Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Look at Minecraft

So I haven't been around much on SL. Other things have occupied my time for the moment (Google things like Dungeon Crawl and Dungeon Hack for examples). Things such as Minecraft, the game of mining resources and building things.

It's essentially SL in 8-bit, where things are a lot more "basic." When you first start the game, a landscape is generated, and this stretches infinitely in all directions, generating randomly as you walk. The more you walk, the more is generated. The world is made up of blocks of all kinds, each line of blocks being marked as a "layer" (Layer 63 is sea level, 128 is the highest and 0 is bedrock, unbreakable). You wander the procedurally-generated landscape, digging into the dirt and gravel to build yourself a little domain (which can be little or not so little, depending on what you want) and look for resources such as seeds, wheat, iron and coal to make things like torches, dyes for colored wool, iron for tools, and water and lava for basic decoration. Digging deeper into the ground exposes ravines, mines, caves and strongholds, all with basic things to loot (such as chests) and things to destroy (monster spawners).

Along the way you can lure cows and sheep to a "farm" to raise wool and steak (your character does need to eat), build an enchanting table for enchanting items, and build a Nether Portal out of a material called "Obsidian" to explore a procedurally generated "Hell" version of Minecraft. All the while you need to defend yourself for when the monsters come out at night --- zombies, spiders, skeletons with bows, and the deadliest of them all, a walking bomb known as the Creeper. They get close and go off, and boom, you die. When you die your gear remains in-world for five minutes, so if you were hundreds or thousands of blocks away from your place of death and spawn at "home," and you lose a lot of time spent and resources. It can be frustrating.

There's also a feature where you can connect to play multiplayer, and servers exist for creation, combat, and almost all in between. So you can build sprawling pixel art several dozens of layers high, or go hunting for other players' homes/bases dug into the mountainside and try and loot them, fighting in PvP. If you're good, you manage to loot a month or two's worth of real-time efforts in gathering resources like iron, coal and gold (and the more valuable things, such as Lapis Lazuli, Redstone, Obsidian and Diamonds). If you're bad, you don't have the reflexes to take on a bunch of players at once when you're a lone wolf out in the wilderness and you lose up to two real time months or more of gathered resources as your base gets heavily griefed (as mine was recently) in a nine-on-one gang stomp.

Minecraft gave me a new appreciation for the builders of SL (blocks and prims, very similar); I might even get into more building of things in SL now --- and not get my stuff destroyed by players less than half my age!

I'm going to give Minecraft a firm Three Dragon Hoards out of five --- it inspires creativity yet limits you to an 8-bit feel and resources, so you have to get creative on how to use what you do have to the best of its ability. It would have been five but I took one away for the brattiness of some of the players (turns out the server I chose is full of 12 year olds, literally, and I don't want to deal with those kinds of temper tantrums if things go bad for -them-); and I took another one away because of its cost... while a basic version of Minecraft can be played on their website if you sign up, the full version is pretty pricey (at about $30).

Xymbers Slade

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