Monday, March 17, 2014

The World of Minecraft

One of my favorite pastimes is playing a game you may have heard of called Minecraft. Shortly after it was released to the public for purchase, my son brought it to my attention, and he asked me if I could buy it for him because it was going to be “the next big thing” in games. At first, I was really apprehensive because it was in its early alpha stage and was being sold by this one guy, Markus Persson, and I just had mixed feelings about it. But I had learned to trust my son's opinion on computer and console games, so I delved deeper and checked it out. What I saw was amazing.

There were people creating all manner of crazy builds. Huge builds composed of tens of thousands of blocks, and the game had some really fascinating elements in the UI that made the collecting and using of items almost effortless. The best explanation I could give would have to be Lego taken to a much higher level. Needless to say, I took the plunge and not only bought a copy of the game for my son, but also for myself.

Over the following months I played it off and on, and explored various aspects of what could be done with it, and as I played, new updates to the game continued to be released at an incredible rate. With each new release there were more types of blocks and more things that could be done within the world. Then I noticed a trend starting on YouTube. More and more people were posting their experiences with the game, and it was being embraced by the community as a way to learn more about the game and what could be done with it. All sorts of brilliant creations were starting to be showcased. Then came the inclusion of "electricity" in the form of what is called redstone. This meant that you could potentially build machines in the game, and this spurred a whole new level of interest for me. So much so, that I jumped into the YouTube community as well, and started posting my own creations.

Right around this same time, or maybe a little after, programmers from all around the globe started discussing the possibility of modifying the game to allow additional functionality and items. The enthusiasm from the development community was incredible and in very short order the ability to mod Minecraft became a reality and with it, huge possibilities for the game itself.

At first, I was committed to playing the game as designed—vanilla is the term that is used—but as time went by and I saw more and more incredibly designed mods that allowed for even more possibilities in the game, I decided to join the modded Minecraft gamers. Now I find myself getting bored with vanilla Minecraft, but I'm very pleased to see that Mojang, the company that now owns and develops the game, is embracing the modding community and even including some of the more popular mods directly into the game, while at the same time opening the game to allow modders to more easily create mods. These days, I use Feed The Beast for my modded Minecraft experience because it is so easy to setup and run, as well as keep updated.

I still don't have as much time as I would like to be able to play it more frequently, but it is always fun to fire it up and punch some trees. And now that I understand how Minecraft servers work and have seen how much more fun it is to play with others, I’ve set up a Minecraft server at home for my son and I to play on.

If you enjoyed Lego as a kid, you should definitely give Minecraft a try. I think you’ll have lots of fun. Oh, and there are two rules that you need to live by: never ever, under any circumstances dig straight down, and as much as you would like to, don’t hug creepers.