Solo Analysis of Minecraft
Minecraft is a sandbox game by Mojang based on the game Infiniminer by Zachtronic industries.
Minecraft falls more into the Chance and Mental side of the play matrix. While there IS strategy involved in the game, a big portion of obtaining resources is determined by the terrain generation, which is done randomly. Hand-eye coordination helps greatly in combat, but is not as important as crafting better equipment for yourself and building shelter to avoid combat in.
The game is analogous to a real life box of legos. It’s a tiny little world of blocks that you are free to arrange at your whim. The fun of the experience comes from the freedom. There is no “wrong” way to play. You make your own fun. For some, fun is building an epic masterpiece of architecture and showing it off or just exploring it. For others, fun is exploring a vast, endless world. For others, fun is trying to survive against a harsh world that’s trying to kill you. For others, fun is building a community of other players and building an ideal world together.
The difficulty in Minecraft comes from monsters which are constantly trying to kill you and destroy everything you’ve built and ever loved. The difficulty also comes from trying to obtain resources to keep yourself fed and sheltered. You are free to make whatever you want, but you have to find the resources first.
Minecraft’s interface is generally very easy. You smack blocks around until they break so you can pick them up. You build things out of those blocks. Crafting items is done by placing ingredients into a grid in certain combinations. Some combinations are very intuitive. Some aren’t so intuitive.
The core mechanic of Minecraft is that the world is fully malleable because it is made out of individual blocks. Blocks can be removed or placed at will. Some blocks require special tools to obtain while others require certain ingredients to be created, but the world as a whole is like a lump of clay waiting to be molded.
Minecraft has no story. At all. There is no opening cutscene. There is no backstory. You are a guy dropped on the beach in the wilderness and all you need to know is that it’s going to get dark and you won’t like it when it’s dark. The closest thing the game has to a story is an added epilogue screen that implies that the game itself is some sort of window into another reality. The epilogue itself has absolutely no effect on the game itself aside from annoying people who try to exit The End dimension.
Minecraft being an open sandbox game, players on multiplayer servers sometimes like to make up their own stories and themes for their roleplay servers. Some servers are undergoing a “zombie apocalypse.” Players are survivors trying to escape the zombies, and the server gameplay is tweaked to make zombies more numerous. Other servers are “prison servers” where players take the roles of prison inmates or wardens and try to eke out existence in the bleak, violent atmosphere. Some servers try to simulate life in popular TV shows or books, where players take the role of characters in the story and the world is shaped to resemble locations from the source material. Just as the simple open-ended gameplay offer infinite possibilities, so does it offer the chance for infinite stories.
After playing the game enough times, I came up with a starting strategy of burning trees for charcoal instead of attempting to mine for coal. Trees are renewable and almost always in plentiful supply at the beginning of the game, while finding coal before your first nightfall is pure luck. Either coal or charcoal can be used to create torches, which are completely necessary in order to keep your home lit so that monsters don’t spawn inside. Most people overlook the ability to cook logs into charcoal and instead try to find coal, so my strategy cuts a lot of luck out of the start of the game.
The platform of the game is computers. The game is written in Java and can be run in Windows, Linux, or iOS. The only fitting genre for the game is “Sandbox.” The audience of the game is anybody and the game is marketed for all ages. This is definitely the right strategy and it has definitely worked for the game. Minecraft has sold over six million copies as of May of 2012.
The gameplay is innovative because it provides a wide open world with a lot to do with next to no restrictions. Unlike most sandbox games, there are no constraints. There is no “Edge of the World” keeping you from going wherever you want. There are no story missions requiring you to jump through hoops. There’s just a great wide world waiting for you to do whatever you want.
Minecraft’s distribution method is considered unique. It’s digitally distributed. You pay a single fee once to buy the game and you can download it as many times as you want on any computer to play. What’s different about Minecraft’s distribution is that the game was made available for free in its earliest stages of development. After a certain point, the game was then made available as an “Alpha version” and then later a “Beta version” for a fraction of the full price with the stipulation that whoever bought the Alpha or Beta would fully own the game and be entitled to the complete game when it was fully released. Considering that Mojang, the company that makes Minecraft, is now worth several million dollars, I’d say this was a good business decision. The game’s development basically funded itself by allowing people to purchase the game early.
If I could change one core gameplay mechanic of the game, I would make it easier to protect homes from explosions. Right now, there’s just a flat “Explosion Resistance” stat for each kind of block, and blocks are either explosion-proof or they aren’t. Since there are only a handful of explosion-proof blocks, houses can either be safe or they can be good looking.
Minecraft is generally considered “easy,” but it’s hard to gauge difficulty in a game with mutable gameplay and no concrete goals. The game can be as difficult or as easy as you make it.