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{S} Built In: a design blog ~ The Infinite Expanse

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avatar Seivelath
Level 22 : Expert Network
151

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Minecraft is quite an intriguing game when you think about it. Most games have a certain gameplay direction in mind when created. When you play a Super Mario Brothers game, more likely than not you are playing a game designed for platforming, giving the player platforming challenges to facilitate gameplay. You play an Assassin's Creed game, the gameplay available can be varied, but the core of the game is that you will be assassinating people. Minecraft is considered a Sandbox game but even compared to other sandbox games it unique. You give me GTA5, while the gameplay can be opened and varied in what can be possible, the game still directs you and is mainly focused on the criminal aspects of the game, planning the heists and you know, committing Grand Theft Auto. Even sandbox games such as RUST has a focus, in this case, survival, but every game listed, and nearly all games ever made have some sort of gameplay focus, what the player purchased the game to do.

Minecraft, however, does not have a core gameplay focus in comparison, which creates an interesting situation. Minecraft both is not limited in what it can be through having a gameplay focus, but in that regard, it can also create the issue of losing people to the expanse of possibility available in the game. First off, no doubt at first one could assume that survival again is the core theme here, but as one gets past the survival aspect of the game, eventually it becomes trivial, a point that most will forget with the stacks of loot they have, sure, one may need to change armor every so often, but eventually a point is hit where the survival aspects of the game are so trivial that it can be ignored, then the question becomes, what now.

This question becomes now extremely difficult, as the survival aspect of the game begins to peter out, what is there left to do. Of course, this then opens up the world of possibilities that is what can be done with Minecraft, so much so that every option feels like it's own little game somewhat, compare hardcore PvP to something Redstone building. If you described them without relation, and without mentioning the graphics, would one be able to tell these two games were one in the same? Most would not, which only furthers the point. Yet, we as a community exist as a single entity with such a range of variety. This is quite interesting when you consider the fact that gaming communities as a whole can very divisive about the smallest of things, the extensive range of possibility and the general cohesion between the community is interesting.

This, of course, brings to head a key issue with Minecraft from a design perspective, it doesn't have an identity. The most you can identify Minecraft as is "That blocky sandbox game", the graphics are what dictate the game's identity, the game's infinite nature means what people can do with the game cannot be pinpointed. Even the graphics cannot be a unifying factor, with such a large portion of the graphical content being able to be switched out for a custom creation. By logical standards, a game like this shouldn't be marketable in any capacity, yet here we stand, on a Minecraft fan website, discussing the design aspects of said game.

While the infinite nature of the game makes it lack focus, it's also it's biggest selling point. Name one other game where it's possible to do nearly anything. You can't, because Minecraft is the only truly infinite game, sheesh, even working electronics have been successfully created in Minecraft, the possibility of what one individual can do is near infinite, which is a major reason I would suggest many of us here came to the game. The ability to be put in a world, and to do whatever you wish is something that no other interactive experience can offer, every other attempt has always bottlenecked the experience down to a core aspect, but Minecraft has stayed open and free, the random nature of the game making the game's replayability near infinite. With this, you create the issue of making players have to create their own objective and gameplay focus, however, that is not necessarily a bad thing, as games become more and more obviously linear, the ability to return to a game that is a pure non-linear experience does the game wonders.

No doubt, overall, the infinite expanse that Minecraft boasts is it's undoubtedly the biggest strength, but as with any design philosophy not without its flaws. But for a game that was first released to the world around eight years ago, with a community still going strong, that must say something about the quality of the product in the end, must it not? Thank you for reading this blog of Built in, and hopefully enjoy those to come.
Personal Update
Sorry for the long wait on this one, adjusting to a lifestyle change that makes finding free writing time more difficult. I should be hopefully entering the 9th Blogging contest, but I may not. Thanks for sticking by my friends <3

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  • Jetra
  • Level 23
  • Expert Archer
  • March 27, 2017, 5:36 am
Really good blog, but I feel like there are some points that could be said here such as before Minecraft, there was Second Life and Roblox, both of which that gave you a lot of tools to make a world for yourself or your friends. I have not play SL and don't know the extent to what you can do with Roblox, but I think they're worth mentioning.

The game has a clear identity, especially now with the changes to command blocks and combat as well as an upcoming Color Update. It is purely a sandbox adventure. With the addition of the End, the game now had a start and definitive finish, but not necessarily a linear thing as with a lot of other titles.

Also, in terms of replayability, I would say it's actually much less than one would think, including maps and mods. In Vanilla, you do the same thing: start a new world, break logs, build something, proceed to get diamonds and to the end, and explore a bit of the content. Mods somewhat relieve this, however those are quickly losing their value as each pack offers the same "core" additions of magic and technology. Sure, you'll find some new mod, yet for the most part almost every mod pack ends the same where you get to thte point that you're getting resources by the thousands of stacks.

Just because it is infinite does not necessarily mean there is endless content, we're limited by our own creativity which tends to be that we copy something that has been done before such as Hunger Games. Now, that isn't to say there is no originality, it's just that most people want to make their own version of something, look at how many Faithful remixes and edits there are.

Although, for me and not sure how many others are affected by this, but being given so much, I feel like there is not much to do. The mind becomes overwhelmed by the number of possibilities that we are at a loss for what we could possibly do. Build Teams can do wonders, but what of the single player or even a small group of friends?

Wanted to share my thoughts, hopefully I got my points across.
  • Seivelath
  • Level 22
  • Expert Network
  • March 27, 2017, 9:25 pm
Indeed, your comments do indeed ignite a good point. However, three reasons exist why I didn't go as in-depth to the negative aspect of the infinite nature of the game.
1) This is a Minecraft Fan site. While I do understand that I shouldn't change the facts to appease a certain crowd, when producing a work for a group interested in Minecraft, I'm more inclined to specify on the positive aspects.
2) I tried to somewhat imply the fact that is wasn't totally a good thing, but again only implications to that link here
3) [The main one honestly] I posted my revival of the account about 2 months ago now, to leave the account with no content other than the return message felt a little, "hollow" to me, which frustrated me, so I may have somewhat rushed this piece so I could actually get something out.
Thanks for the input, however, if I ever look back to update this piece, I will for sure look back to this, really good look at the more negative aspects.
  • Jetra
  • Level 23
  • Expert Archer
  • March 28, 2017, 5:26 am
A nice balance of the two make for a perfect harmony, too much of one can ruin the other and vice versa. It was still a fantastic read, I didn't want to make it sound all negative, more like "there's so much, yet people can't really take advantage of it" sort of perspective which is not bad.

As for point three, it's better to get it out of your head first then fix it later because then you can look back to see where you can improve. Everyone has their faceplant moment, no matter how experienced.

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