Who it is Developed By
Minecraft was originally designed by Markus ‘Notch’ Persson in 2009, Minecraft was fully developed under his gaming companies name, Mojang, and it was officially released in 2011, from there it made its way onto gaming consoles and then, in 2014, Minecraft, along with the Mojang company, was sold to Microsoft for 2.5 million.
What Functionality it Provides
In terms of functionality, Minecraft has some similarities to Second Life, such as the fact that Minecraft does not have any specific goals or objectives, it offers the ability to build your own creations, explore the creations of others and to be social within the community, however, that is about where the similarities stop. At its core, Minecraft is still a video game.
Minecraft has a variety of in-game activities and five game modes to choose from: adventure, creative, hardcore, spectator, and survival.
This aspect of Minecraft makes me want to describe it as “Digital Lego”, this was my first time playing Minecraft and this is a simple house I built. For the most part, buildings are limited to “blocks” which are either square or half a square, however, small details can be added such as the torches by the door and the fencing around the pathway, there are also other slight variations to the standard blocks.
Although I say only being able to build with blocks is a “limitation” it is highly intuitive and an extremely simple process, I can certainly see why this game is so popular and, on top of this, there are some pretty incredible builds online, such as this palace that blows my simple house out of the water.
There are a tonne of items that players can “craft” by joining the resources they’ve gathered together in various different combinations, almost every item in Minecraft can be crafted, from building blocks to tools, armour, and weapons, there are a few websites that show the various items that can be crafted, along with their specific “recipes”, such as minecraft-crafting.net.
In multiplayer modes, players are able to chat to one another, this is currently only text-based, and players are unable to chat using voice (for example with a headset), however, there is a text-to-speech “narrator” that can read messages out for the player, which is really quite neat.
Although there are no set goals or objectives in Minecraft, resource gathering is a key element to the game. Outside of the Creative and Spectator game modes, players are required to gather resources in order to build structures or craft the various items that are available, without gathering resources a player cannot progress.
This could otherwise be called “normal mode”, in this mode the player is given limited resources and they must explore and gather further resources while they can in order to build and craft new items and, as the name suggests, survive.
What makes this mode difficult is the fact that the player must survive hostile attacks from the dangerous creatures they will encounter during the nights and while exploring. This mode has varying degrees of difficulty, including a hardcore mode, which sets the difficulty to the maximum.
Adventure mode was added in later versions (1.3) of Minecraft and this mode allows users to explore maps and worlds created by other players, the creators of each adventure are able to apply restrictions and game rules for the players taking part in their adventures.
This mode allows a player the freedom to fly around a map and move through blocks as if they were a ghost. As the name suggests, players in this mode are unable to “be part of the action”, they can only watch, either from their own perspective or through the eyes of another player.
This mode is my personal favourite, in Creative Mode the players are simply given unlimited resources to build with to let their imaginations run wild, in this mode the sky (or the block system) is the limit, but as you can see by the palace build above, certain creative souls are more likely to reach the sky than be limited by the shape of the blocks!
How Well it Runs
After blowing up my beautiful house with TNT!
From what I can see, Minecraft runs on just about anything, including a Rasberry Pi! However, I assume that how well it really runs will depend on the device running it. For me, as I have a relatively powerful computer, I can run Minecraft at 1080p resolution without any form of jittering or slowdown.
From the research I have done, Minecraft relies mostly on CPU power for performance, so any computer with a half-decent processor could run Minecraft with a high level of detail. Although not as impressive as the Second Life Engine, Minecraft does an exceptional job of running very well on just about anything.
When it comes to Multiplayer modes there are other factors that would likely influence performance, they are your network speed and the server that is running the world, if the server or your network is slow you would probably experience lag, however, I only had access to an old trial version of Minecraft which didn’t include Multiplayer modes so I could not test this.
How it is Used
Minecraft is used for a variety of purposes including being social and purely for fun, however, I believe that its primary use is for entertainment and relaxation. Regardless of what the user is doing, Minecraft inspires its users to be creative and to channel that creativity into critical thinking and problem-solving.
Minecraft is also being used in education and has proven to be a great way of engaging young learners who find it difficult to focus or apply themselves. The “Minecraft: Education Edition” is being used to teach things such as chemistry, coding, math and much more.
How it Compares to Others
I first heard of Minecraft in a YouTube video by Extra Credits. In their video, they talk about how Minecraft will change the gaming industry in the future because it has such a radically different design compared to “traditional” games (rather than being action and goal oriented it requires time, patience and thinking and it has no set goals) and because it is so popular with the younger audience. That gives me the impression that it is very different to most games.
However, as I am not a gamer, I really only have Second Life to compare Minecraft to and I believe they do have some similarities for example,
- Neither Platform has any specific goals, allowing the user to choose how they use the platform.
- Both Platforms allow the user to build and create
- Both Platforms provide the user with a chance to be social
However, Minecraft does have the survival modes, which do give the user the goal of having to survive and, in that aspect, Minecraft is more of a video game which is quite different to Second Life.
The building system in each platform is very different as well, for example, in Minecraft, the player is given set blocks with set textures and those are the only block that can be used to build things and those blocks cannot be modified or sculpted in any way, although this is limiting in some ways it is also so simple and intuitive that almost anyone could do it.
In comparison, while building in Second Life the user is not limited to what they can create, being able to contort and mould shapes, apply unlimited textures and make object interactive with scripts, users are even given the option to design objects and structures in 3D modeling software and import them into the world, this allows the user to create structures and objects with far greater detail (and curves) however, this added complexity also makes building in Second Life far more complex which means it has a far greater learning curb.
Being social in either platform is completely different, in Minecraft users can interact via a text-based chat system (and that handy text-to-speech narrator!) in Second Life, however, users can also use text-based chat but they can also make their avatar perform a variety of different gestures and they are also given the option to use a headset and communicate more naturally, although the text-to-speech function would be extremely handy!
What my Impressions of it are
Although I don’t typically enjoy video games, I found that I strangely enjoyed myself while playing Minecraft, it reminded me a lot of my younger years when I would spend countless hours playing with K’nex and Lego being so engaged that I had no way of realizing just how much time I had spent on it. This is exactly what Minecraft did to me and I spent approximately 4 hours building the house shown in the picture above, only to load it up with TNT and blow it to pieces! What fun!
Overall I think Minecraft is a fantastic game and I think that I will definitely allow my son to play it when he is older, along with Lego and K’nex of course! and the more I have looked into the educational side of Minecraft, the more I believe it could be a highly valuable tool in the classrooms of primary schools.