Game Design

10 Things We Can Learn From Minecraft

I’ve been the latest victim of the Minecraft bug of late. I must admit this game is pretty amazing in its simplicity. It’s so very basic yet very addictive. I could totally see modern gamers passing it up because of the graphics or the playstyle, as I almost did myself. But the reality is that it is worth a try

I’ve been the latest victim of the Minecraft bug of late. I must admit this game is pretty amazing in its simplicity. It’s so very basic yet very addictive. I could totally see modern gamers passing it up because of the graphics or the playstyle, as I almost did myself. But the reality is that it is worth a try. I’ve learned a lot from the game, here’s just a few things:

  1. Crafting can be really fun: At its core, Minecraft is all about crafting and mining. There really isn’t much more to the game, I mean there are zombies and creepers that can kill you, but a lot of the game is spent doing things in order to avoid these creatures in order for you to get back to business. This is a stark contrast to MMOs where you do crafting to get back to business. I think the fun of the crafting comes in the unique dynamic of shaping what you are making. I think it works especially well with the simplistic blocky graphics, but I do wonder if this crafting type could work well in a more complicated MMO crafting. The plus side of it is that the crafter actually feels like they are doing something instead of just pushing buttons which has always been a problem previously.
  2. Farming is fun: This is kind of a reiteration of the first point, but it is particularly important because actual farming is rarely tried in MMOs. The only other place I might think has farming is Rune Factory/Harvest Moon where it is all about farming. This game’s farming is very simple, but not terrible. You get seed, you hoe an area, you plant seed, it grows with light and water. Getting water near your crop can be strategic as is protecting it because if anything walks on it, it could kill your crop (yay fences!). You can also farm trees, and in 1.9 they are adding animal breeding. It’s all good stuff and I enjoy it in the game. MMO devs should take note.
  3. Strip Mining is NOT fun: I’ve seen videos of people strip mining in Minecraft and this seems to lead to a fairly big design problem in the game. People like looking for more and new resources, I think it is part of the thrill of the game. But it is kind of a grind to do so and so in order to get a bunch more resources quickly, people resort to it. There needs to be some sort of tracking method or maybe some sort bonus to not strip mining, or maybe if they just made the act itself somewhat more exciting. Generally speaking there is a better method in looking for caverns as caverns tend to have a bigger chance for veins, but at the same time it still takes awhile to even find a cavern sometimes. Maybe just a cavern tracking tool would work.
  4. Graphics don’t need to be SOTA in order to be great: I’ve never been a huge graphics whore so this isn’t a new deduction or even surprising. However, when I first started looking at Minecraft even I was saying blech. I do have to say though, that the graphics are far better in game than in screenshots. That being said, it seems to be more computer intensive than I’d think which is a bit surprising.
  5. Mistakes Can Be Good!: I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard the story, but in pre-alpha tests, the developers somehow messed up their pig model and it somehow ended up standing up. They liked it so much that they gave the model a different texture and a special power (blowing up) and thus was born their most famous monster: The Creeper. This just goes to show that you don’t necessarily need to throw out mistakes, some mistakes are worth keeping around.
  6. Rewards can be craft based: Everything in Minecraft is really revolved around crafting which is the exact model that I think needs to be implemented into MMOs. You kill something, you get something that can be crafted into something useful or sold. You kill something rare or hard, you get something rare or hard to get. In fact, Minecraft goes above and beyond in that everything gives something different and everything is useful somehow (well for the most part). You get bones from skeletons which you can use to make bone meal which you can use to instant grow plants. You can get gunpowder from creepers (which blow up) to make TNT. And the list goes on. If you want to make a bow, you need to find a few spiders to get silk and this is a great dynamic. Heck they even added little easter eggs such as killing things in a weird way will actually get you ultra rare items like music discs.
  7. Everything has its own thing: Relating to the last part is that when designing monsters they actually thought about what each monster brings to the table. In most MMOs, there is little difference between the mobs except whether it is aggressive/non-aggressive… the level (which dictates health)… and ranged or not ranged. These things are still there in Minecraft (outside of level), but not repeated over time a lot. Zombies are your melee toughy, skeletons shoot arrows, creepers blow up, etc. But it isn’t even just what they do, it is how they take shape in the physical world. The above are all 2 high, 1 wide, but spiders are 4 wide and 1 high so they can go places the others can’t. Endermen are 3 high so are often restricted in where they can go but can teleport if they like. I really like this. It feels like a chess thing where every piece has its move.
  8. Increasing Difficulty is Important: One particular problem I have with Minecraft is that there does seem to be a lull in enjoyment of the game. This lull occurs when you usually get a ton of iron and enough diamond to make your base tools and armor. The monsters are all about the same level, though better armor helps some more than others. But basically once you get a decent amount of iron, you can make most anything in the game without getting into the more tricky bits, there is an alternate dimension that might change that in 1.9, but as of yet it isn’t there. This lack of ramping difficulty/discovery shows in minecraft quite a bit.
  9. Affecting the world is good: Whenever you look at youtube videos for Minecraft, you will find people doing strange and cool things in the world, this is a product of the foresight by the developers to let you. Granted many are not things that are actually being done in game but are instead being done with the tools of the game instead. But stuff like the redstone acting like circuit breakers with pistons were a genius move by the devs to allow players to toy around with fun in game things to do. It basically allows the player to entertain themselves which is the whole point isn’t it?
  10. Finish your base game before you move onto more exotic aspects of the game: This was the biggest problem I think with Minecraft. The developers I think wanted to come up with something different for the player to do so they created an alternate dimension, and it looks like they are going to be adding a third soon enough. However, I don’t feel that they totally finished the original game in the first place and there is a lot left that they probably could/should do. They are still adding to the main game, the breeding system in particular looks great. I can understand one alternate dimension, but two? Meanwhile there is a setting to allow villages and NPCs to created but there doesn’t seem to be either of these and I feel it totally could use them.
  11. Spiders are Scarey!: Ok, this one isn’t entirely real but gosh I hate them! They come from the sky it really freaks me out!