4J Studios ruined Minecraft.
Well, maybe that’s a bit too harsh. What I mean to say is that the developer ruined the feel of Minecraft. Sure, it still has the same gameplay, music, and graphics, but it doesn’t have the same spirit. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In case you didn’t know, 4J Studios recently brought Minecraft to the Xbox Live Arcade Marketplace. Other than being behind the PC version by quite a few updates, the release is a rather decent port of Minecraft. It looks and controls just like the PC version, which is definitely a good thing, and even a few features were added in. One of these additions is an in-depth tutorial that teaches new players all the basics and gives them a small town (complete with a castle) to spend their first night in. Another new feature, the crafting encyclopedia, contains all the crafting recipes and short descriptions of what each item does.
This is what I have a problem with. I’ve always thought that Minecraft needed some sort of introduction, something that subtly suggested how to play and what to do. But this is madness.
Some of the best parts about Minecraft are the discovery and exploration, not to mention that first night spent in the game's awe-inspiring world. I die a little inside knowing that some people are going to have that taken away from them.
The need for experimentation will disappear. Everyone will already know how to craft everything and know what any given block does. That first night will be a breeze. Those new players won't experience the same frantic resource gathering. Instead of huddling in a crudely built shelter, nearly peeing themselves whenever a zombie moans, they’ll be sleeping in a warm bed within a brightly lit house.
I suppose they could always skip the tutorial, but I know most newcomers won’t. They’ll want to know how to play the title and won’t realize what they’re giving up.
Few games just throw us into their worlds with little to no explanation anymore. Our hands are held and our paths are limited so casual players can have a more “enjoyable” experience. Minecraft is like our generation’s Legend of Zelda: simple enough for anyone to play yet as difficult and complex as any other offering out there. To see a studio try and take some of that magic away is truly heartbreaking.
Minecraft is one of the few games where I avoid over-explaining how it works. I don’t want to deprive anyone of the experience of surviving the first night alone. 4J Studios obviously doesn’t understand this, and for that, I pity the developer. It completely nailed Minecraft, except for that one little thing.
It’s the struggle that makes surviving Minecraft so satisfying. Nothing is ever just given to you. The game isn't going to tell you how to play. You have to figure it out.
I love the crafting encyclopedia (no more searching the Minecraft wiki for a recipe), but it feels wrong giving the entire list of crafting recipes to beginners. Perhaps if pages were slowly given to the player as they level up or collect resources, it would feel less intrusive.
Please don’t take this as a rant. I appreciate the work 4J Studios did. I think it made a fantastic port, and Xbox 360 users are lucky to have this version. 4J implemented some ideas I would love to see in the PC edition of Minecraft, and others that I hope will be discarded in the future.