08 August 2012

Surviving Minecraft

Bizarrely, I want to make a Minecraft mod.

The problem I always had with playing Minecraft is that the goal of the game subtly shifts as you progress. It shifts from the immediate problems of survival (that is, gathering food, creating shelter, and fighting off the local predators) into a sort of sandboxy open world question of what you're going to do with your time. It changes from a game to a set of computerized legos, with which you can do what you please, since there's no real penalty for making mistakes any more. Even if you rampage your way through the darkness and get eaten by a pack of bizarrely carnivorous spiders, your house is still safe and sound where you left it. Your chests full of axes, spades, clothes, bread, mutton, and torches remains pristine and untouched. You simply begin again, with a little more foresight and a little less recklessness, if all goes well.

And it's just not the same.

The only solution implemented by the developer is permadeath, where upon your character's death the world is deleted. Which is ok, I guess, except that the game still gets too easy once you get your foothold on the world. Your walls are up, your homes are safe, and there's nothing left to do with yourself but continue to build elaborate palaces and hope that you don't make the single stupid mistake that results in your death.

No, what I'm looking for is a world that gets continually harder, one that strikes out against you no matter what you're doing. I want the zombies to be aggressive, feral, and deadly. I want them to slowly and noisily tear down your walls while the wailing attracts the other zombies. I want the skeletons to appear in groups and fire flaming arrows that turns your abode into a flaming ruin. I want spiders that can climb anything and poison you such that a single bite means your death.

And when all of that happens, I want you to spawn away from your house. I want for there to be nowhere for you to go back to when all is said and done. I want for you to have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps again, and always be on the alert for yet another attack. I want it to feel like you've accomplished something when you've survived for six nights, not like you're doing struggling and it's time to farm the grains again, or to see how the pigs are doing.

I think an experience like that would be a lot of fun in a sandboxed Minecraft world. After all, what's the point of giving you a world to explore when the world itself isn't even very interesting?


  1. Have you checked out Dwarf Fortress?

    It's a slightly older version of the same idea. Deliberately retro graphics, but with way more depth in detail and game play. There's still a sandbox-y feel, but that's in addition to the basic goals, instead of in place of those goals.

    First step is basic survival (you're explicitly building a dwarf settlement.) For the first year, you probably can't survive without trade, so you also have to set up some kind of industry. As you develop the fortress, migrants show up to join the settlement. As you create wealth, you attract goblin invaders and eventually a full siege. If you choose to settle in a location touched by evil, every corpse and most body parts will re-animate and attack. If you are close to a necromancer's tower, expect a big invasion there, too. The longer you go, the worse the creatures attacking become... and if you dig too deep to look for more metal, you may unleash something horrible.

    And if the fortress is overrun... no such thing as respawning. The world still exists, and you can try to reclaim the old fort with a new colony or settle elsewhere, or try adventure mode.

    1. I love that you mentioned Dwarf Fortress, because it's one of my favorite games of all time.

      It's very much one of my big inspirations in pretty much everything I do. It's absurd how much I love that game.

  2. A zombie sandbox with zero sympathy right here:

    1. The main difference, for me at least, is that the fun in Minecraft comes from working alongside other people.

      From what I've heard (and I've heard a lot), the main fun from Day Z comes from messing with other people and generally being a big dickhead.

      Not that I don't love the idea of DayZ, mind you, or that it obviously signifies that people are hungering for a very challenging experience (despite the prevailing trends for an easier experience that camoflagues a very linear experience)

      The fact that the first two comments here are for Dwarf Fortress and Day Z makes me feel like my inspirations are perhaps not as arcane as I thought, though!

  3. Try playing multiplayer. It's a lot more fun when you can interfere with and help other people, and the same to you. Your world changes because other people change it.

    Also try mods. There are a lot of awesome ones out there.

    Finally, make a personal decision to make the game harder.

    1: If you die, you spawn back at base, but you have to abandon it. You can take only what you can carry, and must journey 1,000 tiles away minimum and start again.

    2: Play a nomad. You can build little homes and set up little farms and ranches, but every 5 minecraft days you have to journey forth at least 100 tiles away (just out of sight, really) and build another one. Work in a specific direction. When you get to an ocean, build a little house, get a boat and travel straight across, and build your new residence ont he other side. Just continue moving. Again, you keep only what you can carry.

    3: Fortification restrictions. First, you can't place any torches outside. Second, you can't keep any animals or plants indoors. Third, your house must not have an entrance to the underground (except maybe a basement for storage) so if you want to mine you have to leave the safe house. Fourth, no curtain wall to block off a safe zone outdoors. This still leaves you a safe interior but the world becomes unsafe even in your own backyard.

    Of course, mods and other players will generate a lot of FUN as well.

  4. http://geekechoes.blogspot.com/2012/08/perfect-video-game-based-rpg-setting.html


    I like hardcore/permadeath mode, though I know what you mean. Altho I just died recently because of coming back from the nether far from the NPC village where most of my gear was. I was equipped for survival but a desert temple trap + knockback from a spider was the end of me.

    A moment's carelessness, and that's all she wrote.