Minecraft was a cool experiment when it launched: It was a building game, without a “game”. Your goal was basically to survive by gathering through equivalent exchange: cut down a tree, get wood, make walls, and secure yourself for when night time comes.
The glory of Minecraft, though, is that people ran with it. And by “ran with it”, I mean “went absolutely ballistic” in what the game could do. People added mods, and different versions of the “vanilla” server soon surfaced which were also extensible. Modding isn’t difficult, but if you’re lazy, you were left alone with your plain, generic Minecraft.
But over time, Mojang as been adding features to the base game that are turning this “gameless game” into more of a LEGO Mindstorm kit. Patch notes for the latest update (1.5) contain elements that are less about helping you survive the creeper apocalypse, and more about helping you learn to program. Tellingly, the update is named “Redstone Update”, and as Minecraft users know, redstone is used as “circuits” in the game to connect switches to action objects. This update contains new objects like hoppers (adds items and moves them to containers), redstone comparator (used in redstone logic circuits), and even daylight sensor. A lot of this stuff has been hacked into mods for clients and servers (like Tekkit), but it seems Minecraft proper is making these things canon.
I like Minecraft for what it does, but have always wished it could do more. It’s already got the construction angle down pretty well, but I would like to see native ways to allow users to build games beyond just the survival mode. Enforcer is working on his Minecraft server, adding in mods that allow for programming NPCs with quests and such, which is certainly a start.
I am, however, glad to see Minecraft‘s subversive bent in cloaking programming fundamentals behind it’s pixelated facade. My daughter knows far more about how to use these systems than I do, but I know she isn’t even consciously aware that as I’m programming in text on my computer on the other side of the room, she’s also programming, thanks to Minecraft.
After my gushing “looks good on paper” post about Minefold, the dirt (block) cheap Minecraft server hosting start-up, I decided that I really should do the due diligence thing and make sure that the service was all it was cracked up to be.
At the end of the day, the game is still Minecraft. If you loved it or hated it, Minefold won’t change your mind. However, if you liked the idea of multiplayer, or had tried to run a server and found that it was more trouble than it was worth, the Minefold is right up your alley. It’s easy to use, has no frills, and does absolutely everything as advertised.
The picture above is our starting area in Wankerville. I created the world locally on my machine because we were looking for a decent seed that allowed for casual building. We ended up using “EricIsAWanker” as that seed, which gave us a heavily forested, hilly land with a coastal spawn point. We quickly built a lighthouse to mark the spawn area, and then set out to start building features. You can see Eric’s ship, Jared’s café on the coast, and the start of my Not-Quite-Comfortable Inn under construction behind the lighthouse.
We’re a non-exclusive world, so if you’re interested in getting into or back into some multiplayer collaborative world building, sign up for Minefold, use the above link to locate the Wankerville world, and apply for membership! We’re running in creative mode with no monster spawns for the time being, so we can create the world without interruption.