Last week I thought to myself, its been a while since I played Minecraft. I loved playing it and there’s loads more content. I figured an evening or two might be fun, making a wee home and trying out a few things – maybe even getting an achievement or two along the way.
What an idiot…
Minecraft is a strange game. You don’t have a set objective. It is of course up to the player. This means that unless you set yourself a clear goal, you’ll constantly have a changing objective. There are mini-objectives and requirements for your tasks, such as when I wanted an iron door for the awesome home that I built. To achieve this I had to go mining, which changed my objective into mining. To have a safe haven near the place I chose to mine, I needed a new home, which in turn has its own requirements. Gathering these found a new item, so I played with that. It gave me a cool idea for a new home, so I set about finding a space, getting further resources and eventually building the colourful new house.
These evolving objectives make a very interesting proposition and really is the pinaccle of open world gameplay. Most open world games will have a bunch of content that you can complete at any point. Sometimes there’s some logic so that your actions have a knock on event with escalating events but like completing a mini-game it is trigger based.
I guess what I’m saying is that in most open world games you “invoke” gameplay that changes the objective and you then complete it, or abandon/fail the side task. However Minecraft is different. Yes, there’s a series of dependencies that help build your short term objectives (get some wood) with completion criteria (make steps) but these mini-tasks or emerging gameplay aren’t side content like in GTA or an RPG. This this is only one small step in your larger goal, which is typically user defined. All the little distractions, tasks and emerging gameplay aren’t there as an alternative to the main gameplay, they are the main gameplay.
These constantly evolving and changing gameplay elements certainly do make Minecraft and interesting experience with lots of unique things to potter about with and do. However this has an unfortunate side effect, at least if you value going outdoors. Just like many Facebook games, there’s always one more thing to do. This could be finishing touches to your new home when you find an interesting or useful resource. After you’ve built your new item, you’ll want to use it. So just one more day. Oh and I just found the iron to complete my armour, I’ll do that before saving.
This is where the lack of a defined “end point” can bite the player. Normally finishing a mission, side quest, round or chapter in a game is a good time to save and finish. When you pick the game up it will be in a clean position (I don’t want to load in and die whilst getting my bearings!) making it easier to resume. You also finish the session with a sense of accomplishment having completed something. Most the time in Minecraft I’m thinking about what is left to do.
So yeah, it is interesting how the gameplay in Minecraft can pull you in. My decision to have an evening or two making a building may have ended in many more days!
In case you’re wondering, I never did make that iron door.