It's been playable for years, and has captured the imagination of millions of gamers around the world, but it's only now, in November 2011, that indie world-building sensation Minecraft has been officially "released". So it's only now, with a v1.0 after its name, that we feel safe enough to have this informal little pow-wow.
A lot has changed since the game was about little more than building giant Final Fantasy characters. It's added more realms, more bad guys, more junk, there are even buildings and, if you can believe it, a boss fight. But does that make it worth picking up? Let's craft guts from obsidian and chicken meat to find out.
Luke Plunkett, who played a lot of Minecraft, then stopped, and is now playing it all over again: This is far too short and informal a space to really get into the vastness that is Minecraft, so I'll just say I wish it was more accessible. I wish it did a better job of communicating with players inside the actual game. I wish it didn't revel so often in its sheer brutality. I wish the more "gamey" stuff that's been added was easier to get to.
Yet it's those things that define this game. It's a world, and sometimes, the world can be rough. It can be difficult to understand. The only way you get by in life is to make friends, get advice, and be careful, because each step you take could be your last. I like the challenges the real world presents, and I like Minecraft's as well. There are few, if any games which take such a brave and rewarding step as to be so un-game-like in their basic approach, and that's why I give Minecraft a blocky, terrifying Yes.
Brian Crecente, who played the beta for a bit and has lately been playing the retail release side-by-side with his son: I love Minecraft. It's inventive, it's creative, but the best part, it makes you inventive and creative. I start by trying to survive, and then I find myself spending way too much time sprucing up my shelter, turning it from a place to survive to a home. I call my son over, my wife over, to give them regular tours. I'm proud of my hole in the ground. And I love the disasters, the accidental flooding, dropping through a hole into a darkened cavern packed with monsters. It's wonderful. What I don't love, what needs to be fixed, is the complete lack of guidance. I don't need my hand held, but I shouldn't have to play this game with a Wikia page open on another computer. Crafting needs an in-game crafting book. If you're going to include the ability to level up, explain how it works. If there's an end fight, maybe provide a little guidance. I'm all for minimalist game design, but this is striking very close to lazy. All that said, I completely, utterly, unequivocally suggest you buy this game for PC, for Mac, for both. Yes.
Brian Ashcraft, Dallas native, Minecraft virgin: Texas is football crazy. Even though I grew up in Dallas, I've managed to make it without seeing an NFL game live, let alone a cowboys game. I've also managed to make it through the past few years without playing Minecraft. I'm assuming this says something about my personality. That when everyone starts to zig, perhaps I start to zag. It's not that I am against Minecraft. I don't hate the Cowboys, either. I just haven't had the opportunity — or made the opportunity for myself.
And so, here I am, your non-player. But just because I haven't played the game that damn well doesn't mean I'd pooh-pooh anyone who wanted to buy the thing. Here's a game that, developed by some Swedish dude in a silly hat, has captured the gaming public's imagination, spawned cosplays and fandom as well as a convention, and has enable said Swedish dude to buy more silly hats. There's something to be said about a game that can inspire such passion and interest — for the Cowboys. So just I'd like recommend someone attend an NFL game, I'd recommend that somebody buy Minecraft. Yes.
Gut Check is an off-the-cuff impression of what we think of a game: what we'd tell a friend; how we'd respond on Twitter or Facebook or over a beer if someone asked us "Would you buy this game?" Our lead writer, who has played a lot of the game, decides. Other writers chime in for additional points of view.