By Tom Hooper aka Atomp
This is the second half of a two part Minecraft review that I started last week. I previously covered many of the basics of the game and these same themes will likely recur, however in a different context. If you haven’t read the previous part then I’d recommend doing so before continuing here.
So I covered much of the survival and creative aspects of the before however I intentionally didn’t mention one of the major variables; multiplayer. The multiplayer is normally based around a dedicated server, although it is now possible to open up a single player game to LAN on the fly without specifically operating a dedicated server. Typically though the multiplayer will be internet based and use the dedicated server system. The dedicated server, like the game, is Java based meaning that as the host you have the option to use a preferable server OS, such as a Linux based OS. This is refreshing as Linux is by far the preferable server OS when compared to Windows, it has also spawned a selection of VPS providers that specifically allow the renting of Linux based Minecraft servers. Personally I rent a small CreeperHost VPS and it does the job admirably. It is also very plausible from a technical standpoint to run the server on your own machine or a machine on your LAN, this would allow anyone on the LAN to play on that server as long as the host machine is running. With some port forwarding or triggering modifications it is possible to then open up that server to the internet. This is not really ideal as it means leaving ports open, updating any IP address changes made by your ISP and ensuring that the host machine is always on. These contributing factors aren’t enough to ruin hosting a server yourself but they are enough to make VPS rental the desirable option.
Multiplayer changes the game, survival multiplayer for example takes that solitary experience I described in the last article and morphs it into a social experience. With more people comes more variety, more resource collection and the potential for big co-operative projects. There is also no upper or lower limit on player numbers which means that it can scale from two people building a house to huge numbers of people building cities. This scalability has given survival an almost MMO feel to it, and with the RPG changes I mentioned before: MMORPG. Unlike most traditional MMOs Minecraft offers a sandbox where the world is created and maintained by the players, as opposed to the theme park model that WoW and the like tend to use. This dynamic multiplayer environment is not a new idea, in fact such experiences have been around for some time: Second Life for example is based around this idea of a multiplayer universe of player created content populated by players, Minecraft however took this in a different direction. The tools for creation are integrated directly into the game and are merged with the survival aspect. Minecraft took this is idea of a multiplayer world created by players and turned it into a game rather than just a social environment. Notch has always stated that one of his inspirations for Minecraft was Dwarf Fortress and in these particular MMO cases this inspiration really shines through, only the Dwarves aren’t AI, they’re people. The really interesting part of this is how it has affected the MMO market, whilst I’m not going to sit and claim that Minecraft has been responsible for dwindling WoW subscribers, I will say that it’s no coincidence that the guild infrastructure that kept people playing MMOs seems to transfer very smoothly into new experiences like Minecraft. There is also evidence that new MMOs are taking to heart the lessons learnt from this, take Everquest Next for example; an MMO where Minecraft like crafting, building and landscaping is built in from the start. People will readily argue with me on this matter, call my cries of Minecraft’s influence as an MMO sensationalist folly but I’m going to stand by this. Minecraft never became as big as it did, as commonly reported on or as widely purchased without something to drive it. I’m fairly certain that the multiplayer aspect is a large part of what has driven this success and that the shifts in MMO design are not coincidental.
Now moving on from the multiplayer aspect we come to another of the really significant parts of the Minecraft ecosystem; modding. Game modding has been around for as long as games have and when supported properly it can extend the lifespan of a game ten fold and give the long term tail of sales a massive boost. Minecraft is no exception to this, and it doesn’t even have a complete modding API yet. The mods for Minecraft are simply astonishing in their variety, complexity, depth and quality. The first mod I ever tried, back in the early days was IndustrialCraft2 (IC2). This continued along the technology tree that existed at the time, which was before many of the magic, experience and potion additions to the base game. IC2 added everything from more efficient iron furnaces to nuclear reactors, and it was revolutionary. It added an entire electrical power sub-system which could then be used to create machines and mining tools, which could then be used to create more advanced machines and tools. Nowadays the modding scene has exploded even more with mods adding extra magic, extra technology, graphical improvements, sound improvements, more animals… almost anything you can think of. There are so many of these mods that they tend to distributed in packs to simplify the process. In short you could have 1000 hours of play time on vanilla Minecraft and still get ten times that just by playing with mods. There is also evidence of the current development team working much closer with mod authors to make Minecraft even more moddable, so there isn’t much sign of the current pace of third party development slowing at all.
In short Minecraft is much more than it initially seems. It is a game that has surprised everyone with how astonishingly big it’s become and the sheer amount of success that it has seen. The game has seen the emergence of a remoulded form of dynamic MMO experience and the creation of communities that create and extend the game even further with mods. I haven’t even mentioned how it was Minecraft which along with WoW that has been one of the key driving forces behind much of the rapidly growing Youtube gaming community. Despite what some may say Minecraft has earned its place in the PC gaming history books and considering the huge success, relatively small active development team and continued mod development it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In short, if you haven’t tried out Minecraft yet then I would say that doing so would be a pretty neat idea.
Minecraft is available on PC, Mac and Linux (JVM is pretty nice like that) for approx £17.00 (approx $27.30). There is also a slimmed down pocket version for Android and iOS for £4.99 (approx $8.02) and £4.35 (approx $6.99) respectively.
Minecraft PE Android
Minecraft PE iOS
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