Indie Games: Digging Deeper--The Impact of Minecraft

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Posted November 22, 2011 - By Rob Manuel

The Indie Games of 2011

Digging Deeper: The Impact of Minecraft

Something happened last Thursday. One of the mothers in the office approached me with her son to ask when the new patch for Minecraft for the full title, whether he would have to stay up until midnight or wait until later that Friday. In a season of so many games coming out, this one young teen wanted to wait for a game about digging in the dirt. Minecraft, of course, encompasses far more than digging, building, and exploring. With a community of millions of people, this one title without any publisher and only a handful of developers has created a world far greater than the game itself. Last weekend, thousands of people filing into Las Vegas proved that as they attended the first ever MineCon.

Markus “Notch” Persson along with the rest of the Mojang team created a game that not only inspired a community, but also created a lasting impact in indie gaming. Today, I want to look at the bigger picture of the influences of Minecraft as well as how it’s changing the way indie games move forward. See it as just a big sandbox or a blank canvas, no one can deny this one game changed the course of games to come.

Minecraft Will Be Getting Rain And Snow In Next Update

Paying for Potential

Before the release of Minecraft 1.0; gamers explored nearly-bottomless pits, created monuments of modern block technology, and fought off creepers in the beta. And before that, they played through the alpha. After two years and numerous updates, Minecraft transformed slowly into the final product that you purchase online. What makes this all rather remarkable is the fact that you paid to play the alpha and beta builds of a game. Getting people to pay for anything online is within itself a Herculean task. Getting people to pay for something that’s not even finished is down right crazy and kind of brilliant.

Players in the alpha and beta builds only paid a portion of the final retail cost for the game. In addition, they received the full build of the game once it became available, making it beneficial to be an earlier adopter of the game rather than waiting around to see how it all turns out. On top of getting a quick flow of income early in their development, early adopters acted as Notch’s own marketing army. Part of the success of the game comes from the community that quickly sprung up around the game with stories, mods, and players trying to discover the new tricks hidden within Minecraft. Anyone on the outside of this would hardly begin to fathom the idea of workbenches, recipes, or building complex structures. By the beginning of this year, Minecraft sold its first million. Now, we’re looking at four million people building, designing, and doing a whole lot of digging. Notch didn’t need to look towards other sources of revenue to get the game up and running. He sold the one thing he knew his audience wanted the most – Minecraft and the potential behind it.

Minecraft Tutorial - Surviving The First Day/Night »

Not all games can sell their beta in order to generate capital. What they can do is sell potential. Kickstarter lets people pitch their ideas for a little money up front in exchange for a product down the line. In a very similar way that the beta both got people playing and others interested in the game, Kickstarter and other sites like it let developers do a little marketing while trying to get your dollar. Again, early adopters come out on top often with a full version of the game along with art, music, or that Octodad costume that I really wanted earlier this year. Let the games sell themselves. By buying into potential, gamers feel as though they’re not just purchasing a game, but contributing to its development.

The Future To Go

Before fans patched in the final version last Friday, fans of the game created cubic wonders on their Droid, and most recently, on their iPhone. The Pocket Edition only allows players to build and connect with their friends – for now. While the console version for the Xbox 360, is still to come,  I find it fascinating that the handheld versions of Minecraft came out way before the console version. This could be for a variety of reasons including games generally taking longer to move onto a console than extracting a smaller portion to a smaller device. I would also point out that three Minecraft clones during the same time fame appeared on XBLIG and have been on top of the most downloaded list since their release. No, I believe that the early release on mobile devices signifies something else – that we need to take these games seriously.

With the introduction of the iPhone, games moved out of the realm of monochrome view screens and push button controls. We can now fight knights, cut ropes, throw around fowl, and create amazing worlds one block at a time. The virtual clutter bin of games still needs a major overhaul before they start to replace the brick and mortar stores of the real world. Still, putting out a mobile version of your biggest product seems to the right direction for both Minecraft and the rest of the gaming world. If you want to learn more about what’s good on the go I highly encourage you to read Ashley’s Knuckle Up column for the best mobile has to offer. But seriously, where does she find the time to play all those games?

Nugget From The Net: Kinect Meets Minecraft

Something to Talk About

Minecraft, in many ways, created this column. Sure, games like Braid and Limbo pushed indie games into the spotlight, but they didn’t do it in the same way as Minecraft. Go onto Youtube and just type in the name. Thousands of videos pop up on the screen from silly moments to grand monuments of engineering. Someone even built a working computer in the game. Music videos, sketches, and life-size replicas of the Enterprise; the very thing that made Minecraft fun to play also made it easy for someone watching from the outside to understand. And from this one game a single thought rose from gamers’ minds, “There must be more great games like Minecraft out there.”

Great indie games existed way before Minecraft. People just needed to look for them. From PC, consoles, and on your phone; now is the best time to experience the range of indie games available to the public. Think of Minecraft as the gateway drug – easy to consume and ignites the imagination. After two years, a game without a publisher and without any real publicity managed to get millions of people to try it and even more people talking about it. No high-end graphics. No epic story. Not even a main objective. Players talked, blogged, and even created a convention to talk and blog more about the game. While Minecraft isn’t the sole reason I was able to convince the execs here on the importance of indie games, it was still a tremendous help to have one to go to that already interest so many people. Congratulations Notch, the rest of the Mojang team, and everyone who helped make Minecraft possible. Here’s to many more indie games in the future.

While Tripping on Tryptophan

You Should Play: Hack Slash Crawl

Can’t take Skyrim on the road? Hack Slash Crawl provides all of your daily recommended allowance of dungeon crawling in one easy to navigate flash game. My necromancer vampire made mince meat out of the first boss but you can pick from any number of races and job classes to make each adventure a little different. Point and click gameplay as well as an onscreen map make navigating around the randomly designed dungeons easy and enjoyable.

You Should Play: Zombie Home Run

America’s pastime meets a zombie horde with explosive results. Zombie Home Run tosses a horde of undead your way as you swing to the fences. Every hit sends a zombie flying into other zombies resulting in a cascade of score multipliers and rotting flesh. It takes a bit to get a handle on your swing, but it’s a game you can easily pick up whenever you have time to bat around with the undead.

You Should Support – God of Blades

Imagine those pulpy 70’s fantasy novels becoming a full game. The talented team at White Whale Games wants to make that a reality on your portable device. If the graphics don’t impress you, you should take a peak at some of the battle physics that they have running underneath the hood. Enemies fly backwards in real time. Swords clash in a gust of sparks. For a handheld game, it’s all rather impressive. Ten bucks gets you the game but I would throw in fifty just for one of the book covers they created for the game.

Indie Games: Digging Deeper--The Impact of Minecraft


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