Dénouement 2011: Minecraft

By Shamus
on Dec 20, 2011
Filed under:
Video Games

splash_minecraft.jpg

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.

minecraft_enchanting.jpg

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.

minecraft_villagers.jpg

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.

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A Hundred!2016There are 136 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

From the Archives:

  1. Kdansky says:

    I think I have not played it in 2011 at all. Last time I remember, it was winter, and I was planning my Christmas holidays. I think I got burned out on it when I created a ton of stuff on the d20-server, and single player was only interesting once. When you get to the point where the only thing you lack is diamonds and obsidian, and you have to grind for eternities to get them, it’s just boring busywork.

    • DaMunky89 says:

      This is why the closest thing I do to single-player Minecraft is 2-player with my girlfriend on a local server. For some reason she LIKES that grinding, and digs out huge elaborate caverns underground. Any time I need anything I can just pop down to her underground complex and grab a stack of rare materials. (And with the Nether fast-travel system I’ve got installed, even the long walk down there takes only a second.)

      • CheddarTheKnight says:

        Sadly I do not own minecraft. I have the sucky, lame demo version of the Pocket Edition to see if I would like it. I like Minecraft, but not enough to get a computer good enough to run it. I have enough on my plate as it is: I’m playing Arcanum, Skyrim and AC: Revolutions. Should I ever get a gaming computer (or better yet, if it’s released on consoles) I will definately buy it.

        • Tigranater says:

          There’s another problem with Minecraft, despite looking like a game that isn’t going to be very taxing on your computer – many average comps will find trouble running it even on “Tiny” render distance without severe frame-rate drops.

          There are mods like Optifine, but the fact that Notch has not even bothered to implement official modding support (yet has time for Squidwards and Snow Golems) is another disappointing addition (or lack thereof) in 1.0.

          I definitely think the most important step for Minecraft is to make is less RAM-heavy. I have 4GB of RAM and ever since 1.8 I’ve been having choppy and sometimes unplayable sessions. My friends with 4GB RAM have also been having these problems.

  2. X2Eliah says:

    It’ll be interesting to see if the development direction / design shows any change now that Notch is no longer working on this particular game anymore.

    And.. eh, I wish I wouldn’t have to say this, but for me, the graphical style is, in the end, a turn off. Yeah, I know, graphics don’t matter, gameplay matters, it’s justm ade by one guy, it’s a java app, etc. etc., but, well, there it is, I can’t get over the visual style. Perhaps if it was cartoony and cell-shaded, instead of 8-bit pixellated even on textures, I’d take to it better. :|

    Another issue I have with this game.. Yeah, it’s supposedly like virtual legos, the problem is that Minecraft is the home, city & forest lego kits, whereas I as a kid preferred the space/future/sci-fi series :( If notch had made SpaceCraft instead of MineCraft, for example, I’d be waaaay more into that game.

    Anyway, this year my minecraft fix was more than sated by Terraria…

  3. acronix says:

    I think the problem with the latest minecraft additions is that they are too “gamey” for a game that was more “buildy”. I mean, they added a bunch of stuff that adds nothing to the game but grinding (the enchantments and potions, though the potions are easier to achieve) and a boss fight that rewards nothing special. And I seriously don´t know what they were thinking when they designed those villagers.

    But doesn´t matter which way Minecraft turns now. It has an army of modders, and if the game is ruined for some, you can rest assured that out there, someone is going to mod it until it´s right or they real life catches up to them and they have to stop modding.

  4. Railway Man says:

    Got the Millenaire mod just yesterday. Seems quite good, but I actually like the ‘regular’ villages as well. They have a certain charm to them, and they aren’t fully finished yet, like most things in the game, it would appear.

  5. Roll-a-Die says:

    I’d like to pose one question to you, Shamus and your readers, how is Minecraft, prior to 1.0/.8/9, an actual game?

    Allow me to elaborate, beyond the basics, IE operated on a computer for fun, how is/was it a game. The thing that makes games, games, at least in my opinion, is that they have rules, goals and structures that add to core gameplay.

    In Terraria, a game that is quite like minecraft, it’s loot and bosses, along with a far more complex and interesting crafting system than minecraft. Even then it more resembles a toy, than a game. Toys are more creative, and often collaborative, and lack the rules and goals that make a game, a game.

    Let’s examine a few real life toys and games.

    Chess, a game whereby your goal is to attempt to outsmart your opponent by superior tactics and capture his king. Each unit moves in a way dictated in the rules.

    Lego’s, a toy, by which you create simplistic structures and indulge creativity, your goal is that which you make yourself.

    DnD, a game in which you attempt to survive as long as possible, while racking up profit, while also playing a character. What makes it a game, is that it is structured by clearly definable rules which structure it’s play. Such as that of a d20 roll which determines every action within the game.

    Barbies and other play figures, a toy by which a youths adolescent fantasies of maturity may be acted upon. There are no rules determining the actions, and no overall goal.

    Football, a game where players attempt to move a ball from a line of scrimmage into a goal on opposing sides of the field. Each player has a position with unique rules with actual consequences should the player violate them in the form of fouls.

    My question regarding Minecraft is, where is the goal, with 1.0 you could beat the dragon, but prior to that, where is the actual gameplay goals, beyond what you, yourself set out for yourself. Minecraft is more of an idle device which the players make into a game, than a game itself, Go [direction] is a prime example of this. It is players striving to make actual gameplay goals in a toy largely without a core gameplay goal mechanic.

    You could argue that this is a strength, I’m more asking for well reasoned arguments on why it’s a game. Not whether it’s any good or not. It is undeniable that it is an enjoyable toy.

    While you could argue that Minecraft is a game because of the death mechanic, but that is mostly a nonissue, because it lacks the proper gravitas to cover death in any meaningful way beyond you are teleported. Even another similar genre game(pure sandbox), the Sims, covered death in a way with more consequences, when a Sim died, you lost that Sim forever. Thus your gameplay goal became to attempt to keep a Sim alive, with their needs met for as long as possible.

    EDIT: Damn thing posted before I was ready.

    You could argue that surviving as long as possible is the gameplay goal, to which my response would be, resources are plenty and tools are easy to come by, the free resurrection leads to a very lax mechanic for death. It’s almost to the point of it being a nonentity. And again the player can freely turn off death, anywhere simply by turning the game to peaceful. Thus pointing again to this being a primarily user created system. Not an actual enforced gameplay structure.

    • X2Eliah says:

      My counterquestion to you is, what does it matter? If you have fun with it – game, toy, thing or whatever – mission accomplished. Who cares about semantics and definitions.

      • Roll-a-Die says:

        It matters, simply because toys are in an entirely different classification than games, and are judged by completely different merits.

        Minecraft succeeds as a toy, but it doesn’t succeed well as a game.

        When calling something a game, it needs to have some core things, individually the pieces of a chess board are toys, but when added together and rules applied, they become a complex and engrossing experience.

        Games follow this structure.

        Parts
        Rules
        Goal

        Toys follow an entirely different one.

        Is it fun.

        Games are judged by the mechanics, it’s why I can tell you straight off, the gunplay in fallout 3, fails entirely to satisfy even the most base standards of quality in an FPS. It’s slow, clunky, and every enemy beyond the lowest level rats suffers from HP bloat. Encounter design is flagging, and the free hp carried with you mechanics dampen any tension caused by the lowering of health, to the point of non-issue when you can open your inventory eat 7 steaks, and inject yourself with 2 syringes in the time it takes most people to shake hands. The number of health items in the games also becomes an issue, how are there even wounded in this game when you can go out and loot 3 first aid boxes in a school house and get enough magic healing syringes to fully repair even the most severe of wounds.

        Toy’s are judged purely on how much fun they can give. It’s why toys like Lego’s succeed even now, while toy’s like tops flag behind them.

        I guess the best way to describe it is, a football is a toy, the sport of football with the gameplay structure and goals set out by the rules is a game.

        A football is judged by the merits of a football, the game of football is judged by how it plays.

        It basically comes down to critical analysis, how do you critically compare a toy like Minecraft, to a game like Knights of the Chalice, you can’t simply decide FUN, WHICH IS MORE FUN, because that’s a fallacy, and not a very good critical measure. Movies that are fun, action movies, typically aren’t compared critically to movies that have very slow paced plots, where every shot has been contemplated. And when they are, ones shot with a better eye for legitimate filmistry, and with better performances typically wins, and oft times, that’s the one with the very slow paced plot.

        Also Shamus’ AJAX is being particularly buggy this morning. This is the third time I’ve had to reopen the box. Appologize if you folks were already replying.

        • Sydney says:

          Okay, so Minecraft’s status as a ‘game’ rather than as a ‘toy’ matters because games and toys have different standards.

          Why does that matter? Specifically, I mean? I can’t think of one actual, relevant, non-philosophy ramification of this distinction that isn’t already caught by the genre divisions in what we currently call ‘games’. Nobody worth reading is comparing the Minecraft sandbox to, say, Pokémon or Halo.

          Also, drawing out this distinction further: Are the following borderline cases games or toys (perhaps use ‘amusement’ rather than ‘toy’ so non-material activities are included)?

          – The Sims
          — and the Sim [Whatever] sub-franchise (and Rollercoaster Tycoon etc)

          – Animal Crossing
          — and for the sake of conversation, a hypothetical Animal Crossing game without the debt goal and the optional museum goal

          – Roleplaying without a ruleset (playing make-believe)

          – Swimming defined laps in a pool, using a pre-determined stroke (not for exercise; just for the joy of swimming)

          I sense there’s something interesting to this conversation, but I can’t quite put my finger on it yet. I also don’t see its relevance to this particular post, but we’re already here, so…

          • Roll-a-Die says:

            The Sims is a game, because while it doesn’t have much gameplay structure, the structure it has is rigorously enforced, at least the last time I played the series(Sims 2.)

            Make believe would be an example of amusement(toys). It lacks the proper structure and goal of an actual game. Or I guess you could argue that it’s a game, because it’s goals and structures are that it has no goal or structure. Personally I’d place it as a toy/amusement. If it really is a game, as it’s name(game of make believe) says, it’s likely one of the exceptions that proves the rule.

            Swimming, I can’t really hazard a guess, this is something I didn’t really think about as I was writing the above 2 posts.

            {EDIT}Animal Crossing, never played the game, so I can’t really wager whether or not it’s a game, particularly in such a stripped form. Since from what I’ve read(and can elaborate from playing a similar game(Reccetear)) stripping Animal Crossing of it’s goals would render away the real drive to do anything.

            • Sydney says:

              Okay, so it’s about how rigid the rules are.

              Minecraft’s rules are in its physics, and in its mechanics. You can’t, say, tame the monsters or learn kung fu, just like the Sims can’t go into organized crime (last I checked) or move to a different country (I think).

              Using the rule-structure criterion, aren’t all digital toys ‘games’?

              • Roll-a-Die says:

                Wanna say I had a sims 2 x-pack that let my characters go into a job as a thief but that was roughly 9 years ago.

                Also what do you mean by “digital toys”?

                Also yes, it’s about how rigid the rules are. If you look at every other game on the market, they all have goals, and proper gameplay structure, Minecraft is left the odd man out.

                A lot of this argument arises from the fact that after about the first 20 hours and first castle in hell, you start sitting in minecraft wondering why the hell you’re playing it, what your reward is. Then you start going, “Really, there’s truly nothing to do in this game, than to place blocks. I lack an overall goal, I lack any type of direction that comes from rules, and I lack any kind of consequence that comes from those rules.” Then you start making up rules for the game, because the game doesn’t provide enough structure to aid in play after a certain point.

                • Shamus says:

                  “A lot of this argument arises from the fact that after about the first 20 hours and first castle in hell, you start sitting in minecraft wondering why the hell you’re playing it, what your reward is. ”

                  I’ve put hundreds of hours into the game, and I still haven’t hit that point. :)

                  I don’t know. My games of Minecraft do have goals. They’re all self-imposed. Does a goal have to be mandated by someone else in order to be a game? If I take a toy and make a goal for myself, have I created a game?

                  • noahpocalypse says:

                    Oh noes!

                    http://xkcd.com/386/

                    SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET!

                  • SolkaTruesilver says:

                    That’s because you like playing with toys.

                    You make up your own objectives, and you have immense fun from achieving those challenges. Even more so, you assign self-challenges that you judge are meaningful to you, and challenge-appropriate.

                    Probably like why you hate gameplay story challenges like some GTA-like mission style with such passion. You feel they are arbitrary and restrictive in a sandbox you feel can support a much more flexible gameplay style.

                    You like Skyrim because you actually feel like you can do what the hell you want the way you want. If Shamus Young feels like attacking the necromancer on one foot only throwing poisonned darts at him, the game will let you.

                    (But that’s just a theory)

                  • Will says:

                    If the goal can be succeded or failed (ie: If you can win or lose) then yes, you have created a game.

                    There is a lot of cruft tacked onto the ‘game’ definition, but at the very core the only thing absolutely neccessary for something to be a game is the ability to win and lose. Minecraft didn’t qualify for that (the base game by itself without user-imposed goals) until the Ender Dragon was added. Even then, you can’t actually -lose- at Minecraft unless it’s hardcore mode, so it only really qualifies as a game then.

                    Of course all of this is completely irrelevant outside of a few hipster game designer nerds who get their rocks off talking about the differences between games and toys. Everyone else is merely concerned with ‘is it fun?’

                    • Vegedus says:

                      That’s not really a useful definition of games at all. I can’t “lose” Half life because I can always load a save game from a minute before. And can you win or lose in an MMORPG? You can’t even win tetris.

                      I think it would be more useful to say a game is something where you can win or lose something. I can lose all my items in a lava stream, or my house to a creeper, and I can win at entering the nether, or getting all the achievements. If it’s not “game” as in game theory, you might also add that it’s supposed to be an enjoyable interactive pass time.

                    • Will says:

                      If you die in Half Life, you’ve lost that session. Loading a save game is just restarting the session; it does not in any way change the fact that you lost the previous session.

                      Also do note that i did in fact say that this kind of nitpickery is largely irrelevant.

                • Zukhramm says:

                  I don’t see the difference between The Sims and Minecraft. Either they both have goals and proper gameplay structure (what is proper?) or neither does.

                  They both have the same goals: Gather resources, build a nice house, survive and they both have rules governing how you are able to reach those goals.

                  The same lack of direction you have in Minecraft I have in The Sims.

                • John Lopez says:

                  I see this exact “that’s not a game” naval-gazing over on Board Game Geek. Party games “aren’t games” because the goal isn’t to defeat everyone else, but to have fun. Historical wargames “aren’t games” because they are just simulating a battle that wasn’t even fair in the first place. Children’s games “aren’t games” because they lack enough decision points.

                  I find the whole thing an exercise in pointlessness. The word “game” has a technical meaning in Game Theory (a mathematical foundation for economics, decision planning and political analysis) that doesn’t encompass most games in the wild. That doesn’t invalidate the more casual usage of the word.

                  • Blake says:

                    “Children’s games “aren’t games” because they lack enough decision points.”

                    I like this point.

                    If someone asked me to describe ‘peek-a-boo’ I’d say it was a game where you covered your eyes, then uncovered them, and small children laughed.

                    It doesn’t have much in the way of goals or gameplay structure, but I’d still call it a game.

        • Audacity says:

          I’m not sure I understand your distinction between toys and games, or even the need for one. Are not games, electronic or otherwise, simply another type of toy? How is the qualification of a good game, not the same as that of a good toy, that is, as you rightly said, how much fun is it?

          • Audacity says:

            ^ That was me.

            EDIT: Balls. Ninja’ed by Sydney.

          • Roll-a-Die says:

            Because a game doesn’t have to be fun to succeed as a game. A toy literally has to be fun to succeed as a toy.

            Critically games are judged by different merits. This matters, because again, even if they are in the same genre, Entertainment, as we grow as a genre, we need to set down definitions of what makes a game, a game. Or you end up with clutter in your genre.

            As far as I can tell, the only thing that makes games, games, is that they have honest to god structure, and rules built around that structure, as well as a goal. Even if that goal is simple run down this brown hallway(structure), shooting things with your gun till they die(rule), to get to the next bit of story(goal), trying not to die along the way(rule).

            But I will agree the argument is mostly philosophical. Simply looking for a reason why, Minecraft, should be considered critically, at least, a game. When it lacks most of the base structures of a game.

            • silver Harloe says:

              Critique is subjective. It also only exists because some people feel a need to express opinions about things. There aren’t “rules” to critique like “games have to be judged on these criteria, toys on a different set,” because critique is just a bunch of opinions. The statement “games have to be judged on these criteria, toys on a different set,” might be true for you because you only care about certain kinds of other people’s opinions, but that doesn’t make other critiques which ignore your rules invalid – it only makes them invalid to you.

            • rayen says:

              what about sandbox games? minecraft has structure and rules, that it follows connsistently. sandbox games while they do have a goal usually continue past that point. say fable or saints row 2, after all the story missions are done you can do anything you want side missions, collectibles, are just piling three blocks worth of cars and launching missles and grenades at it. does a game cease to be a game once the goal is completed? or is the sandbox itself merely a toy until you start a mission and then when given goal is it a game?

            • PAK says:

              Roll-a-Die, you have discovered the difference between formal and informal dialogue! Congratulations!

              There is certainly a lot of utility in preserving formal language such that definitions of words evolve at a much slower rate of change, so that precise communication is possible, such as when we need to make business deals, laws, and academic considerations of creative endeavors. However, informal language evolves as it evolves. You can’t change it. It has always been so, and trying to control the words people want to use in everyday situations is going to cause a lot of consternation on both sides.

              So. You ask the question of why Minecraft should be considered a “game” in critical situations. And you’ve skipped an important clarification. Is this within an academic context, or a non-academic one? Because in an academic critical context, I agree that earlier Beta implementations of Minecraft should be classified as a toy. That allows people who granularly break down the processes that Minecraft uses to provide its fun to communicate them as cleanly as possible.

              HOWEVER, you are strongly implying, in your pedantic approach, that Shamus’ (and other internet reviewers’) use of the word “game” in referring to Minecraft is somehow innappropriate. Perhaps this wasn’t your intent. But the smugness of your original post quite obviously set a lot of people off (me included). Here’s the thing. Twenty Sided is not academic! It’s very very smart, but it’s not academic at all! Which is totally fine! Shamus is writing for a particular audience. Popular terminology in the last twenty years has started labeling all software-mediated entertainment experiences “games.” There are a lot of reasons that in an everyday context this is more practical than splitting hairs. Pedants love to attack this practice (especially when the old art/game debate gets drudged up yet again) but the reality is that people in the hobby already intuitively understand that a lot of subcategorization is necessary, and further people in the hobby have a considerable catholicity of taste with respect to these software-mediated entertainments. “Games” in the classical formal sense are only one slice of what they may be looking for.

              Shamus more than adequately clarified WHAT the experience of the interaction is in the body of the article, so who cares if he’s using the formal or popular use of the word “game?” Given the prevailing tone of the blog, what do you honestly expect?

              WHat really irks me is that you ask this question as though it’s a question, but you already clearly understand the academic uses of the word “game” and “toy” and the distinctions therein. They’ve been well-established since before any of us were born anyway. So what you’re really saying is “haha, look, I know the REAL definitions, guys” which is just academic wankery. Honestly, what’s the point of stirring the pot that way?

            • Jakale says:

              You’ve lost me here. Games don’t have to be fun to be successful? Pretty sure the ones that survive best are the ones people enjoyed playing ie. had fun with. Even if it’s horror or whatnot, they had fun being thrilled, chased, and whatnot. I’ll also grant that not all games are fun to all people, but that’s true for every game, video or not.
              Sure you have games that sell enough to warrant the money that went into making them, but is that a successful game or a successful marketing strategy?

              • Alan De Smet says:

                We’re deep into the semantic weeds here, but what the hell.

                There are games which are distinctly games (they have constraints, goals, and competition), but are not intended to be fun. They can be successful at their designer’s purpose without the participants having any fun at all. Two examples:

                StarPower is almost guaranteed to be unenjoyable for two-thirds of the players. The remaining third are likely to feel pretty terrible once the game has wrapped up. But it’s a successful game because it teaches the lesson (about hidden advantages and perception) the designer intends.

                Train engages in similar levels of deception to teach a lesson (about complicity). Based on the coverage it got when it debuted a few years ago, I’m guessing the designer would call it successful.

                Mind you, deception isn’t inherent to such a game. Just a few good example I knew happened to use it. To take another example, in high school sex ed, we were all given test tubes of water. One was secretly doped with a small amount of some harmless chemical, representing an STD. The rules were that we has to mix liquid with 5 other people (representing unsafe sex). We then tested to see whose water contained the chemical, they lost. Not terribly amusing (except in trying to game the system), but certainly more effective than just lecturing about it.

            • Paul Spooner says:

              Okay, I’m going to weigh in on your side on this one. I think your argument is very well thought out, and I have neither seen a good one to counter it, nor come up with one myself. Minecraft is a toy and not a game.

              I really like drawing the distinction, because there are quite a few games that I have played in the past, the experience of which I do not “enjoy”. The challenge of the goal and the attaining of which is often frustrating. Actually, that may be one of the primary identifiers of a game, that it causes frustration. A good toy never frustrates you, because you can do with it as you will. A good game always frustrates you, because its rules thwart your attainment of the goal.

              Thanks for maintaining the discussion in this thread. It’s been helpful to me, and I hope to others as well.

              • X2Eliah says:

                A good game always frustrates you

                In such situations, people tned to call them *bad* games.

                • Paul Spooner says:

                  I mean frustrate in the sense of “prevents immediate sucess” instead of “infuriates with niggling obstruction”. If there were no obstacles in the way of attaining your goal (and what are frustrations other than that?) then it wouldn’t be much of a game at all. Just like the best stories are fraught with difficulties, the best games are fraught with barriers. Sensible and surmountable barriers, but barriers none the less.

        • swimon1 says:

          So the distinction between games and toys is important because toys are hard to critique? But Shamus just did that of minecraft so either minecraft is a game or toys can be critiqued, right?

          Personally I have issues with your understanding of fun. Fun is kinda nebulous so let me use the word entertaining instead and define it as something you’d do for no external reason. So work isn’t entertainment because you do it to earn money and eating isn’t entertaining because you do that to survive. Whether or not something is entertaining can then be ascertained by asking “if it didn’t directly impact anything else in my life would I still do this?” With the word entertainment there is no real reason to distinguish between toys and games, really both aim for the same thing.

          Critique is simply trying to intellectualise why something is or isn’t entertaining and the better you understand something the more nuanced the analysis can become. That is why I take umbrage with your comment that the only question of toys is whether or not they’re fun, that’s just a bad understanding of toys. A Good toy is something that provides context and structure for your imagination that is still modular enough to suit different ideas. Which is why Lego is great, it’s the ultimate modular toy while still giving some context.

          This is why the more recent updates to minecraft (I admit I haven’t played all that much in a long time tho) hurt it. By imposing the creators’ goal rather than letting the player create his own the game has become a lot less modular. Not all things entertaining needs to be modular of course (movies are a great example of this) but things that aren’t usually have a narrative or is so simple that trying to “win” becomes the main drive (like tetris or a sport). Minecraft on the other hand contains no writing and the visuals are so kitchen-sink that no narrative can really be established, it’s also way to complex to accentuate the competition of it all. All the things that made Minecraft great at letting you create is working against it when it tries to embrace traditional gaming conventions. The other problem with the minecraft update is that the goal the creators imposed is one so very opposed to what the rest of the game seems to encourage (building whatever comes to mind) which makes it rather jarring.

        • Syal says:

          I don’t like this argument because it carries the insinuation that people setting out to make a fun game have failed if they make something like Minecraft. The goal should be entertainment and originality, and hairsplitting between terminology just serves to sidetrack developers.

      • Benengr says:

        I actually think that this is an interesting question. As more and more software is published we will need more language to describe it and the term “Videogame” will no longer be sufficient. Remember, the distinction between genre is for the user and not the creator to set expectations and to describe things.

        Minecraft is the first very popular piece of entertainment software that really isn’t classified as a game. For people who like to spend their time exploring new things, this doesn’t matter. But as more and more people are using the computer as a form of entertainment this will matter more.

        As an example, music has a billion or so different genres. For people who are really into music, it doesn’t matter as they will listen to just about anything and then judge if they like the music. For people who “casually” listen to music, they are not going to spend hours going through the “Indie rock, with a baroque flair” to see if that’s something they want to listen to. They are going to go to the rock section and play something they’ve heard.

        To summarize, I don’t think the distinction matters as a course of “is Minecraft worthwhile or not?”, but it is interesting that we are now getting software that falls outside of the “game” category.

    • Oliver says:

      I think pretty much it comes down to whatever Notch decided to define it as. If he said “Minecraft is a game about placing blocks to build anything you can imagine. At night monsters come out, make sure to build a shelter before that happens.” for example, then it is a game.

      You can argue that it is not a complete game due to the lack of a goal however it has been defined by it’s creator as being a game which he is promoting within the game market.

    • acronix says:

      My take is that a game is a bunch of toys brought together and organized. A dice is a toy. A lego minifigure is a toy. Get them together, throw a dozen more minifigures, set a few rules and you just invented a new game.

      • SolkaTruesilver says:

        I think the moment you have “rules” it becomes a game.

        A toy is just something you use to have fun with. It’s a catalyst of enjoyment.

        A game is a system that is meant to have fun with. It’s a process.

        Dwarf Fortress, Minecraft, Sim City.. these are more “toys” than games. Skyrim can be enjoyed both as a game and as a toy.

        • Abnaxis says:

          This is where I think the distinction becomes interesting.

          Computers, at their very core, run on rules. Software takes an input, makes a decision based on a complicated set of heuristics, ans spits the result out on the screen. How do you distinguish between the rules that govern the internal workings of the algorithm and the rules that make a game a game? Simply saying “it has to have rules” would make Microsoft Office a game…

          • SolkaTruesilver says:

            Don’t be silly. We are trying to create a dychotomy of ludic concepts.

            Since Microsoft Office isn’t by nature ludic (you know who you are, weird Microsoft Fetishists), it’s not a game.

        • Blake says:

          Then what do you call what children do most of the time when they run around together?
          I remember when I was younger playing a lot of say ‘freeform games’, which basically involved a lot of running around and suddenly deciding you were a horse with wheels instead of feet and a laser attached to your head.

          There were certainly no rules, so by your definition we couldn’t call it a game, so what would you call it? And how would you compare that to sandbox video games?

      • Trix2000 says:

        I’d like to provide Spleef as a simple example of using Minecraft to make a game. Similar sort of thing – take existing resources and create some rules for it.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        Excellent point. Perhaps there is more to it than this, but you certainly are on to something there.
        I like the distinction (drawn above) of a game having pieces, rules, and goals. A toy is a piece, but not all pieces are toys. In fact, it seems that toys are pieces with rules. All they lack is a goal.

    • SharpeRifle says:

      game
      Definition
      game[ gaym ]NOUN
      games plural

      1. something played for fun: an activity that people participate in, together or on their own, for fun
      “It’s only a game!”
      2. competitive activity with rules: a sporting or other activity in which players compete against each other by following a fixed set of rules
      “How many people do you need to play this game?”
      3. competition: an occasion when a competitive game is played
      “Saturday’s game has been canceled.”
      4. aspect of game: an aspect of a competitive activity
      “Their defensive game was terrible.”
      5. style of playing: the style or level of skill with which somebody plays a sport
      “raise your game”
      6. part of competition: in sports such as tennis, a subsection of play that goes toward making up a set or match
      7. number needed to win: the total number of points needed to win a contest
      “In table tennis, game is 21 points.”
      8. rules governing sport: the rules governing a particular competition or sport
      9. equipment: an item or set of items that is needed to play a particular game, e.g. a board, dice, counters, a deck of cards, or a piece of computer software
      “a compendium of games”
      10. activity like game: an activity that resembles a game, e.g. one that involves intense interest and competitiveness and is carried out by its own specific and often unspoken rules
      11. stratagem: a way of behaving that is aimed at manipulating people or trying to deceive them
      “So that’s your game?”
      12. illegal activity: a strategy, activity, or behavior that is questionable, and often illegal ( informal )
      13. occupation: a business or occupation ( informal )
      “the advertising game”
      14. something not taken seriously: an activity or situation that somebody does not treat seriously
      “Life’s a game as far as he’s concerned.”
      15. hunting animals for hunting: wild animals, birds, or fish that are hunted for sport
      16. meat of hunted animals: the meat of wild animals, birds, or fish that have been killed for sport
      17. ridicule: the act of ridiculing, criticizing, or tricking somebody for fun, or the target of such ridicule, criticism, or trickery
      “She’s easy game for a trickster like him.”
      18. mathematics mathematical model: a mathematical model describing a contest played under specific rules in which each participant has only partial control
      PLURAL NOUN
      1. event with many sporting contests: an event that consists of many different sporting activities and usually lasts for several days
      ADJECTIVE
      1. ready and willing: ready and willing to do something, especially something new or unusual
      2. brave: brave in spirit or character

      • Zukhramm says:

        Yes? What is your point? A dictionary is not the absolute truth. Although it has many entires the list is missing game by the definition we are talking about here. Also, dictionaries often have very little space for individual definitions making them less useful for defining more complex concepts.

    • I have to take issue with your description of D&D (and implicitly, tabletop roleplaying games in general) on two fronts. First, your description of the goals is highly inaccurate. Many characters do not care about racking up profit. Some have been known to deliberately choose death (usually a highly dramatic one in tune with the character’s ideals, goals, personality etc). That leaves “playing a character”–but people are free to choose any character with any goals, personality, and so forth they want; they can play their character however they wish. This hardly sets it aside from Minecraft–that is, “you have to play (some sort of) character” is no more of a restriction than “you have to build (some sort of) stuff”.
      Second, you say it’s a game because it has rules which structure its play. But the rules of tabletop roleplaying games are not “rules” in the sense of chess. They are for the most part a sort of physics engine; once supplemented and interpreted by the GM, they determine how the universe reacts when you do stuff. Minecraft has precisely the same sort of rules; they determine what kinds of stuff you can build how, how it stacks and doesn’t stack, how you can move. Many of them are not set forth in a book, maybe, but they remain rules; they define how you interact with the Minecraft universe.

      So I must insist that for purposes of your approach, D&D and other roleplaying games are toys, not games. Apparently on average I like playing with toys more than playing games. Who knew?

      • Blake says:

        I think he just doesn’t like calling sandbox or freeform games games. I suggest he come up with a non-toy, non-game word to describe him, then he can move on while we use the word everyone has always used.

    • Tigranater says:

      Classification of genres and pedancy in gaming is always a step backwards. As others said, it really doesn’t matter. Having an end-boss does not make it less of a game.

      The end-boss is really lack-lustre anyways, and has got no story or anything: it is just as optional as building.

    • Kaspar says:

      Personally, I prefer Dr.Steel’s definition:
      toy n. “an object that makes you happy.”

  6. Oliver says:

    I have to agree with Shamus on being disappointed with the ‘release’ update for Minecraft. In particular the Ender Dragon battle. It’s nice that there is a new (somewhat bland) game area and all, but why is there a dragon there and why am I wanting to fight it? There is no reason presented to the player at all! The other monsters encountered in the game seemed to just be naturally hostile inhabitants; the risk of exploring the wilds, caves and dungeons. The Ender Dragon is locked away in a specific area, the only purpose of which is to house the Ender Dragon. There doesn’t appear to be a specific worthwhile gameplay reward, nor any story based motivation.

    As far as I can tell, the Ender Dragon fight was only added in order to mock the lawsuit with Bethesda and the fact that Skyrim has dragon fights too… (please don’t flame war my admittedly inflammatory semi-joking statement)

    • noahpocalypse says:

      Huh. That never occurred to me. I mean, I haven’t played that part yet, but I wouldn’t have come up with it anyway.

    • X2Eliah says:

      Yeah, that whole dragon thing seemed like a knock-off/stunt on Skyrim’s expense to me as well. Especially due to that notch/bethesda headbutting over that Scrolls nonsense.

      • Sumanai says:

        Never mind that he promised it quite some time before the whole nonsense (according to people who actually bother to read Notch’s tweets and blog), and that after the nonsense started there was no “proper” time to unveil it without some people taking it as a stab directed towards Bethesda.

        Before an outcome: he’s taking the piss
        After an outcome:
        he lost – he is being a sore loser
        he won – he is victory gloating

        http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/VictoryGloating

    • Tever says:

      Actually, now that you mention it, considering how Skyrim main quest ends…

    • Entropy says:

      Nah, notch talked about adding dragons WAY before any of the skyrim nonsense. That whole ‘dragons are a shot at skyrim’ doesn’t seem very likely to me.

    • Trix2000 says:

      I’d have thought the reason “because it’s there” was a legitimate excuse to kill dragons in any situation.

    • Akhier says:

      I normally like dragons and such but I have to agree about the disappointment with the Ender Dragon. I have gone to the end on the server I play on and all the dragon did was vaguely annoyed me while I mined endstone. As for the rest of the added stuff all I can say is it looks like Notch tried to copy to many mods without actually copy pasting the code and did not have enough time to polish them. The only real use I could see for a number of them would be to make modding easier but why try to throw a coat of paints on villagers when Millénaire does it so much better, why improve the baby animals when the mod was better, why?

  7. noahpocalypse says:

    I agree with you, we should at least get to pick our own enchantments. Then players who like it could try PvP or go kill monsters. The Ender Dragon fight is for people who compete, not build. (If story led builders against the dragon and gave them a motive, then it might be different.) As is, I think Minecraft attracted all the builders who game. They don’t care for a gigantic boss fight.

    On the bright side, there are different blocks in Enderworld or whatever. I think. Right?

  8. Joel D says:

    So, Minecraft now has:

    -an annoying enchantment system

    -ugly, boring villagers

    -focus on fighting dragons

    Is Minecraft now Skyrim?

    • SolkaTruesilver says:

      …..

      Wait a minute. Didn’t Bethesda sued Minecraft’s designers for infringement on property rights?

      Maybe there was more than just the use of “Scrolls” in the title.

      • Sumanai says:

        Look, that legal nonsense is not in anyway about anything else than about trademark laws, and is not in itself the least bit interesting. Neither is really being a dick, it’s just that sometimes these lawsuits happen. The most hateful thing about it are the gaming sites that keep posting about it, apparently without any working knowledge about trademark law, while throwing stones.

    • Trix2000 says:

      I don’t think Minecraft really “focuses” on fighting dragons.

  9. Vextra says:

    As a longtime Minecraft User, since early 2010, I’ve seen my world change and grow alot. The invalidation of the Millenaire mod I had really annoyed me, and I’ve found that because i’ve explored so much of my world(well not that much comparitively speaking) it’s difficult for me to find new chunks of Nether to get to the all-important castle in order to get the stupid potion bench. I agree with Shamus about the Enchanting Table setup, and was outraged when I discovered some of the best enchantments require me to earn 20+ levels of XP, when frankly even earning 5 or 6 is tedious, since I prefer to sleep nights way in one of my many, many strongholds, manors or whatever else i care to build.

    I appreciate the desire to appeal more to those used to grindy, end-gamey style of play, but getting to The End is beyond tedious, especially since it requires you to locate a stronghold, which currently is only doable via an Eye of Ender, which is an extremely useless method of locating one, since it acts as only a very rough guide.

    Even if i were to reach The End, all it is is hacking at crystals and shooting a Dragon till it is deaded. I can’t believe Minecraft of all games felt this was necessary, especially after what a killjoy having to do this in DEHR was.

    I feel like Notch has got bored with Minecraft and left it half-finished, preferring to move on to Scrolls or whatever his new project is. Snow Golems was a completely useless, if novel, feature, and I’d have preferred to see more general mobs or, as Shamus himself said, more blocks with more combinations.

    Perhaps if the Villagers had taken a leaf out of Terraria or Millenaire’s book, and been willing to trade, perhaps for rare dyes or minerals like Lapis Lazuli, and given in exchange rare artifacts or clues to the location of a Stronghold, this side of the game could have been stronger.

    • acronix says:

      There´s a mod called “sensible enchanting”. It halves the XP levels needed for enchantments and it offered some numbers for comparison. The ammount of mobs required in vanilla to get a single top tier (level 50) enchantment is somewhere around 1700. Now take into account the fact that you may get one you didn´t like and you get the problem.

      And I think Notch´s little new project is Cobalt?

      • Shamus says:

        Wow. I doubt I’ve killed that many guys in all of my playthroughs combined. You could grind that hard and still not get what you want? That is beyond obnoxious.

        Plus, even if you DO get the enchantment you want, the weapon or tool will still break eventually. It will break long, long before you kill the next 1,700 mobs.

        • Entropy says:

          Repair is a thing. I dunno if you keep the enchantment, but that might work.

          • acronix says:

            According to the wiki, enchantments dissapear if you repair an item.
            I´m quite sure the mod I spoke about added a repair functionality to the enchantment table, but I´m feeling lazy to go check right now.

        • Paul Spooner says:

          My wife and I found the best way to get enchanting experience is to create a “hot seat” out of a skeleton spawner. First, you tame about eight or so wolves. Then stand on top of the spawner and build a little wall around three sides. Leave a dark zone in the direction of the open side. The skeletons will spawn, shoot you, get mauled by the wolves, and the xp will drift over to you. I’ve found that this technique gets you to level 20 in about 45 minutes, with no effort on your part (other than eating food occasionally).

          But yes, it is a lot of effort, the enchantments are mostly combat oriented, and it is frustrating that one can not pick the enchantment.

          • DL says:

            Actually, there’s an even easier way we tried on our server. You find a zombie spawner and build a regular grinder with a gravity trap, but you only make it deep enough to damage the zombies rather than kill them outright.

            We then have them collected in a small enclosure where you can hack away at them with a sword or a steak (they are killed with one hit from the former or two hits from the latter).

            Alternatively, you can just sit there for a couple of hours while you’re AFK. Apparently, spawners can bypass mob limits and you end up with something like a thousand near-dead zombies in a small enclosure. All you have to do is toss a splash healing potion at them for an instant zombie mass murder.

        • Adam F says:

          I think you are doing enchantments wrong if you enchant at more than, say, level 45 tops and I usually enchant at between 1 and 10. To me, enchantments are a bonus to spend levels gathered in the course of playing. A low level enchantment has a vastly higher utility-effort ratio than a high level enchantment. To my mind the only problem with the enchanting system is that Notch forgot to account for the fact that everyone is mindlessly obsessed with getting max everything, regardless of the wisdom of doing so.

      • Vipermagi says:

        Cobalt is created by Oxeye games, and published by Mojang. Notch has pretty much nothing to do with the development of Cobalt :)

      • Adam F says:

        You don’t need to be at level 50 to get a top tier enchantment, in fact you are usually better off enchanting at around 40 to get the best stuff. This is because you get to “try more times” for a given about of XP, increasing the chance your particular enchantment will come up at some point.

  10. swenson says:

    Eh, I have no intention of ever actually reaching the endgame through legitimate means (I did beat it in Creative, just to see what it was like), so for me, the game hasn’t changed at all. Yes, technically there’s a goal now, but you don’t have to work toward it. Personally, I’m terrified of monsters and the Nether (yes, I know I’m a wimp, get over it!), and so I’m perfectly content with simply never building a brewing stand or finding a stronghold. Or, honestly, getting enchantments.

    And, fwiw, the villagers creep me out. If they had more AI–if they’d talk to each other or move deliberately rather than randomly–I would like them more, but they’re just so… creepy, with their blank expressions and animal-like AI.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Amazing. Minecraft has fallen into the uncanny valley. Quite a feat for a block-based world.

      The depth of immersion is, for me, still the most surprising thing about Minecraft. It sticks so consistently to its very basic portrayal of the world that the illusion is convincing, even to the point of being creeped out by zombies and feral villagers. Goes to show that consistent style (and not photo realism) is the key to immersion.

    • Kaeltik says:

      Ever since Shamus mentioned Hardcore rules a while back, I’ve never kept a single-player world after death. Therefore, the night is scary, caves are terrifying, the Nether is a virtual unknown, and every structure is a Spartan mass of layered anti-creeper defenses with few redeeming aesthetic qualities. All just the way I like it. Anything else breaks immersion.

  11. RTBones says:

    I can say I have put copious hours into Minecraft. Dollar for dollar, it has been one of the best game investments (as far as my overall enjoyment of playing and time spent playing goes) in a long while. I put Minecraft with Civ, Railroad Tycoon, Sim City, MOO, and the X-Com series in terms of hours played vs money spent. It is an excellent game.

    However, I too got spoiled by Millenaire. I don’t typically mod my games much (other than just to tinker), and I can say that when it was announced that Minecraft would have NPC villages, a Millenaire-style setup is what I was expecting (or wanted, I guess). When we got the ‘brainless monks’ – I figured, as always, more was on the way. The same with the town generator – I figured there would be tweaking that would go on to fix the ‘door in gravel’ or ‘door two stories above ground.’ I’ve been disappointed it hasnt happened. Doesnt mean I dont like the NPC villages (I do), just that I want more out of them.

    As far as enchantments go, I’ve never really bothered. It takes so much to get anything remotely above 7th level or so and I am usually too busy doing my own thing to really bother. I’m sure there are people that love them. Me? Meh.

    The End? I’d like a way back. Dragons are cool and all, and it would be neat to go and explore, but honestly, I really just want to play in my sandbox. I’d rather the integration of the Skyrealm (or whatever its called) than the End. I am an explorer at heart.

    I’d like railcart tracks that switched like a proper switch. I’d like more mobs, and more blocks to mine. I’d like more things to make and build (planes, steamboats, elevators, whathaveyou.) I’ve already mentioned fixes for the towns and NPCs.

    Is that too much to ask?

    • Vipermagi says:

      Minecart tracks can switch between two different rails. The centerpiece of a T-fork can be powered and unpowered to switch direction. Not sure what a ‘proper switch’ constitutes, though.

      • RTBones says:

        What I am talking about is a track piece that is actually a switch.

        For reference: Railroad switch

        Yes, you can cobble together a junction, but its really a collection of track, some redstone, a lever, etc. What I am talking about is a single ‘piece’ you could build (like powered rail, for instance) that would allow you to switch directions without making all the tedious redstone routing.

  12. Zukhramm says:

    I agree. Maybe Notch doesn’t realize what makes Minecraft good, or maybe the game he wanted to make was very different from the game I bought and loved. I guess that is one of the problems in releasing an unfinished game, the players might prefer something else about the game than the goal will be.

    Mining and building was always what made Minecraft fun to me. Why do I have to fight to enchant? Can I not level up from building houses instead?

    • John Lopez says:

      Notch repeatedly rejected comparisons of Minecraft to Second Life (another place where you can build your own stuff). He kept saying “I don’t see the point of Second Life: it isn’t fun or a game”. From that I gather he made Minecraft’s most addictive features by accident on the way to making “a real game”.

      Now it is more game like and those who were addicted to the “not game” portion are not impressed by the gamification process.

      • Zukhramm says:

        I do agree with him on Second Life. But it doesn’t have mining, no resources to gather (as far as I know) and building mechanics that are less fun. It’s not as if dragon bosses and combat was the only possible direction to make Minecraft more gamey, I believe it could be done with more focus on building instead.

        It does seem commong, at least in the games I really like, that they became so good by accident. Even KotOR II’s non-ending oddly fits the rest of the game.

      • X2Eliah says:

        Maybe Notch thought that Second Life was a toy….

  13. Even says:

    I just wish you had some options to set up your own rules for every world you create. Things like letting you set up your own variables for the seed generation, altering mob behaviour and spawns, change the time flow, etc etc. I don’t know if there’s a mod that does this out yet, but I feel like it’s what the game really needs. Even just some simple sliders for the most basic options would be good enough and maybe an ability to save your settings as a preset. New players may not get much out of it but they could always just go with default settings.

  14. Eärlindor says:

    I bought Minecraft a few months ago but I haven’t played it much (I’ve yet to update it even), mostly because it kills my computer for some reason. :/

    • Susie Day says:

      update it! There aren’t just game-play additions to the game, and from my experience, it goes from playable to not in various versions on various computers / graphic cards. You might find that whatever it is that’s crashing your computer is no more.

      • Eärlindor says:

        I’ll try your suggestion, thanks! :)

        What confuses me is that my computer runs games like Half-Life 2 and the Total War games (I’m even running a MASSIVE LotR: Third Age TW mod for Medieval 2). So I can’t really figure out how Mincraft was taking up almost 100% computing power before promptly crashing. 0.o

  15. ChuckP says:

    I agree that enchantment roulette is a really bad idea, and The End is pointless. For me, the real strength and appeal of MineCraft lies in the social interaction of a good SMP server. Single player rapidly becomes pointless and boring, but being able to work cooperatively and see other people’s creations keeps things fresh.

  16. Andrew says:

    Pretty much agree with everything, Shamus. I had no idea you had to burn xp to get enchantments (I’ve never acquired more than 4 diamonds in one game), but I was mildly annoyed by the addition of xp itself- I remember thinking it didn’t seem to fit the game. And it’s still a bit bizarre, since it doesn’t do anything *other* than make enchantments.

    You didn’t mention potions, I note. Again, I haven’t got far enough to get access to them, but I’m not wildly enthusiastic. I probably like them better than enchantments though.

    I don’t even like the new food system much, though I don’t hate it either.

    On the plus side, animal breeding is quite cool, and I like caverns and abandoned mineshafts. I largely play the game for the exploration element, so I love interesting new terrain. Villages are for me a minor positive, though I agree the villagers are a bit… odd… at the moment. I’d rather the villages were abandoned.

    And of course, at least for now, one can just ignore the elements one doesn’t like.

    • acronix says:

      What I dislike about potions is that it´s too focused on killing mobs for the ingredients, (and you need to get to hell for some nether flowers before you are able to do anything). I would have liked it more if they had made it more gardening focused (for the basic potions, at least) and not requiring you to go hunt the hell out of everything that moves and is hostile.

  17. Paul Spooner says:

    What Minecraft 1.0 did for me (and my wife) was allow some sense of closure. We have both played hundreds of hours over the past two years, building in many different worlds, and exploring them from top to bottom (though not to the “ends of the earth”). We both kind of got burned out on it actually. Once you have turned every hilltop in sight into a cathedral, and riddled the earth with pillared halls… I guess we internallized the lesson. “You can do build anything here” is great, but neither of us could really live in Minecraft.

    When the “full game” came out, we started a brand new world, set up a local SMP server, and played through the whole game. We dug, built, fought, mined, hunted, crafted, enchanted, brewed, and finally killed the Ender Dragon together. Then I read the ending narrative out loud, and we mused over it a bit. And that was it. Minecraft was finished.

    We’ve both gone back a bit now and then since, and I suspect our children will enjoy it when they are old enough. Personally, I appreciate Notch ending the game as he did; A reminder that the real world is better than Minecraft. A challenge to live and love.

  18. Maldeus says:

    So has anything been done about the “creepers pwn everything” issue? I can’t really play with the monsters on because of that, which is a shame, because the things like dragons and such would normally be a lot of fun for me.

  19. Alfie275 says:

    About the enchantments:

    You CAN tell what they are, the text corresponds to the enchantment, just in a different alphabet. You can easily replace the alphabet used with the Roman one.

    • acronix says:

      If the minecraft wiki is right, the enchantment text is completely arbitrary. You could technically see an enchantment called “Creeper Fires from the Undoomed Eternal Flame” and think “Oh, that possibly means fire damage!” only to get the Looter enchantment.

      • Alfie275 says:

        Ah sorry, I was under the impression that it was like scrolls or w/e in roguelikes, in that the name is random but the same enchantments always have the same name for a given world.

  20. Alex says:

    Alas, my machine still probably couldn’t run this thing. Even with those low-res texture mods. Until I can buy the XBLA version, it looks like it’s Minicraft for me…

  21. Thankfully, all these additions are two steps sideways rather than backwards. What got me loving this game during alpha hasn’t changed after ‘gold’.

  22. Gndwyn says:

    Shamus,

    Given your interests, I’m astonished you didn’t mention what I think is by far the worst change. That is that Notch has messed up his fantastic terrain-generation in several ways that make it much worse than it used to be.

    There are a few improvements — the biomes are bigger, rivers are nifty, canyons are cool (but have a significant drawback!)

    But so many things are worse. So many of the biomes are bland and boring. There’s a “forest” biome and a “mountain” biome, but they don’t mix so trees don’t grow anywhere but boring flat terrain.

    The swamps look terrible — especially when the line cuts right through a tree making half of it green and half of it grey.

    Beaches (sandy or gravel) are gone.

    The canyons are awesome looking, but they are so common that it’s hard to find a good-sized enclosed cave that doesn’t run into a sprawling canyon and/or mine. This makes exploring a cave and “pacifying” it with torches an almost impossible task.

    If you ask me, the amazing procedural terrain and cave generation was Notch’s greatest triumph in Minecraft. It makes me so sad to see him deface it this way at the last minute and then walk away without stopping to get any feedback or to tweak any of the changes he’s made.

    • Shamus says:

      You know, I didn’t really pick up that these items were changes to the terrain generation. I’d just assumed those details were still out there and I was just unlucky in finding them.

      I also think the v1.8 Enders were a bad move. Their tendency to move blocks around is just dumb. They don’t do it often enough or in great enough numbers or with any sort of deliberate focus, so they aren’t a threat to your fortifications. They leave dumb-looking floating blocks, gaps in tree trunks, and other artifacts that ruin the natural look and make it seem like the game is bugged. After a few hours of play, those nice, winding caves are reduced to a scatter of blocks. The lovely shapes of perlin noise are gone, and the caves look like they were made with crappy randomness instead of emerging from those excellent procedural systems. Caves are clogged with loose floating bricks, which makes them annoying to explore.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        Notch actually said something to the same effect. Endermen now only move “dirt” (sand, gravel, grass, etc) and flowers.

        Yes, I too am sad that the biomes don’t have more variety. It seems like “moisture” should be independent from “terrain type” but I’m guessing there is a lot of architecture behind the scenes that makes this difficult. And yes, whatever the new feature is, it tends to get introduced strong and then scaled back in either prevalence or magnitude. Chasms are just the latest. It’s an ongoing problem, likely due to a desire to show off the “exciting new stuff”.

  23. Ambitious Sloth says:

    Wow Shamus saying things were better in the “good old days”? Some things will never change

    I actually do agree with you on this though; Minecraft needs more pretty blocks do different things.

    I found Minecraft one day, way far back in 2009 when it was referenced on the team fortress 2 blog and even then it was my little brother who told me about the post.

    Minecraft I feel has changed it’s focus over the last two years. It started one guy who had recently become unemployed wanted to make a game not really like anything else out there. It was a game that would – eventually – be about survival and building whatever you wanted.

    The key thing about it was that there were no goals beyond surviving, and even that was only a goal so that you would have to be interrupted by having to respawn. After that all you had left to do was build things, and there where so many things to build.

    To me that was the focus of the game; building random things. I feel that where it started to lose this was in the Halloween update where Notch brought in the nether.

    What happened is very slowly he, and later the entire team, starting compounding goals onto Minecraft. To the point where the game became oriented by those goals. Now Minecraft is a game where you explore, build, level up, get all of the achievements, and fight a dragon.

    To me, Minecraft was game with no direction. It was a giant “screw you” to other games that were doing things like telling you to “go and use the turret and mow down enemies till we tell you to stop.” now though Minecraft is edging closer to this albeit though the goals are only heavily suggested and not forced on you in anyway.

    Everything that I loved about Minecraft is still there though! It’s not like I should be sad with it anything it just that now I have to dig through all of this extra stuff to get to what I want, and take that stuff and push it to the side where it looks at me sullenly as if I’m ignoring a third child so that I can play with the other two.

    What is making me sad is that while everything is still there. As Minecraft is continuing to be worked on and updated the developers are moving away from what it was in the begining and more towards implanting these extra goals.

    I can’t complain to much about it though. There is an army of modders and among them the MCNostalgia mod. And besides it I’ve been backing up my .jar files since july 2009 so really I should just go and amuse myself with those.

  24. rrgg says:

    I think having a final release really did spoil minecraft in a way. I lost interest when I began to notice the tons of core gameplay issues that it seemed should be extremely easy to fix but I stuck around in the hopes that the next patch would fix something. No chance of that now I guess.

    That was the real tragedy of minecraft to me, constantly adding on useless new stuff rather than fixing what they have.

  25. Inyssius says:

    That’s a pretty neat texture pack in the second screenshot, by the way. What is it?

    • Shamus says:

      http://painterlypack.net/

      For those who haven’t heard of Painterly Pack:

      It lets you choose a bunch of options to roll your own texture pack, and then it zips it all up for you nice and easy. Dark wood? Light? High-contrast ore? Make gold armor look like a kingly outfit? Make grass reach farther down the side of blocks? A ridiculous number of options.

      I mainly use PP because the colors are more vibrant. For all its supposed cartoon-y style, the default Minecraft textures are actually pretty pale and washed out.

  26. Fawkes Allen says:

    I’m honestly glad to see a review of Minecraft that’s looking at Minecraft as it is now. A lot of the reviews I saw once Notch said ‘Feel free to review now!’ have seemed to focus more on what Minecraft was and has been for us. It’s an amazing game to be sure, and a lot of what made it great it is still there, but 1.0 is as a whole, a disappointing game.

    Which is sad, and in a lot of ways hard to explain. If you had asked me in 1.7 if the game felt ‘complete’, I’d have said yeah. Not in a ‘It’s done’ sense, but in the general feeling that all the puzzle pieces fit together in a way that made sense. 1.0 however doesn’t have that. There are too many additions that make the game feel unfinished. Too many ideas only half-formed and left to future updates. Future updates that Notch bailed on when he handed control over to Jens.

    I still adore Minecraft, though I find the world ever so slightly boring to explore since the Terrain Generation was changed. The beautiful caves that spoke to the builder in me, the amazing overworld sights. Those were lost and it’s hard to get that back. Abandoned Mineshafts are fun, but when you have three of them intersecting in no logical pattern it loses the fun in exploring them. It becomes a chore as you’re forced to just sort of randomly throw torches up and hope you didn’t miss something or forget a passage half-covered by gravel and intersected by a ravine.

    And the game has changed, the rules of the game have changed. Just watch any of the videos by Etho, DocM, or any of the many other LP’ers and you’ll see just how often the basic game has changed, often to the detriment of fun creations or inventions.

    I still like the game, I do, and I have some hope that Jens will focus on making the game just a bit more fun and perhaps fulfilling some of those promises Notch made, either in word or in unfinished items and additions to the game. I just think I liked it a little bit more two or so versions ago, and that’s a shame. Still, it hasn’t stopped me from being interested in building, so I definitely agree it’s an amazing game, worth every bit of praise, even if it seems like Notch doesn’t get *why* it’s an amazing game sometimes.

    P.S. The new sounds still hurt my ears. I really don’t get why the sounds were switched with what sound like low-res chalkboard scrapings.

  27. HeadHunter says:

    The mods are what really make this game shine.

    I prefer to play with a mix of IndustrialCraft, BuildCraft and RedPower – the tech aspect makes it all the more enjoyable.

    But I also have a separate install with Equivalent Exchange and ThaumCraft – both of which do “magic” better than Mojang ever could. EqEx is horribly unbalanced but also terribly fun.

    And personally, I like to play with HD textures – my old eyes can’t handle the 16x defaults. It makes me feel like I’m back in ’85 playing a Nintendo.

    As for enchantment? Every time I hear the word, it makes me think of Sandal in Dragon Age. If that doesn’t sum up my opinion of how Mojang handled it, I don’t know what will.*

    *(Actually, that’s not fair – even a simpleton like Sandal would at least give you useful enchantments!)

  28. Steve Healy says:

    It seems like the 1.0 release was kind of notch’s way of backing out of the game. After all the time he’s put into it, I could understand him getting bored of looking at and working on the same project day in and day out. I’d guess he probably originally planned on calling it quits at 1.0 (or at least taking a huge step back and just updating once in a while with smaller additions here and there as he came up with them) and moving on for the most part, but after realizing how far away they were from complete and how bad it would look if he just dropped the game after everyone’s paid under the pretense of quite a few promised features being added.

    By putting the lead position on jeb and scrambling together a skeleton implementation of a lot of the promised features (such as villagers and questing) for a 1.0 release, he could regain most of his freedom while still keeping Minecraft more or less “alive” and actively updated enough to keep people playing and buying while he worked on his other projects, as well as being able to call Minecraft a “complete” game instead of “in-development” which I imagine takes a lot of the pressure off him. Once a game is “complete” and passes it’s 1.0 mark, people seem to expect a LOT less from the developers, mostly content to just have occasional patches fixing bugs.

    As to the actual gameplay and the new features, I like a lot of the polishing features he did, like adding running (though I don’t think that was specifically a 1.0 feature, it was a more recent addition) and other things along those lines (making the original features better or easier to use). The new features like the dragon, enderman, and so on, just go against the part of the game I enjoy.

    Though to be fair, I can’t imagine a gameplay element or mode I really would’ve enjoyed when added to the kind of environment Minecraft created. Any kind of structured goals or quests or gameplay elements along those lines would’ve detracted from the game I’d grown to enjoy. Whilst I like the survival element and the rush to try and protect yourself from the monsters that come out at night, it probably should have pushed more of that and stayed away from RPG elements altogether.

    It’s almost like the quests in GTA. The game itself is plenty fun, stealing cars and running over civilians while ducking the cops but the quests are usually kind of boring and feel sort of tacked on at the last minute. It’s almost like someone created the core feature, realized how much fun it was, and sold it to a different company who then came in and pasted this fun gameplay feature into their cut-paste game model which already had quests, storylines, characters, and what not and just needed that “fun factor.” As a result, it doesn’t quite seem to fit.

    That’s how the most recent features (most of them anyways) in Minecraft have felt to me and it’s why whenever there’s an update, I backup the original minecraft.jar, name it by it’s version number, then put the new one in. If it has some features I don’t care for, I go back to the older version, I’ll just revert back until I get annoyed enough by certain bugs that are fixed in the new version that I feel like I can tolerate the new features as long as it gets rid of the bugs.

  29. Anthony says:

    however, Minecraft keeps updating more and from what I hear, things will add to the Millenaire minecraft normal boss even more rewards and the Aether

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