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Loading... October 8th, 2010 - Minecraft, Mindcrime

Posted Fri, Oct 08, 2010 by Ethec

Loading... is the premiere daily MMOG newsletter, only from Ten Ton Hammer!

Welcome to the 1,436th edition of Loading...

Today’s column looks at Minecraft, the 3D construction game turned gaming phenomenon. Why has a one-man game project with Perestroika-era graphics and incredibly simplistic gameplay succeeded in generating buzz where mega-budget games like APB failed miserably? Read our take in Loading… Minecraft, Mindcrime.

The Pulse

You vote with what you view at Ten Ton Hammer, and the result is the Ten Ton Pulse (What is The Pulse?).

Today's top 5 Pulse results:

  1. World of Warcraft
  2. EverQuest 2 
  3. Lord of the Rings Online (UP 1)
  4. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (down 1)
  5. EVE Online 
     

Biggest movers today:

  1. EverQuest
    - UP 3 to #19
  2. StarCraft II
    - UP 2 to #14
  3. Champions Online
    - down 2 to #16
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Loading... wanted in 12 star systems.

Somewhere, at some time, a triple-A game developer (probably an ex-Realtime Worlds dev) has shed tears over Minecraft, the 3D construction game become something of a gamer phenomenon. The game builds on the geekdom love affair with all things 8-bit, but isn’t explained by it.  Sure, retro jollies give the game a pass on its laughably dated graphics, which make the original Doom look next-gen by comparison.

To be fair, Minecraft is technically still in alpha, but graphics aside, the game lacks tutorials, quests, even tooltips or an infobox to tell you what an item is or what it can be used for.  The core of the game is crafting and acquisition, but there are only a few dozen craftable items in the game. And despite ambitious plans, multiplayer to-date has largely consisted of progression games – saved games passed around on bulletin boards.

So by just about any reviewer’s category-driven yardstick, this is not a very good game. So why have gamers flocked to Minecraft in droves? Why has it gotten decent airtime in the latest issues of PC Gamer and Penny Arcade, and why can’t half the contacts on my IM list stop talking about it?

To try and answer these questions, I paid the $12 initiation fee and joined the cult of Minecraft. I was by no means a willing convert, though, and thought the game beyond pointless for my first few playsessions. Why I didn’t quit, I’m not sure, but it has a lot to do with word of mouth.  All the Minecraft devotees talk with reverence about that “Minecraft moment,” that magical mystical moment of clarity at which you understand. I was beginning to think that moment had passed me by when, in a bout of frustration over not finding coal (to make torches, to keep me safe at night), I dug and kept on digging.

The game’s soundtrack, some strangely soothing new age-y piano music that in itself seemed to bid me to wait for “the moment” abruptly ended when I crashed through into a subterranean cavern. Monsters live and spawn in the dark, and their ominous grunts and scampering had me instantly clawing for a way out. Suddenly, for some inexplicable reason, I not only cared about my character, I was drawn into the world of Minecraft in a way I haven’t been drawn into an RPG in a while.

I still don’t begin to understand the Minecraft mojo, but I think the game succeeds by removing two common impediments to fun gameplay – excessive handholding and the inability to markedly change or impact your game environment. Somewhere in that process the burden of creating fun is shifted back to the player. For example, if you can’t find your way back to your fort before night falls and the nasties come out of the shadows, you don’t blame the developer for not adding more UI elements or a fancy map overlay. You beat yourself up for not constructing a beacon made of a simple tall stack of dirt blocks and a candle.

That said, Minecraft wouldn’t work without an accepting, adaptive, creative community, traits that many online games communities lack or, more accurately, traits that online games have systematically discouraged in their community;  discouraged in favor of creating a finely tuned, on-the-rails, solo from cradle to cap experience.

It’s the same sort of sandbox vs. theme park debate we’ve been having in the MMORPG community for years, with the strange twist that the mainstream seems to have picked up on sandbox gaming in a predominantly single-player game first. Given the difficulties of persistence in a malleable online world, maybe Minecraft is the only way sandbox games could make a splash among mainstream gamers and the perfect transition to a game like Neverdaunt.

Should you wish to join the Minecraft cult too, I highly recommend watching Paul Soares Jr.’s excellent video survival series (start at the bottom and work your way up) and the crafting recipes page on the Minepedia wiki. Those will give you plenty of helpful pointers and give you a feel for the game. If your interest is piqued, it’s likely there’s a Minecraft moment waiting for you.

In any case, I have no real doubt that some reference to tree punching will soon be on a geek t-shirt. Maybe I’ll see one at NY Comic Con this weekend, so be sure to check back for updates all weekend long. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on Minecraft? What’s the takeaway for MMO developers? Discuss in the Loading… forum, and have a great weekend!


Shayalyn's Epic Thread of the Day


From our DC Universe News & Articles Discussion forum

DC Universe Online Delayed Until Early 2011

By now we all know that DC Universe Online has been delayed, and despite the fact that SOE has said they simply need more time to polish the game, there's plenty of speculation as to whether the timing was a...Cataclysmic (cough) decision. SOE's own DCUO community manager, RadarX (who used to be Ten Ton Hammer's own, although SOE refuses to give him back), has stepped into this thread in an attempt to dispell some of the conspiracy theories. Join in!

=====================================
Awesome Quotes from the Epic Thread

"The iconic figures in this game have been heroes for many of us since we were kids. The DC Universe deserves as much attention and polish as we can give it."

- RadarX
=====================================

New and Exclusive Content Today at Ten Ton Hammer


2 new Ten Ton Hammer features today! 25 Ten Ton Hammer features in September! 1085 in 2010!

REGULAR FEATURES

Microcosms: Just Fell Off the A'la Carte
http://www.tentonhammer.com/microcosms/2010/oct/7

How to properly monetize a subscriptionless game truly is the million dollar question these days. The majority of free-to-play titles survive on cash shop sales alone, but many of those that started life as AAA incorporate both microtransactions and monthly fees. Is this model a way to give greater flexibility to the consumer or a means to gouge them in disguise? Join Jason “Medawky” Bolton as he hops up onto his soapbox in this week’s Microcosms.

FEATURES & GUIDES

4.0.1 Updated Cataclysm Druid Talents & Moonkin Mechanics
http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow/guides/cataclysm_druid_talents

This guide has been updated and is now 4.0.1 compliant! Check out the full array of new talents that the Druid class is getting as well as a full guide to the new Moonkin mechanics.

Today's Top 10

  1. Skaven Exclusives! A WAR Q&A with Carrie Gouskos
  2. 4.0.1 Updated Cataclysm Druid Talents & Moonkin Mechanics
  3. Reader Submitted Rift Q&A, Part 1
  4. WoW Warlock Guide Updated - 4.0
  5. LEGO Universe Preview
  6. WoW: Cataclysm - Introduction to the Twin Peaks Battleground
  7. An Overview of Elite Equipment In EVE Online
  8. WoW - Introduction to the Mastery System
  9. Exclusive WAR RvR Info on Ten Ton Hammer Live Episode 22
  10. Microcosms: Just Fell Off the A'la Carte

Thanks for visiting the Ten Ton Hammer network!

- Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle and the Ten Ton Hammer team


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