Minecraft primer?
January 12, 2011 3:18 PM   Subscribe

I don't understand Minecraft. Please explain the whys and hows of it to me so I can decide whether I should get addicted to it.
posted by mudpuppie to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
The best way I can sum it up: It's like Legos, but you never run out of bricks. Possibilities are quite literally endless.

If you were a Lego kid (or adult), I can almost guarantee you'll like it. If not, it's possible you won't enjoy it.
posted by supercres at 3:25 PM on January 12, 2011

It's sort of virtual legos.* Except instead of going to the store to buy new legos when you need them, your little virtual mudpuppie has to extract the raw materials for them from the world around her and then assemble the legos out of the material she's gathered, chopped, shoveled, mined, and pulled from the corpses of her victims.

There's also a lot of relatively simple rules doing complicated things as they interact with each other, and a few monsters to interact with. Also, if you want, there's this "redstone" stuff which is sort of like lego mindstorm or whatever the ones you can program are.

Me, I'd watch a couple of "Let's play" things on youtube. Seananners's series, maybe, or X's Adventures in Minecraft. There are lots.

*Yes, I know that in many other countries you use a different word for that. Can we leave it alone?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:26 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

or X's Adventures in Minecraft. There are lots.

To be clear, "X" isn't a placeholder there... there's a series called "X's Adventures..." by a dude who goes by "X."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:30 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is my favorite metafilter comment about minecraft.

Less romantically, it's a fun sandbox game (aka no clear-cut objective, except to survive). But survival becomes surprisingly important, seeing as you literally build and obtain everything you have brick by brick.

The reason I keep coming back to Minecraft is this: no matter what kind of mood I'm in, there's something I can do in my Minecraft world. Do I want to explore? I can run over the next hill, find an unexplored cave and start spelunking for minerals. Do I want to be creative? I can stay home and remodel my house, or build a new floor, or add a turret to my castle.

This page tells you how to build items in the game. Keep it open in the background as you start to play; it's incredibly helpful. It sounds cheesy, but the possibilities really are endless once you get used to the game mechanics. Underwater fortress made of glass? Sure! Tower to the sky with flaming turrets? Why not.

Also you can build a bow and arrow to kill zombies.
posted by Zephyrial at 3:34 PM on January 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

Not having had Legos as a kid (we were poor, so I had LOC BLOCs instead), I liken the attraction of the game to having that first big 64-count box of crayons and an endless supply of paper. You can make whatever you want. Anything at all. Yes, that. Yes, that too. You can build a castle; if you get bored halfway through, you can just quit and start something else. You can mine for diamonds and gold; if that gets tedious, climb out of the hole and start something else. You can battle monsters; or, if fighting monsters is not to your liking, you can turn them off altogether. You can play by yourself or join a server and play with others, building stuff and/or fighting monsters together. You pay a one-time fee, so if you get tied up with Real Life and can't play for a few weeks or months, you've lost nothing (unlike those pay-to-play games where they siphon off a monthly fee whether you log on or not).

The /r/Minecraft reddit is one of many places you can browse to see what cool/intricate/silly things people are doing with the game. (The official Minecraft forums are way too fast-moving and haphazard for me to be able to spend any time there, but that's just me.)
posted by Gator at 3:36 PM on January 12, 2011

The analagy of LEGO only goes so far - and it's not the first one I would use. You have an absolute infinity load of possibilities with LEGO, because there are goodness knows how many different bricks available. Minecraft is much more limited, because you just don't have the variety.

So, think of it more as an adventure/creation/survival sim affair. Sure, you can fight the mobbers at night if you're in a fighting mood. Or, just hang out in your house/castle/[insert building type here] until morning. You could do some farming, or go out hunting for diamond down near the magma (and you will die in it, lots).

Essentially, there's a bit of everything. If you like one of those bits, you may get hooked. If you like the idea of making an insane waterslide or monumental railway, you may go MIA in the next few days.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 3:39 PM on January 12, 2011

The Map of Aporkalypse. This is what keeps me coming back to Minecraft. Aporkalypse, via MeFight Club.
posted by inigo2 at 3:51 PM on January 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

I didn't understand the appeal of Minecraft until I read this blog. I've still only ever desired to play Minecraft the way it's played there. Some days you just need to take a walk to clear your head, you know? In Minecraft, that walk never has to end.
posted by aparrish at 4:52 PM on January 12, 2011

RPS had an excellent series of posts about starting out in Minecraft. Gives a good intro to the game mechanics and also reads like a gripping adventure story. And that's just the point - even though the game is random, it consistently and frequently delivers all sorts of crazy adventures.
posted by mshrike at 5:16 PM on January 12, 2011

Oh I 'm so hopelessly, completely addicted to Minecraft, as you know. I started to try to think of reasons why you should get addicted too and ended up following every link in this thread and reading about other people's adventures in Minecraft, which makes me want to write a Minecraft blog because frankly, my Minecraft life is far more interesting than my real one. And that, I think, might be the answer right there - it's kind of an all encompassing game.

Legos isn't really the best analogy. I was never all that big a fan of legos: everything I ever built with them looked like a gas station and finally I gave up and just built lots of gas stations, which activity palled quickly. I was much more a fan of Barbies but my Barbies didn't fuss around with hair and makeup and stuff. I made their clothes out of scraps and built them huge improbable houses out of books and cards and wooden blocks and spent hours making up adventures for them. Minecraft is like that except better, because you can build stuff that is not limited by the scrap pile and when you adventure around, there's an endless variety of new and interesting stuff to wander through. And attempt to not get killed by.

I've built houses on top of trees and inside mountains and underwater and floating in the sky. I've built bridges and waterslides and strange enormous idol sculptures. I've gone down to the bottom of the world, climbed over lava, ridden waterfalls and pigs and gotten myself killed - note: never think "oh, it's just a spider." - and resurrected and started all over again. Even now that I'm kind of beginning to get a bit bored I still end up finding something new to do. I'm building rollercoasters, now, and that takes a lot of work. It's fun work, though, there's a ton of exploring caves to find all the iron to start and the engineering to make them run and then, then you get to ride them. I like to ride them at night, which is dangerous and fun. I wish I could make rollercoasters and castles and gigantic monumental stone sculptures in real life but the chances of it are slim, so I do it in Minecraft. That's the appeal of Minecraft: it's totally open ended and once you're tired of one place or one thing, you can move on to another.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:52 PM on January 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Minecraft is an open world 3d voxel based game with pure sandbox design. Graphics are crudely simple, but the lousy textures are made up for the incredible draw distance. Gameplay is entirely emergent, there's no story, but the limited AI and complexity of the world environment is enough to allow players to create rich stories for themselves. Some aspects of the game such as redstone circuitry and water dynamics allow for complex designed phenomena to interact with emergent game systems to generate surprising events. There's a generous variety of play modes and multiplayer layers on a whole compelling social gameplay element.

Also, it's like playing with digital legos. Which is awesome.
posted by Nelson at 8:03 PM on January 12, 2011

My favourite thing is spelunking. Put the game on "peaceful", do a little prelim work to get some tools, torches, etc, find yourself a cave and start exploring!
posted by LN at 8:12 PM on January 12, 2011

Another beginner's guide.
posted by danb at 8:34 PM on January 12, 2011

I'm going to buck the trend in this thread and say that I loved Lego bricks as a kid, am pretty creative, and I've been very impressed by what others have dine in Minecraft over at the Aporkalypse--but for myself, I just find Minecraft frustrating.

I've watched the videos and made little worktables and some torches and studf, but I have trouble remembering the formulas for everything you can build. And when I went to Aporkalypse, it seemed like so may places *belonged* to other people, and of course I didn't want to wreck anything anyone else had done, and going far out into the frontier meant I'd end up in the dark after a while, which on a Mac is not just dark but pitch black, so forget building unless I had a bunch of torches...well, anyway, I bought the game and now I'm sorry I did because I don't play it.

I can definitely become addicted to games--I have Plants vs Zombies playing all the time (16 flags on Survival so far!)--but Minecraft doesn't do it for me.

So there's another perspective for you.
posted by misha at 9:34 PM on January 12, 2011

Start in "peaceful" mode and walk around a lot. Read the wiki and watch the various introductory tutorials. Then walk around a bit more and make some stuff, and check out the Coe's Quest videos (start from episode 1, though, or else it's more confusing if you're just starting out). I think he does a great job at explaining what he's trying to do and why and how.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:42 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also: I hate Legos, but I love Minecraft. YMMV.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:43 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Find wood, find coal, dig, make torches and a door, wait till morning
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 11:25 PM on January 12, 2011

Minecraft lends itself to both solo play and collaborative play. It can be idyllic and peaceful, or frantic and frightening. You can choose to be an explorer who walks and boats about, setting up crude shelters or hiding in caves at night which you'll abandon in the morning, or you can pick a spot, dig in, and fortify it until you have an impregnable fortress. Or any combination of playstyles.

I like to start a world in peaceful mode, build a small fortress, then flip it over to Nightmarish Horrible Death mode and see if my cunning traps and sturdy bulwarks can resist the deadly hordes. The most fun I had with that approach was one where I built a log flume to the ocean from the top of my keep, activated the mobs, and watched as they demolished my work and invaded my halls and then just as they got near.... wheeeee! A flick of a switch, into the boat, down to the water, and then I sat bobbing in the moonlit sea as zombies and skeletons splashed into the depths while the TNT I'd planted beneath my safe room went off with a satisfying BOOM.

I also love the way the game's crafting system creates exigencies that further play. I want to build X. OK, to build X, I need Y & Z. To get Z, I need Q & P. Well, Y & P are usually near D, so I'll go look for D.... By the time you have sufficient Y & Z to build X, you've realized that D & Q make S, which opens another whole avenue of exploration.

And I haven't touched on the wonders you'll encounter on multiplayer servers! Touring Aporkalypse itself is worth the price of the game, IMO.

And remember: this game just now hit beta. It's far from finished. It's only going to get bigger and weirder and more interesting.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:41 PM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you've tried Minecraft for a few minutes and didn't see the appeal, you should be warned that the initial learning-curve is near vertical. It's kind of bizarre. There are a number of steps you MUST follow if you're going to survive the first night, and you have to do them in the right order, and none of them are intuitive. But there are many tutorials online and on Youtube that will tell you what to do, and after about fifteen minutes there'll be an 'Oh wow, I get it' moment and everything will fall into place.


Those steps, in brief:
1. Find a tree and punch it until you get a block of wood. You'll need about twelve of these.
2. Press 'i' to bring up your inventory and craft your wood into planks.
3. Craft half your planks into sticks.
4. Use four of your planks to build a workbench. Place it in the world.
5. Use your workbench to craft planks and sticks into a wooden pickaxe.
6. Find some coal, and use the pickaxe to mine it.
7. Combine coal and sticks to make torches.
8. Dig a cave. Put torches on the wall. Shut yourself in. Night's coming.
posted by Hogshead at 4:55 AM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry if somebody mentioned this already but I just want to make sure you know:

There is a huge difference between the free version and the paid one. If you played the free ("classic") version (either in-browser or downloaded) and found it dull – I agree and I think most fellow commenters will too. The paid version is an alltogether different thing, as you can see in the Youtube videos mentioned upthread.

Personally I'm not a very talented architect and therefore don't care much for the Lego experience. I prefer to run around and get lost and decide to make a compass to get home for which I need redstone which can only be found deep underground so I have to fight scary monsters and then incidently find a dungeon and get all distracted etc etc.
posted by mahershalal at 5:34 AM on January 13, 2011

Thanks for all the info. I did buy the paid version last night (first time I've ever bought anything in Euros), and am still trying to figure out how to move gracefully. I did manage to chop a tree down and make planks and sticks, though. Not hooked yet -- but am intrigued enough to predict that an addiction may develop over the weekend.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:46 PM on January 13, 2011

Thanks, odinsdream. Once I figure out what to do with two sticks, other than wave them in the air like a cheerleader with defective pompoms, I might do that.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:05 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to second the suggestion to watch Seananners' videos called Minecraft: Let's Play. He's put up, I think 20 episodes at this point, they're pretty instructive and a lot of fun.
posted by hootenatty at 2:11 PM on January 13, 2011

I just wanted to pop in and second the suggestion to check out the Aporkalypse once you feel comfortable. It's a ridiculously large and developed world with literally miles and miles of awesome creations to explore, but with plenty of room to add your own as well :)
posted by arcolz at 8:45 AM on January 14, 2011

You people have ruined my life.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:51 PM on January 16, 2011 [13 favorites]

Oh good, another convert! Soon we will take over the world &etc. But hey here's a handy tip that I'm embarrassed to say I only just learned like a week ago. If you are either a) looking at your inventory (by pressing i) or looking into a chest or a furnace that's going, you can alt/tab over to another window and multitask while the clock continues to run in minecraft. That means, for example, that you can say things in AskMe while you're all burrowed away in a hole in the prairie in the dark - - oh, wait, is that a zombie I hear? Gotta go!
posted by mygothlaundry at 5:02 PM on January 17, 2011

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