Alpha v1.0.0 of Minecraft — The trees practically fluoresce!

Why do I long for Minecraft version 1?

As a gamer I’m glad I had the opportunity to witness the release, rise in popularity, and success that is Minecraft. I remember fondly spending countless hours playing the Classic, Indev, Infdev, Alpha, and Beta versions. I had certainly had my fill by the time it was officially released with version 1.0.

If I spent so much time playing Minecraft, why do I hardly play it anymore? Is there not enough to do? That can’t be, there’s more content in every update. The world as it exists now at the end of 2020 is larger and fuller than it has ever been. If that wasn’t enough, modding has taken that and dialed it to 11. Perhaps the reason it’s because I’ve already played a lot? Given that I reinstall and mod Skyrim every other year that can’t be the case either. I’m certainly capable of playing and replaying a game if I enjoy it enough.

Notch’s first teaser image for the Ender Dragon.

End Game

I remember fondly those early versions. The ridiculousness of not having an end to the game, but also the potential of it. That is to say, when there is no end goal then you never feel like you’ve beaten it until you’ve reached a goal you set for yourself. When the ender dragon was added I felt like the game betrayed that wonderful aspect. Yes I know you can stop playing at any time, and certainly you can keep playing after you kill the ender dragon as well. I would rather not be given a reason to stop. I prefer it without a distinct end.

When I look back I recall that Notch, Minecraft’s creator, always wanted there to be an end game. It seems like he felt that Minecraft couldn’t be complete without a traditional final boss. Clearly I disagree, but surely this is such a minor nitpick it can’t be reason enough for me stop playing it.

Nostalgia?

What if I’m looking at this all wrong? What if I only recall early Minecraft fondly because I was younger and voxel-based sandbox games didn’t become a thing until Minecraft. Maybe these rose-tinted glasses cause me to forget how much there was to do in prehistoric Minecraft.

Though, if this were the case I can’t imagine I would keep playing Skyrim every few years. I’ve reinstalled and enjoyed TF2 despite its age. Pokemon Sapphire was a joy to replay as well. Even Maplestory, easily a decade old game, can be thoroughly enjoyable today.

I’m not saying I’m immune to Nostalgia, just that I have a good feeling for the distinction between a nostalgic game and a timeless one.

An Empty World

The thing I miss so much about the older Minecraft is pretty counterintuitive. In a way, I miss how little there was to it.

Every update Minecraft gets more things. Enemies, friends, animals, blocks, challenges, and tools. It makes sense, too. Certainly when someone plays a game for long enough they want a new experience. Games that aren’t procedurally generated voxel terrain make adding new content much more time-consuming. Minecraft from the get-go put itself in a unique position to be able to add loads of content with as little effort as possible.

How could this possibly be a problem for me? How is more not better?

Minecraft can be a lot of things. It can be an action game, an adventure game, a sandbox game. It can be an RPG, an FPS, a battle royale. It can have tech trees and skill trees, health, armor, shields, flying, diving, and digging. It can do so much, and it has proven that it can do everything. However, what I enjoyed most about older Minecraft was its demand for creativity.

Beta 1.8 Minecraft no longer looked like everything was made out of glow sticks.

Creativity

With so much depth to Minecraft today there is less need for creativity. Like a painter that has all of the colors in the world available to them. Sure they can create something more stunning than another painter with only three colors. It’s easier when you have more tools at your disposal. What I’m after is not the end result, though. I’m after the process of creating. When you are given only a stick and a rock how much can you accomplish? If you don’t have it easy, what can you get done?

When there isn’t a dozen types of trees and stones, what’s the coolest fort you can build with 31— not 200 — blocks? There is magic in the process of using very rudimentary ingredients to construct a masterpiece. Older Minecraft was just that — rudimentary. Basic. Simple. The ingenuity of people that never had such an open-ended sandbox game before allowed them to accomplish amazing things.

Redstone

If you look hard enough you can find, with the introduction of redstone, someone make the first computer in Minecraft. The size was unwieldy and the only tools they had was redstone dust and redstone torches.

No repeaters, no hoppers or dispensers. There were no droppers, observers, pistons, or command blocks. None of these nice-to-have tools and someone spent the time to create a basic computer. Not because it was easy, but because they wanted to and it being hard was no obstacle. Sure the computers that have been made since then are much more capable, but that’s not as magical to me.

A shot from theinternetftw’s 16-bit ALU video, the first Minecraft computer.

The Mother of Invention

I’m not saying that everything should be harder, that games should only be as hard as possible. There is pride in overcoming obstacles, but it’s not about that either. All of those other gameplay styles are just as reasonable, and it’d be hard to enjoy Minecraft in those other ways without the depth that has since been added.

Creating a great canvas from three colors. That is a wonderful thing. Building whole cities out of nothing but some textured blocks is an achievement in and of itself. That necessity that forced players to rise to the challenge left me in awe when I saw how those players overcame that challenge.

Go and look for blueprints for a Minecraft house online. Right now without a doubt you can find some very nice living spaces. Those houses are undoubtedly the creation of a painter with all the colors of the rainbow available to them.

Not Just Looks

Multiplayer player-versus-player (PvP) Minecraft is by all means not a new thing. I used to follow a youtube channel that detailed some of the most genius trap designs you could imagine. All too often you’d be walking along, playing the game as usual, and in the blink of an eye you’d be surrounded by a mountain of triggered TNT. You don’t even know what set it off. This was before trip wires and dispensers, so with so few moving parts how can someone come up with such clever traps?

A shot from a 9-year-old video showcasing traps.

They played on human psychology. A devious but effective trait you can see implemented quite effectively when a good TF2 (Team Fortress 2) spy clears a server. Knowing how the other players will behave lets this person’s traps take advantage of those behaviors. The machinations were a well thought-out invention that utilized a deep understanding of how the game worked. Today’s minecraft, however, gives you tools to make traps happen. It lowers the skill floor, making it more accessible to novices. Though I understand the benefit of an easier time on new players, I enjoyed knowing that the most clever people could use that to their advantage.

Methodologies

When you’re deep in your mine underground, in search of some diamond, what strategy do you use to search for it? One method is to strip mine, that is to just mine every single block regardless of its position. Create a huge crater in the world or pocket of nothingness deep underground. It’ll take a while but sure enough if there’s something to find then pouring over every block guarantees you’ll find it — eventually.

If it’s taking too long in today maybe you just need a better pickaxe. It seems like every day sees a new mod that adds new tools. Some of these even allow you to construct automated mining systems. The strip mining is done for you while you go off and do something else, even if it’s just mining somewhere else.

Searching for diamond like a needle in a haystack can be a challenge, but like any other challenge you can overcome it with strategy. Strip mining is not the most effective use of your time, but just like they understood the game well enough to make traps early players of Minecraft needed to use that same understanding to optimize their mining.

How you layout the tunnels of your mine, where you choose to mine and where you choose not to, can let you mine with rigorous efficiency. With the best use of your time you find diamonds faster than someone else might. In PvP Minecraft that was all too important that you find it before the other players out there. You don’t want to be searching for diamond number two when someone else shows up at your front door with diamond kicks and a diamond sword.

Master Class

Playing earlier minecraft and accomplishing the same amount as today demanded a more sophisticated grasp of the game. It is enjoyable, I think, to witness a community master a video game. The information sharing capabilities of the Internet, used to collectively elevate that community’s grasp of the game as a whole is something not unique to Minecraft. Any game popular enough will naturally gather a following and those individuals will amass a load of knowledge about it.

With large games you may see post after post in a public forum discussing the end game strategies. Things like MMORPG raids like WoW or Destiny. Endgame play style and builds for Path of Exile or the Borderlands games. There is a very real ceiling that these communities are up against. Every piece of knowledge shared is the collective playerbase pushing up against that ceiling, trying to raise it even an inch. None of those claim to be sandbox games, and none of them allow for so much creativity as offered in Minecraft.

The ceiling for Minecraft is astounding, and the distance the ceiling was pushed to by the early Minecraft community should be chronicled in a museum somewhere. I would love an exhibit of the ingenious traps and mine shaft layouts that optimized for every possible piece of that version of the game.

Me with a festive santa hat, dragon wings, and cactus armor, because why not?

Love, Minecraft

Through all of this it may seem like I don’t like Minecraft as it is today. Currently on about 1.16 the team at Mojang, now without Notch and owned by Microsoft, continues working on Minecraft. Adding new things, expanding an already full world. I just want to say that I don’t dislike today’s Minecraft. Though it seems like I do, I really don’t. This post was never about what is wrong with Minecraft. This post is about why I don’t play Minecraft much anymore.

Maybe now you see that the game I wanted Minecraft to be isn’t the same as the game that its creators clearly wanted to create. Naturally every game will have a small population that exhibits this. How many people wanted Cyberpunk 2077 do be a run-and-gun FPS instead of the more slow-paced RPG that it is? How many people want new installments in the Assassin’s Creed franchise to be a stealth game, yet continue to get action-adventure open world games with RPG elements? I’m sure at least a few people wanted more stealth in the most recent Metal Gear games, to harken back to its stealth-focused roots.

Obviously what I wanted was a game with less in it, but more things to do with it. It’s not better or worse than what was actually made, just different. I think that that’s an important distinction to make. Too many critiques of modern games come across to me as the critic wanting something different than the game developers. To spend $60 on a new AAA-title game and be disappointed with what you’ve gotten is bound to upset people.

Reasonable as it may be that people are upset, what is unreasonable is how aggressive people can be. Some behave as though they own the very idea of a game due to their impulse buy. Others will get a game for Christmas, as a gift, and be upset that it isn’t everything they’ve ever wanted. That last one can be about anything, actually. Disappointment is understandable. Letting it turn into anger, and pointing it at the developers is not.

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Software developer by day, gamer by night. I use medium to write about video games and some of their many aspects.

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kionay

kionay

Software developer by day, gamer by night. I use medium to write about video games and some of their many aspects.

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