A reader of ours asked us to swing by the Minecraft booth at PAX, so I set a personal mission to do exactly that.  I found the Mojang set up and met with Brad Baldo.  Brad graciously walked me through the game, patiently explaining things to me.  He asked if I was familiar with the game and my unfortunate response was “Isn’t this the game that people use to make 8-bit art?” NOT the best way to start things off but Brad is the man.  Yes, this game is limited by your imagination as far as shaping your landscapes.  In an era where fans line up at Q&A sessions to ask about the lineality of a game, this game is open world.  However it is so much more than just a medium for art work.
The devs wanted to make the gameplay a bit more realistic.  Now, food no longer instantly revives you, you slowly recover as you eat nourishing food.  Cows drop beef in addition to the leather now, and there are completely new prop types like watermelons!  I love watermelon!  In combat, even arrows draw back on bows and need to be shot individually with tension affecting distance instead of the rapid fire bow and arrow system that seemed like a medieval gatling gun type system firing arrows at superhuman speed.
There will be Non Player Characters (NPCs) to interact with.  That should add to the depth of the gameplay.  A huge change is the addition of Experience (XP) points that allow the player to upgrade skills, such as speed of mining.  Being able to increase your abilities based on your XP gained is a cool new feature for Minecraft.
In addition to the array of other new stuff we’ll be seeing, there is a new monster type: The Enderman.  These creatures live deep in caves but come to the surface occasionally at night.  They generally mind their own business, but if you mess with them, or even look at them directly and they catch you, they’ll hunt you down and kill you.  There are large and difficult to kill creatures around in the world, so the fans wanting some incarnation of a mini-boss should be happy.
Zombies are back but this time when you kill them, they drop rotten flesh.  Contrary to what you might think, eating this zombie infected rotten flesh does not turn you into a zombie.  The rotten flesh actually recovers two hearts of your health.  It’s mind boggling…
Overall, for a guy that only knew of this game because of it’s ability to create a giant Mario, I was happy to see the work that the development team put into improving the game based on feedback from their fans.  My personal concern:  Playing this game and hours later realizing that I really may be a bit OCD because I had to run around and mine every mountain until they were symmetrical.
A huge thanks again to Brad Baldo for being so patient and kind with a Minecraft noob like myself!!  I know that the new Minecraft’s release in November 2011 can’t come soon enough for some!
Jerry Loveless

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