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Review – Minecraft Alpha (Survival Single and Multi Player), or, How I Lost Hours of My Life

It has been a very long time since I sat and played a game to completion. For some reason that I cannot pen, its harder for me to do so than back in the day. I do so miss the days where I could sit down and play a game for hours on end and soon enough beat it and add it to the collection. Such is the burden of growing up and having responsibilities. However, there are certain games that come along out of the blue that captivate you and just capture your imagination that you can’t let up. Something that sticks with you for an undetermined amount of time and you revel in it. There have been few games that I have played that have sucked up more than 24 hours of my life, let alone 48 or even 100 hours. Minecraft is one of those games and since September 18th when I first heard about this awkward-looking title, I have spent days upon days in its world. I’m not alone in this either. Let me tell you how me and four of my friends got sucked into the world of Minecraft.

On said date above, I found out about a game that was seemingly broken. Minecraft’s registration servers had gone offline due to high demand. High demand? I had never heard of the game! Screen shots of the game looked absolutely horrible compared to what I normally play and the post I had read didn’t seem so enthusiastic about the product. Luckily for me, I check the comments on just about everything I read. Users were clamoring about this game. Over 70 comments in less than an hour of praise for the creativity and limitless fun you could have in Minecraft. I had to try it.

Minecraft is a simple download, only an executable file to load up (it hides the rest in a hidden folder).  Your given access to the game within two-to-three minutes and your first thought is: … okay, now what? This is when I found out that there are no tutorials or starting levels in Minecraft. I wandered around with a log in my right hand jumping up and down hills and across rivers and ponds. Animals graze nearby and frolicked in the fields. All looked so peaceful in this game I had started. Until nightfall came. I didn’t last very long after being chased down by various creatures of the night including spiders, bow-wielding skeletons,  zombies, and what I came to know as a creeper. It was an intense moment that left my race racing after being blown up, chomped on, pierced, and skewered. I quit the game and exited the program in shame.

While scratching my head in wondering what I was supposed to do, I rushed back to the post where I found this curious little game and devoured the comments section completely. Turns out there are plenty of “Day 1” tutorials on YouTube. After watching a 10-minute survival guide, I hurried back into the game and lo-and-behold, I survived my first day! I sat safely in a hole I burrowed in the side of a small mountain. Armed with a wooden pickaxe and one torch on the wall, I watched as the creepy crawleys walked on by in vain. Once morning came around, I left my sanctuary and began my journey.

Fast forward to today and you’d see that I managed to survive long enough to create an empire. A giant fortress stood tall attached to a large mountainside which was my bustling mine. Attached to the fortress via railroad was my citadel complete with its own mine and three lookout towers. Off in the distance you’ll see a series of lights which are set next to my underground railroad which connects me to my first two colossal structures and an enormous cavern which I had begun to dig out. My empire. My Minecraft empire. In a matter of days I had went from a scared noob hiding in a hole and into an overlord begging creatures to step up and test me… except those creepers… which explode in an emotional rage and take out my front entrances and walls.

Now, Minecraft isn’t as simple as you would think. The creator, a man who goes by the user name Notch, went very in-depth with some of the features. If you don’t utilize the wiki-style website to your advantage, finding out how to make tools can be a very interesting part of the game. You create tools, weapons, and other miscellaneous things by use of a crafting box. The 3×3 grid allows you to put items and parts together as recipes. All you have to do is put the parts together in a fashion that looks like the item you’re trying to make. A stone shovel consists of  a piece of cobblestone sitting on top of two sticks. A boat is made by putting in wooden blocks in a lower-case U style. There are many, many recipes with more reportedly on the way. There is also a very complex electricity system in place with the use of Redstone. Using similar logic gates and junctions as say a router, your imagination gets even broader. Do a quick search on YouTube for “Minecraft Redstone” and you’ll see some very interesting and impressive pieces of work. The other day I watched a video of guy who used Redstone to create a 16-bit ALU computing device. Others, maybe not at complex but still impressive, use the electric stones to make roller coasters, password-protected iron doors, traps, and much more.

Minecraft isn’t without its bugs and irksome problems. While the game is in Alpha stages, updates come at a less-than-often time table. Server stability isn’t very common and the game’s website(s) go down frequently.  These issues (sans the updates) can be attributed to the fact that the amount of attention Minecraft is getting is heightening demand to the peak every couple of days. Notch could handle updates to the game’s stability while in downtime a bit better, as well. Visiting his Twitter account (@Notch) most of the times gives you no notice of an issue with the game’s servers or an estimated time of revival. Last two times the game went down, he mentioned that the game should fix itself and that was that. You can’t be completely mad at the guy, however. He is, in fact, the sole creator of the game and has been working hard. It is all lined out for you once you try and buy the game, as well. You are buying an Alpha product – a.k.a. AS IS. It just would be nice to see more frequent updates in tune of the game’s progress and status instead of hearing of his Civilization 5 exploits.

If you thought my journey to creating an empire was a fun tale, that isn’t even the best feature of Minecraft. Take my tale above and add online game play to it and you have Survival Multi-player (SMP). After showing a certain friend the game, he was determined to create a server for us to play on. We now have four total players on the server and a city created that includes a multitude of towers, fortresses, beach-front getaways, islands filled with houses and hovels, and mine entrances and exits everywhere. Oh! I can’t forget the burning forest that one of our friends thought would be fun to ignite a few nights ago. Makes for quite an ambiance during the night. Multi-player is far and away buggier than single player. SMP is relatively new for Minecraft and Notch promises updates to it soon. Hopefully, soon means very soon since right now monsters, damage, Redstone, switches, doors,  buckets, and minecarts do not function correctly or are completely missing from the service. There are always a list of glitches which can make your multi-player server lag city for many if not all online users until you figure out the issue.

Problems aside, Survival Multi-player is Minecraft’s strongest feature and the potential of it is exhilarating. If your mind is filled to the brim of gigantic buildings to create, I suggest finding a server to play on immediately and take advantage of the no damage bug while it lasts. Being able to fall from the top of the sky is a great asset to creation. It will be very dangerous in the future to do such things. Even without monsters at night (which takes much away from the experience of Minecraft), the game is a thrill to play with your friends. You can even download player skins to show off a personality. Hopefully that’s just the beginning of player customization. Be ware of griefers online who may destroy your homes and take your items. Also, be ware of idiots who forgot they have flint and tinder out and set fire to your first floor by accident (sorry!).

In conclusion, BUY MINECRAFT!!! I cannot express how fun the game is without handing you my PC and telling you to play. As of this writing, you can purchase the game for about $14 USD. Which is a gigantic steal, even if there are no more updates to this game (which would be disappointing to say the least). I’ve spent over 100 hours on this game (80% of that online) and it still isn’t boring at all. Mining is a blast, showing off your creations to your friends is a highlight, and watching their progress is equally so. Do yourself a favor, jump on this bandwagon and enjoy the world of Minecraft. Who knows, maybe we’ll see you online!

PROS:

  • Infinite Possibilities
  • Survival Multi-player
  • Intricate Systems
  • Intense Experiences
  • Creepers

CONS:

  • Updates Far In-Between
  • Multi-player issues
  • Sucks Up Your Life (might not be a con for some ;] )

Review by Cennus.

Links [Minecraft.net]

  • Infinite Possibilities
  • Survival Multi-player
  • Intricate Systems
  • Intense Experiences
  • Creepers


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