A few months back I wrote an article about the magic of Minecraft, the brilliance of its design, and why it might be the most important game of the decade. And then, not terribly long after that article went live, I stopped playing Minecraft altogether. It’s hard to pin that decision on just one thing. In truth, there were a number of factors, but the simplest explanation is that I hit “the wall.”
Any Minecrafter with any sort of real-world responsibilities knows just what I’m talking about. Minecraft has a very serious honeymoon phase, a phase during which the game can do no wrong beyond eating hours of freetime. Though much of Minecraft’s beauty and genius is its open-ended nature, the possibilities can be a bit overwhelming. For a lot of players, the game’s lack of purpose is daunting, and the massive, empty worlds inspire a sort of existential crisis that few games will ever replicate.
Enter the Minecraft Adventure Update. In a world of games like Terraria and Ace of Spades, both of which take the Minecraft concept and tweak it for a more game-like experience, Minecraft developer Mojang decided to turn the game into something a little bit more like an RPG. There will be skills to level, experience to collect, bosses to kill, and even more goodies to hoard. This week we got half of that update, and I can already say that version 1.8 has rekindled my ever-burning Netherrack fire.
For those who, like me, have been away from Minecraft for some time, here are five things you need to know about Minecraft 1.8.1. You will go hungry
I mean this both literally and virtually. One of the major changes made in 1.8 was the addition of a food meter, which slowly depletes over time. Food now comes in more varieties and also stacks. In order to stay healthy, you first have to fill your food meter, which will then cause your health to slowly regenerate. This change alone makes so many things about the game feel more dynamic that it would be hard to list them all. I’ll cover a few of them in below.
You will also go hungry in real-life. Minecraft 1.8 is gripping in a way that only narcotics should be. You will sit in your chair for hours. You will lose weight. Your skin will take on a pallid, sweaty sheen. For what I will assume is the first time in your life, you’ll have to assure your loved ones that you, in fact, not addicted to meth.2. You will explore
Every player knows the Minecrafter who refuses to play creative mode but also refuses to explore, to expose himself to any danger whatsoever, to even risk losing a single sapling. I have such a player among my gaming friends and despite his many protestations to the contrary, there he was at two in the morning, running along next to me as we plumbed the depths of an underground ravine.
Minecraft 1.8 includes a new terrain generator that is so epic and so beautiful that even the most stalwart nyctophobe will be drawn out of his obsidian lockbox to do a little exploring. The first time I stumbled onto a ravine underground I nearly melted my tongue on coffee that I had neglected to let cool. I said “wow,” to my desk and felt the burning hot liquid pour out of my mouth and onto my lap. The new terrain is made of inspired stuff.3. You will die
One of my biggest issues with older versions of Minecraft’s Survival Mode was that the “survival” aspect lasted for about 12 minutes past the spawn of a new map. Once I had stone tools and a couple torches I was basically an invincible god with a lust for diamonds and pig meat. Creepers? I ate Creepers for breakfast. Zombies? Skeletons? Spiders? I made entire factories designed to slaughter them. Lava? Ummmm, you don’t carry a water bucket when you go mining?
Minecraft 1.8 is different, thanks mostly to the new food system. Gone are the days of tanking wave after wave of zombies armed with nothing but a shovel and 26 loaves of bread. There is no magical instant heal - it all comes over time. If the incoming damage outpaces that healing, you die, and trust me, you will die. You will meet cave spiders and you will die. The good news is, of course, that you will respawn, you will craft a suit of diamond armor and you will deploy your ordinance to the ground.4. You will hit “the wall”
The inevitable existential crisis that accompanies prolonged Minecraft exposure hasn’t quite been dealt with in 1.8, and frankly I hope it never disappears entirely. For now, that wall is way off in the distance, over the horizon where I can’t even see it. But as I play Minecraft, I play with the knowledge that someday I’ll be standing over everything I’ve built wondering, “what the hell was the point?” In a lot of ways, that experience is what makes Minecraft so good. I’m glad I’m not there yet. I’m glad I won’t be there for a while. But all the same, I’m still glad “the wall” is there.5. You will love it
If you are a Minecraft fan, no matter your persuasion, you will love this update. If you like to build, you now have a fully supported creative mode. If you want to hunt Endermen, by god, hunt Endermen. If you want to farm, you have more options than ever before. If you want to go cave diving, well, grab your spelunking gear, son. No matter what you like to do in Minecraft, you have more options to do it than ever before. Get out there and enjoy yourself.