Review by therandomdot

"Fun, tedious, unpolished"

If you liked playing with legos growing up, or like piecing things together to make rube goldberg machines, this game will have you hooked. However, the game constantly feels incomplete (even for the "retail" version), rough around the edges, buggy, and laggy (in multi-player).

The up-side ...

* even though it went "gold", Mojang is still adding new stuff, fixing things, and optimizing code
* they're working on a mod API, so eventually it will be easier to add in mods to enhance the game

(You can already add in mods, but there's some technical work you have to do, and you run the risk of breaking the game or another mod you're using.)

The down-side ...

* the game still feels unpolished
* every time something new is added or a bug is fixed it seems something else breaks
* they keep changing the physics and "rules" of the game, so something you made that worked in the past may no longer work

My usual disclaimer is that graphics and sound don't have a big impact on how I perceive a game. This is very much true with Minecraft. Some hate the low-res, pixel-looking, blocky graphics, but I like them. You can tweak the graphic with texture packs as you see fit. The sound is rudimentary and gets the job done. The music is annoying, and is quickly shut off.

Moving on ...

My biggest gripe is that Minecraft has a constant "half done" feel to it.

EG: You don't install the game. You download an .exe, plop it somewhere, and run it. That's it. By default, it starts in windowed mode. You can maximize the window, and there's a fullscreen mode, but I've gotten some glitches with it. Likewise, it runs in whatever screen res you're desktop is currently set to. So, you can have your gfx card chugging away painting the game in 1600 x 900 x millions of colors resolution when it would still look the same and run better in 640 x 480 x 256 colors. Most professionally-done games take control of the screen resolution, and you can adjust it in-game. Not in minecraft.

The game has a lot of growth potential, and the initial explosion in development on it got many folks excited. It started off with some pretty big updates, like minecarts / tracks, redstone wiring for circuits, etc. But, then Notch spent more time developing his game company then his game, and later updates were a bit lackluster. Notch got burned out with the game, and eventually kit-bashed together an "end" to it in order to package it as a "retail" (ie: done) game, move on to other projects, and pass the reigns over to another developer that helped him work on it.

On the one hand, I understand that a company can only do so much with a game before they need to move on or start charging for DLC or a new version of the game. On the other hand, you'd think their flagship, bread-n-butter game that went viral, put them on the map, earned them millions, and let Notch start a game company would get more attention and resources thrown at it other than just 1 developer working on it.

Granted, Jeb, the new developer, has added more updates since the baton was passed, and there is work on a mod API which will make adding mods to the game easier/better. But, still. I feel Mojang is resting on its laurels by not putting as much attention into their flagship game as they should.

So, you have to take this stuff into consideration when you play the game. You're buying a game for 1/2 of what most main-stream games go for. It's not a typical game in that it's not all about shooting things or driving vehicles. It's a creative sandbox environment where you survive, gather resources, and build things. If that doesn't float your boat, you will not like this game. You can expect some periodic updates, but don't get your hopes up for every update to be ground-breaking.

The fact that they keep updating the game is a major plus, though. Minecraft has a very, very bright future if they keep working on it, and if they eventually release the source to the community then it will continue to flourish for years to come much like Rogue, NetHack and other games that just keep chugging along with a fan-base that keeps updating it and never lets it die.

Creating ...

The game is fun in that you can create all kinds of "machines" using the physics of the game world. People also create structures and art work. However, the game can feel very hollow and dystopian when you wander down streets of vast cities and spawn hubs on servers where nobody is wandering around. It can look post apocolyptic, as all these massive structures are around, but nobody's home.

Likewise, some folks go to great extents to recreate tables, chairs, park benches and other ameneties that are great in real life, but absolutely useless other than eye-candy in the game. It just sort of acts as a reminder to how so much time was spent on something meaningless. But, the same can be said for art. You either like doing it or you feel its pointless. It's interesting the care and craftsmanship some folks take with their creations. But, it just seems like a waste wandering around city streets looking at park benches nobody can sit on. It's not like people show up to a server, and sit around at a park bench with friends to read books or chat. Folks just hang out whereever they're at and use the chat function. So, these useless furnishings just seem like a big waste of time.

Multipllayer ...

Singleplayer mode is fun to do stuff in, but the game does shine in multiplayer mode. This lets you team up with others to form communities, gather resources, build things, etc. A lot of servers use mods to implement MMO-like skills and xp, or various world generation types (eg: spheres, water worlds, skylands, etc)... basically extending the game way beyond what you'd get if you were single-playing yourself. So, it's a great idea to play on a multiplayer server.

Unfortuantely, it can be a downer much like MMO's, since you can spend tons of time working on a server, then suddenly it's shut down, or the map gets corrupted or, ... something ... goes wrong and all that work is just gone. At the end of the day, all you're left with is memories and frustration. But, lots of other games are like this. How many times have folks built up characters in Diablo just to uninstall the game when bored then a year later reinstall it and start the process over? You can't expect the stuff you make in this game to last forever.

The multiplayer server environment is hit-or-miss, since everyone and their uncle is making one, and they come and go on a whim. Due to people greifing (destroying) other peoples' work for kicks, you can spend tons of time trying to find decent servers to play on that can protect your work half-way while not being too nazi about rules that prevent you from having fun.

Multiplayer is also plagued with lag, time-outs/ disconnects, etc. But, if you get on a server with a great group of folks, it can be a blast.

Then there's the tedium...

The down-side to Minecraft is that eventually you'll get burned out by it, and it can start to feel like a job/chore rather than a past-time. If you're working on someting and bite off more than you can chew, it'll get tedious gathering all of the materials to get it done. If you're on a server with RPG stuff going on, and you're part of a community that does something, you being in charge of a certain task, it can feel like a chore having to log in and do your "work" every day.

Also, once you've finished doing what you set out to do ... be it make a house/base, make a mob farming machine, setup a shop, a wheat farm, etc, etc ... there's not much else to do. You may be in a habit of playing or logging into a server to play, then find you're wasting 2 hours wandering around with nothing to do b/c you're out of ideas or motivation or whatever...but, the habit to log in and play is still there it's just there's no longer anything to "play".

This can be frustrating.

Overall ...

Minecraft can be an addictive game for the right type of person. Unfortuantely, it doesn't have a professional feel or presentation about it. Likewise, it feels like Mojang is resting on their laurels with what they've done with it and plan on doing with it, and some other game company may come along and eat their lunch sooner or later. What made Minecraft great was the creative aspect, the frequent updates, and the feeling that the community helped dictate the direction of the game. Ultimately, Mojang could lose their customer base if another company comes along and does all of that better.

I guess the bottom-line is you'll either love it or hate it. It's a fun game to play every now and then, and it's interesting to see what they add to it.

However, much like Chatroullette, the media & community-driven viral aspect of the game has come and gone now that it's gone retail, and it's main creator, Notch, has clearly stopped caring about it.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/23/12

Game Release: Minecraft (US, 11/18/11)


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