Friday, 29 January 2016

Nostalgia for Minecraft Indev

Minecraft is one of my favourite games and most favourite game development process. I feel very lucky to have gotten to see how the game evolved from its rudimentary beginnings into the hugely successful household name it is today. When I discovered the game, sometime late 2010, the in development version, Indev, had yet to implement what is now one of Minecraft's defining features; the infinite block world. Like all nostalgia I sometimes look back on that period of development fondly and wonder how things would have turned out if different choices were made.

Browser based client

There might have still been a version of Minecraft accessible through the website today if Java web applications hadn't ended up so unpopular due to security vulnerabilities in the Java plugin :/ It was real good while it lasted though. If anyone was intrigued with this Minecraft-thingy all you had to do was point them towards the website and they could try playing it before deciding to buy it. The Classic version of Minecraft, which came before Indev and acted as a demo for the latter, was creative only but did allow you to join servers. Classic Minecraft stuck around for many more years but was removed from the website in 2015. Enterprising fans have made a replacement of this version available at Classicube. (worth checking out! :P )

Finite Worlds

It may seem odd for me to express nostalgia towards what could be called a limitation of the early versions of Minecraft but I was quite happy having only a small island in which to play. Partly because an infinite expanse of ocean made a very natural border to the world. You couldn't place blocks outside of the borders but you could move in and out freely and because the edges were water you would rarely have landmasses suddenly cutoff by an invisible wall.

Having a finite play area resonated with the completionist in me. It was completely possible to mine out all the ores in the world, cut down all the trees or terraform the surface into a garden paradise. I enjoyed starting each world with a project in mind and then beginning anew with a fresh world. It was appealing to get an unfamiliar island to explore completely and leave my mark on.

World customisation

Before generating a new world you were given a really nice set of options to choose the 'theme' of a world along with its dimensions. These were similar to the biomes that Minecraft later got, although they changed the entire map so were more of a basic version of the customisation scripts that Minecraft now has. There were some wonderful ideas though; sky worlds where there was no ground and land floated in the air, hell worlds where it was always dark and no grass grew or paradise worlds with many beaches and eternal daytime. It was nice to be able to choose exactly what your starting location would be like.


So that was me fondly remembering a tiny moment in the process of a game's development. Minecraft went on to do its own thing and become a major success because of it and inspire a whole new genre of creative survival games. I do like to look back and wonder what the genre would have been like if the development had kept some of the weirder ideas ( Notch's youtube channel is a great display of these, bumpy blocks, giant zombies?) There were a lot of good points about Minecraft, so much so that I feel there were at least two very different ideas for good, separate games at its core.

That can be a post for another time though, along with my coding projects to explore the pieces of Minecraft development that I felt were missed :)

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