I sort of gave Minecraft my unofficial Game of The Year last year. Most people avoided doing that because the game wasn’t “done” yet.
The endpoint of Minecraft development is a somewhat nebulous thing. A year ago the game offered a fully playable experience that dwarfed the playtime of most big-budget games. It was fun, diverse, and stable, even though it was in beta. Now it’s released, but more updates are planned. So it seems like this “final” build is arbitrarily so. Either the game was done ages ago or it’s not done yet.
But whatever. I guess it’s done whenever the developer says it is. Since it was offically released this year, I thought I’d talk about this not-final build of the game and the new features it added. I was actually very disappointed in it. Throughout development I felt like each new version was a nice improvement, but Minecraft 1.0 added a bunch of things I dislike to the game.
It adds an enchanting table, which lets you burn experience points in a crapshoot to get an enchanted weapon or tool. I strongly dislike “random drawing” gameplay. I much prefer to simply earn something than to pay for a chance to get an enchantment that I may or may not even want. I suppose it will appeal to people who get a thrill from gambling and games of chance, but I’m not one of those people. I don’t get a rush when I roll the dice, it’s a very mild thrill when I get something good, and I’m very frustrated when I pay and don’t get something valuable in return.
Worse, the enchantment table moves away from the creative building idea of the game. There really is a right way and a wrong way to set it up, and the right way is an ugly and boring mass of bookshelves. I hope you didn’t want to place your enchantment table in an open room atop your wizard tower, because then it won’t work very well. You need to wall that sucker in, just like everyone else’s.
The release added villagers to the gameworld. Unfortunately, I was spoiled by the excellent Millénaire mod. In that mod, there were villagers who had distinct cultures, building styles, and clothing. Each villager had a unique name and a place to live. They moved around the village, did jobs, and traded with you. By selling them needed supplies, you could help them upgrade their city. They would expand, grow, and have children.
In Minecraft, we have villages of generic, ass-ugly men (and only men) who don’t do anything interesting at all. They apparently have the same AI as a pig. They’re just filler. Their houses are ugly and frequently nonsensical, with doors two meters off the ground or walled in with gravel.
I realize it’s a bit unfair to expect that Minecraft stay ahead of the thousands of mods out there, but I can’t help looking at these creepy bald guys and think that they should add more to the game than just existing as a race of docile eyesores.
I was also a bit crestfallen when I saw the release had such a heavy focus on fighting dragons and end-game content. I’m always hungry for new things to build and new blocks to craft / place, and I was hoping that we’d see a lot more “Legos” added to the collection. Again, I’m sure this was a nice feature for some, but it didn’t do anything for me.
Having said all this, it’s still one of the greatest videogames ever created. Even though I’m not crazy about this last batch of features, Minecraft still deserves to stand alongside greats like Pac-Man, Mario, and Sim City. That is not hyperbole. This game brought us fresh new gameplay and (I predict) launched a new genre. Years from now people will still be cribbing from the Minecraft design. It breathed fun, creativity, and freedom into an industry that has been increasingly moving towards canned experiences.
I just hope the next release adds more building blocks.
Could Have Been Great
Here are four games that could have been much better with just a little more work.
Deus Ex and The Treachery of Labels
Deus Ex Mankind Divided was a clumsy, tone-deaf allegory that thought it was clever, and it managed to annoy people of all political stripes.
Lost Laughs in Leisure Suit Larry
Why was this classic adventure game so funny in the 80's, and why did it stop being funny?
The Strange Evolution of OpenGL
Sometimes software is engineered. Sometimes it grows organically. And sometimes it's thrown together seemingly at random over two decades.
There's a wonderful way to balance difficulty in RPGs, and designers try to prevent it. For some reason.