Open Letter to Minecraft Developers and Designers

(Was originally not going to post this, but oh well)

To just about every designer and programmer of Minecraft:

 

Minecraft is one of the most unique games that I’ve ever played. It revolutionized the open-world sandbox game genre, and it shows that there can be a game with no goal… or does it?

The funny thing about Minecraft is that it could only represent this slogan up to beta 1.7.3, before more adventure aspects began to get shoehorned into the game. Listen, I get it, okay: Minecraft was all about adventure for some people, but what about what the original idea represented?

Every version before the aforementioned 1.7.3 had design elements and aspects to make the player want to build. It would personalize the world for the player, and it would make losing your world feel that much more substantial. There was no goal in the game, because the game was still a set-in-stone definition of an open-world sandbox game, and it was literally serving as this definition of the genre for quite some time! … until survival was emphasized.

You might think that the hunger bar is a great edition to Minecraft, along with most adventure-gameplay aspects that beta 1.8.2 and versions beyond it have featured, but do you not realise that this breaks the original idea of Minecraft and makes things like building seem pointless? With all of the elaborate structured automatically generated by Minecraft’s world generator in newer versions, the game’s building system was simply left in the game without any changes to make it still relevant. At any point in the game, you have to have a base of operations, but only because of arbitrary difficulty with enemy spawning and AI, and not because you WANT to, necessarily. It loses something special.

I feel that the barren wastelands that the beta and alpha versions generated were a perfect fit for the building system, as they made the player want to make the world look amazing. You didn’t need to just walk 10 minutes in one direction to find a village or some other land mass that is generated automatically, ala the hundreds of mods that do the same thing, but the elaborate and gorgeous structures were left up to the player, giving the player incentive to build more structures. Once you’ve finished a long day’s work on a building project, you feel accomplished, because you chose to put in the hours, and you were addicted by how free the system for how much you could build was. Because of the barren landscape, it wasn’t difficult to literally build whatever you wanted, and this worked in Minecraft’s favor. However, when you add in something like a hunger bar, suddenly the game takes a different course, and this is ONLY the hunger system.

 

In any world in newer versions of Minecraft, you could start a world, then after a while, you’d have at least iron tools and armour, and enough food to last you forever. What’s the point of building anything at that point in the game? There are enough villages, towns, and temples that spawn where you can pretty much just steal a home for yourself. Yes, you CAN go after the bosses, but the Ender Dragon, while a very good quest for Minecraft, is very out of the way, and not to mention impossible to know about unless you’re going by a Wiki, which is pretty much necessary for Minecraft, but that’s for later. Back to the subject, the Wither boss is probably not only the worst quest in the game, but also the worst enemy AI I have ever seen. The “difficulty” in this quest is only arbitrary, by making the drop that is necessary for spawning said boss very low drop rate, and thus making needless grinding in a quest that really should have to have it. Ender Pearls worked because the drop rate was high enough to not be discouraging, but low enough to take the extra effort, and because you needed quite a good many of them, it made sense to make them common.

 

Wither Skulls are not this. Getting to the Wither boss is tedious, pretend-difficult, and in the end (pun intended), not even remotely worth it. You have a minimal chance of killing this thing because of it’s lazily programmed AI, and how overpowered it is, even fully powered up with enchanted armour, weapons, and potions, and while it grants you the power to make one, and only one Beacon, the Beacon is only aesthetic, mostly, since the effects are more potent when you just use potions, and the difficulty to get potions to simulate these effects is much lower than actually getting all of the materials in order for the Beacon to be useful in the slightest. The bottom line is that this loops back around to the building being pointless, where it’s great to have something like a beacon, but what’s the point if there’s no purpose to building, no conveyance that you SHOULD build, and that it’s easily replaced by something far easier to obtain.

 

Another huge problem that the game always had was conveyance of “what to do,” and this has always been a problem, but was never fixed. If you added books randomly that could tell you hints about what to do, or a book in which you could find in dungeons where you would find recipes for things, which wouldn’t be necessary, but helpful to new players, or ANYTHING that would tell the player any sort of hints about the game itself through the game itself being played, then the Wiki would be a necessity to literally only play the game.

 

It goes further, too. Another issue that Minecraft has is the ratio of difficulty to find compared to actual usefulness. What’s the point of adding more items if there’s no incentive to building with them? I understand that it might seem a bit too simple of a solution to make the game not as adventure-oriented, but I’ve studied Minecraft for several months, and I can safely say that if you took it back, started from the beta, preferably b1.6.6, and started building the game around the building mechanics and how the game would personalize, and instead of having an end goal and have a cohesive finish, it would basically be a completely custom game, where you tell the story, from beginning to end, with every building that you build representing the progression that not only your world has made, but also you, as a player, has made. That world that you spend weeks on suddenly goes from “This world” in Minecraft to “MY world” in Minecraft, and that’s the key to keeping the building system as the focus. It’s great to add new building blocks, but you have to give them purpose instead of just putting them in with no cohesiveness. Minecraft, in it’s current state, could be compared to if you took Skyrim, got rid of the quests system, removed well-designed dungeons, stuck a building system into it, removed any story whatsoever, and conveyance for that matter, and finally simplified all of it’s other mechanics while also overcomplicating them, such as crafting and smelting.

 

I’m not writing this long study to troll or because I’m “just a hater.” I’m writing this because I want to try to fix a game that I thought was very close to being one of my favorite games of all time, but failed because, with each update, the game gets worse and worse, slowly falling away from being an open-world sandbox game to being something like a Skyrim clone. I also write this because I’m worried that with the looming Minecraft v2.0, I’m worried that it will adopt more of these features that I complained about, and also not fix them, just as I’m worried that the game will just keep getting “modded” with every update, instead of fixing bugs, finishing unfinished aspects(stares at the superflat options menu), and just adding in pointless content to pander to the masses instead of actually making the game legitimately better. You realise that if you did focus the game around building, like I’m saying, that the game would capture a completely different audience, while also keeping the same audience there?

 

I’m also not suggesting that you remove everything from the game, either. Quite the contrary. While I am suggesting that things like the hunger bar, experience bar, the Wither Boss quest in general, and many other aspects like Villages, witch’s huts, dungeons, most of the “beauty” in the world generator, and all temples, I’m also suggesting to build the other elements that could have been great, like the new types of stone, or the new types of fish, AROUND the building elements to make a more solid game. Make the worlds generated more bland purposefully. Give the game better conveyance. Remove the ridiculous focus on Adventure. Focus much more on updating the game to make it more stable instead of adding new content without thinking about how what you’re adding will affect EVERYTHING else in the game. Try to give the player a unique experience that they’ll carry with them throughout the rest of their gaming experience, and perhaps even their lives. Instead of just taking elements of other games that are nothing like Minecraft and just putting them in without thinking. Make mob drops be useful to the player instead of being arbitrarily random and low, and ESPECIALLY stop pandering to the millions of Minecraft players who literally do NOT know anything about Game Design, or any sort of Design for that matter, and start being actual developers instead of a highly-paid modding team. Also, as one closing thought, if you don’t believe what I said about the beta versions of Minecraft, go back and make a world from what you think is start to finish, with what I stated in mind, and actually consider what I said instead of just ignoring out of pride, like many other people would.

 

If this actually gets read by more than just a secretary, then thank you for your time.

 

 

– Gavin “GmacktheGummy” Capenos

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