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Cool Find: Minecraft

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One of my favorite game genres is the sandbox.  In this kind of game you’re basically dumped into a virtual world, free to roam about it and do whatever you want, with no script or ordered set of objectives you need to accomplish.  The classic example of this is the MUD, or multi-user dungeon, a classic form of user-created text-adventure from the early days of the Internet, and whose spiritual descendant are today’s MMORPGs such as Ultima Online and the infamous World of Warcraft.  A frequent feature of these games is the ability to create objects and modify the environment (build new structures, etc.); besides the aforementioned MUDs, one of my favorite examples of this is the PlayStation 3 game LittleBigPlanet.  Some games (including LittleBigPlanet) take this one step further and actually allow you to create mechanical devices, in essence “programming” the virtual world.

Minecraft, the latest indie game craze to sweep the interwebs, is such a game.  It’s being developed by Markus Persson (aka “Notch”) and his studio, Mojang Specifications.  Like the classic sandbox, you’re dropped into a huge computer-generated virtual world (supposedly the equivalent of nearly 8 times the Earth’s surface!), and you’re free to explore and exploit the world to your every desire.  You basically run around and dig up (or otherwise harvest) various materials (sand, gravel, dirt, ore, trees, etc.) and make stuff with them.  Besides building things with simple raw materials (harvest a bunch of wood and place it in the formation of a house, or dig up a bunch of stone and make yourself a castle) you can also craft various things by combining raw materials in different proportions (a stick of wood + a lump of coal = torches, several sticks + pieces of string = a bow and arrows, and so on).  In these respects, the game is rather like a traditional MUD, or a MMORPG like Ultima Online.  You can even create some rudimentary devices, such as mine carts, rollercoasters, and trap doors.  There’s even a primitive electrical circuit system too (so in this respect it’s kind of like LittleBigPlanet).  And, oh yeah, the world has an actual day/night cycle, and during the nighttime, various nasty creatures roam the lands, which you must defend against – either grab your sword and fight the horde, or build yourself an impenetrable stronghold and hole up in it until daylight.  (Rather like World of Warcraft)

Don’t be put off by the weird blocky looking graphics; first of all, for those of us who grew up during the glory days of classic video gaming, they have a certain retro charm to them; but more importantly, the gameplay is truly awesome.  And there’s quite a community of modders behind the game, and they’ve released all sorts of hacks and other cool Minecraft-related software.  It’s also constantly in development; new items, monsters, and game mechanics are constantly being added.

The game is still in its early “Alpha” stage, but if you buy now, you can get it for €9.95 (or about $14).  After the game enters “beta” stage the price will go up to €20 (or $28).  There’s also a free “Classic” version which doesn’t have the latest and greatest features (eventually this will be phased out).  The game is Java-based and is thus cross platform, and runs on Mac, Windows, and even Linux.  So definitely check it out!  Check out some example game footage below the cut.

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