Wednesday, May 09, 2012

On Minecraft 360: It's GUD!

When I spent some time in Minecraft last year, my biggest overriding feeling was one of bewilderment. Whilst I truly loved the idea of it, the need to have an Oracle on hand did not gel with me particularly. I have nothing against the idea of guides, but I have always felt that games should do something to preculde the need to even read the manual. Obviously, tutorials have their uses, but sometimes they get in the way. What is needed is some kind of a guide system that slowly introduces concepts to the player. Minecraft on PC has nothing. You find yourself in the world, it gets dark, and you probably die.

Learning by your mistakes is one thing, but not even allowing people to know that mistakes are a possibility is something completely different. When I first saw a green thing walk towards me, I knew it didn't mean well. What I did not know was that it would explode and kill me. To be totally fair, it was early enough in the game that all I lost was a bit of wood and dirt, because at this point I hadn't crafted anything meaningful. But, this does lead to the important question of WHY had I not crafted anything?

Because I didn't have the first concept of HOW to craft anything! My entire experience up to the first appearance of the exploding bastard had consisted of finding out what I could punch to pieces, and placing said pieces on top of other pieces. I didn't know that I needed to make planks in order to make a table in order to make an axe in order to mine stone. None of this was explained to me in any way whatsoever. I wasn't even given clues. I was just thrown into the deepest of all ends, and left to inevitably die.

This problem has been completely fixed in the XBox 360 version, which is released today. (And can be downloaded right here.) In two ways, as it happens. The first one is the inclusion of a comprehensive tutorial world, which disables the passing of time until you have built sufficient shelter, and literally holds your hand every step of the way. Then, this world expands, and gives you a hint of the possibilities open to you.

The second way is by including tips that tell you exactly what you are looking at the first time you encounter it. That slightly different pattern in the cobblestone? That's coal, or iron, or maybe something even more delightful. The point is, you don't need to mine it to find out. It also includes recipes for all the games creatable items, which does somewhat take away from the exploration and experimentation part that is actually quite enjoyable, but removes 100% of the head-scracthing.

For anyone who is on the fence, this in-game help is reason enough to investigate. But the main reason to dive in? That would be the inclusion of local cop-op play. If you have anybody in your house who might play with you, then you are in for an absolute treat. I spent several hours building Castle Flaps with my girlfriend, and it was just so enjoyable. Approaching a common goal from our own directions, sabotaging each other for the lulz, and just generally hanging out together without some of the restrictions other games place on us. (Be close at all times, work together, do THIS, DO THAT!) There were times when I went off looking for Iron Ore, and was at the other end of the world to her. It was almost like incidental co-operation, with the slightest hint of competition. Part of me is tempted to log in today and fill her house with dirt, but that would be much funnier if I could sneakily do it while she is playing alongside me.

It makes me wonder. Why is the XBox 360 game so much more accessible than the PC one? Do the publishers really think that things need to be dumbed-down for the consoles? Or, do PC developers care more about their own vision than user-friendliness? PC gaming is, at times, a despicable act of player hatred. Developers shower us with contempt, expecting us to jump through multiple hoops and download patches or drivers, and often entire content delivery systems, just to play their sodding games. "Want joypad support? FUCK YOU!"

But, that is all discussion for another day. Another entry. I have been beating my head against this particular wall for too long, and don't really want to start it again today. For now, just know that Minecraft on the XBox 360 is every bit as wonderful as you hoped it would be, and if you purchase it and want someone to come and dig holes in the ground with you, you know how to find me.


  1. So have they included anything on 360 in terms of more easily returning to where you friends are? On PC I've always found that to be annoying that you have to use server commands to teleport to them (and only people set as admin can do that).

    1. On the one hand, it is worse because there are no server commands. But, the world is smaller, being just the size of one map from the PC version. Also, everyone spawns with a map, and if your friends have set themselves to visible you can see their arrow on it.

  2. Heh, even one map on the PC version is enough for me to get lost :) But yeah not being to accidentally wander off into another one (and thus off the visible map for your friends) is probably useful. Maps don't show things like how deep into a mine a friend is ofc, but at least they've given some thought to making that more convenient.