Notch builds a sensation one block at a time

by Cody Franklin

Players are free to create deep labyrinthal mines, skyscraping towers, sprawling manses or whatever their creative hearts desire. Be sure to watch out for “creepers.” | courtesy of mojang
Players are free to create deep labyrinthal mines, skyscraping towers, sprawling manses or whatever their creative hearts desire. Be sure to watch out for “creepers.” | courtesy of mojang

Who would have ever thought someone could do Legos better than, well, Legos? Anyone who has had the pleasure of playing “Minecraft” will know Markus “Notch” Persson and the rest of the Mojang team have done just that.

“Minecraft” is an incredible sandbox building game that has exploded from a small side project into a full-blown, industry-revolutionizing, wildfire success, taking the PC gaming community by storm. What began as a diversionary activity for Notch in his spare time has grown so big Notch created a new company and hired several more people to help keep up with the demand from customers, now exceeding 3 million.

In “Minecraft,” players load up into a dynamically generated world and set off on an adventure to build, well, whatever they want. The entire world is made up of different “blocks,” from dirt blocks and water blocks to door blocks and minecart blocks. Players explore the world and its many mountains, forests and caves to find elusive materials needed to craft all kinds of items such as bows, torches, swords and armor. Players need these items to combat the various creatures that inhabit the world, from hostile zombies and skeletons to friendly pigs and cows.

The main attraction of the game is players can shape their world any way they desire by adding and replacing blocks, much like Legos. Don’t like the giant lake putting a hole in the ground near one’s house? Fill it in, block by block. Come across a scenic vista atop a towering mountain that you’d like to build a house on? Go ahead, cut down some trees, turn them into wood and build a nice little city. Players with a little dwarf blood in them can go spelunking into the depths of the computer-generated earth. Cave systems can be found that lead to the bottom of the world; alternatively, players can dig out a custom-made “Lord of the Rings”-style Moria.

But the real fun is in the multiplayer aspect of the game. Fans have set up some truly awe-inspiring servers. Standouts include those built by the online community Reddit, which boasts cities the size of San Diego, painstakingly built by hand, block by block. From a small hut to a towering skyscraper, from a pixel art representation of one’s favorite television character to an entire working game of Pong on a computer built-ingame: If one can dream it, chances are one can build it in “Minecraft.”

The community has also taken to creating a humongous collection of modifications, additions, texture packs and more. The changes players can personally make to the game are astounding. The midification community often outpaces the developers themselves in creation of new content for the game at a speed that seems to have no limit.

The game is still technically in development, but those interested can buy instant access to the beta (that includes the full release scheduled for November) for a reduced price. Development for the game is continuous, with a major overhaul released just a few days ago that introduced a completely rewritten terrain generation system, entirely new biomes, new creatures and more. An entire role-playing game-style system of experience points, skills and boss creatures is being added to the game in the coming weeks as well.

Gamers with even the slightest bit of a creative streak will not be disappointed in “Minecraft.” For only about $20, this writer has enjoyed hundreds of hours of entertainment already and will enjoy hundreds more in the future.