Posts Tagged ‘minecraft

04
Jan
15

Minimal Minecraft

minecraft alpha screenshot

There are few games that I would use the word “beautiful” to describe, but Minecraft is one of them.  I’ve been playing the game from one degree to another for the past four years – around the time that alpha version had been released and was in testing.  It’s been such a satisfying gaming experience for me because of the interplay between the game’s randomly generated environments, and it’s capacity for audience expression.  Even while utilizing a low-res aesthetic, it’s composition and depth have potential for beauty in surprising ways.

  • The audience would begin to explore their environment. (Listen.)
  • Then would create the tools and structures they felt they needed to respond to it. (Speak.)
  • And the game would challenge the player with enemies and offer new resources to expand on what has been built. (Respond.)

Even in the alpha version of Minecraft, this core game provided a tremendous degree of interaction between the game, the player, and other players.  And the game itself has continued to build on this pattern ever since.  I think it’s worthwhile drawing a distinction between earlier and later versions of the game, however.  After Markus Persson stepped down from leading development of the game, Mojang was still left with audiences that had a voracious appetite for more in their Minecraft worlds.  And to meet that demand, Minecraft expanded as a brand.

World’s in Minecraft can be populated by towns, dungeons, nether realms, many species of animal, and a never-ending series of new gameplay systems.  This isn’t even to mention the Minecraft brand expanding into physical merchandise. (I just received my collection of Minecraft handbooks today – a item that I’d been looking forward to for years.)  Minecraft is a game, a world, and a brand that has exploded to meet the demands of its audiences.  I still enjoy playing it quite a bit, but it feels noisier.

When I think of playing Minecraft, I think about that core cycle of interaction between players and the game.  And I think of my time playing the game during its alpha and beta phases.  It was a period of time where it was a polished core that encapsulated that cycle almost perfectly.  Today’s Minecraft still does, but with so many potential paths to travel down, or listen to, it’s difficult for the game to speak to one message.  And during that time that I remember playing it, the message I got was that the world is a beautiful place that we can participate in creating.

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09
Feb
13

What I love about Indie Games

While perusing the XBLA for games I could spend my holiday MS points on, I stumbled upon Fez.  I’d loosely followed it’s development and learned more about it watching Indie Game: The Movie.  I knew there was buzz around it (as well as some controversy) but I got the demo and that’s all it took to convince me to fork over the magical moon money I had left on my account.  It was a good purchase.  I was vaguely familiar with the premise and that there was more to it than it appeared, but simply cruising around as Gomez, enjoying all of the scenes and animations, the music, and finding all the unique little tricks to each level really endeared the game to me.  It motivated me to go back and watch some of Indie Game: The Movie again and to pay closer attention to the portions concerning Phil Fish and Fez.

I hadn’t really thought about it much up to this point, but over the last four to five years, “indie games” have provided the more memorable gaming experiences I’ve had during that time.  IG: The Movie, highlighted a few: Braid, Super Meat Boy, Limbo, Minecraft, and Castle Crashers.  I never really considered myself in tune with the indie gaming “scene” (if you want to call it that) but as time goes on I’m becoming more and more drawn into it’s content.  Hotline Miami and Lone Survivor were close contenders for being my favorite games of 2012, and playing Fez now I’m starting to have the realization “hey, this is what playing games used to feel like.”  Of course, on the surface, most of these games hearken back to the 16-bit games of yesteryear, and many were developed by people in my generation who played many of the same games as me.  Though I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something else to it.

The internet changed games forever.  It opened up entirely new possibilities, and obsoleted entire game formats.  It opened the floodgates of communication and information, and the world felt like a much smaller place.  Games used to be mysteries that you could tinker with and mull over endlessly.  When it’s just you and your friends playing them, it feels like the possibilities are endless.  When everyone in the world is playing a game, it’s old news days after release and we quickly move on to whatever is next.  Coincidentally, games became more predictable in certain ways.  They cost more money to make, creating a great amount of risk-aversion in developers and publishers.  They also required larger teams of content creators, making any singular vision of a game that much more difficult to filter out of the noise.  I should probably only speak for myself, but games became more boring as a result.  There isn’t the same type of magic in AAA gaming now.

The other mystery that was dispelled was in how games are created.  Anyone can download an IDE and build software.  The novelty of the video game lost its luster in an age of iPads and smart phones.  At the same time though, it gave everyone else a chance to create games that could afford to foster a more intimate relationship with their audience.  Adding mystery to a game didn’t automatically create risk, and these games could actually be built out of the creator’s desire to express an idea rather than attempt to persuade customers to hand over their cash.  Indie games and gamers get a reputation for creating self-indulgent “art” games that lean too heavily on having a retro flavor.  That may be true.  It can’t be denied though, and I’m probably stating the obvious here: the games industry landscape is changing and so is the market for games.

We may have an abundance of side-scrolling 2D platformers out there right now, but people like Phil Fish are on to something here.  And the next wave of indie developers are going to start creating games that you will never mistaken for a Super Mario Bros. knock-off.  I’ve more or less been a skeptic of indie gaming up to this point but I’m ready to buy in now.  These games will speak to people in ways that the professional industry is afraid to now, and no degree of production value is going to compare with that.

fez

28
Nov
11

Weekly Links for November 28th

A very Belmont Thanksgiving

Links

A game that leads the player can be just as meaningful, significant, intelligent, stimulating or exhilarating as a game that lets the player do whatever they wish (within the games confines). The player is not the centre of the equation, and neither is the game. It’s the interrelationship between the player and the game that matters most.
  • Dark Souls: A Time To Grind
    I’m still not entirely sold on the reasons why people like this game, but I definitely see how it fills a void in the gaming landscape and why people would be hungry for something like that.

What I’ve Been Playing

  • Final Fantasy VIII
    I’ve got my spaceship now.  Time to go beat up some cacti.
  • Modern Warfare 3
    I’m slowly investing myself in the multiplayer and survival modes now.
  • Dark Souls
    When George Orwell wrote “imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever” he was talking about Dark Souls.
  • Minecraft
    Well. I have technically beaten the game, though I was kind of cheating.

Bonus Video

20
Nov
11

Weekly Links for November 20th

fffffuuuuuuuuUUUUUUUUuuuuuuu-

Links

What I’ve Been Playing

Bonus Video

13
Nov
11

Weekly Links for November 13th

They called it "Black Tuesday" because it so resembled the aftermath of "Black Friday."

Links

What I’ve Been Playing

Bonus Video

09
Oct
11

Weekly Links for October 9th

Don't get distracted by the subtext, though, because the text is that they're going to be shooting at you.

Links

What I’ve Been Playing

  • Portal 2
    I mowed through Peer Review in an evening.  It definitely gets two thumbs up.
  • Minecraft
    I’m starting to fall back into my old ways.  I just spent six hours on it last night.
  • Gears of War 3
    It’s that time of year again.  The time to shoot dudes.

Bonus Video

02
Oct
11

Weekly Links for October 2nd

I'm hungry this week, and Gourmet Gaming is only making me hungrier.

Links

What I’ve Been Playing

  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
    I’m working through my second play through of DXHR and forcing myself to be more stealthy.
  • Minecraft
    I’ve been spending most of my time in the new creative mode now, just trying out things that would have been absurdly difficult in survival mode.
  • Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
    I’m struggling to level up new character classes.  It takes far too long but my curiosity is driving me to keep playing.

Bonus Video




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