Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mine, Build, Explode: A Terrifying Adventure in Minecraft. Day 1, part 1.

If you've been keeping tabs on the videogame industry over the last year and a bit, you've almost certainly heard of Minecraft: The terminally blocky super-sandbox game that's managed to ensnare the imaginations of damn-near anyone who's played it.
For those of you not in the know, Minecraft is about trying to survive in an entirely destructible randomly-generated world made entirely out of blocks, and in which you can build anything you can imagine using materials and tools made from resources ripped from said world's massive underground tunnel networks. Incredibly hazardous enemies are spawned anywhere covered by darkness, so the game's day/night cycle requires you to make a mad dash to find shelter before the sun goes down, or else have your innards lovingly rearranged by countless undead horrors.

In an effort to understand just why this game is the biggest thing in internet popular-culture since dyslexia met cats, I intend to play Minecraft in all its pixellated insanity and document the results. The very, very terrifying results.

Speaking of terror, I'm mainly going to be relaying my game experience from the point of view of my character in the game itself, since roleplaying and actively convincing myself that my fat arse is actually placed firmly in the jaws of horror rather than my comfy computer chair keeps things exciting. Everything typed normally from now on will be from the point of view of my small, blocky, extremely fragile Minecraft-denizen while everything typed in sexy and authoritative bold is an observation or explanation regarding the game from my impartial real-life point of view.
For Example:
Wow, this sure is a nice blocky world in which I actually no-bullshit reside in at this present moment, I'm glad nothing horri- AAAH! Zombies! Creepers! Death! RUN AWAAAAY!
Okay. Safe now. Wait, what's that hissing-

My enlightened real-world perspective tells me that the above situation suggests, the developers have designed an idyllic and world for the express purpose of making the player's eventual horrible demise particularly surprising and painful: Hastening the move towards their active goal of crushing the player's soul under their spiky cyber boots and drinking our tears through crazy straws so as to nourish their cold, shriveled hearts.

Let's get started shall we? (click images for larger versions)

I choose single player, click "empty world" on the level selection screen and let the game do its magic. When you start a new world (you can have up to five at a time), Minecraft generates a completely unique "planet" that the developers claim is four time the size of the actual earth. While I fall slightly below the margin of insanity required to actually test this theory, somehow I don't doubt it. The game seems to generate a blueprint for the entire world (as seen in the screenshot), then seamlessly builds it as you explore, which you could do until your great grandchildren up and tell you that enough is enough and still be nowhere near done finding all of the kind've wonders the game's world building algorithm throws at you.

Incidentally, to keep things exciting I'm playing the game on the hardest difficulty setting and when I die, my adventure ends. Usually when you die, you lose all the stuff you were carrying and start back at the spawn point (seen in the next screenshot) with anything you've built or stored still intact. I figure if I'm set to lose everything forever at the slightest mistake, things'll stay as tense as this game can possibly get. Analogies fail me at this point, so we'll just have to play the game to see just how tense that is.

Without further ado...

Bwuh? Where...? Ugh.

When I said terminally blocky, I meant TERMINALLY. Even the clouds have right-angles.

Dammit! I told em that ship wouldn't last us past the Cube of Good Hope, I told em! So many leaks the piece of flotsam must've gone down before I had the sense to wake up.
Dammit dammit dammit.
And what did I do? I signed on-board anyway like the avaricious little fucker I am 'cause the bastards offered a cut of the profits and suspiciously generous benefits package. dammit.

Ugh. Again. Let's see how I'm doing at least.

Still the epitome of Cubic manliness and not a scratch on me! Considering what happened to the ship I figure I should probably thank the next deity I happen to meet for my uncharacteristic luckiness. But seriously now, where the hell am I?

Hmm. One hell of a bay out there. No sign of a wreck and I'm sure as hell not going bobbing for snowglobes or whatever-the-hell else the good cap'n thought would go down big in the orient. I'm on my own over here and all I'll have is what I find. There's tons of trees at least, so it's no desert island...

Or any kind've island, really. Jesus, this place goes on for miles! Mountains, trees, caves, and are those...

COWS! Doofiest damn cows I've ever seen but near as I can tell they're fat and thriving, and if they can somehow survive out here despite the known universe apparently residing between their ears, then my infinitely more acute intellect should keep my head firmly above water until help arrives or I die a horrific, gruesome death for reasons that are entirely not my fault.
Speaking of gruesome deaths, that snow in the distance worries me. I've no idea of this place's climate; and judging by the snow-patches despite the current sunny weather, I'm guessing there's a fifty-fifty chance winter has either passed or it's on the way to bite me in the ass. I'm not sure I like those odds.

First things first: I'll need some shelter. I've heard stories from other sailors (Read: The Minecraft Wiki) that these parts are rife with nocturnal monsters that'll devour a guy whole before the thought to "fuck right off" makes it halfway across his now-very-tooth-marked brain. Now I'm not the kind've guy who believes everything spouted out by salty nutters whose entire experience of "Vitamin C" doesn't go past that chick who sang "Graduation", but whether it's from the jaws of flesh-hungry monstrosities or the nibbling voracity of these dumpy cows, I think I'm going to need protection in the form of some warm and comfy walls.

Speaking of warm and comfy:

Some sheep seem to have joined the cows in their League of Doofy Wildlife. That wool could come in handy if I'm to fend off the kind've weather that bred that snow, but with no tools I'll have trouble getting it off Fluffy over there. Still... He seems pretty docile and there's probably some wool that's been shed but still mixed up with the skin-attached kind, I'll just grab him and see how much I can get with a few gentle tugs. Heeeere, Fluffy-baby, I'll just grab here and...

Gah! Fuck! At the slightest nudge, damn-near every thread of wool explodes off of Fluffy's flesh with terrifying tearing precision! These sheep are clearly built for convenience if not survivability. I hastily collect the fallen blocks(?) of wool and look around shee- I look around anyway. Well I got plenty of wool at least, though I kind've feel bad for accidentally inflicting what must be my Poke of Sheering Death (TM) on fluffy over there.

Actually, I may need to redact the Death bit from the title. Fluffy seems pretty okay considering the eldritch forces apparently residing in my little finger have stripped him balder than Britney Spears on an off-day. Assuming winter's behind us, I've probably done him a favour, of course assuming winter's on its way I've doomed him to a slow descent into death's icy arms. I blissfully ignore this possibility as I shear some more sheep. Let's see how much wool I've got shall I?

Uh. Okay. Every piece of wool is inexplicably larger than the entire body of any member of Fluffy and Co.: the same size as every clump of dirt, sand or stone that makes up the entirety of my surroundings. Hurm.

Just about anything in Minecraft that isn't a creature or player-related tool is a uniformly sized cube. Dirt, sand, bricks, cacti, they're all different textures (and properties such as flammability) on equally-sized rigid blocks. All these blocks are breakable and collectible so as to place them elsewhere in (usually) the same state. This is what Minecraft is ultimately about: excavating and changing the landscape around you to suit your ends. It's difficult to describe just how compelling actions revolving around this simple gameplay mechanic can become, so I'll just let Minecraft-Me get back to it.

I spend a while contemplating the economic implications of matter that can grow to a fixed mass regardless of its prior state, sheep related or otherwise, before I notice...

Damn. It's already midday and all my sheepy-shenanigans have been burning precious daylight, I need to find a place to whether out the night before sundown, but where...


Next Time on Minecraft Adventures: Will the dingy cave provide shelter from the voracious undead hordes? Will our hero be overwhelmed by the truly impossible amount of things that can kill him? Will we finally get to see some motherfucking Mining and Crafting?
Short answer: "Hope so", "Hope not" and "Yes"
Long Answer: Tune in next time to find out.

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