I forgot how much I love the sandbox. It even took me a while to adjust my playstyle expectations – big, random generated world that I can do whatever I want with.

Sadly, I have lost the ability to post pics to my own blog (help, Joe!) – so I can’t share the sheer awesomeness of the completely crappy graphics. Although I prefer to call it ‘stylized realism’. The graphics are part of the charm, anyway.

I learned about Minecraft through Random Mileages blog who heard about it through Rock Paper Shotgun. I felt compelled to check it out. The game is in Alpha (and runs incredibly stable at this stage) and the game is, as advertised. Big sandbox. Do, or don’t do, whatever you want. There are some incredible gameplay moments to be had, and a little discussion about the incredible success of this little title, after the break.

The game in it’s most basic sense is a blocky world, with blocky creatures, and blocky inputs to be found, modified, and turned into other blocky items. There are no in game tooltips, or recipes, and when you find something you have to figure out what you can do with it. There are two crafting grids, a 2×2 and a 3×3 (the latter coming from a crafting table, which you have to figure out how to craft on your own from the 3×3 on hand grid).  You can literally spend hours trying to figure out what you can make by inserting different designs of different materials into the grids.

First play through I just tried to figure out what I was doing. Night time is dangerous (unless you turn the difficulty to Peaceful) as roaming blocks disguised as monsters come out at night to kill you. Best that you have shelter prepared by dusk. Lesson 1 learned.

Second play through I decide I am going to find the biggest mountain and dig deep for valuable minerals. I became lost underground. You think it would be easy to follow your own carved out path into the depths, but there are giant caverns to be found. Your light source (torches – figure out how to make those early if you plan on spelunking) are also a great path marker – until you realize that lava gives off a light source too. I had become lost and tried to dig myself out of it, only to become more lost. Lesson 2 learned.

Third playthrough I had a focus – I wanted to hollow out a mountain and create a ‘great hall’. Blocky dwarves would be proud. I found a mountain, and now had an internal list of very useful items I knew how to make (Crafting table, buckets, pick axe (wood/stone/steel/gold), hatchet, shovel, ladders, mine carts, mine tracks, torches, glass blocks, granite (?) blocks, yay.) I found a nice mountain that was beside the ocean and made a house, complete with windows and a door (doors keep monsters out) and began to descend, clearing out these giant rooms. I even laid track and was able to ride in a cart. Spent hours! At one point I figured out how water works (it starts as a source in a bucket, so you can lay one block of water and it will cover 5 or so blocks) and built a water system for the boats I figured out how to make. I had a sprawling expanse of underground connected caverns accessible by boat or track. More lessons learned.

Taking everything I have learned thus far I started a 4th world (you can have 5) and focused on top of land. You can build homes, bridges, all sorts of things. I made a two level house under the water, with a glass ceiling and glass floor. Like a mini atlantis. I then built a stone pyramid above it,and am making a water ride (corners don’t work so well for boats – they break easy if you crash). Called a Zoombafloom.

My 5 year old loves the game. We started a world together, and was all about building a house. He also wanted to build weapons to fight the monsters, which I didn’t realize was possible – we figured out how to make a stone sword, and by killing cows found leather, which we turned into a helmet. I am certain there is a bigger gameplay option on the fighting angle. From his house, which he wanted on an island, we build a basement – carefully, We hit a corner that went into the water and it flooded. We just put a block back in the hole and the water disappears (once the source is covered). We went deeper, and made an underground tunnel that connected to the mainland – a few times we hit water, and were quick enough to plug the hole. His vision is defeating the monsters, which requires us to mine deeply, to find the rarer minerals so we can (in theory) make better weapons. He now has a home that has sprawling underground tunnels that lead to various mining sites, and we are on our adventure.

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