Can You Dig It?

Can You Dig It?
15 Minutes of Minecraft

Michael Fiegel | 11 Jan 2011 11:55
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Minecraft's introductory experience can seem a bit harsh. You enter the game without any introductions or tutorials, and the random map generator might drop you into the middle of an Eden full of resources, or on a desert island in the middle of the ocean. The first 15 minutes teaches you navigation, mining and crafting, and gives you just enough of a taste of the game's creative potential to keep you enthralled, but it doesn't hold your hand.

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"I briefly had a spawn house thing with a chest and some tools," says Persson. "The house felt like it limited the player by encouraging them to spend their first couple of nights there, but it did add a nice sense of security. In the end, I decided in favor of keeping everything player made."

Indeed, there's a reason that so many of the Minecraft intro videos are titled "Surviving Your First Night." After the sun sets, the land is flooded with monsters: spiders and skeleton archers, zombies and the dreaded creepers. If you aren't prepared by the time they show up, you're probably not going to survive, and that means on average you've got about 15 minutes to get ready. There's some complicated math involved there that has to do with a 16-block aggro radius, a 24-block spawn exclusion radius, and so on, but the simplest way to demonstrate this is simply to start up a new game and see when the monsters come calling. Generally it'll be a few minutes after nightfall - right around that all-important 15-minute mark - where you learn the final lesson of the introductory experience, which is how to fight ... or die.

Kris18, who maintains the newbie FAQ on the official Minecraft forums, acknowledges that this might be a challenge for some.

"The first day is exciting, but you have to know what you're doing," he says. "You'd need someone to explain crafting before you played, or you'll likely die your first night."

The Minecraft forums and wiki are both essential resources for playing the game, and to some extent help make the game feel even more "old school" by requiring that you read the instructions (in this case, online) before you start playing. Although the basic controls are well in-line with industry standards (AWSD movement, spacebar to jump, I for inventory, etc.), there's nothing in the game that mentions mouse buttons. It doesn't take long to figure out that clicking on blocks causes them to chip away, or that you have to hold the button down to make real progress, but right now there's nothing in-game to teach that lesson. Persson acknowledges that there might be some room for improvement here, which players might expect to see addressed soon, since the game officially entered Beta on Dec. 20.

"For the sake of completeness, I want the game to at least inform the player how to open their inventory," he says. "It feels a bit like cheating to have it rely on social media."

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