I'd like to talk about Minecraft, my latest geek obsession.

Wikipedia will give you all the dry details but I'm here to tell you My God, it's full of blocks.

Imagine, if you would, the building blocks of our world were not atoms, but building blocks. Lego, bigger than your head. Making up trees, houses, air, and the land you stand on.

You know what I'm talking about. Some of you are block stackers from way back.

What would you do in a world like that?

Why, you'd build, of course.


Build



Hold left mouse button to collect blocks.* Use right mouse button to place blocks.
*By punching them inna face.

Let me stress that this is a "sandbox game" that lets you dig at the beach and build with sand.

Also dirt, rock, water, and trees.

The first thing most people build in Alpha Survival mode is a house. In fact, general advice says try to build one within the first ten minutes. At the minimum, dig a hole and bury yourself before nightfall.

Yes, you can build giant stone heads to keep you company or monuments to yourself or parts of your anatomy.

But every night, if you're not safely indoors, monsters will come out of the darkness. In fact, you'd better leave a light burning in the dark corners of your house. (And in the game.)

Eight minutes later, a new day dawns. Once the rising sun has set all the zombies on fire, the world is yours again. You can build a castle and defend it from zombies at night. You can build a rollercoaster and fling yourself down mountains. You can explore cavern systems so vast you'll get lost even with a compass and torches. Or you can turn off the zombie option and farm sheep.

You can build logic gates, although your transistors are 1 cubic meter in size.

It's pretty much unlimited, is what I'm saying.


Mine



The good stuff is hidden beneath the earth. Descend into the procedurally-generated caves, or start mining a shaft of your own, and gathering materials and ores is no more complex than left-click, right-click, WASD, shuffle, and bunny hop. Avoid falling, cave-ins, rivers, ambushes, and above all, getting lost.

By the way, you have to craft your pickaxe first. You didn't bring anything into this world except the shirt on your back.


Craft



All tools and weapons in the game follow crafting recipes, for which I can only direct you to the wiki. Your basic craft bench you can make with your bare hands; from then you can graduate from wooden tools to stone tools to iron and forges.

You will spend a lot of time at the crafting bench as your tools wear down or you get new ideas. You will have located it indoors so you're not dragged out of your flow by a zombie eating your brains. And thus you while away the minutes of the night, building tools by torchlight.


Explore



It offers the exquisite horror of being lost, underground. The Cimmerian monsters are endless, your sword is wearing dull, the torches are running out. Eerie ambient noises with long pauses of silence. And no direction home.

And sometimes, rarely enough, it will offer that sweet, sweet salvation of sunlight to show you the way out. Returning to the surface. Joy. Redemption.

I'm out; I'm free. Down here the night air is purple. What do I do with it all?

Go climb a mountain.


Marvel



Multiplayer online server is in alpha release, and although they are struggling with the griefing issues, it's the best way to tour the monomaniacal obsessions of other players. And of course to find a hundred acres to make your own. Cackling optional.

On Youtube, you can tour marvels like the pyramid of Chichen Itza, full scale. The USS Enterprise-D, full scale. The Planet Earth, not full scale but fairly large nontheless. Pretty soon you will be greeting structures that can be seen from space with little more than a raised eyebrow, at which point you should probably take a break and visit real life for a while.

Did I mention the 16-bit computer ALU?


More Info



Programmed in Java and OpenGL. Represented in a first-person world with 3D graphics. These distinctive blocky graphics feel a little like a 16-bit Super NES game. Remember that push for higher poly counts and beefier graphics cards throughout the '00's that led to Doom III and the PS3 "Reality Synthesizer"? Dial it back to Doom I, shortly after Wolfenstein 3D. But not back quite as far as Dwarf Fortress. (I fell hard for Dwarf Fortress too.)

The developer is 'Notch'. He's Swedish. He's like the Bill Gates of the indie development scene at the moment. As in, we're not sure how he hit the magic formula, but he is getting very rich.

Article in WIRED Magazine.

The game is still only an alpha-release officially, but pre-ordering entitles you to play the alpha. Currently selling at half-price, about 10 euro, which is one-quarter of the price of Civilization V.

An impulse purchase that gets you Super Mario World meets Robinson Crusoe meets I Am Legend.

If you try it, let me know what you think, eh?

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