Mine of Worldcraft

Markus Persson

Over a year ago Greg reviewed this game in its earlier form and criticized it for being aimless and gameless, now the aim has been given, and it's a bull's eye hit. I watched the crafting/build-a-house tutorial and I was compelled to go buy the thing for 10 EUR or $14 (if only I had waited for yesterday's brief dollar rally I could have saved a buck). If you click through on some of the other videos, such as a scale replica of the Starship Enterprise ("it's actually pretty fucking big") or the planet earth, and so on. But that was old Minecraft, the paidic Minecraft, a game has since been added, and what a game!

This is the most fun I've had playing a game all year, hands down. It rewards every creative impulse, and these impulses are now structured. A crafting system has been introduced, instead of just placing blocks as you will, there is a resource hierarchy with its attendant, diminishing fractals of probable availability. For example, wood and stone are plentiful, with the prior you can make a wood pick to harvest the latter, then you can start building all kinds of tools and a home. You'll need to the stone pick to harvest coal, fairly abundant if you dig 10-20 blocks down, and iron, which is harder to come by. A stone smelter with some coal will allow you to refine that iron into pure bars. With an iron pick you'll be able to harvest the occasional gold ore, which really is pretty useless other than as a monetary instrument (as of this version central banking has not yet been simulated) as well as slightly more common bloodstone that you can use for setting up wire-systems capable of rigging mine cart tracks or calculators, and diamonds which make for the best gear.

To give some constraint, you have health and every several minutes night will fall and unleash undead who plague the land, giving a bright engineering fantasy a nice compliment of survival horror ala LEGO. Somehow, ugly, blocky zombies scared me more than normal mapped ones in Resident Evil perhaps because using a door to make myself safe involved two cumbersome clicks with a move-and-turn in the middle, instead of a single button-press. There's a combination of chill and chill that you may experience as you look down from your lofty castle and see fields full of shambling undead, so distant, enveloped in the mists, safely away from you, insulated by some manifestation of your will and design. Then when day-breaks you'll begin again; what at first is a desperate venture toward survival becomes a triumphant cycle of mastery, after all, you've got access to your own private mine built into your house, and you may be tempted to build a tower to heaven as well. These vertical pursuits will keep you busy at night until you forgot about the whole evil-curse dynamic, save for the moaning sound effects you hear toward the surface.

The game has a tremendous amount of potential for new objects, more focused macro-objectives, social features, and most of all: whatnot. But as it is, it's a great value, especially for those who relish the petty joys of manipulating ambient systems and trying your luck for novelty, digging through aimless stone until you stumble onto an underground river-vein, all procedurally generated, and fight your way through it, digging a short-cut back to the surface, and maybe building some kind of landmark to offer reference on the return. The kid in you will learn engineering again, and if that doesn't make sense then you haven't been playing much.

In my first game I made a petty house and then decided to dig straight into the earth, stumbling onto a deep cave. The cave had a monster spawner, after many respawns I managed to destroy it, finding some diamond and gold. But woe, I dug some more and lost it all to the lava. My second game had a more hilly environment, I picked the biggest one and built a little fort on top, dug myself a garbage chute in the corner with an exit out the side of the mountain, and then built stairs around this chute that lead to a branching mine. Then I built a spiral stair to the highest level that you can build on, and started building a sky-path over the map, risking death with each edge-strafe to place another row of stone plates, before realizing that I was wasting my time (it took me that long). My third game was more of a land-o-lakes, where I built a multi-basement home into a steep cliff on some water-front property; I placed soil on the roof of my little workshop and then built a path out to a tree growing off the edge of the cliff, I then built a multi-story house on top of that tree with another roof-top path back to the newly grow trees off the roof of the original structure, upon which I built my master bedroom. Below my third basement, with another door leading out to a private marina where I kept my boat, I started mining, which is another enterprise in itself.

I'm telling you, this shit is the geeky male version of girls decorating their virtual pets on Facebook, it's the same kind of self-expressive vanity, but to the exponent of physics and engineering. It's grow-and-show to the power of power tools.

Not surprisingly, the sheer torque of possible agency in this game has translated into tremendous sales success. For having the audacity to charge 10 Euros, the game's creator has single-handedly amassed over 6 million dollars in revenues that he's reinvesting a bit of into a new game studio, which will support this game and a new one. Your purchase acts as a sort of investment in this company, as you'll get free updates on all future versions of the game. As far as I'm concerned, this is game of the year 2010.


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And I almost didn't buy the

And I almost didn't buy the game because of the original review here!


I think the biggest irony is that Minecraft, in its current state, is a viable proof of concept for an MMO that's completely different from WoW. It even has a working business model, though I imagine there are still many unknowns with regard to scalability and retention.

Imagine what a team of five or ten could do if they worked on it full time. I mean, there are so many things you could add. I'm not necessarily saying you should - but there is so much room for experimentation.

Meanwhile, the total budget of all commercial projects that tried to immitate WoW over the last five years is probably in the order of a hundred thousand man-months. And they all more or less flopped.

I bet someone is already working on a Minecraft clone. And I think I know what the main difference is going to be: the blocks will be smaller.

[Edit: there is a Lego MMO in the works if I remember correctly, not to mention a number of smaller projects with a similar agenda. But I think someone is going to try and clone Minecraft directly.]

Has there really been a substantial improvement

Has there really been a substantial improvement in Minecraft over the past year, or is this simply a different reviewer having a different persective?

That said, a friend did try to get me into it only last week. Although I suspect he may have an alterior motive, as he and some friends are trying to create a life-size replica of a Nimitz class aircraft carrier...

Minecraft is already a clone..

The sad story is that Minecraft is already a clone..
Infiniminer is Minecraft's precursor. It was developed by Zachtronics Industries, and released in steps of incremental updates during April-May 2009. It quickly garnered a following on message boards around the internet, and eventually inspired Notch to start working on Minecraft.

I remember seeing a couple of voxel environments a year or two ago, too.

actually a different game

It's actually a different game. Survival elements weren't present last year. A technology tree is now in place. (hit trees to get wood. build workbench. build wooden pickaxes. get rock with wooden pickaxes, build rock pickaxes, get coal with rock pickaxes..)

>Has there really been a substantial improvement in Minecraft over the past year, or is this simply a different reviewer having a different persective?

Last year's product was not a game.

popularity threshold

Good point, thanks. Another piece of irony is that, for many solutions, instances that make the breakthrough are often remembered as if they were original attempts, even though they usually aren't.

It happened with Doom, for example. Doom was by no means the first of its kind, nor the most advanced 3D engine of its time. But it was the first to pass a threshold of popularity that resulted in a kind of positive feedback loop: Doom's popularity caused it to bevome even more popular. It became a hit, and soon everyone wanted to build their own "Doom clone" (rather than, for example, "Total Eclipse clone").

This can have a profound impact on the genre's development. In case of shooters, "Doom clones" were (and still are) mainstream, while "Ultima Underworld clones" are relatively niche.

With regard to voxels, there was an old arcade helicopter simulator for PCs, called Commanche, and it used voxels to a stunning visual effect. That was in 1994, I think. Another dimension to Minecaft's irony is that most people thought voxels could be the future of graphics (and gameplay), if they could be made smaller, not bigger. I saw a few attempts to that effect, but they weren't particularly impressive, and memory requirements didn't seem to scale well.


Pat, I've been tottally ignoring the rain of Minecraft articles coming from RPS, and when saw yours, decided to read.

What a thing!

Question: is this totally single player yet?

PS: this have to be *really* something to have you omiting any annoying markets/trading reference.

>Last year's product was not

>Last year's product was not a game.

This one is not that much more of a game. Sure, it's more structured, as you are forced to build some sort of shelter before night falls, but beyond that it remains a toy since there is no clear objective, and just like last year the fun is in building stuff for fun.

And yet, just the little fact that at first you HAVE to build a little house is a little push that will have you build so much more than you would have in the original. First you build a shelter, then "what if it had windows" then "what if it was bigger" then you build another closer to a mine, then "what if I linked both with a tunnel, then "what if I had an underground shelter inside my mine". and before you know it you've been spending the whole weekend building little houses and tunnels :)

Until now, I really thought

Until now, I really thought Doom I was a breakthrough in terms of technology. So, which 3D engine was more advanced at the time? Total eclipse was released later.


There were more than one game titled Total Eclipse. The one I meant was released in 1988. It had actual flat-shaded 3D, and it run on some 8-bit computers, though the framerate sucked appropriately.

Doom is an interesting technological artifact, in that it used a very smart algorithm that could render 3D environments efficiently, with textures, as long as you didn't mind certain restrictions. Among things that you could not have in Doom were slopes, bridges and rooms placed one on top of another. Ultimately, it was a technological dead end, rather than a breakthrough, but it was great for what it was.

Ultima Underworld engine had many features that Doom didn't, though it used them sparsely. It also had texturing. Betrayal at Krondor, as well as a number of "simulators", used unrestricted flat-shaded 3D vector graphics at the time, my personal favourite examples being Test Drive and X-Wing (rather than Wing Commander, which relied on sprites). Harrier Jump Jet used vector graphics with Gouraud shading. System Shock had 3D with slopes, bridges, and textures.

As for the timeline, Total Eclipse was released in 1988. Test Drive - in 1990. Harrier and Ultima Underworld - in 1992. Doom, Betrayal at Krondor, and X-Wing were released in 1993. System Shock was released four months after Doom.

It's worth noting that the case of Doom shows how tech is not really that important on its own. Doom was popular in part because its engine had limited functionality. The tradeoff led to good performance while the game still looked great.

Is this the most profitable Indie game ever?

1449927 registered users, of which 455601 (31.42%) have bought the game.

455601 users * 10 Euros = 4,556,010 Euros = $6,344,243.92 USD (as of 10-22-10)

$6.3 million from customers only!


I'd argue that the most profitable indie game ever made was a little thing called Doom. But depends on your definition of 'indie,' I guess.

The relation to Infiniminer

The relation to Infiniminer is listed right there on the official site. Notch got special permission from the creator to fork off the idea into his own project. If you look at Zachtronics' site, you see he has tons of experimental proofs of concept that never really went anywhere, infini-this and infini-that.

Minecraft is an Infiniminer clone like Halo is a Doom clone.


This may be the cheapest definition ever, but a bunch of dudes who put their heart into a project qualify as indie for me.
I find it strange that PTT reviews this (for the second time!) while it's still in alpha, but oh well, minecraft deserves it. I wonder if there will be another review once it reaches beta?

Dude, you totally stole my

Dude, you totally stole my (redux) review! This game is pretty awesome -- I'll probably post my thoughts at some point this year. It's like Legos and that old Game Boy title Survival Kids were gloriously melded together.

It's ironic that you guys

It's ironic that you guys rejected it before as "not a game, grrrrr I hate open-ended trash", and yet, you gush over it now when it's still horribly lacking as a game. I would like to see if the original reviewer is still angry at it, or if he's less willing to voice that minority opinion now that it's becoming downright mainstream in its insane popularity. The main draw for people is STILL pointless, sandboxy building. I bought it back in March, I think it's pretty fun for a while and I enjoy playing with the new features in each update, but I'm still patiently waiting for it to become a challenging game. An open-ended one, sure (I'm not on board with your - frankly, a bit snobby - hatred for that stuff) but a game with lots of action and challenge nonetheless. As it is now, it's not very challenging. You can be completely safe within a few minutes (two seconds if you count digging a hole a few blocks deep and covering yourself). Challenge is really optional, even on the hard setting - You have to choose to go outside and face the minimal dangers waiting for you.

That said, I enjoy exploring the cave systems. I enjoy messing around with the mechanics seeing how you can screw with the mobs. I enjoy playing with the minecart system. I'm eagerly awaiting the hell update that's coming very soon.

But you can only mess with that stuff so long before you've seen it all. The main draw is building structures with absolutely no function. You don't need them to keep the mobs out (they don't break down your walls from the outside). It's still a pointless sandbox where you occasionally get blown up or shot. However, I have great hope for it, and I'm content to watch it develop, and wait another year for it to become a "real" game if that's what it takes.

I only hope Notch doesn't abandon those plans and leave it in its current Glorified Virtual Legos state, since for so many that's good enough

Uh, well, Greg and I are

Uh, well, Greg and I are different people, just ask our wives.

I left a comment on the old

I left a comment on the old minecraft review and this popped up the next day? Coinci-dink?

I think it's interesting to look at XXITheWorld's comment and Billy's comment.

What I'd call this is faux challenge. It's like challenge that has been watered down until it becomes practically nothing EXCEPT the initial seed for what XXITheWorld talks about, the trigger for starting something, then other ideas come to mind.

I'm not a fan of faux challenge, btw, I just started to realise why people would lap up what I considered completely sucky challenge. Because it's not about the challenge. The challenge is merely used as a priming device.
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The real lesson here

Glorified virtual Legos is incredibly fun. People who don't get this don't know what fun is.