Minecraft Overview

Have you ever written about Minecraft? Do you think it’s a good game?

I feel like it has parts of a good game, but it’s not entirely a game, nor a good one. It has a lot of mechanical complexity, but doesn’t totally loop all the systems together into something resembling a complete “struggle”. It has an overarching goal in the form of The End, but many people don’t play it for that reason, and it didn’t always have that.

The game has this basic conflict present at the start, “bootstrap your way up to building shelter to survive the night.” This expands into a more general conflict of building up your center of operations so you can produce more materials, then during the day explore out into the wilderness with the tools you’ve developed to gather more resources that you need to build up your center of operations. This eventually culminates in needing to venture into caves (which are themselves dangerous) for resources most easily exploited from caves, as well as strongholds and trade with villagers. So the game has this implicit progression up through tiers of technology, resource allotment, and so on.

The downside is you can get around a lot of this since it’s trivially easy to escape danger in most circumstances. Building a house out of dirt is simple, or just pillaring high enough that nothing can reach you. Once you have a house, even one made of dirt, enemies can’t really get at you. This was an intentional decision, to avoid enemies wrecking the complex buildings that players create except under very specific limited circumstances, like creepers, but it also limits the whole survival concept since after a certain very early point, survival becomes easy and sustainable.

Terraria did this a bit better. It has enemies from the get-go that are beating down your doors at night. It has flying enemies. It has enemies that can get inside if you don’t put up walls. However I didn’t want to grind through the bad early game combat to get to whatever the late-game holds.

Beyond that, the combat in Minecraft isn’t exactly amazing. I honestly haven’t played in a very very long time, and I believe a newer update changed this, but when I did play, the sword attacks were hitscan. So you click on enemies when they’re close rather than your sword having some type of associated hitbox, one that’s ideally a bit wider than a raycast. There was some variety in enemies back then, but not very much, and I imagine they’ve improved that significantly since, but I can’t honestly say.

The success of minecraft is that it’s a crazy complicated simulation. The success of minecraft is that it has a ton of block types that all have their own unique interactions with one another. The success of Minecraft is that it has many many systems that can be leveraged into games and broader types of play. The failure of Minecraft is that it doesn’t try to be much of a game for itself. That’s fine for it as a product and I don’t think it’s a negative influence on games outside itself. It’s kind of a shame, but whatever, it’s a unique work.

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