The success of Minecraft has been somewhat of a phenomenon, produced by no publisher so to speak it has a lead developer Markus Persson, who created an indie game that became immensely popular long before even its official release. A game that has spawned spin off indie games that are more popular than some well backed publisher games (Minecraft first person shooters and zombie games all downloadable from xbox live). This independently developed game has gone from strength to strength, reasonably priced and thoroughly addictive, it is a breath of fresh air in a niche all of its own, so what makes Minecraft so unique and why is it such a success in such a brutal and fiercely competitive industry?
First you Mine, then you Craft.
You start your Minecraft journey in the middle of a world of blocks, each with textures that illustrate fairly intuitively what they are. Grass blocks, sand blocks, tree blocks and leaf blocks litter the landscape, as you wander around you may find a sheep, and you may find a spider that wants nothing more than your immediate demise. From here you hit blocks repeatedly and it disappears from in front of you and then you can add it to your inventory. Say you have dug up some clay (with your fists) you can then place it back where you please. A thoroughly simple concept and on its own you can build mounds, shelters, stairways to the sky and of course dig down.
Greater than simply digging blocks and placing blocks (or mining) is the crafting aspect of the game. Say you have successfully punched out a section of tree trunk from a still standing tree, you can craft that peice of log into a set of handy planks, which you can use to make wooden walls, doors or even a wooden sword. Fashion your own shelter with wood if you want, even kit yourself out with wooden armour but everyone knows the good stuff is hard to get. Make a wooden pickaxe, use it to dig down and mine more into a hillside, soon you will find stone under the clay, iron ore under the stone, coal even gold. Through combining different ingredients you can make fine armours and weapons. Decorations for your home or even your newly formed mine to make your life more pleasant in the Minecraft world.
Don't Like Where you are? Move.
The Minecraft map is vast, seemingly endless. Thirty million blocks in each direction, in fact, so there is plenty of room to stretch out. There are seas, islands and underwater caves, in fact, the world generation can cause some quite surreal land formations which are actually challenging and fun to explore on their own. They all have their own structures downwards too, with lava, caves and underwater pools. Oh and of course don't forget the monsters, did I not mention the monsters?
Are you Afraid of the Dark?
The Minecraft monsters are terrifying, at night you must find shelter or out of the woodwork will appear an array of monsters that will sneak up on you and attack you. You will find yourself fearing sunset, preparing for the night. The monsters too exist in caves as you mine, essentially anywhere where light is scarce you will probably need to run or fight sometime soon. It really adds a survival element to it and a feeling usually reserved for much spookier games, like dead space (well maybe not that scary) or The House 2.
Without a doubt the most terrifying monster is the creeper, with short green legs it is surprisingly agile and will start flashing when it's near, before you know it, it has exploded, damaging you and the blocks around you. Taking shelter in your house is a terrible idea; running from creepers in a game that is so varied adds yet another great gameplay element.
The Simple Life
Although there would appear to be limitless things to do in Minecraft there are of course no set goals, the closest thing you get to a story mode is that of the tutorial. This can make the game seem aimless if you haven't got a plan before you start playing. There are groups of people that will stage mega minecraft creator projects like creating the Taj Mahal and the Empire State building but these are massive time commitments and it is unlikely casual gamers will get involved.
Of course there are also the graphics, if that is what you want to call them, if graphics are important to you then you won't find a lot of polygons, that being said the game is still very visually appealing.
A Real Sandbox
Minecraft's great lure is that it really is a vast world where you can explore and interact with the environment in seemingly limitless ways, its major drawback is the limits in its graphic put out and how it has no story mode to speak of. If you are a gamer who hates direction this is definitely the game for you.