Minecraft is a sandbox building indie video game written in Java originally by Swedish creator Markus "Notch" Persson and now by his company, Mojang, formed from the proceeds of the game. It was released on May 17, 2009, with a Beta on December 20, 2010. Official releases for iOS and Android are currently in development to be released later in 2011 along with a full version of the game; the Android release will be temporarily exclusive to the Xperia Play. A version of the game for the Xbox 360 with Kinect support is under development by 4J Studios.
The game is focused on creativity and building, allowing players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D world. The game has two variants – free Classic and paid Beta – where Classic is focused entirely on construction with unlimited material supply, while Beta requires players to acquire resources themselves, and contains mobs, player health, and additional features and items. The gameplay is heavily inspired by Infiniminer by Zachtronics Industries, Dwarf Fortress by Bay 12 Games and Dungeon Keeper by Bullfrog Productions.
The game is currently in development and Beta is the only continuously updated version of the game. Minecraft was developed for about a week before its public release on May 17, 2009, on the TIGSource forums, where it gained a considerable level of popularity. It has been continually updated and patched since then, and while it was still in alpha release, it garnered several hundred thousand sales and received critical notice and acclaim from many reviewers. It passed a million units sold on January 12, 2011, less than a month after reaching Beta. By June 13, 2011, the game had sold 2.5 million units.
The core gameplay revolves around construction. The game world is essentially made up of cubical blocks arranged in a fixed grid pattern, that represent different materials, such as, dirt, stone, various ores, water, tree trunks, etc. While the players can move freely across the world, objects and items can only be placed at fixed locations relative to the grid. The player can gather these material "blocks" and place them elsewhere, thus potentially creating various constructions.
Minecraft has two currently available variants, Beta and Classic, both with single-player and multiplayer options. Classic is the earliest free version and initially featured only creative game mode with only building (block placement and removal) aspects of the game and unlimited block supply. The Classic was then split into single-player survival mode (referred to as "Survival Mode Test"), which contained monsters and a much greater variety of blocks and items available, as well as requiring players to mine their own blocks. As of Beta release, only creative Classic mode version 0.30 is available in single-player and multiplayer modes.
Classic survival mode served as the base for development of single-player non-free Indev ("In Development"), and later non-free Infdev ("Infinite Development") versions, each expanding the number of features. Indev and Infdev were later replaced by the non-free Alpha variant, which continued to add features to the game, including multiplayer mode. As of December 20, 2010, the game entered into Beta. It includes music by Daniel "C418" Rosenfeld. For multiplayer games, servers are currently hosted by individual players or groups; there are no "official" Minecraft servers yet, the only way to connect to a server is entering the hostname or IP address in-game.
The Beta version of the game is a successor to the earlier Alpha version via a sequence of updates. Minecraft moved from alpha to beta status on December 20, 2010. It is the only version of Minecraft continuously updated and is only available to users who have purchased the game. Beta is a survival game mode with both single-player and multiplayer variants playable as a stand-alone client and in web browsers.
The game starts by placing the player on the surface of a huge procedurally generated game world. The player can walk across the terrain consisting of plains, mountains, caves, and various water bodies. The world is also divided into biomes ranging from deserts to snowfields. The in-game time system follows a day and night cycle. The player can acquire different resources and craft tools, weapons, armor, food, and various other items. By acquiring better resources the player can make more proficient items. For example, tools such as axes, shovels, or pickaxes, can be used to chop down trees, dig soil, and mine ores respectively. The game has an inventory system and the player is limited in the number of items they can carry.
During daytime, different non-hostile animals spawn, which can be hunted for food and crafting materials. Hostile mobs, such as large spiders, skeletons, and zombies will spawn in unlit areas, such as during nighttime and in caves. Armor can help mitigate damage from mob attacks, while weapons can be used to kill enemies and other animals. The player has a health bar, which is depleted by attacks from monsters, falls, or environmental damage (such as drowning or falling into lava or magma) and can be replenished by eating certain food items, or by playing on the easiest difficulty, at which health regenerates by itself. Upon dying the player is teleported to the starting spawn point and items in their inventory are dropped. The items can be recovered if the player reaches them in time.
Complex systems can be built using the in-game physics engine with the use of primitive electrical circuits and logic gates. For example, a door can be opened or closed by pressing a connected button or stepping on a pressure plate. Similarly, larger and more complex systems can be produced, such as a working arithmetic logic unit – as used in CPUs.
The game world is procedurally generated as the player explores it. Although limits exist on vertical movement both up and down, Beta allows for an infinitely large game world to be generated on the horizontal plane, only running into technical problems when extremely distant locations are reached.[† 1] The game achieves this by splitting the game world data into smaller sections, called "chunks",[† 1] only created or loaded into memory when the player is nearby.
Some multiplayer servers offer fan-made mods that enhance or change the gameplay, such as providing unlimited material supply, new enemies or weapons, or enhanced transportation systems.
The other Minecraft variant is Classic. It is only the game's base functionality, allowing players to build and destroy any and all parts of the world either alone or in a multiplayer server, without the need to worry about being attacked by computer-controlled enemies or avoiding environmental hazards like lava and steep falls. The player is given an unlimited supply of blocks with which to build and can place or remove any block instantly, regardless of their type. Some of the blocks are not available in Classic mode, and there is no environmental interaction. For example, in Beta mode, TNT will detonate after a few seconds of being hit, but in Classic mode, it will act like any other block and just break. Unlike Beta, Classic is free to play, though it is not updated. Players have created bots to help them build inside of Classic mode servers. One of the intended uses of these bots is replicating in-game structures. Classic is intended to be phased out as Beta progresses, leaving Beta as the only Minecraft game. An official version of the Classic server software is available from the Minecraft website; however, many fans have created their own custom servers with additional features, such as the ability to place water blocks.
The game has been praised for the creative freedom it grants its players in-game, and for how dynamic the overall gameplay is. PC Gamer listed Minecraft as the fourth-best game to play at work.
A review of the alpha version, by Scott Munro of the Daily Record, called it "already something special" and urged readers to buy it. Jim Rossignol of Rock, Paper, Shotgun also recommended the alpha of the game, calling it "a kind of generative 8-bit Lego Stalker". On September 17, 2010, gaming webcomic Penny Arcade began a series of comics and news posts about the addictiveness of the game. Video game talk show Good Game gave it a 7.5 and 9 out of 10, praising its creativity and customization, though they criticized its lack of a tutorial.
In December 2010, Good Game selected Minecraft as their choice for "Best Downloadable Game of 2010" title, Gamasutra named it the eighth best game of the year as well as the eighth best indie game of the year, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun named it the game of the year. Indie DB awarded the game the 2010 "Indie of the Year" award as chosen by voters, in addition to two out of five Editor's Choice awards for "Most Innovative" and "Best Singleplayer Indie". It was also awarded "Game of the Year" by PC Gamer UK. The game was nominated for the "Seumas McNally Grand Prize", "Technical Excellence", and "Excellence in Design" awards at the March 2011 Independent Games Festival and won the Grand Prize along with community-voted "Audience Award". At Game Developers Choice Awards 2011, Minecraft won the award for Best debut game, Best downloadable game and Most Innovative game award, winning every award for which it was nominated.
On May 5th, 2011, Minecraft was selected as one of the 80 games that will be displayed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum as part of "The Art of Video Games" exhibit that will open on March 16th, 2012. (Download Now)