential for storytelling, a Minecraft world is a poor man's Myst "book" with no puzzles. And when played from the outset with a group of friends, Minecraft is a very different experience. I Have No Mouth and I Must Build [Gearfuse]


  1. This is why Dwarf Fortress is more fun. At least you feel semi-responsible for the the little drunken psychopaths.

    1. +1. See: orbital defense network, a series of lava filled canals suspended hundreds of feet in the air to rain fire on thine enemies.

  2. The real hook for me is playing solo and building my own stuff. Even if it’s not spectacular, by gum that’s my little castle. Some nights you want to build or create gardens, some nights you want to just mine, some nights you want to lay down roads, some nights you want to level a mountain, some nights you just want to head off into the distance and keep going forever.

    Nobody will will ever see that. But it’s mine, and no griefers will ever mess it up either. Solo survival mode ended being far more riveting than multiplayer creative – for me! YMMV.

  3. I still play solo sometimes, but what really salvaged Minecraft for me was playing online with a group of regulars.

  4. You know, every time Minecraft is mentioned, there is always a nod to the 1:1 scale model of the Enterprise-D I built.

    It’s like my little geeky mark on the internet.

    1. I was relatively impressed by that model (which I thought was mind-bogglingly built from scratch, BY HAND!)… until people started pointing out that it was (this is what was said anyway) simply a *pre-existing* model shape that was imported INTO the game and then just prettied up there and stuff.

      Still looks very cool, don’t get me wrong, and I’m sure a fair amount of work still went into it in the end, but building something epic and artistic like that, BY HAND, and simply importing a pre-made model are two totally different things. ;)

      Unless all the people who say that’s how it was done are wrong, of course (could be the case, I don’t know). Then I’d go back to being pretty impressed.

      1. I doubt you’ll ever come back to this comment to read my reply, even if it is approved, but I’d like to point out halkun MADE that model he imported.

        Sure, he didn’t place every block, but he studied schematics for years in order to make the 3d model himself.

        In my opinion it doesn’t matter that he made the schematics in sketchup rather than minecraft itself, that’s entirely his own creation. It’s not like he downloaded a pre-existing 3d model, he made that by hand himself.

        Just as impressive if you ask me.

  5. Thank you for the post, Rob. It got me thinking. I’ve hollowed out vast underground abysses and hand filled them with water, only to wonder what it was all for. On the other hand, I’ve imagined entire landscapes of skyscrapers with joy and excitement, and then when I launch the Minecraft client I find myself reaching immediately for the quit button. The game was the same, so it must be me who changed. Pretty deep, hehe. But then I’m back to exploring caves in no time.

    Imagine if you could construct your floating island city, and then create an experience and story around it that others could consume? What tools are missing that you’d need to do this? It seems perhaps that Minecraft doesn’t have enough limitation. What fun would Zelda have been if you didn’t have to hunt for the key or for the bombs or fight all the monsters because you could just dig your way straight to the triforce?

    Just thinking out loud.

  6. I’m not sure I like the terms. Or perhaps I just don’t understand them. From http://www.minecraft.net/prepurchase.jsp

    “Here’s what you get:
    * Once you’ve bought the game, it’s yours. No DRM.”

    On http://www.minecraft.net/copyright.jsp
    “The one major rule
    Do not distribute anything I’ve made. This includes the client and the server software for the game. This also includes modified versions of anything I’ve made.”

    This seems contradictory.

    1. Not really. DRM free, so it is convenient for YOU, but that doesn’t entitle you to just give it away to anyone. You own YOUR copy, how is that contradictory?

  7. One might as easily argue that Minecraft is a rubric onto which we place our own ideas and thoughts- or, what writer John Brownlee just did in that rather beautiful article in other words. Either way… over thinking it?

  8. Your work was a major step in getting Minecraft from “indie hit” to “internet phenomenon.” Notch owes you!

  9. Basically, I think it needs the ‘quest mode’ and an editor so we can set up quests for our pals. NPCs are a must, I think, and scripting/variables would be a major boon too.

  10. “Colossal works of deific arrogance conducted for the benefit of the author’s own ego, then swiftly forgotten.”

    That is one hell of a way to look at the digital equivalent of Legos. Writer, removeth thy gaze from thy navel.

  11. What kills me is when you have a world with one gazillons obsidian blocks and no diamonds to mine them in sight.

    And when your giant gold self portrait statue is blown by a stalking creeper.

    I hate those pfffffffffffffffff What the! RU-BOOOOOM!

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