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Minecraft Biome Hacks
December 17, 2010 3:54 AM   Subscribe

Biome Terrain Mod is a modification for Minecraft that allows tweaking the world generation parameters for the regions in the game. The Minecraft Forums are running a contest to find cool generation settings. Some of the results are quite striking....

Peaks and Valleys - Island Overhangs - Floating Land Masses - Continental Rift - Moon River - Jungle Gym - Sky Gardens Bottomless map! - Victoriox Swamps - Euphoria Wide, elevated landmasses - Eroded Monsoonal Plains - The so-called Land of Epicness - Underworld Lots of surreal land formations winding through the air & making huge chambers - Oceans Blue Mostly water with some high-cliffed islands scattered around - Eagle's Paradise Another bizarre setting similar to Underworld - epic7 Yeah, more huge, weird terrain, you get the idea by now - The Icedome Some ice, some nice waterfalls too - Dunespires large sand-topped hills - The Himalayan Rainforest Nice trees - Nightmare Lands
posted by JHarris (94 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Okay so when did pine trees appear in Minecraft? Is this a product of this mod, or is it something that's been introduced in the last few days and I haven't seen it yet?
posted by Jimbob at 4:12 AM on December 17, 2010


They had a link on Reddit a couple days ago that showed that raw revenue for Minecraft, so far, would appear to be somewhere around 7 million euros. From the keyboard of one guy, working in Java, selling an unfinished product, and hosting on some cheap provider somewhere.

I don't know if it's just a one-off, but I'm inclined to call it a sea change. If nothing else, the sheer sales volume you can reach with minimal investment is startling. That semi-old saw of 'on the Internet, everyone is a publisher' is starting to come true.
posted by Malor at 4:21 AM on December 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


I realized the other night that minecraft may actually be set on Larry Niven's "Ringworld" - you can only dig a relatively short distance, then you reach bedrock material that's effectively impenetrable (scrith). If you do find a spot that isn't protected by bedrock, you may fall into the void.
posted by jenkinsEar at 4:25 AM on December 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Jimbob, it's part of the mod.
posted by JHarris at 4:33 AM on December 17, 2010


Doesn't this belong in metatalk? (I kid! I kid!)
posted by cjorgensen at 4:54 AM on December 17, 2010


I love Minecraft. I finally started playing it a couple of weeks ago, played for like two days straight, and then haven't had time to revisit it since. I'd just gotten the perimeter of my little "castle in a big rock" pretty well protected by fire, the middle nicely hollowed out... And after those two days of playing, I found myself dreaming in bricks. It's kind of like Tetris that way.
posted by limeonaire at 5:04 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I realized the other night that minecraft may actually be set on Larry Niven's "Ringworld"

Oh my god yes. It just needs a shadow squares option for the day / night cycle.
posted by lucidium at 5:12 AM on December 17, 2010


I don't know if I should forward this to my Minecraft-obsessed son or not. On the one hand, cool! OTOH, he'll try to get me to install the mod and we failed miserably doing something like that last time.
posted by DU at 5:17 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, am I the only one who likes just walking around in Minecraft to see the landscape? How can something so chunky and artificial be so beautiful and natural-seeming?
posted by DU at 5:20 AM on December 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Several members of my guild, including me, have reported walking down streets, catching some object or poster that resembles like a Minecraft ore tile out of the corner of our eye, and trying to switch to 'Pickaxe' so we can mine it.
posted by Hogshead at 5:31 AM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


........
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posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:40 AM on December 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


I don't know if it's just a one-off, but I'm inclined to call it a sea change. If nothing else, the sheer sales volume you can reach with minimal investment is startling. That semi-old saw of 'on the Internet, everyone is a publisher' is starting to come true.

I don't know about 'starting' to come true — self-publication and crowdsourced publication has been effective for a long time. But we're starting to see the first instances now of indie people reaching success numbers that mirror and best the mainstream. I'm also thinking of Ryan North's recent book that topped Glenn Beck's sales the day it was published. And we also had the first crowd-funded movie, Blue Like Jazz, this September. That's exciting because it suggests that not only are indie approaches effective, but their effectiveness might be starting to chip away at the existing industries. I like that.

What I would like to say (but am not hopeful for) is that Minecraft marks a significant change in the way people think about designing games. I think Minecraft is a game in a purer sense than most games that come out. Its gameplay doesn't just happen on the surface level, where you accomplish basic missions in an existing world (this is what most games are), and it doesn't happen on the level below that, where the world adjusts according to your actions but ultimately still has a linear narrative. Minecraft has no narrative. Its real gameplay exists in the unique formation of its world, its array of physics, its actual construction.

When a game mimics existing art forms, such as Grand Theft Auto IV which tries to be cinematic, then it limits itself in two ways. First, it prevents you from really creating an effective story, because you're always thinking of ways to intersperse gameplay. You lose tautness. (See also Half Life 2's wretched attempts at narrative, versus its really brilliant moments where the story's told directly through gameplay.) Second, it prevents you from spending time really caring about the world. How the world works. What a player might want to do in the world, and where those actions lead. I feel that real video games ought to encourage actual self-discovery: not philosophies that the game shoves down your throat (go fuck yourself, BioShock) but ones that naturally occur from the mechanics of the game. That was the breakthrough of Jason Rohrer's Passage (and later, Gravitation): It told a story entirely through gameplay mechanics, and the result was that it sort of acts as a tabula rasa; while it certainly has themes and philosophies, they tend to execute inside you, as you play and come to realizations and thoughts you wouldn't otherwise have.

We've had commercial breakthroughs before, like in Portal, where the gameplay relies entirely on innovative physics and the story follows the gameplay, or in Shadow of the Colossus, which gives you a world to explore and forces you to think about what you're doing rather than telling you outright, but Minecraft is different because it is explicitly about the world and what you can do with it. And, because creative physical systems are easier to design than elaborate graphic designs, it's possible for one person to come up with an interesting world as long as they understand the world is what they're focusing on. It also means that once the game is made, it's vastly more replayable, because the story forms naturally based on your actions, and more easily moddable, because the core engine behind the game is so much easier to tweak.

I honestly believe that interactive gaming can be a more potent medium than any we've ever seen. (Really just "interactive anything"; gaming is not the right term.) When you design a game you have the opportunity to easily reach players on a really deep level. We've had a decade of game designers trying to limit and mold their games around pre-existing limitations that we borrowed from movies; it's nice seeing some developers start to make games which are less easily classified, that create worlds rather than one-off stories. It will still be a long time before we reach any sort of Golden Age, but at least we're moving in the right direction.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:49 AM on December 17, 2010 [12 favorites]


I dunno, minecraft is part of a long tradition of simulation games going straight back through the sims and civilization to sim city. Simple systems, complex results. And generally the kinds of games that can be made with a small team, since much of the content is auto-generated.
posted by empath at 6:00 AM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know about 'starting' to come true — self-publication and crowdsourced publication has been effective for a long time.

Totally. Witness good ole D&D - when it first came out in 1974 (at a price of ten bucks, which is almost 50 or so today) it was incomplete and spread almost entirely by word of mouth (gamers introducing it to other gamers, Gygax talking about it in letters columns in zines, etc). The original white box was totally an open beta (alpha, even, depending on your views of Blackmoor) that saw outside developments added to the future product (the thief class, for example). Like Minecraft, D&D had a small, evangelical community that brought the game to the attention of the wider world. The growing community then took the bones of the system and impressed their own visions upon it, thus creating mods and house rules, which further spurred development.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:02 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd like to contrast your second paragraph on "gameplay [that] doesn't just happen on the surface level, where you accomplish basic missions" to your first paragraph on Minecraft reaching "success numbers that mirror...the mainstream".

It'd be really great if people could start to see the real world (or even the business world) the way you describe Minecraft. You don't have to rack up high score-like "success numbers" by being "effective" or "topping sales". You can just "exist in the unique formation of" the world.

In other words, indie game developers aren't successful when they "chip away at existing industries" (although that *is* great). They are successful when they are having a great time doing what they are doing.
posted by DU at 6:03 AM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


DU, I agree completely. Which is why I like that indie developers all seem to rebel against the idea of games that are just about points and leveling. People who play life or business to "win" I think are more frequently unpleasant or unhappy than people who are just in it to have fun.

Which isn't to say that toppling industries isn't a fun idea. I'm sure lots of the people helping indie developers along are doing it because they think that a world without some of the crap we get from big mainstream entities (be it Apple or Nintendo or the RIAA or the MPAA) would allow for a lot more creative interaction than we've got today.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:17 AM on December 17, 2010


I've avoided buying Minecraft for months because I knew it would destroy my life.

Hearing that it was leaving alpha soon (and with it the lower price and lifetime of free updates), I finally caved. Turned out I was right. Within the first 24 hours of playing it, I was already dreaming in blocks. My Minecraft dreams, hell, my Minecraft play gets very stressful what with the mobs and ambient noise. I had to go peaceful for a while, just to calm down.

I'm in the process of trying to addict my friends as well so we can start a server.
posted by X-Himy at 6:30 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I finally caved.

ISWYDT
posted by DU at 6:32 AM on December 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's interesting comparing this thread to the one currently on MeFight Club where most everyone is ready to demand Notch's head on a silver platter.
posted by charred husk at 6:56 AM on December 17, 2010


It's interesting comparing this thread to the one currently on MeFight Club where most everyone is ready to demand Notch's head on a silver platter.
posted by charred husk


Why's that? What's their beef?
posted by COBRA! at 7:01 AM on December 17, 2010


I started playing after the LARP thread. Now when I see darkness in real life I think, "got to put a torch there."
posted by drezdn at 7:05 AM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


COBRA!: "Why's that? What's their beef"

It is more the result of coming to love something too much. Notch is not exactly the most disciplined of programmers, especially when it comes to network coding. People on the server, myself included, have watched as seemingly untested patches arrive and break more than they fix. We still love the game, Notch just makes it a little hard sometimes.
posted by charred husk at 7:06 AM on December 17, 2010


Fair enough.
posted by COBRA! at 7:08 AM on December 17, 2010


Minecraft suddenly got even more interesting.
posted by Solomon at 7:08 AM on December 17, 2010


Well, I guess the underlying message in what I was trying to say didn't come through well...."starting to come true with minimal investment." Even Gygax, way back when, had to pay a bunch of money to make books to sell. He had a hard cost per unit sold. Obviously, he was still very successful, and his development approach mirrored some of the things we see online today, but at its most fundamental, he was still writing and selling books, and he had to pay for dead trees to get those books out there.

With digital goods like Minecraft, even absolutely tiny players can quickly scale to enormous volume. All Notch would have needed was a decent PC, say $1500 or so, reasonable home bandwidth, let's call it $75/mo, and a decent webhost... say $25/mo to start, going up as his sales increased and he implemented his online account system. And that's pretty much it in terms of hard outlays... he'd also have the soft outlays of his time, food, and housing, but he'd have those anyway.

As his sales volume exploded, he certainly had to put more money into his webhosting, but lo and behold, he was suddenly swimming in the stuff. He could bring in large sums of money with a pittance, and then scale up to vast volume with a very tiny fraction of his total proceeds.

I think what I'm trying to observe is that this is individual power on a level we've never seen before. The ability to publish to millions and millions of people isn't that much more expensive than publishing to tens.

Rory's comments about other impacts this will have to gaming were very well thought out, but it's a direction I wasn't personally going. I was more being impressed (hell, flabbergasted) at just how much power to communicate is now available, and how quickly and cheaply it can be summoned on demand. A dude/dudette with strong technical knowledge, a keyboard, and an idea can leverage that idea into a global product without ever leaving his or her house.
posted by Malor at 7:11 AM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


What Minecraft does really well (as much as I hate to admit it) is skillfully balance obfuscation and DRM. If Minecraft didn't involve phoning home every time you played, a *lot* of people would have pirated it and forgot it. And if the game directory itself wasn't a confusing mess of hundreds of folders, people would have easily copycatted it.

Also, when I first heard of it there was an emphasis on Survival Mode being the 'main event'. You can play the game free online to try out, but you don't get access to the actual game. And, I know, building shit in Minecraft is fun as hell, but early Survival Mode "desperately searching for coal and hiding in small holes at night" is probably why I spread the game to my friends.

Further, and I'm not sure who exactly the tipping point was (possibly a Rock Paper Shotgun post?) the entirety of the gaming press picked it up and ran with it. That kind of press can't hurt.

And the constant sale. 13 bucks is just slightly out of my impulse buy price range, but 26 bucks wouldn't warrant a consideration. The threat of missing that entry price was a good motivator.

And also the constant updates, which, by the time Minecraft hit it big, got heavily disrupted by the huge traffic bump. Still, "almost every Friday he adds new awesome stuff to this game!" is a pretty great talking point and a great way to keep people interested in it.

A combination of all of that is why Minecraft was successful. And, y'know, the game is actually fun. It manages to do LEGOs better than any other game thus far.
posted by graventy at 7:25 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm still playing Minecraft obsessively and have been since August or September. That's by far the longest I've ever been involved in a game, even during the great Tomb Raider Addiction of the late 90s when my children started threatening interventions. One of the things that gets me about Minecraft is just how beautiful it is, even though my non Minecraft friends don't seem to see it. Huh, blocks, they say. Legos. But to me there's nothing better than wandering around through the world, one eye on the clock so you can dig in before the monsters come out, turning a corner and WHOA there's a waterfall coming straight down from a floating island overhead and a huge lava fall right there and a strange, strange checkered desert mountain with the orange and pink setting sun silhouetted behind it. I just never get tired of it. I wish I could figure out how to change the biomes - I covet rivers that I don't have to build myself - but honestly, the way the game runs on default is so gorgeous and so strange.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:59 AM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Island Overhangs - Floating Land Masses...- Eagle's Paradise - epic7

Does Brian Dean know about this yet? Yes cover-art mods for Minecraft.

Does this mean that prog rock is the natural Minecraft soundtrack? C418's stuff seems more like Mussorgsky than Anderson/Howes/Squire.
posted by bonehead at 8:35 AM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Deadmau5 is now starting his live shows with a song inspired my Minecraft:

Get In the Cart, Pig. (note the minecraft graphics at 1:40ish.)

He's a bit obsessed with the game.

Get in the Cart, Pig -- without the distortion.

He also remixed c418. I believe the deadmau5 songs will be included as records in the Beta.
posted by empath at 8:51 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


X-Himy: I've avoided buying Minecraft for months because I knew it would destroy my life.

Same here. I never got into WoW (or Dwarf Fortress) for the same reason.

Still, the more I hear about Minecraft, the more tempting it becomes...
posted by joedan at 9:04 AM on December 17, 2010


It's definitely the 'naturalism' in Minecraft that appeals to me. My favorite thing to do in the game isn't building, but loading up on torches and finding and exploring natural cave systems. I never dig for them.
posted by word_virus at 9:04 AM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know if it's just a one-off, but I'm inclined to call it a sea change. If nothing else, the sheer sales volume you can reach with minimal investment is startling. That semi-old saw of 'on the Internet, everyone is a publisher' is starting to come true.

I was on this boat for a while, at least until Notch started absolutely bungling Minecraft in every way.

Do you know what he's working on now? It's not working netcode, it's not even another major update to effect single player gameplay, it's bunnies and capes. Something that no one wants outside of Notch's imagination. Do you know what the second programmer he's hired is working on? It's another game -- nothing related to improving Minecraft.

He's going into Beta with an unfinished product and is going to be charging money for updates. Ridiculous. I had no problem with him charging to be part of the alpha, but he should have his shit together for a beta release.

There's a reason that a couple hundred amateur programmers have modded in stuff that makes sense (this terrain mod is one, but see also other creatures, new tools, etc.), while Notch twiddles his thumbs and pets his cat. Notch isn't a good programmer. People who have looked at the unobfuscated code seem to agree -- he's painted himself into a corner, and made a lot of choices that don't make sense, and it would take a massive overhaul of the game to fix it. And he's not doing that. He's making capes and bunnies instead.

Just recently he announced plans to release a dev kit for modding, after being totally against modding before, but I have 0 confidence in his ability to do this, and regardless, it's redundant at this point as modders have shown working with nothing other than obfuscated .jar files.

So I think that indie devs can make pretty cool stuff, but I also think it takes a real dev house to follow through on that initial "wow, how cool!" and turn it into a real product. Otherwise indie games will forever be nothing more than novelties and casual games.

Anyway, the terrain mod is pretty cool. It's something that should have been officially in the game from the start, but whatever. Good post.
posted by codacorolla at 9:12 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gah don't remind me, I've got an empty art museum, a half-finished Church and a planned luxury goods store-dept store to tend to.

I find it hard to go back to single player after all the fun of Multi.
posted by The Whelk at 9:13 AM on December 17, 2010


It's not working netcode, it's not even another major update to effect single player gameplay, it's bunnies and capes.

This is not true. He's working on fixing server-side inventory right now.

It probably took him 20 minutes to add capes to the game. I doubt he spent very much time on it at all.
posted by empath at 9:18 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is not true. He's working on fixing server-side inventory right now.

I'm going to side with probability on this one and say he breaks more than he fixes, like most other patches within the past few months.
posted by codacorolla at 9:21 AM on December 17, 2010


I find it hard to go back to single player after all the fun of Multi.
posted by The Whelk


I'm exactly the opposite. I can spend hours and hours in single, but multi just freaks me right out with n00b-shame.
posted by COBRA! at 9:24 AM on December 17, 2010


I'm going to side with probability on this one and say he breaks more than he fixes, like most other patches within the past few months.

So I guess you'll quit playing and start playing some other, better $15 game, then.
posted by empath at 9:33 AM on December 17, 2010


multi just freaks me right out with n00b-shame

COBRA!, I feel you. When I joined the Aporkalypse, it was literally the first time I had ever played an online multiplayer video game. You can't get n00bier than that, but they've been nothing but welcoming and helpful. It helps that you can claim your own area in the hinterlands and hang out there pretty much undisturbed if you want, while you get the hang of things.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:49 AM on December 17, 2010


I'm exactly the opposite. I can spend hours and hours in single, but multi just freaks me right out with n00b-shame. Yeah, ditto. I look at the Aporkalypse and it's like, whoa, this is hopeless, I thought I was pretty cool but I should probably slink back to my completely lame ass bungalow by the lava fall now.

I've got an empty art museum That's the one thing I did want to build on the Aporkalypse. Out of brick. Gothic. Full of paintings. I even thought that maybe you could line the inside walls with wool blocks to get a nice white background for the paintings. I do love the paintings so.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:49 AM on December 17, 2010


Since paintings are very borked , my Art Museum is a little more ...conceptual. Historical objects (totems, statues) on the ground floor, Contemporary Mosaics on second, the conceptual "water room" on 3rd, and rooftop sculpture garden.

The big city on the server has a Natural History Museum, but if you can't get there the Circle Park in the small town has an example of every type of block.
posted by The Whelk at 9:53 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


even thought that maybe you could line the inside walls with wool blocks to get a nice white background for the paintings.

For the First Reformed Church Of Porkton, the structure is all wool blocks to look like nice white marble/stucco. I'm still trying to get enough iron and gold for the dome to get a kind of moorish look.

Now that we have Apples in Aporkalypse I've wanted to stake out a claim in New Hampsterdam and build a big ...Apple Store.
posted by The Whelk at 9:55 AM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can spend hours and hours in single, but multi just freaks me right out with n00b-shame.

Yeah, this. I still won't auth myself on the aporkalypse b/c I'm afraid that I will accidentally the whole something.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:12 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thinking about the Things I've built in the Mefight club world maybe helps explain why it's so damn addicting.

The Embassy - Built in an empty Apartment in the Estates (A high-density apartment block in Porktown, the community-built small town). I was just getting a hand on how to build and craft, so I just threw in some decorate waterfalls and a throne. It's nice, but I don't love it.

The Twisted Tail - my very own /home, off Cloven Court, the Twisted Tail is wooden bar with a smoking deck and underground nightclub complete with VIP rooms and secret backdoors and chests full of pork behind the bar and a sleazy alleyway along it. Zombies drink free on Toolsday. Again, I really really enjoy the town metaphor. It's like a touch of micromanaging Sim City. The fact that a Food Bank has opened up next door to me is helps the the "slightly louche part of town " feel.

Couchon D'Or: Since I love the town metaphor we've imposed, I figure something should be done with the pretty but useless gold items. Enter the Golden Pig, a high-end luxury shop in the posh Short Street district (By contrast, South Sausage St, near the bar, was crawling with monsters at night until pretty recently. ) all done up in gold and smooth stone and obsidian, with chests full of the pretty yet useless items - just like a real store.

Some of the city improvements are also fun, I've built a few statues and the Little Park (which again, near the bar, and again, turned into a dangerous place after dark) but I'm really ...proud? I want to say, by things like the Couchon D'Or. Stupid ideas actually done within a completely abstract metaphor.
posted by The Whelk at 10:14 AM on December 17, 2010


Yeah, I started working on a Museum of Science and Industry by Porkton, where i was going to demonstrate all the various redstone circuit designs, but the scale of the thing is too big, so i don't think i'll finish.
posted by empath at 10:16 AM on December 17, 2010


(unless someone wants to build a big honking museum with about 40 individual rooms in it for me.)
posted by empath at 10:17 AM on December 17, 2010


I still won't auth myself on the aporkalypse b/c I'm afraid that I will accidentally the whole something.

The last time i was on Aporkalypse, i tried to give my friend a tour of the place, and was beset on all sides by creepers on the way to the Riders of the Aporkalypse monument. I didn't have anything on me, so i patched up the road as best I could with stone, but i felt bad.
posted by empath at 10:19 AM on December 17, 2010


Since paintings are very borked , my Art Museum is a little more ...conceptual.

This is one of the big things that is holding back proper completion of the Spencer Mansion. You need a lot of paintings to make it a real Resident Evil setup.

Of course, creepers are going to blow the place to bits once I wander back in there. Most of the walls are made of sand.
posted by cortex at 10:31 AM on December 17, 2010


He's going into Beta with an unfinished product and is going to be charging money for updates.

Only if you're buying after December 20th. Everyone who bought Alpha gets free updates forever:

Please note that this change only affects people who buy the game after December 20, so if you got the game for during alpha, you will still get all future updates for free, despite this change. A promise is a promise.

In other words, if you're going to buy Minecraft, buy it now.
posted by Avenger50 at 10:36 AM on December 17, 2010


Most of the walls are made of sand.

An engineering decision which has plagued 4-year-old castle architects for centuries.
posted by empath at 10:38 AM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think purchasing beta will probably get you updated at least through the official release. It's only after the release that you'll have to pay for 'expansions', i bet. The business people are thinking of a franchise like The Sims, probably, where you pay for extra furniture and shit.
posted by empath at 10:40 AM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


It will still be a long time before we reach any sort of Golden Age, but at least we're moving in the right direction.

Golden Ages are really only decided in retrospect. Considering we also have the similarly awesome Dwarf Fortress now, one could determine that we're in a golden age now.

I don't know about 'starting' to come true — self-publication and crowdsourced publication has been effective for a long time.

This is not actually true. Everyone is letting their perspectives get warped by the breakout hits here: the D&Ds, the SimCitys, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtleses, the Mysts, and now Minecraft. For every one of these we see, there are hundreds that die unknown and unloved except by a few. That is not an effective ratio. Even if you're a genius, the odds are against you; most of these things had a fairly large circumstantial niche carved out for them.

When each of these examples hits it big, notice, the rest of the industry (not just gaming, anything involving artistic expression in some way) fell over itself to wring whatever value it could out of the concept. Many of these examples ape only the most superficial aspects of the original, sometimes taking their biggest flaws as features. Some of those copies turn out to hit upon the key elements of the original; some of them turn out to usefully improve upon them. About the worst thing that can happen, artistically-speaking, is that one of them turns out to be mainstream popular, because what follows is almost sure to be a long period of creative stagnation.

The only reason it isn't happening over Minecraft yet is because Minecraft is still a fairly recent occurrence, and mainstream game development is so calcified right now that they don't really know how to copy it.

NOTICE: The preceding is something I've been thinking about for a while. It might turn out to be crap if you think about it hard enough. If you find this is the case let us know!
posted by JHarris at 10:54 AM on December 17, 2010


Minecraft itself is basically a mashup of 2 other games -- Dwarf Fortress and Infiniminer.
posted by empath at 11:00 AM on December 17, 2010


I'm a little worried about minecraft too. It was certainly worth the 12 bucks or whatever I paid but Notch really needs some help. I think all those speed coding competitions have rotted his brain.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:19 AM on December 17, 2010


I want the Minecraft Union shirt SO BADLY. How tragic that I never even knew it existed until I discovered that I couldn't have it.
posted by redsparkler at 11:53 AM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


So I think that indie devs can make pretty cool stuff, but I also think it takes a real dev house to follow through on that initial "wow, how cool!" and turn it into a real product. Otherwise indie games will forever be nothing more than novelties and casual games.

If you look at the current huge film-like teams in the gaming industry that might seem to be true, but until relatively recently a lot of the best and most successful games have been developed by very small teams of talented people. Tetris for example is still, after many imitators, generally considered to be the best puzzle game of all time, and it was designed and created by one person. Yes, it's unlikely that a single programmer is going to make a cinematic 3D FPS game that rivals the ones that are out today, but that doesn't mean that they can't make new games that are as fun to play as any other. On my XBox 360 I've spent as much time playing Castle Crashers as I have spent playing a lot of big budget industry titles, and it's a more effective and fun beat-em-up than any of the more recent 3D industry ones I have played.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:06 PM on December 17, 2010


empath: "I think purchasing beta will probably get you updated at least through the official release. It's only after the release that you'll have to pay for 'expansions', i bet. The business people are thinking of a franchise like The Sims, probably, where you pay for extra furniture and shit"

He's explicitly said this on twitter, yes.
posted by flatluigi at 12:09 PM on December 17, 2010


Hmm. Honestly, if Minecraft turns into the kind of game where you have to pay real money to have access to copper or zinc or something like that, it would immediately drain all the fun right out of the game.
posted by JHarris at 12:11 PM on December 17, 2010


Think more like:

Buy the new Ponies and Unicorns pack! -- Ridable mounts! Craftable Saddles! Ropes and Lassos!
posted by empath at 12:29 PM on December 17, 2010


Oh yes, I've already tried a few settings, and have created some shocking terrains. I almost feel bad since I spent so long cruising around "normal" game worlds looking for interesting terrain, then i change two or three integers and the entire world is amazing.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:01 PM on December 17, 2010


Honestly, if Minecraft turns into the kind of game where you have to pay real money to have access to copper or zinc or something like that, it would immediately drain all the fun right out of the game.

Having listened to Notch in interviews, I'm 99.8% certain he would refuse to do anything like that. All he's doing is declining to make the sort of blank-check promise of infinite free upgrades to people once the pre-order alpha period is over. He's said repeatedly that when he's done working on Minecraft he's going to make the source code open or maybe even public domain.

Also, am I the only one who likes just walking around in Minecraft to see the landscape? How can something so chunky and artificial be so beautiful and natural-seeming?

Nope. I've been surprised at how compelling it can be just to explore caves on peaceful mode with no real danger other than falling too far or into lava. Even without this mod, the vanilla terrain-generating code creates landscapes and--especially--caverns that are more fun to explore than most hand-made environments in most games.

I realized the other night that minecraft may actually be set on Larry Niven's "Ringworld"

Unfortunately, the World of Minecraft is about 375,000 times smaller than the Ringworld. The entire thing would be a but a tiny set of islands floating in one of the Ringworld's oceans, only about eight times bigger than the Maps of Earth or Kzin. (Now if you took the worlds of every Minecraft player and stitched them all together...)

Notch isn't a good programmer.

I have no idea if this is true or false, but Notch is a fantastic designer. Which is about a million times more important in my book.

* The random terrain generator? Astounding. Show me a game that does it better.
* Creepers? Easily the best, most iconic video game enemy of the year.
* The build by day/hide by night mechanics (or alternately the light = safety, dark = danger mechanic)? Brilliant.
* The balance created by the basic cube size? Perfect. Smaller cubes would make digging and building too tedious. Larger cubes would make the graphics too blocky to be interesting to look at or build with.
* Tons of clever, fun, unique, charming details like the way crafting works, the fun stuff you can do with water, the creepy sounds made by zombies, skeletons mounted on spiders, the cinematic (but unscripted) way that a skeleton's arrow will go thwiiiiipTHUNK! into the wall next to your head when you peek into a dark place.
* The way that the terrain, monsters, digging and building, tools, weapons, water and lava together interact in a robust way so that thousands of people are experiencing unique, emergent adventures as compelling as the ones Tom Chick is writing up for PC Gamer -- amazing.
posted by straight at 1:45 PM on December 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


Which is why Notch should be designing the game while he gets someone (maybe a few people) competent to program it, and someone business minded to direct it. Congratulations Notch, you've done what every 12 year old kid has wanted to do since video games have existed, and positioned yourself as "the idea guy". Instead of having your staff work on another game when this one isn't finished, maybe you should follow through to the end.

Whatever. I'm done with it unless SMP gets seriously implemented beyond the joke that it is now.
posted by codacorolla at 3:18 PM on December 17, 2010


* The random terrain generator? Astounding. Show me a game that does it better.

Also: if you direct your gaze upward, then you'll see that some no-name programmer has done it better. Without direct access to the source code. Pretty much every mod of note is better than Notch's initial effort. He had a good idea to start, but seems too proud to hand the project over to people who could do it better. He's like prequel George Lucas.
posted by codacorolla at 3:20 PM on December 17, 2010


Also: if you direct your gaze upward, then you'll see that some no-name programmer has done it better. Without direct access to the source code. Pretty much every mod of note is better than Notch's initial effort.

There are some great mods out there. Notch needs to swallow some pride, throw a neat grand or two at the guy who developed this, and incorporate it into the game. Same with the ambient occlusion mod, and a pile of others.
posted by Jimbob at 3:30 PM on December 17, 2010


Guys, they've been gearing up for a beta release. Give them some time!
posted by JHarris at 4:46 PM on December 17, 2010


Also: if you direct your gaze upward, then you'll see that some no-name programmer has done it better.

Seriously? You think some hacker tweaking a few variables in Notch's existing terrain generator is remotely the same sort of accomplishment as developing the thing in the first place? What a bizarre thing to say.

As if Notch couldn't just tweak those same variables himself if he wanted Minecraft to look like any of these extreme versions. There are definitely some cool looking results here, but I don't see any that I would choose to actually replace the default Minecraft terrain. Most of them look like they'd be neat to look around in but not as much fun to actually play the game in.
posted by straight at 6:16 PM on December 17, 2010


I actually haven't even logged into Minecraft for like a month now. It's so weird, because I was insanely addicted to this game. But then the Halloween update turned out to be such a colossal letdown, I just...gave up, pretty much. Tried to join in on the Aporkalypse, but that miserable block repop bug (and the lack of monsters, which I understand is fixed now) made it zero fun for me, so...Eh. I know everybody wants bugfixes, but I hope he rolls out a new feature or featurelet every once in a while too. A new mob, a new drop, a new recipe, something. Didn't he used to do "Super Seekrit Friday" updates or something like that?
posted by Gator at 6:48 PM on December 17, 2010


Hey those things on Apokalypse are fixed now.

Also we have apples.
posted by The Whelk at 6:58 PM on December 17, 2010


Road apples?
posted by Gator at 7:01 PM on December 17, 2010


some GOLDEN.
posted by The Whelk at 7:01 PM on December 17, 2010


Yeah I'm with gator, although I have't actually given up yet. The concept of it going into beta worries me. Beta means it's considered almost finished. But it's not almost finished! There's still so much cool stuff that could be included! We can't even craft anything out of eggs yet!
posted by Jimbob at 7:21 PM on December 17, 2010


Jimbob, Notch says on the development blog that beta will bring an increased focus on content. Presumably that means more items and crafting combinations.

I have no doubt that even upon "release," they'll continue to work on the game. The terms "alpha," "beta," and "release" seem to be fairly meaningless here, except maybe psychologically.
posted by JHarris at 9:07 PM on December 17, 2010


The terms "alpha," "beta," and "release" seem to be fairly meaningless here, except maybe psychologically.

And economically.
posted by mahershalal at 3:28 AM on December 18, 2010


It's a learning experience seeing what different people's expectations are for done-ness of the game.

I'm a long-time user of academic software. It's a very much take-as-you-find-it, warts and all sort of experience. One of the most innovative statistics packages in the world, R, was less than 1.0, less than feature-complete, for more than a decade. In that decade it was used for countless research papers. Useful, cutting-edge, but not "complete".

Similarly, I've been a fan of interactive fiction, text adventure games for quite some time. Because they are an amateur activity, the tools for writing the games and the games themselves are released frequently, in various stages of completion and user-friendliness, sometimes to small groups of testers, sometimes more widely to see what the audience thinks of the author's ideas.

It's in this tradition that I see Minecraft. It's had a release trajectory similar to Dwarf Fortress or Nethack or Inform/Curses (Graham Nelson's if game engine and signature game) or Fall from Heaven or a hundred other hobbyist games.

By being so successful with the donation/alpha sales model, there's a hope that Notch has found a way to transition from this amateur, hobbyist world to one which would support full-time indie games, outside of the "hollywood-system" of the current games industry.

And it turns out that this lack of expectation of what a releasable game is may be one of the biggest hindrances to that. Releasing alpha code, feature incomplete, is a way of building interest for the game. As Minceraft has proven, get people interested enough, get a few good reviews on the high-profile tastemaker sites and you can have an avalanche of sales. One of the problems for the developer, as well as the usual business problems of rapidly growing a tiny shop to a medium-sized one, is that fact that this new audience doesn't have that same expectation for how done a game should be.

The average 'casual gamer' who frequents places like Jays is Games or Rock Paper Shotgun is probably more used to a commercial-level of quality. Even "indie" casual game companies like Popcap (Bejeweled, Plants vs Zombies) are huge game factories. These shops are much better financed (they have finances) and resourced (they have resources) than the amateur authors. The 'casual' gamers therefore, have expectations for done-ness similar to those of the 'hardcore' commercial game market.

When the 'casual' and 'hardcore' gamer market segments collide with a true amateur game, like Minecraft, there's a real disconnect of expectations. The mismatch is obvious on the Minecraft forums, here on just about every recent thread about the game. Lots of complaints aout being ripped-off or slow release schedules. Prerelease and early release is critical in the amateur segment to build interest and for quality control. It seems to create a lot of problems for commercialization of an amateur game and hence the viability of a true indie author segment in the gaming market.

To be clear, I don't think any of the sides are necessarily wrong or right, but it's something that needs to be figured out if an independent author semi-pro model for games is going to work.
posted by bonehead at 8:15 AM on December 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


As Minceraft has proven

Apropos of nothing (and because my allergy meds have just kicked in and I am like, so baked right now you guys), I find this typo kind of adorable. Made me think of Rincewind from the Discworld. Sorry, carry on.

posted by Gator at 8:28 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you want to see the master at work, here he is working... on his new game that isn't functioning minecraft netcode
posted by codacorolla at 6:15 PM on December 18, 2010


Where "new game" is actually "a small project for the 48-hour Ludum Dare competition," of course.
posted by flatluigi at 7:30 PM on December 18, 2010


The thing is that it's always something with him. If you have a multi-million dollar project, then maybe taking time out to play around isn't such a good idea? Just another example of how Notch needs an adult behind him.
posted by codacorolla at 7:35 PM on December 18, 2010


Or maybe the lesson is that what he does with his own time is his business, and he owes you nothing, including any updates to the game. You bought the game as it existed when you purchased it, and he made no promise that he would ever finish the game, let alone finish it on your schedule.
posted by empath at 7:43 PM on December 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Please note that when you buy the game, you're paying for the game as it is right now!

That's right there in bold face when you buy the game.
posted by empath at 7:45 PM on December 18, 2010


Yeah, no shit dude. I'm just sad to see a game with a lot of potential be fucked up by a neckbeard who basically got lucky.
posted by codacorolla at 7:46 PM on December 18, 2010


When such game was made by that neckbeard? Give Notch some credit man.

And what's with the hate for neckbeards?
posted by JHarris at 7:55 PM on December 18, 2010


If you want to see the master at work, here he is working... on his new game that isn't functioning minecraft netcode...The thing is that it's always something with him. If you have a multi-million dollar project, then maybe taking time out to play around isn't such a good idea? Just another example of how Notch needs an adult behind him.

"When I gave Notch $13.17, I thought I was buying his full-time labor 24 hours/day, 7 days/week for the next 75 years! I've been robbed!"

Seriously, codacorolla, you need that YouTube plugin that reads your comments aloud to you before you post them.

I mean, you do realize that if you pre-order a game from one of those professional game studios that you seem to wish was working on Minecraft, you get nothing--zero, no updates, no working code--nothing for months or years until the game is finished and in the stores?
posted by straight at 9:52 PM on December 18, 2010


Yeah, I really don't care that he's not propping his eyelids open Clockwork Orange-style to get the game "done." As I said, I'd like to see some actual content updates, but it's just not that big a deal. If this were one of those games where you have to pay a monthly fee, I'd feel differently, but a onetime shellout of thirteen bucks for a game that might never have had any updates at all? Meh.
posted by Gator at 5:36 AM on December 19, 2010


I mean, you do realize that if you pre-order a game from one of those professional game studios that you seem to wish was working on Minecraft, you get nothing--zero, no updates, no working code--nothing for months or years until the game is finished and in the stores?

I don't particularly care about this outside of being disappointed that Notch hasn't handed development over to someone competent. I got my 14 dollars worth of entertainment out of the game, and realize that I get whatever ham fisted attempts he produces for free in the future. I just think that it's a shame that the game has so much potential which will likely never be realized. I also think he's fucking over anyone who buys the game after it reaches (heavy scare quotes) "beta", but I also don't really care about that either. One of the things that does annoy me is that you can't seem to criticize Notch for his obvious flaws as a developer because he made a game that people love, and they seem to have Stockholm syndrome. Look at absolutely any thread on the internet about Minecraft and you'll see anyone who says "maybe this guy isn't the second incarnation of programmer Jesus" shouted down.
posted by codacorolla at 8:07 AM on December 19, 2010


You certainly act like you care a hell of a lot, man.
posted by flatluigi at 12:10 PM on December 19, 2010


Wow codacorolla you are seriously Beesing* out. It's almost as bad as me complaining about D&D 4th edition. Might I suggest a tall, frosty cup of perspective?

One of the things that does annoy me is that you can't seem to criticize Notch for his obvious flaws as a developer because he made a game that people love, and they seem to have Stockholm syndrome. Look at absolutely any thread on the internet about Minecraft and you'll see anyone who says "maybe this guy isn't the second incarnation of programmer Jesus" shouted down.

Making a game that people love outweighs a lot. That is the point. Programming skill is largely irrelevant except as a means to that end. Richard Garriott's first game was written in BASIC, but it didn't stop him from founding a long-lived RPG series. It seems to me that you're worried about a bunch of things that hasn't happened yet. When he stumbles on his face (and considering all the hype surrounding Minecraft right now that's probably inevitable) feel free to trash the guy, but until then, I think your energy is misspent here.

* You can either interpret this as referring to Joe Beese in an Obama thread or as in behaving like a swarm of angry bees. Either works.
posted by JHarris at 3:44 PM on December 19, 2010


Yeah, I guess I am over reacting. Time will tell whether Notch actually comes through or not. I can't wait to cackle malevolently and say "I told you so."
posted by codacorolla at 4:58 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


codacorolla, no one is shouting you down. Usually when I see Minecraft critics get a bunch of people disagreeing with them, it's not because of some reasonable criticism, but for inflammatory stuff like your, "Notch started absolutely bungling Minecraft in every way."

You even pulled out the most ridiculous and insulting gaming argument in existence, "You guys aren't really enjoying this game, you have Stockholm syndrome."
posted by straight at 12:58 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


You even pulled out the most ridiculous and insulting gaming argument in existence, "You guys aren't really enjoying this game, you have Stockholm syndrome."

Yeah, I spent 7 hours over the weekend caving with friends and designing a rail station, while not playing the other 3-4 games i've bought from steam recently because notch is holding me hostage.
posted by empath at 5:34 AM on December 20, 2010


Yeah, that was an overstatement. Although the fact that people can't seem to admit the Mojang's shortcomings is frustrating I suppose it isn't the same as being forcibly being held hostage and coming to love your captor. I suppose that was an exaggeration for effect. I apologize to anyone who's actually been held captive IRL.

If you don't see Minecraft supporters jumping on criticism immediately... uh, I think that might be a limit of your perspective.

Sorry for hijacking the thread. Maybe we can have another friendly discussion when Notch actually fixes his game and there's a thread about that.
posted by codacorolla at 10:08 AM on December 20, 2010


Do you mean 'finishes' the game? Because I think the distinction between 'fixes' and 'finishes' is an important one and goes a long way toward explaining people's different points of view on this.
posted by empath at 10:18 AM on December 20, 2010


Btw, "Beta" is out. And minecraft.net crashed, and supposedly the update breaks inventory in single player, so yay.
posted by empath at 10:29 AM on December 20, 2010


Just found this: someone created Conway's Life in Minecraft.
posted by JHarris at 6:27 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


And pong is coming along nicely.
posted by empath at 6:29 PM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


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