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The sun rises on another new day in the fertile land that I have christened 'Elandonia'. I emerge from the door of the log cabin I had built the night before to the sound of burning zombies and the innocent oinks of the many pigs that can be seen across the landscape, jumping over hills and swimming in the vast sea that stretches out to meet the horizon. This is Minecraft...
Minecraft is an indie open world survival game built from the ground up by Markus Persson. Upon starting a new game the world is created in mere seconds but its not until you start to explore that you realise just how vast the game world is. The world is made up of 1x1 blocks that represent different types of materials from sand and water to iron and lava. These blocks can be gathered using various tools that the player can make using the game's intricate crafting system. At first you start off with a 2x2 crafting window in your inventory which can be used to make simple objects such as workbenches and torches by combining various materials in certain combinations. Place one tree trunk in the crafting window and you get four wooden blocks, those four wooden blocks placed in a square formation will make a workbench and with that, the crafting system really comes into its own. By combining different blocks together the player is able to make various tools and objects to assist them in their quest for survival within the world, be it making a stone pickaxe in order to mine iron or a wooden boat to sail the many seas of your own little world in search for a better place to set up your home.
Along with the amazing crafting system comes the many challenges of actually finding the rare materials to craft said items, and this doesn't come without its dangers. In the day light, Minecraft is a serene and peaceful land, filled with bounding sheep and cows where your greatest danger is falling down a hole or drowning by getting pushed underwater by a wandering sea pig, but when the sun goes down, you best hope you've got a shovel or a lot of torches because the night belongs to the zombies. In the early stages of a new Minecraft game you will most likely spend your time at night either in a hole in the ground, praying the zombies don't see you or franticly digging in order to find the game's most precious resource. Coal. With Coal you can create torches that will light up a 6 by 6 area around them, preventing zombies and skeletons from spawning as well as allowing you to actually see what you're doing in the dead of night or as you explore a deep cavern you've just found. As well as the brain hungry zombies you'll face as you explore the world you'll meet other beasties too. These include arrow firing skeletons, giant spiders and the notorious 'Creepers'. Creepers are quite possibly the greatest foe you will face in Minecraft. Looking like tall green bushes with four stubby legs they scamper around the landscape, seemingly harmless in appearance, but don't let that fool you. As soon as you get close to one, they will instantly go into “KILL EVERYTHING!” mode, causing them to chase after you making a menacing hissing noise. After a few seconds they'll explode, destroying everything in a 4 block radius. Blocks, sheep, players, nothing is safe from the creepers wrath.
Exploration is a main part of Minecraft's appeal. For one, every game world that is created is completely unique as well as being near infinite in size. The world is procedurally generated around the player as they explore the world, providing a unique landscape every time. While there is no definite goal to Minecraft the entertainment is provided by the player's own imagination and exploration of the world. With the ability to place down blocks almost anywhere, it is possible to create practically anything. An example of this would be the works of one player who uploaded their project onto Youtube in late September this year. He has dedicated his time to making a 1:1 scale model of the Starship Enterprise. Truly an incredible feat. With the recent release of multiplayer mode, players are able to make their own servers and play survival mode cooperatively with other players across the globe, as multiplayer includes practically all singleplayer features, from mining to crafting, allowing players to either work together or compete against each other for survival.
Minecraft is a testament to indie game developers everywhere. The plain fact that such a small team can create a game that has captured the imagination of all who play it is no small achievement, especially since the game is technically still in the Alpha stage. Since its inception Minecraft has gained a massive following, with articles and features about the game being shown on most major gaming sites around the web as well as in international gaming magazines. With its constant stream of updates, the next of which will be the much anticipated Halloween update, Minecraft continues to grow in popularity. I have no problem in recommending Minecraft to absolutely any gamer, young and old, hardcore or casual. Not only is it immensly detailed in a retro 'super mario' type way, but it provides hours and hours of fun with its simple, user friendly exterior but will really open up for those who are willing to put in the time and imagination to utilise the amazing gameplay and freedom that Minecraft has to offer. If it wasn't for the currently incomplete and slightly buggy multiplayer I would give the game a perfect score. So, if you haven't played it already, what are you waiting for? Get out there and see what all the fuss is about!