Surviving a day in Minecraft

I appear on a snow-covered beach and look around me. The sun is rising, but it is doing it very quickly. The whole day will pass in just a few minutes, and I have a lot to do. First I test the ice. It holds me up well enough and there’s an interesting island out in the lake off to my right. First thing, though, I’m looking for trees.

I turn around and climb up the slope to my left, hoping for a better view. I pass a couple of cows trudging aimlessly through the snow as I look for a good vantage point.

From the top of the nearest hill, I can only see a couple of isolated trees. It will have to do for now. Time ticks.

I get into the shade of the tree, and use my hands to harvest a supply of wood, then move onto a second tree between two hills. Wood seems scarce here, but I soon have a small supply of it and some cuttings to plant. After all, I’m going to need more wood before long. I’d better start organising a renewable supply.

Something catches my eye, though. A nearby rock-face shows exposed coal.

I work with the wood I’ve got, making myself some planks and shafts, and a simple work-bench. In less time than it takes to tell, I’ve got a simple wooden tool. It won’t last long breaking rock, but it doesn’t have to. I focus on the rocks next to the coal, before moving on to the coal-seam itself.

Quickly, I obtain a little coal, and enough stone to use for the head of a new pick-axe. I look up at the sun. There’s always a little time-pressure on the first day.

It’s Noon already. Nasty things come out at night, so I need to organise shelter quickly. Time to trek out to that island I spotted earlier. It takes me a moment to get my bearings, though. With the sun right above me, I’m not completely certain which direction I’d come from. Then I spot the cows again, between two of the nearest hills, and strike out that way. Moments later, I have a view of the icy lake, and the island.

Not all of the lake is frozen, but enough of it is for me to trek straight out to the island that I spotted earlier.

The sole inhabitants of my new island are four sheep, hopping around and bleating. A quick survey reveals that it isn’t a true island. The far side is joined to the mainland by a sandbar. Nevertheless, it will do. I need shelter before it gets dark.

With my hands, I start scooping away snow and sand. Pick-axes are for stone, and I don’t want to ruin it on softer materials. I cut a tunnel straight into the side of the hummock from its beach, and it isn’t long before I’m a few metres in and cutting through stone with my rapidly deteriorating wooden pick-axe. I quickly hollow out a small chamber, once knocking a hole in the roof, which I repack with dirt.

I left my primitive workbench back near the coal-seam, so I build another. I shove it into a corner, but the light coming in through the entrance is already starting to fade. It will be dusk soon. Very soon.

I lay out six planks on the bench and make a simple door. While I’m doing that, I combine some coal with some sticks and make some torches. When I look up, I realise just how dark it is getting. I hurry to the entry tunnel and put the door in place, checking that it opens and shuts properly. A bewildered sheep looks at me from the beach.

I move around the chamber that I’ve dug out, and jam some of the torches in the walls. Well lit now, with a door between myself and the outside. I settle down to wait out the night. I can already hear … things moving around outside. Dark-loving creatures that will kill me if they can.

The night will pass as quickly as the day did, and now I have shelter. In the morning, I’ll plant some trees, find some more coal, and see if I can expand my diminutive fortress. The island isn’t large, so most of it will have to be either up or down.

This is Minecraft, an independent game by a small European developer called Mojang Specifications.

Minecraft has been under constant development for quite some time now. It’s a java-based game which runs in a browser, or as a separate download, and receives frequent updates. It’s just graduated to beta, and features continue to be added at a steady rate.

Minecraft is almost the archetypal sandbox game (with actual sand, moreover). With coal and wood, stone, sand, soil and metal, you can make all sorts of things. What you make is up to you. There’s no goals other than what you set, no achievements to strive for, no satisfaction other than setting out to do something and accomplishing it.

At night (and in the dark places of the earth), nasties of all sorts emerge that mean to do you harm. You can fight them or avoid them if you prefer. There are skeletons, zombies, giant spiders, blobs and more. You can make bows, swords and armour and fight them, or like me set up a sturdy home to keep them out – or both, if you prefer.

Minecraft allows you to make tools, doors, switches, signs, levers, pressure-plates, mine-carts and tracks, boats, buckets, and more. You can take the wood, soil, sand, and rock that you’ve harvested or dug out and place it as you please, making new structures – you can cook meat from animals, or turn sand into glass blocks for construction of windows and skylights. You can swim, drown, jump or fall into lava. You can build a portal to some ghastly netherhell – you know – just for laughs.

If you should die, you’ll drop everything you had, and reappear otherwise unscathed back at the place where you first started. Unless lava destroyed your belongings, you can go and get it all back again. Weapons, armour and tools all wear out with use, though and need to be replaced now and again.

Minecraft’s sound is simple, but effective. A lot of what you hear is digging sounds, over the background music (which you can disable if you prefer it).

What might really catch your attention, though, are the games graphics.

Minecraft’s graphics are all essentially simple and blocky. It doesn’t require an awesome amount of computing power to run (though if you have plenty, you can crank the settings up). It’s like the world is made out of a child’s construction blocks, and might get you thinking of many of the computer games from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Don’t be put off by the retro visuals, though, because the game’s graphics while simple, are charming (and unusually sophisticated) and – more importantly – get you thinking in terms of blocks.

Digging out blocks and stacking blocks are the keys to mining and construction. Like assembling anything with Lego – only Lego the size of your head. So, the blocky nature of the terrain and creatures (and even the clouds, sun, moon and stars) isn’t just a cheap shortcut. It’s a stylistic choice that supports the simulation at every level.

There are no goals and no story to Minecraft – it doesn’t really count as a game by objective definitions. It is, however, an excellent toy, and like any toy, you can play games with it and have fun with it. Minecraft runs in a window, and suspends itself when not actively being used, making it an almost ideal pick-up-and-play casual diversion.

Minecraft was the primarily the work of a lone programmer, Markus Persson, however the game recently hit the public imagination, and discounted pre-beta sales were… well, fairly staggering is what they were. Persson was able to hire staff and office-space, and Mojang Specifications is now working full-time on Minecraft and another (as yet unannounced) project.

Presently, Minecraft can be purchased online from its Web-site for €14.95, while it remains in beta.


  1. Paisley Beebe says

    My kids liken it to Lego with goals, and scary zombies, they love it! and I like it, cause its creative for them.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tateru Nino and Metaverse Journal. Metaverse Journal said: Surviving a day in Minecraft by @taterunino – #minecraft […]

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