Exploring Minecraft Alpha


After many moons of being away from Minecraft, again I find myself in the massive Java-based world of cubes.

The game, still just in Alpha, is gaining fame and notoriety amongst certain geeky circles.

For those unfamiliar, Minecraft is a sandbox game which allows players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D world. It is the labor of love of one Swede, a slightly rotund and jolly fellow named Markus Persson (AKA “Notch”). While much is planned for the game, in its current form there are two modes. The “Classic” mode is solely about building crazy stuff with cubes. The “Survival” mode is about both building and surviving.

Classic mode can be a lone or group experience, and in multiplayer the collaborative building and griefing of structures is a sight to behold.

It was in this post from a year ago that I realized how incredible this game was. I had never seen a persistent online environment that could be built up or destroyed all through the block-by-block manipulation of players.

Survival mode preserves the building and exploration aspects, while adding a slew of other features. The world is now procedurally generated as you explore. Theoretically the total area of a game world can be 8x the surface of earth.

Alpha requires that the player use the building and mining mechanics as a method of protection from hostile monsters, and as a way to uncover useful ores in the ground. Alpha also includes limits on the number of blocks that can be held by the player, using an inventory system, and requires that all blocks be mined first rather than giving the player an unlimited supply as in Classic’s creative mode. Different blocks can be crafted into items such as chests, mine carts and tracks, boats, and buckets. There are also plants and animals, which can be farmed and hunted for other resources. The player has an inventory in which to hold blocks and items, as well as a health meter. Health can be restored upon eating certain items and is lost from long falls or attacks by monsters. Upon death, the player respawns at his original spawn point with an empty inventory. And when this happens, it sucks! There is no way to revert to old saves, so not dying is a priority.

The biggest change is the monsters. Once night falls, the beasts swarm the landscape. If you don’t have shelter built, you’re dead. This adds an urgency to the game. While outside, it’s necessary to keep an eye on the sun to know how much time is left before nightfall. Monsters also make mining and exploring underground caves a tense experience. Aside from fear of getting lost underground or falling into deep pitch black chasms, a monster could be lurking around any corner.

This video, which I didn’t make, sums it up pretty well:

I’ve just barely scratched the surface of building or crafting, and the world is largely unexplored.

Once the game loaded, my first order of business was to find a nice place to build a shelter. Rather than build where I spawned, I walked until I found a decent-sized cliff. Building here would be less work to defend myself. I set to work building walls and mining stone from a cave within the cliff. As I mined deeper and deeper, I had more materials to expand my base. I set up perimeter fences and a few terraces. I crafted a workbench and storage chest. Torches lined the walls, making my base feel safe and keeping the creepiness of night from messing with my mind. Outside the walls, I could see the monsters wandering around, trying to get to me.

The first morning, I went exploring. Every cave entrance I found I marked with a stone and a torch. I also used strategically placed torches to know where I had been in case I got lost. In another cliff face to the south of my base, I dug out a small bunker in the stone. This would be an outpost for exploring the area.

A few more days passed, and I had built yet another base near my spawn point and a massive elevated roadway to get between my bases without having to be in harm’s way. I’d taken a boat and explored some neighboring islands. I’d lit my way torch-by-torch while exploring massive interconnected caves. I’d been swept into voids on underground rivers, stumbled upon and gotten killed by monsters, and found a guarded dungeon full of treasure.

Some screenshots from my fledgling world:

Click to view a larger version of an orthogonal map of my world. It was generated with Minecraft Topographical Survey.

My high road connecting my main base with the southern bunker.

A cave entrance marked with a stone and torch.

My main base at night, a work in progress.

The sun rises over my east/west high road.

The entrance to my bunker.

This failed canal digging project was supposed to let my boat get between all my bases. After burning through a lot of shovels, the water just ended up draining into an underground cave.

Looking out from the bunker.

The cliffs near Lost lake.

A pig watches me explore.

My crafting table.

The dock and two boats at my main base.

The entrance to the biggest cave I’ve found so far. This cave runs insanely deep, branching off in twisting and complicated ways. It seems to run under all of what I call Cave Island.

Heading deeper in the cave.

An underground waterfall and stream seems to attract monsters.

Surfacing from the cave, I see the moon setting over the base near my spawn.

Checking the inventory of a storage chest.

Setting out on my boat for uncharted lands.

Marking yet another cave.

The epic and yet unexplored landscape of New Krabi. My next base will built on one of its peaks.

Never has a game filled me with such a sense of adventure and discovery. And it’s just a bunch of cubes.

Find Minecraft at http://www.minecraft.net/

September 23rd, 2010. Categories / Minecraft

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