It is said, in The Lord of the Rings, that the dwarves of Moria "delved too greedily and too deep" and thus awoke a great evil from the depths. If this isn't the first thing that runs through your head as you break through to a dark cavern in Minecraft, perhaps you shouldn't be playing at all. There's something primeval about finding a rich vein of iron ore only to hear the tell-tale groans of a nearby zombie or - even worse - the urgent hissing of a creeper.
But survival mode, as this is referred to, hasn't been implemented in the multiplayer aspect of Minecraft. There are a few too many bugs for it to be released to the public just yet, though Notch, creator of the game, insists that it will be along shortly. Even with the game being in Beta and without survival mode in it, the multiplayer is a robust enough component to have provided for a multitude of servers in the various corners of the internet for those who wish to seek them out.
What is it about Minecraft's multiplayer that has drawn so many of the denizens of the web to traverse through its randomly-generated biomes? Lacking the normal progression and definition provided by the survival mode of the single-player experience, the multiplayer should have collapsed in on itself with players having but a small amount of what they can do offline brought to that arena.
Crippled as it is by the removal of a major portion of the game, the ability to build, destroy and explore with friends has allowed the game to somehow flourish through adversity. Multiplayer servers have become the equivalent of large sandboxes in the middle of childhood playgrounds, a place for all shapes and sizes to come and mold the landscape to their will.
Which begs the question: Does Minecraft count as a massively multiplayer online game? The world that's created with the server is persistent - everything will still be there when the last person logs out and will stay there as long as the server's alive. More than just the logistics and servers, though, the players themselves actually fit snugly into the categorical archetypes provided by Richard Bartle's test of gamer psychology.
Richard Bartle is a name that anyone involved in the game design industry should be well aware of by now. Not only was he a member of the duo that created the first MUD, or multi-user dungeon, but he also detailed the major types of players that were active within these kind of games, first in 1990 and then with an extension of his thesis in 1996. The article speaks for itself, really, and it should make clear that Minecraft players certainly fit the description of the types of gamers in what Bartle refers to as multi-user dungeons.
The four archetypes, as presented by Bartle, are as follows: Achievers, Explorers, Socializers and Killers. He goes on to compare them to the four suits in a pack of cards, with Achievers being Diamonds, Explorers being Spades, Socializers being Hearts and Killers being Clubs. Diamonds seek treasure in ever-increasing amounts, Spades constantly attempt to unearth knowledge, Hearts tend to empathize with fellow players and Clubs, well, hit people.