Tag Archives: minecraft

Games as a Medium

I’ve been thinking a little bit lately about using a game to, well… do something besides “play the game”. Here, I’ll tell you where I’m coming from. Back when I was little– six or seven years old or so– we had a game called The Railroad Works.

It looked like this.

The game was basically supposed to be a model train simulator, and it was divided into two different “segments”. The first segment involved building your train track and decorating it with various bits of scenery and the like that you were given, and then the second was playing a sort of proto-Railroad-Tycoon-esque game that involved taking goods from train station to train station and juggling schedules and whatnot.

If you think I ever played that second portion of the game, you’d be wrong.

The entire point of the game, to me, was to build the nicest, most picturesque scenic railroad route I could. There was no game strategy involved in where I placed my train stations and depots; there was only aesthetics. The game basically gave you several dozen grids (screens) on an overarching map and you could build in each of these grids and connect them, and so I made biomes and “zones” so to speak– here was the forest, here were the mountains, this was the farmland, this was the city.

Once I had finished constructing my masterpiece, I’d start the actual game proper, watch my train chug around my world for a few minutes, and then, satisfied, I’d quit. I didn’t have to play the actual game. The joy for me was in the creating.

This is similar to how a lot of people today play Minecraft. While Notch is busy trying to introduce things like dungeons and monsters, most people play the game either as a UI for virtual legos or as a pixel art program. You’d think, before you’ve tried it yourself, that this wouldn’t be as enthralling as it is. And then you try it and suddenly you can almost see why someone would spend weeks using Minecraft to recreate scenes from Pokemon.

This took me about an hour and a half yesterday; I can't even begin to comprehend how long that Pokemon animation must have taken.

I think it’s rather neat when people are able to take an open-ended game like that and do whatever they want with it. It usually adds more replay value than millions of optional sidequests/levels do, that’s for sure.

Because There’s Nothing Like a Clean Slate

Guys, I have a terrible disease.

I can’t keep a Minecraft world or a SimCity city going for more than a couple of days. Or even hours.

I don’t know why! It’s not like I CAN’T keep a city in SC going for a while. Actually, one time I had one going for a really long time. That was in SimCity DS, which only allowed you to save one city at a time, and I played that particular city religiously over the course of about two or three months. I enjoyed the micromanagement and little improvements I could make to an already developed city, and the only reason I finally stopped was because I got to a point where my entire city inexplicably decided to become a fire hazard for no reason, and no amount of fire stations would solve the problem, and I just couldn’t be bothered to fix it. So I quit playing.

Actual blurry phone picture I took of my city when I was in the middle of that marathon a couple years back. It has a weird colorscheme for zoning: yellow is residential and red is industrial, if I recall correclty.

For some reason, that was the last time I’ve really been able to “get” into a single city like that. I’ve been playing a bit of SimCity 4 here and there over the past few months. And you know, I know how to set up a good city. I know where to put the zones, the power plants, the roads, and everything else you need, and perhaps most importantly, I know how to actually make money in the game.

But, every time, I’ll get to a point where I’ve played ten, maaaybe twenty in-game years and then get bored and delete it all and start a new city.

It’s certainly a change from the aforementioned SimCity DS, where I played that one city for something like 150 or 200 game years.

I’m not sure why this happens. It happens in Minecraft, too. I start a new Minecraft world… well, I was going to say every couple of days, but truthfully I really only play Minecraft a few times a week. So I’ll start a new Minecraft world every week or every other week or so. I honestly have no idea why. There’s just something so very enticing about a fresh slate.

(Terraria, on the other hand, has had me hooked in the same world for weeks now, so maybe that’s a sign that my attention span is actually lengthening now!)

Does anyone else have this problem, or is it just me?

Terraria, aka I’m Bored of Digging, Let’s Go Dig In Another Game

I think I may have offhandedly mentioned this in a previous post, but in case I didn’t, I’ll relate it again here: I was recently gifted a copy of Terraria, and I have been playing it more than I initially thought I would.

For those who haven’t heard of Terraria, well… saying it’s 2-D Minecraft both is and isn’t fair to the game. Here, let me delve into this a bit:

Minecraft and Terraria have a lot of similarities. A lot of them. They’re both about digging, mining, and building. They both have a day/night cycle. They both involve crafting by way of mixing various ingredients together. They both involve avoiding monsters. Moving from one game to the other is a pretty smooth process.

Behold my derpy little Terraria house. I have since added a basement.

I’ve noticed a couple of differences, though. Aside from the big obvious one (Minecraft is 3-D, and Terraria is 2-D), I think Minecraft puts a lot more emphasis on the building side of things and Terraria on the survival side of things.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of survival in Minecraft or a lot of building in Terraria. But let’s talk about the monsters, for example. Not only are they more abundant in Terraria (and more difficult to sequester yourself from), but you’re actively encouraged from the start not just to avoid them, but to fight them.

Take the torch, a common and necessary item in both games. In Minecraft, you make a torch by putting coal on a wooden stick. Both of these ingredients are farmed from harmless things on the map– trees and mountains. In Terraria, you make a torch by combining sticks and gel. Gel is something you obtain by fighting slimes. You want light? You gotta kill monsters.

This difference in the game’s “mindset” is also seen in their respective methods of health regeneration. Minecraft has auto health regen (on sandbox mode, anyway). Terraria doesn’t. You restore your health by drinking potions that you craft out of materials that you have to find by wandering the big, scary, monster-filled world.

The mining and building is still a big part of the game, of course, but it’s all much quicker to accomplish and the crafting is more streamlined, as if the game is telling you to get on with it so you can get back to killing monsters.

Anyways, those are my first impressions of the game. I’ve really only played three or four hours of it at this point, mostly just poking around, so there are probably a lot of things I haven’t covered. In the end, I wouldn’t call this game either an evolution or clone of Minecraft– rather, it’s the same concept, but taken in a different direction. And it may not be Game of the Year material, but it’s certainly worth a look if you’re fond of this “genre”. And I do have to give props to a sandbox game that I frequently jump into directly after getting bored with a Minecraft session. Bored of digging? Let’s go dig some more!

This weekend!

Okay, I’ve been thinking all day and for the life of me I can’t devise any kind of serious or worthwhile or even flippant and jejune topic for this so, lest I overtax my brain and end up in a febrile state, I shall fall back on something I presciently set up awhile ago: What are you playing this weekend?!

MEIOU Mod for EU3: Divine Wind

Angevin Empire is Best Empire!

The only major mod to be updated for Divine Wind so far, and it’s pretty great. All those new countries! In any strategy game I fetishize alternative countries and scenarios heavily (If Cascadia is available, I play Cascadia) so this pleases Gaga.


No one man should have all dat cobblestone

Because let’s face it, I’m hopelessly addicted now.

Sword of the Stars

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur.

I played this a little some considerable time ago and it didn’t click, but I’m giving it another try now because I need the 4X, and it seems to be going better.

Kaiserreich Mod for Darkest Hour

Any and every chance I get!

They’re continuing to work on this thing pretty rapidly, and it’s still great.

And that’s all I can think of! Your turn~

There’s Something About a Sandbox

Lately I’ve been playing a lot of two different games: Minecraft, and Terraria (aka 2-D Minecraft.)

I know, I know, I’ve talked before about how I don’t quite “get” this sort of game, or how I prefer SimCity or whatnot. But after several months of false starts it seems that something has finally clicked, and lately I’ll merrily spend hours listening to music while… digging. Digging.

I was practically born playing this particular game, so maybe that has something to do with it.

I’m not sure what’s gotten in to me– I’m usually off playing old strategy games, after all!– but I do have to admit: it’s remarkably easy and quite relaxing to just sit down for any length of time– from a couple of minutes to a couple of hours– and mess around in a game where there is really no point. It feeds some sort of deep-seated need in the human psyche to build and create for no other reason than to build and create.

…or maybe I really am a basement-dwelling obsessive-compulsive geek who finds satisfaction in making things perfectly symmetrical. I mean, that’s an acceptable answer too.

Did you know that Pike’s taste is sometimes exceptionally bizarre?

I’m less inclined to be political about these things and try to respect other people’s opinions, so I’m just going to be wantonly belligerent towards her! Huzzah!

Let’s go over a couple of things she brought up. Zelda. Zelda Zelda Zelda. Where to begin? I’ve played most of the Zelda games over the years and I divide them into two categories – “Why are people making any kind of fuss” and “This is very good but not to my taste”. The former is where all the 2D Zeldas fit, and the latter where the 3D ones go. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against 2D (I’ll come back to this in a moment) but the thing just does not work for me at ALL in 2D. In 3D, games like OoT and WW are ones I can see the appeal of, I’ve played quite a bit of them, but they never hook me and I get bored long before the end.

When it comes to top-down adventure, in the 2D Zelda style, I have long maintained that the genre has been far, far better done and that Alundra is truly the pinnacle of the genre. And I know what a hipster I look like saying this! But it really is glorious. It has the charm, depth, clever puzzles, and all that other stuff that people ascribe to Zelda but which I have never seen in that series.

Because you've probably never heard of it

As for Sega vs. Nintendo, Pike covered it quite well. I grew up with Sega and she with Nintendo, so of course we’re going to have diverging opinions and direct our nostalgia differently. Actually, whilst I regard the Mega Drive (Genesis) and SNES as fairly equal (Though really, how good can a console without Treasure’s Gunstar Heroes and Alien Soldier actually be?), I think it was later on that Sega triumphed, because the Dreamcast was the best console ever made and it beat the crap out of all the competition combined, from BOTH generations it overlapped.

Finally, Minecraft. Well, all I will say is that Pike’s time spent would be a lot closer to mine if her shame didn’t cause her to ‘forget’ just how much of it she plays (It’s about three times as much as she admits. I know because I hear her on Skype when she’s playing it).

And she thinks Warcraft III had mediocre gameplay. I hardly need to point out how ludicrous this is.

Did You Know That Mister Adequate and I Disagree On Some Games?

I know, it’s hard to believe, right? Seeing as we only ever talk about the same four or five here (eheheh.)

But no, it’s true, there are a couple of games we don’t quite see eye to eye on. The Legend of Zelda series comes to mind. Ocarina of Time is one of my all-time favorites. But Mister Adequate– brace yourselves for this one– is not a fan. He’s played a good number of the Zelda games and does not “get” them. Now I can already hear the cacophony of “WHY” coming from our readerbase, but I will refrain from detail here as to let my comrade speak for himself in a future blog post, if he feels so inclined.

Another place where we frequently diverge is in older games, because I grew up a Nintendo kid and he a Sega kid. We do both see the other’s platform as a worthy rival, but trust me when I say that you do not want to start the two of us on an SNES vs. Sega Genesis “discussion”.

Or maybe you do, because the battle would be hilarious to watch.

Recently, there is Minecraft. Okay, actually, we both have a sort of weird complex where we like to pretend that we don’t play it as much as we do. At the end of the day, though, we have to admit our weak spot for the infamous game of blocks, and Mister Adequate has clocked so much more time into this game than I have that it’s silly. And also not open for debate. Sorry, sweetie! (Yes, I poke fun of him for this.)

So yes. We do, actually, diverge on opinions for a handful of games. Scary, no?

Music to play games by

Alrighty, so as you may have gathered by now I’m a pretty big fan of the music in some videogames, and I feel it’s often a vital part of completing the experience. This said, sometimes when you play a game a lot, the stuff in the game just gets so repetitive it’s crazy. Right now I’m playing a ton of Minecraft, working on a stupidly overambitious project, and I’ve been playing Daft Punk pretty much constantly while I do so.

This is a glorious idea and I clearly have to get in on it.

Back when I was a young teen, my mom got me Morrowind and System of a Down – Steal This Album on the same day, so I can’t listen to the latter without thinking of the former. They are inextricably linked for me.

Do you have any particular games and musicians who are linked for you? Any preferred artists for particular games or genres? Tell us in the comments about the music you listen to while gaming!

Okay, okay, I caved.

After having written up a post a few weeks back on how I didn’t “get” Minecraft, I, uh… went back and tried it again.

Now, first thing’s first. I played the free, in-browser “Classic” edition, because as it turns out, I can’t afford the actual game at this point. (When I first tried the downloadable game, waaaay back in the day, it was free and in Beta.) This version of the game is different from the real thing. There’s no creepers, no night-time, and no crafting. Just you and an unlimited number of different colored blocks.

…oddly enough, that made the game a lot more palatable for me. No longer having to worry about things like “OMG HURRY UP AND FIGURE THINGS OUT AND MAKE A SHELTER BEFORE NIGHT FALLS *panic panic*”, I was free to let my inner obsessive-compulsive demons happily make sure all my blocks were counted and lined up exactly right.


So, there you have it. In what is possibly a textbook case of meeting games halfway, I played Minecraft for about a half hour last night, and I enjoyed it.

[Insert some sort of witticism here about purging my system with X-Com and/or the fact that my dear partner-in-crime Mister Adequate has also recently fallen to lure of crafting blocks. Seriously though, I got no sleep last night for the second time in a row and cannot currently brain good, so you’ll just have to pretend I wrote up a hilarious ending line here. Okay?]

How I Mine For Fun? aka Why Minecraft Didn’t Do It For Me

In case you’ve been living under a rock all year, Minecraft is a game that was cooked up and released by a guy who calls himself Notch and has since spread like wildfire to all odd corners of the internet. The premise of the game can be summed up by two words: Build stuff.

Somehow, in spite of (or perhaps because of) this simplicity, the game has spawned a huge fan following and various jokes pertaining to aspects of the game have become as ubiquitous on many online communities as Portal jokes are.

The obsidian is a lie.

Frequently, I have people asking me if I’ve tried the game. Presumably this is because I’m a huge fan of building and creating things, and thus, the game should be right up my alley. Right?

Well, I’m not gonna lie, that logic is quite sound. So yes, I did try the game, some time back when it first burst onto the scene. Unfortunately, it didn’t grab me the way the hype had me ready to believe it would. There were, I believe, a few different reasons for this, but here were the big ones:

  • Nighttime.  Sitting around for ten minutes– not in-game minutes, but actual minutes– in the dark, doing nothing, waiting for the sun to come up, gets old quick.  Yes, I know you’re supposed to build a house and get torches and whatnot in advance.  But if you’re new to the game and don’t realize this, this is a big turnoff.
  • Blueprints.  From what I gather, Minecraft is largely supposed to be about discovery and figuring out what sort of tools you can build from your random blocks.  Unfortunately, there was really no sort of help or hints for this, and I found myself consulting an outside wiki every few minutes trying desperately to figure out how to make what I wanted to make.  Not to say I haven’t been-there,-done-that with other games, but it seemed rather over my head, considering I’d just started playing the game some five minutes earlier.
  • It’s basically virtual Legos.  Which is cool and all, but I could just, I dunno, play with some Legos or something.

So those three things, in roughly that order, are why I only played Minecraft about two or three times and then promptly quit being interested. They may have changed some of these things since then– I don’t know, I haven’t tried to play in months– but, in a nutshell, that was my experience.

Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the game was terrible or that you shouldn’t play it. Obviously, considering the game’s enormous fanbase, there is something that it offers to certain people. People who love building and sharing things in a virtual space and people who love those sort of sandbox style games will probably eat Minecraft up. And I’m not going to deny that I have seen some amazing pictures and videos of Minecraft creations on YouTube or image sharing sites. If the game works for you, then that’s great.

Ultimately, what the game offers on its most basic level– sheer freedom to create– is appealing to most everyone, and I can definitely appreciate that. But I suppose that some of us are looking for a little more interaction with our building games (spoiled by SimCity as we were), and I’m one of those people.

…or, if you’re Mister Adequate, you can just go play Dwarf Fortress. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.