In response to "Crafting Oblivion" from the Escapist Forum: I for one sincerely appreciate the idea of making the city in a normal PvE server as opposed to a sterile build only type. The reason is that outside the city, it will be the world as it is. It turns the city into more than just a gargantuan show-piece that people will just traipse around and leave. No this will be a part of it's own little world, where outside the walls will lurk those dastardly skeletons and creepers. It will feel complete. In summary:
[stands up and salutes the creators]
In response to "Minecraft Maniac" from the Escapist Forum: Great read. I totally agree about the Lego bit. The problem with a lot of Lego sets these days is the huge number of custom pieces for the models. The licensed properties like Star Wars and Indiana Jones are the worst for this. Instead of using the generic blocks in creative ways, they just design custom pieces that make the model look cool, but take all the creativity out of it.
I had the same basic problem with K'nex. I absolutely loved the Big Ball Factory. I love the idea in general, but what I adored about it was how they used nothing but the generic pieces. Okay, they also used the orange half pieces for connecting the roller coaster tubing, but that let you do loops and crazy things you couldn't otherwise do with the balls, so I let it slide. The later follow-ups were significantly less inspired. Trampoline Tower was pretty good, as it also basically used nothing but the generic pieces, with the exception of the solid triangular panels that formed the catch basins, but those are generic enough that I could see them as a general addition rather than something specifically for the ball factory.
A few weeks back, my 8 year old nephew came to my home. He always runs directly to my room to see if I have any new games to play, and I did have one. I always struggled to show some of my hottest games to him, because he's younger and I feel pretty unconfortable showing him M rated games, I even gave him a copy I made of my original disk of Crysis. And also he gets bored of watching me play a regular MMO and he easily gets very frustrated if I let him play Super Meat Boy.
But last time he came, I showed him Minecraft and he left completely fascinated by it. We spent the whole noon playing together, the game was pretty inofesive (and terrifying) for him and we both enjoyed it immensely. When I showed him the game, I started a new world, showing him the mechanics and why was it necessary to survive the night. He even loved the graphics, to him, the game didn't looked pixelated as I may call them, they were just "blocky" for him and he always marvelled at strange "natural" formations that the game randomly generated.
It's a bit sad that the game in it's actual beta status won't give the full access to the entire game as if I bought it from alpha (wich I did), because if I knew before that he would like it so much, I'd gladly buy the game for him. I found the perfect "Lego" for him.
In response to "Achiever, Explorer, Socializer, Killer" from the Escapist Forum: No offense, but it seems to me the article was entirely about how Bartle's theories applied to Minecraft, when it's readily apparent that these apply to any online gaming community. After all, that article was written in what, the mid-late 90's? Anyway, it was before MMO's got big, certainly before WoW and as far as I can tell even before Everquest and Ultima Online. So, this was a world where MUDs (and all their offspring) were pretty much the only online gaming communities - so an article designed to define player types in that game logically can be applied to later descendants of the genre i.e. MMOs.
Oh man, Bartle. Yes. There's one guy more games should know about. He was writing about MMOs back when WoW was a glint in the glint in the glint of someone's eye. I mean, he was writing about MMOs when he made it! The four players suits are a genial division that makes sense in pretty much any large playing community. Knowing one's suit should be as second nature as knowing one's favourite genre. (I'm a spade, almost 100%.)
I remember when I stopped playing Urban Dead, and kept running into other games that I thought were much better but whose very creators thought very highly of it. I couldn't understand the massive fandom to a game I thought was drab at best. Then I read Bartle's article and I suddenly understood everything. Urban Dead had reached one of the equilibrium states he predicted: achievers and killers in equal amounts, balancing each other but weeding out socializers and explorers (like me). The randomly generated map and limited item selection didn't hold any appeal for me/us.
Obviously Minecraft is off the chart. A game based mostly on creation would appeal almost exclusively to explorers (a spade seems to be curiously fit for it, too) but would allow explorers' other suits to show up more. Bartle does mention explorers are key for a game to keep it from becoming stale, since they're the trailblazers that other suits follow, so maybe building it so everyone learns to act like one is the key behaviour here. It's definitively none of the behaviours Bartle predicted in his article, at least none of the obvious one.
Theres only two types of online players - normal and troll. The first wants to play the game, the second gets jollies from your misery by finding ways the developers left to intentionally give other players a bad time.
Far from me to think that one of the most important game theorists' most famous work cannot be disproved by a single sentence by some guy who doesn't bother to type apostrophes, but I respectfully disagree. There's an issue in which different people's way of playing the game clash even though they're both in the spirit of the game. For instance, maybe a bunch of people are in a room and some guy shows up and kills them. The people in the room are Hearts making some sort of role-playing event and think the other guy is a troll for killing them. The guy is an Achiever thinking the other people are trolls for blocking one of the game's main passageways and not bothering to fight back.
Although I must say one of the few things I dislike about Bartle's article is how it makes little difference between a killer of the kind that enjoys challenges provided by other players and a plain griefer. He seems to gather them in the same package, even though they're quite different beasts. A 'good' killer is interested in the welfare of the game, since using its tool to harm other players is what gives his him thrill, while a 'bad' killer, or griefer, strives to damage other players' enjoyment of the game, while at the same time keeping himself from developing a connection from the game or community to keep the same from happening to himself. Minecraft has no leeways for clubs other than griefing, and while griefers will always exist, some may be unhappy 'good' killers looking for an explosive farewell after they decide this game does not hold their attention.
The first 15 minutes of Minecraft gives you just enough of a taste of the game's creative potential to keep you enthralled, even though you probably won't survive.
The approach being taken by this game is exactly right for sandbox/exploration/construction games. Many try creating a single-player (single-path) experience first, and then tacking on a hundred "side quests." While this can create the appearance of choice, the shortness of these branches really only highlights how straight and rigid the main line really is.
Instead, Notch has created a tool kit. And he's given that tool kit to the players beforehand, to find out what they like to do. And we have all created thousands of our own "side quests," though really they are quests in our own minds. The final ingredient will be adding just enough narrative and tutorial to provide direction to those just entering the game, and then getting the hell out of the way.
I do think you're wrong about about Maslow's Love and Belonging being missing. The fact that this game has an online component, and the fact that YouTube is full of videos from the game, demonstrates that Minecraft capitalizes on an inherent need to share. We want people to see what we've made, see what we've learned. Whether it's a full-scale model Titanic, or a new silly skin we've created, we want to leave a footprint in this online world that is visible to others.
This is absolutely and irrefutably true. I've been turned off almost completely by games that choose to do very little in the opening sequences, and can think of several games I just stopped playing aafter a few hours in, due to there still being no draw or appeal. Almost all of my favorite games start out with a big BANG, before quickly jumping into the action. Even the ones where things take a few minutes to warm up have a major piece of involving action within 15 or so minutes, and this is beautifully set.
As to Minecraft's story, I kind of hope it's a The Most Dangerous Game meets Lord of the Flies set up, where some sick bastard with a spaceship has marooned you in the middle of some unknown material-rich world, to watch you try and survive, to eventually come back and set hunters on you, and watch you match wits. That would be rather exciting.