We wound up with a really great starting area -- in expansive and safe grasslands, with mountains to the east and west, ocean to the south, and forest to the north. The variety meant that we had clear geography to orient by until we had made maps and learned the terrain; it also meant that we had a balance of resources -- plenty of wood in the forest, ready access to ore and coal in the mountains, and we could go sailing to explore pretty quickly.
We each set out in our own directions. I followed my usual pattern of going to the highest point I can find and carving the top of the peak into a house. Our server-host 'Spach', relatively new to Minecraft, built himself a hobbit-hole on the edge of the forest. Elq, the other experienced player, quickly found a ravine to the east and built a little hold perched in one end of it.
I won't do a play-by-play of the two weeks since we opened the world, as a lot of it was pretty mundane world-establishment. There were some highlights, though:
- The ravine-on-the-surface was surprisingly useful, as it gave us a quick route to the depths that was safe in the day. It focused the early exploration.
- Our group had a nicely compatible set of interests. Elq and I both love exploration, so he lit the ravine while I went straight for establishing our overland area by making roads and signs between our homes while we all waited to find redstone, a rare component necessary for making compasses, clocks, and maps. Once we had maps, I set out to fully explore one map, taking a week of real-time to do so. Spach, meanwhile, planned and built a well-constructed home over his hobbit-hole as he explored what he could craft and learned the workings of mobs and moats and trapdoors.
- The forest to the north turned out to be extensive, and I quickly got a sense of why forests were considered dangerous wastelands before the modern era in the real world. Wandering in what we soon dubbed "Creepy Forest", it was easy to get turned around, to wander well out of your way to navigate around an obstacle, and to get stranded as darkness fell. Spending a night in the forest closely resembles early FPS games in the spookiest ways, as pixelated death can come hissing up behind you from behind the nearest tree.
- Every day or two, and especially after the weekend, we have debriefed around the water cooler ... What we found, what we're interested in building next, what area of the play space of the game, not to mention the geographic space, we are each interested in exploring next.
- I made a sign and set a bed of flowers for Steve Jobs on the night of his death. Apple's products have been important to me, and it was a Moment for me to make that. A silly, small gesture that only 3-5 people will ever see, but it meant that much more to me as a result.
- Inevitably, Spach crafted a near-scale model of our office has been built near the 0,0 point where we each set our initial homes.
Sharing a server is a very very different game from solo work, or even shaping a world and then sharing it for download. Other people cause time to pass - things happen in your absence; and your contributions, if they are to be appreciated, may not take forever to complete. There's also a different sense of meaning than in the solo game. The utility or beauty of what you build isn't decided by just you; the process of design requires an empathy that you can afford not to have on your own. The significance of that operates pretty deeply, and I think now that it's much of why Wilson was so important to the Castaway.
That prompted a final reflection, as I closed up my work late the other night. The game has been increasing in population as I have played it. First I played solo in an early build, and the closest thing to me in the world was a skeleton. Then Endermen came along, with their inscrutable Crafting of their own. NPC villages appeared, though devoid of people, and now I share the world with friends. Eventually I understand that there will be NPCs and many other creatures. It's not a "Lonely Game" anymore. It's not a deserted world that you've crash-landed on, but a populous world that you wake up within and share.