Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Hows and Whys of Minecraft and the Other Sandbox Games

Improbable Machine, Not yet complete.
So people who are somehow monitoring my RAM usage have probably noticed I log about 100% time on minecraft that my computer is up. That's mostly because Gliesse, my main computer which I use for all of my gaming as well as all of my writing and banking and just about everything else I compute for anymore is also the computer that hosts the Gliesse minecraft server. By the way the Gliesse server is a public server which you can get credentialed for by contacting me and is running the Attack of the B-Team modpack, version 1.0.10.

So the question arises then which is: why do I care so much about minecraft however many years after it came out that I not only log probably about eight hours a week of actually sitting down and playing the damn thing but also keep a tower running around the clock just so that I can have a server to play on and the answer is: those are two questions.

So the first thing I can say about minecraft is that it's part of an evolving culture of sandbox games and as a kid-at-heart I very much like to play in the sandbox. I like minecraft for the same reason that I (poorly) curated a massive collection of different lego sets - I like to make things.

So by now you're thinking that you know, it's been three or four years, surely you've done everything you can do in the game, right? Well no, not really. Sandbox games aren't objective based (although minecraft can have objectives depending on the game mode and map type) unless your way of thinking is objective based. Even if I sit down with a list of objectives like I recently did and say "Okay, I am going to build a castle with these features and include this functionality and so on", I can always make new objectives.

Further, I have what is called the hackish nature, which has various definitions but can commonly be said is the desire to do the most with the available. While I'm never first-on-market with a device in minecraft (mostly because I play casually), I will often come up with an idea semi-independently that adds functionality to the game which doesn't natively exist.

For example, if you are playing in the survival gamemode but you like to build things you want to collect resources in as efficient a manner as possible. If you like to build things out of wood the conventional wisdom is that you must chop down trees and the only way to chop down trees natively in the game is to grab an axe and manually chop them down, a process only marginally less tedious than mining a branch mine. However, it is actually possible to build a machine if you know what you're doing that will push the trees in front of explosives and those explosives will break up the logs and then the machine will collect the log parts and reserve them as wood for your later use all while planting and growing the subsequent generation of trees. I am still working on the overall design but I know that others have done it and so I want to do it because I hate mining for trees!

And that's why I love sandbox games like minecraft and kerbal and others, because minecraft's redstone is a form of formal logic and kerbal teaches orbital mechanics and I can pretend to be and do and go wherever the hell I want and sometimes that's just more fun than writing.

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