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Risk and reward: Minecraft 360 and a loss of magic

Wednesday, 9th May 2012 11:28 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Minecraft releases today for Xbox 360, opening up Mojang’s epic sandbox to the world of consoles. It’s commendable, but Patrick Garratt can’t help feeling all the hand-holding has dampened some of the game’s spirit.

VG247′s Minecraft 360 house. This is actually
completely cool.

The PC version of Minecraft is a game of discovery. You’re dumped in a hostile world with no instructions and no goal. If you force yourself through the confusion, hundreds of hours later you’ll still be digging, building and crafting because there’s always another castle to create. It’s cyber-Lego. From the moment you realise you can break blocks of dirt and replace them as you will, to the creation of a diamond pickaxe and the first rush of lava, Minecraft is an experience of exploration and imagination. It’s unique. And it’s indie’s poster boy for real reasons.

Minecraft released on Xbox 360 today, and while it’s a great port it’s impossible to ignore the feeling that something’s been lost in translation. While it’s remained faithful to the original, we now have a tutorial (if you want to learn how to do anything in the PC version outside of trial and error you need to Google a wiki); easy networking for up to eight players; a completely revamped crafting interface; and pop-up, wiki-style text explanations every time you discover anything new.

The game is the same. You start, you have nothing, you have to protect yourself before the sun goes down and from then on you mine, build and explore. The overall feel, though, has changed considerably. The 360 version of Minecraft is designed to hold the hand of the novice. The crafting interface, especially, lays out in easy detail what you need to build stuff and lets you do it with the press of a button. This is fine, but it means the game’s entire crafting aspect is laid out for you from the minute you make a workbench. You don’t need to learn crafting patterns; they’re just there. If you have the right materials to make a pickaxe, for example, you press A and lo, you have a pickaxe. All the experimentation has been removed, and so, along with it, has the joy of discovering that a stick and a piece of coal makes fire.

Layers of delay

The gameplay hasn’t quite been preserved, either. Playing Minecraft with a keyboard and mouse makes perfect sense, as you need to put stuff exactly where you want to put it, and a good deal of the game’s addictive quality comes from the left-click-right-click instantaneous result of demolishing and building. Using a controller adds several layers of delay to this basic process. The triggers need to be pulled, and because you can’t instantly point the process of building becomes more labourious. The direct connection to the environment has been lost. I build blocks where I don’t want to build them. I get frustrated. It’ll be interesting if we see the same level of megalithic construction from the 360 Minecraft community that we have done on PC. My gut feeling is that serious builders will always be more at home on the desktop.

I was making beds, furnaces and torches within a few minutes of starting a world, because the learning curve is so much shallower. But doesn’t hand-holding dampen the reward? Isn’t a large amount of Minecraft’s success, in a similar fashion to the newb-hating EVE Online, down to fact that you have to learn to succeed?

That’s not to say there aren’t positive to Minecraft’s new approach. Simplified crafting means you progress much faster than with the PC version. I was making beds, furnaces and torches within a few minutes of starting a world, because the learning curve is so much shallower. But doesn’t hand-holding dampen the reward? Isn’t a large amount of Minecraft’s success, in a similar fashion to the newb-hating EVE Online, down to fact that you have to learn to succeed?

The reason for all this helpful information being placed in the game has little to do with it “being dumbed down for console,” but rather it’s because you can escape out and check a site for information as you can on PC. It’s born out of necessity, but some of the magic’s gone.

Put it this way. I’ve been playing Minecraft for months with my kids. They love it. We built a house, then a big house, then put two towers on it and dug a series of mines down to bedrock. We were in the process of building a huge castle on the front of the big house and linking all the structures up with walkways when we had a powercut and my PC switched off. When I booted the game back up, the world had vanished. We all freaked out. Some frantic Googling later I found out that this happens a lot. I checked in my saves folder and the world’s still there. There are fixes. My children have been placated and they know we’ll get back on it soon.

The process for restoration isn’t that simple. But you know what? I’ll figure it out for myself.

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11 Comments

  1. absolutezero

    The other side of the coin comes from modding Minecraft on the PC. There are hundreds of different modifications available from a variety of different teams and people working togethor.

    You can get whole new monsters and friendly creatures, new materials, new blocks, new items and entirely new ways to play the game.

    At the high end of modding are things like creating a Nucelar Reactor to power everything you can attach to it.

    I guess what im saying is that thanks to these and the base game itself Minecraft can be as complex and rewarding as anything I’ve seen. Just try looking at some of the more bonkers redstone creations. I have a feeling that the 360 MC will do just fine but the legs gifted from modding has been removed.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Prof.Dr.Moertel

    The biggest disadvantage of 360 MC are the finite maps. MC was always about exploring for me and that’s just not possible when you walk across the whole map in 5 minutes or so.

    On the other hand, it runs on Beta 1.6.6. I like that, it was pretty much the version I liked best. No unnecessary hunger feature, no alchemy, no villagers, just pure good ol’ Minecraft.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Old MacDonald

    The limited maps are the real bummer, it only takes minutes to cross them.

    Though I agree with 2, it’s great to be back with 1.6.6. again. The only problem is… they’ve promised loads of patches, which is good in theory, but it means that at some point they will add all those annoying things in the “finished” PC version.

    I kinda agree with the article too. I love how beginner friendly it is, but maybe they’ve gone a bit too far. I do remember how memorable my first hours with the game were, because I really didn’t have a clue. But I also remember that I _had_ to consult a wiki after a while, because I hadn’t realized that I could make a crafting table. Without that knowledge my interest in the game wouldn’t have lasted for very long.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. jacobvandy

    @3 That’s exactly the point. Almost nobody plays through the game for any amount of time without looking stuff up online. But since loading up the Minepedia isn’t part of the game itself, it’s somehow separated from the experience when you go to evaluate it? All they did was remove the need to go to an external source for the information.

    If anyone can honestly say they went into Minecraft with ZERO knowledge and floundered around for a few hours, probably dying multiple times, before finally figuring out ON YOUR OWN to punch down a tree, make planks from the logs, make a workbench and sticks from planks, pickaxe with sticks and planks, find coal to mine and make torches with sticks, etc… Congratulations, you’re a goddamn hero with a lot more resolve and patience than I. But you’re a rare exception even in the PC audience, and definitely not the type of person this Xbox version is catering to.

    That whole initial discovery process, rewarding as it may be if you trudge through unaided, is only a miniscule fraction of Minecraft’s gameplay potential. The real game starts once you’ve established your safehouse and are no longer threatened by what goes bump in the night on the surface, by which point being told recipes for items really doesn’t matter that much.

    And am I misunderstanding, or did the author of this article say they were building beds, furnaces and torches within minutes, AFTER they had already played the PC version and knew all that stuff? Once you know, you know, and those are some of the first things you’re supposed to be able to build easily anyway. It says nothing of the difficulty of the game, only your experience in playing it.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. ManuOtaku

    Well i havent play this game on the PC, because i dont do PC Gaming, and even if they are some changes that might be dampering the overall experience, iam really thankful for being able to play the game on the 360, i hope at some point it will arrives on the ps3 as well, i only hope it gets better with time, i will get it today as soon as arrive home.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Lewis247

    @2 Sure we all have nostalgia for the old minecraft but it is honestly a 10x better game.

    “No unnecessary hunger feature, no alchemy, no villagers, just pure good ol’ Minecraft.”

    More like good ol’ uncompleted game minecraft.

    Hunger feature, Just deal with it and in any case it’s a good thing as it got me more interested in making farms etc which I wasn’t before in the old versions.

    Alchemy, I’ve honestly never needed to go into that stuff, seems like to much work for the fun I could be having elsewhere.

    No villagers, Ummm I can’t see how that makes a difference. You can turn structures off y’know?

    All I’m saying is, the new version is much, much better because the game was far too empty previously. Oh and I’ve been playing the game since mid 2010 and I just I’m just trying to suggest the game in all it’s goodness has just got better and better!

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Gadzooks!

    Stop all this tippy-toe bullshit and come out and say it: ‘I dont like it because its on XBox’.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Patrick Garratt

    @7 – Yeah, that’s right. 360 sucks.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Ge0force

    Minecraft on pc is like hunting a wild deer in the woods. minecraft on x360 is like shooting a sleeping deer in a cage.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Gigabomber

    More opinion pieces ?

    #10 2 years ago
  11. daytripper

    @7 starting to think the same, i like the guys behind this site but i’m beginning to think there is some PR stuff going on. i will gladly apologise if i’m wrong.

    for what it’s worth i believe a game like this could and probably should of been on PSN too, a popular franchise like that would of benefited financially better being on both platforms.

    #11 2 years ago

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