Friday, October 22, 2010

Tree of Knowledge (Beta)

So . . . how can I NOT talk about Minecraft this week.

Minecraft is an independently developed game about exploring a gigantic open world. The graphics are simple and blocky, but what it lacks up close it makes up for in sheer scope.

This is a world that goes forever. You can walk and swim as far as you want, and the game will keep generating new space for you to inhabit.

And that's why you can get incredibly lost.

But the game's vastness isn't just on the surface. By combining the materials you collect you can create new objects, from simple picks and shovels to torches that can be flipped on and off with a wall switch. And all of it is only the beginning.

Minecraft is currently in "alpha" state, the software equivalent of a rough draft. By the time it's finished there's no telling the kinds of things that will be possible. I just hope the future versions are compatible with the world we've been at work on.

That's right, "we." I knew as soon as I saw Minecraft that it was something I wanted as a multiplayer experience, so I setup my own server for the game. And gradually various friends came to it, knocking on my IP address and asking if they could live on the spare desktop in my home office.

And just look at what they've built:

The last few constitute the beginnings of "town," the area we're working on together. It's been amazing watching the work of individuals gradually come together to refine this virtual place. With complete authorial power over the landscape, we are gradually making it our own.

Given the incomplete state of the software, I can't help but think of it as a kind of digital Eden. Though the magnitude of it all is impressive, the rules governing the world are strange and incomplete. An update to the server software would represent an incredible shift in reality. One update in particular.

In any place of darkness, monsters spawn. For now they offer no threat, since all damage is turned off in the server software until the bugs with it are worked out. When that gets changed, original sin comes to our world, and we will need to be ready.

*Hehe, I made a big tower.

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