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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Minecraft 1.8 Gets A Trailer (And I Still Don't Get It)

Posted by Earnest "Nex" Cavalli on Wed, Sep 7, 2011 at 10:14 AM

Whining momentarily; first, have a trailer:

That'd be the trailer for the upcoming 1.8 update for beloved indie sandbox title Minecraft. It's the "Adventure" trailer, meaning Mojang's team of rebel game makers are adding "adventure" elements to a game that has sold millions of copies to date purely on the strength of its "you can build whatever you want" concept.

More novel things to do in-game is rad, right? The 'net seems to think so. This clip was released yesterday morning and pulled down a quarter-million views by dinner.

That's lovely, and more power to (Minecraft creator and all around rad dude) notch, but I still don't get the appeal here.

Hit the jump and I'll do my best to earn my fee through petulant bitching.

Let's get one thing out of the way: The "sandbox" genre is not a new invention. Minecraft offers a seemingly boundless three-dimensional world that players can alter in any way they see fit, but in essence, it doesn't truly do anything that hadn't already been done by earlier, more polished games. Even discounting pack-in level editing software — only because I'm feeling generous — I can think of a handful of examples of games that offered this same sort of interactivity.

Doubt me? Populous was letting players mold both landscapes and geopolitical/religious systems in 1989.

Too macro for you? I was crafting hills with weaponized hunks of dirt in Scorched Earth back in 1991.

If you prefer something 3D, I could suggest Black & White or I could simply point you to Will Wright's entire history in the gaming biz.

I realize that many of the above examples don't offer the same granularity of interaction that Minecraft does, but that's only because they offer far, far more than the simple ability to stack cubes and burn your faux house down.

This does nothing for me.
  • Aboveultimate.org
  • This does nothing for me.

That said, perhaps the main draw for Minecraft is in its status as something of an icon for the indie gaming scene. Here is a game that, backed entirely by word of mouth, has become one of the biggest titles of the last few years. It's one of the best examples of a game "going viral" that anyone can possibly cite, and I concede, that's pretty impressive. However, despite the happy butterflies that may spawn in the stomachs of those gamers who smile wide every time an Activision title goes unsold, that doesn't make Minecraft a good game.

Look, I've tried to like it. I've tried to find that addictive vector that would draw me into the world for months on end, but it just isn't there for me. It's like playing a new Sims sequel; I can have fun testing the bounds of the simulation for a few weeks, but after that I grow tired of living in a virtual world where I'm expected to craft any sort of narrative for myself.

Maybe this "Adventure" update will give the game that extra hit of dopamine-coaxing gameplay that I'm craving. I hope so. You can only pull in so many pageviews by publicly stabbing sacred cows and Gawker already seems to have that role monopolized among the nerdfolk.

Hopefully I'm not typing this into a void. If one of you can explain to me the game's draw, I'd love to hear it. Or, for that matter, if you want to join me in my boat made of confused hyperbole, I've got enough stupid metaphor power left to manifest a life jacket for each of you.

(See? I can do pointless, whimsical creativity. Maybe I just have something against cubes.)

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