Ah, Minecraft. The game we all wonder just what the hell it's about and should we bother playing it, yet when we do wonder how in the hell we got by without it for so long. Such an open-ended game, so much potential for alteration and modification, and as much fun as you could possibly want it to be.

Open-ended. At this point, I would like to quote the post I made on the Sonic Blast forums covering your first night on a Survival map:

You start off at the beginning of the day with sod all on your person. At night, monsters will come to kill you so you'd better get yourself a little base. So you find some trees, and chop them down to get wood. It then turns out you can craft this wood into tools, to get materials quicker. So using your wood you make an axe and a shovel, and quickly acquire more crap. You find the wooden gear breaks quickly but you don't care because it's much quicker than by hand!
Before long you've cleared a small area of dirt and trees and made yourself a little mud shack. By now you've figured out you can make pickaxes to acquire cobblestone with, and now use the cobblestone to make even better tools. And inside your little shack is a wooden chest, to store items. WAIT A PIG KILL IT YES PORK CHOPS FOR TEA.

The sun sets quicker than you were expecting. You quickly rush into your new home and seal yourself in. It doesn't seem so bad, you think. It's not too dark after all. At which point you realise you didn't put a roof on your mud hut and a skeleton is trying to climb up using a nearby hill and shoot arrows into your skull - arrows bloody hurt, you realise!. In a panicked state you seal the roof with whatever you had to hand - 2 wood logs, 2 wooden planks, a single block of cobble and the rest is dirt. And now you are alone. In your house. In the pitch black. And all you can hear is the moaning from the zombies, amongst other monsters that will turn up to make the next 14 minutes of your life hell.
The sun soon starts rising. The monsters make different noises, and you realise they're dying because of the sunlight. Which means it must be time to get out and get more materials - you're not spending another night in that shitty shack with no light!! So once the clacking of bones and moaning stops, you are left with a couple of spiders sat on the roof right outside your door. You kill them eventually, and eat the pork chop.

I could go on, but that's pretty much the basics. It doesn't sound much but when you're in a shitty world created out of 1x1 blocks and you hear the noises at night, it turns a basic Lego game into something much more awesome. Now you want to upgrade your items. You will need torches, and armour. You'll want to find a reliable way of keeping monsters out of your residential area so you can work at night and not have to hide. And if you do this with a friend or three, it becomes an even more epic experience.

And best of all, Minecraft Classic(the basic version, no day/night, no monsters, no death, no item gathering) is free so there's no harm in trying it out. And if you do like it, it's one of the cheapest games around that you can possibly buy. And I guarantee you'll keep going back to it, even if you lay off it for 6 months. It's got that x factor about it.

I think anybody who can consider themselves a Minecraft fan can read that, and nod with a certain degree of smug. Whether they got through the first night or not, it is ALWAYS entertaining.

Moving on to the potential for modification - Minecraft is absolutely ripe for modding, seeing as how it's Java coded and a .jar file is available for anybody to get their hands on and have a look at.
So many mods have hit the official Minecraft forums since geeks and nerds found out it was possible. Notch has blatantly stolen some of these ideas and incorporated them into the game - pistons spring to mind when I think about specific examples, I'm sure there are more. And almost all utilise the craftbukkit, which gets updated roughly 2 or 3 days after an official patch goes live. The bukkit specifically alters servers to the best of my knowledge, meaning you don't need to spend hours wrestling with the mod loader... I know there's more to it, I'm just being lazy.
Death chests. Economy mods(and making $ for killing mobs!!). World Guard. Even the legendary Aether mod, which lets you do the opposite of going to the Nether and travel high above the clouds. All made by players, for players. All in the name of letting you manipulate your 1x1 collections of blocks in ever-more imaginative ways.
(if a modder is reading this, I'd dearly love something that can let me create a moving mecha...)

Above: Image blatantly nabbed from Gamespot. That's a lil train, heading into a custom mineshaft.
As much fun as you could want it to be? Well I think it has to be said that Minecraft is the only game in the world where it's perfectly cool to chase sheep. To shear their wool off, of course. [Insert stereotypical nationality joke here] You can also slap a saddle onto a pig and ride it off a cliff for an achievement.
I'm serious. Ride a pig off a cliff so that it takes fall damage. Achievement get.
As you can see in the picture above, you can build armour and go exploring deep underground(where you'll spend a large portion of your time, hunting the precious diamond). You can build stupidly huge cities. Spiral staircases from bedrock to top of skybox. Create an elaborate maze, sculpt magnificent pixel art. Do it on your own or with a friend. With friends is always best, and while I hate voice chat at the best of times(another blog entry I feel), Minecraft is perfectly suited for a bit of banter on Skype or Vent or whatever you prefer.

The server I play on, =JH= Gaming,  is currently down, which is a shame as I'd only recently joined up(in the last fortnight) and built a fucking huge floating island. I like the =JH= Gaming setup. Admins are almost always on and will almost always help you. For example, setting up a residential zone on your property. They won't spawn lots of items or diamond gear, nor will they change the weather - it's a survival server. They have a handy mod where you can set up to 15 personal teleport(or Home) spots, and I utilised mine greatly. Home 1 took me to my ground level wooden hut, 2 took me to inside the hidden caverns within the floating island, 3 the surface of the island, 4 the beach on the island, 5 my sand mine, 6 my dirt and cobble mine, and 10 and 11 for underground - as you can see, very useful! You can also return to spawn at any given time. It's also got a crude economy on it, which I haven't had chance to explore yet owing to RL conflicts and the server being down, but I'm looking forward to seeing what can be done. I'm going to keep an eye on their forums, as any news will arrive there first, and look forward to giving you more updates as and when they come.
I got side-tracked... helpful admin team is helpful. I was just getting to know a couple of the regulars, and figuring out how to ignore the kids who want an admin to TP them to your island without your consent :P The admins have been good at knocking the kids back in their place, although I do find it amusing that Americans consider "your momma" Brit humour when we stole it from the Yanks in the first place.

I think that's enough for this entry, it's turned into a small wall of text. But Minecraft is such a great game, that it's been worthwhile. If you don't have it, find a friend who does and try it out around there for an hour or so. Trust me, you'll find it hard to put down as you dream up another new awesome way of beating creepers into submission.

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