Play-Log: Minecraft 1.8.1 - Adventure time!

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No, Finn and Jake did not appear to me in Minecraft. However, an interesting set of elements combined last night to make two real adventures emerge during my play session. I'll even say that they shared many qualities with tabletop RPG sessions, albeit ones run by a very open-ended and open-minded GM. What amazed me was that emergence from something that had previously been a sandbox game. So where did the GM come from?

At the end of my previous play session, I had eagerly crafted a Map, one of the new features in the 1.8 release. I knew I was on a sizable island, but since it was hilly and heavily forested, I kept getting lost trying to get my bearings. I've previously run into interesting features and even found a pack of wolves that I want to domesticate, but without a map I couldn't find my way back. Thus I initially set out last night to fill in that map.

I spent the first couple of days mapping eastward (toward where I had seen the wolves) until I hit the boundaries of my map. Once I hit the edge of what the map could cover, and at the edge of an ocean, I turned south to establish the borders of my island. That was one point from the new update - a bunch of work was done on biomes, and "deep sea" biomes were created which could cover large areas of a map. This does more than just occupy space, though. Oceans are difficult to cross (swimming is slow) and camping in the middle of one is impossible, you have to wait out the night. They're also devoid of other features, so they force the land into a geography of interest. I had borders to walk along, and could mentally place features that I might want to come back to. With oceans as interest-wastelands, and as borders, and then with a map, my world had a geography.

In the first in-game week, I explored peninsulas, found rivers, and built several boats to cross different bays. At one point I even found myself shipwrecked on a desert island - I ran aground too hard, my ship broke, and as the small island was all sand and cactus, there was no wood to build a new boat. It was a long swim home!

I found a small island with a tall peak, covered the island in torches and built a house so that I could spend the next few days sailing loops and mapping the edges of my mini-continent. Each night I raced the sunset home and looked over my new map. After four days, I had filled the edge of the map, and found the boundaries of my subcontinent. I even ran out of supplies in one corner of the map, which led to a harrowing night run -- I lacked the materials to build a bed or place torches, and was in a broad expanse of grassland pockmarked with ravines to fall in. As the sun set, I was frantically switching back and forth from map to sword as I tried to get my bearings in the featureless landscape, and I kept getting turned around. When I finally found a river that I knew would lead to a village that was on my *mental* map, my fear turned to urgency. Could I make the village, and my home on the other side, before the monsters spawned to slow me down?

I just made it, racing through the deserted street of the village (which made it look closed up for the night) and on to my well-lit home, and facing only one skeleton along the way. I resolved to build a clock to accompany my map ... but finding the resources for that would take another, very different adventure.

I'll need to make the second adventure another entry. What impressed me about my overland adventure was how the biome changes and the new map feature pushed 'exploration' to a new significance as a core mechanic. Those additional features make exploration a richer activity, and allow mini-goals to join together into a narrative. I could push a little further, I could string activities together and give them meaning, and they could literally be set into a larger landscape of meaning. Granted, "exploration" is a much more significant mechanic for me personally than for many people, so not everyone will be as excited as I am by this particular update. But it's always neat as a player and designer to see emergent complexity round a corner.

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This page contains a single entry by Scott Price published on September 28, 2011 8:52 AM.

Mechanic's Report: Super Meat Boy (XBox) was the previous entry in this blog.

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