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Five Minutes Of... Minecraft
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Five Minutes Of... Minecraft

October 21, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

Now -- with no NPC, with no dialogue pop-up -- the game has given you your first mission. Find shelter. Survive the night. And so, with new resolve, I set about building a house. I was still too green in the ways of Minecraft to watch the sun to gauge the time, so I squandered too much of the day collecting timber and earth. It was already dusk by the time I started to build.

It should have been simple -- walls two blocks high and a flat roof, but it quickly proved tricky. Two blocks high means you can't reach to attach the roof. One block high means you don't fit in. Quickly now -- the sun melting into a broad glow on the horizon -- build a step, start the roof, jump back down, complete the ridge. Move inside and use your last two blocks to complete the house and tuck myself into safe, impregnable...

Blackness. Not the absence of light but a drowning depth of ink. However dark it is outside is nothing to what I've just made in here. Is it even fully dark outside yet? Maybe I've got time to....but now there's a noise. Some sort of...rattle. A groan. A snuffling, snorting, pressing sort of noise. In the dark. Outside. Outside? Outside. Surely outside.

I realize now that not only do I now know what these monsters look like, I don't know what rules they obey. What game laws -- or even what natural laws.

The snuffling outside is constant now. Can they dig, whatever they are? My hurried house is only made of earth. Why didn't I make the effort to use wood? Unless they can breathe fire, of course.

I feel like all three of the little pigs at once, beset by huffing and puffing and flaming hunger. Whatever it is out there sounds eager to feed.

I hunker back in the dark, trying to get away from the noise but afraid of losing by bearings in the blackness. It's a long time since I've met this in a game: the unknown. No tutorial has told me how to handle this threat. No preview has shown me concept art of it. No genre convention can give me my bearings. It could be anything out there. It could do anything. All I can do is cower in my ramshackle mausoleum and wait for light.

Will it go away at dawn, I wonder? Will it go away ever? Is it an it, or a them? I'm not sure which is scarier, for there to be more than one of it, or for there to be one single thing that could make making all those noises at once. Whatever is out there seems unrelenting -- energetic and tireless.

So tireless, in fact, that the terror is starting to wear off. The noise is familiar now. I don't understand it still, but at least I know it. I'm starting to tune it out. The noise fades from my mind, my screen stays resolutely black. How will I even know when it gets light? What am I going to do between now and then? Maybe I could knock a roof block loose?

My left-mouse-button-finger is getting itchy, and I realize just in time that my two greatest enemies have just arrived: boredom and curiosity. No quicker way of getting killed then succumbing to their charms. With a little smug nod I settle back in my chair. I'm not falling for that.

HIT BEING HIT DAMAGE WHAT IS THAT HELP HIT HIT HIT WHERE HIT. Three hearts have gone. There's something. I'm taking damage. I'm hitting flailing spinning hitting. No idea what's out there. In here. No idea how dangerous it is. No idea if I'm hitting it or if it's still hitting me. Massive adrenalin spike.

Eventually I realize I'm still alive and stop fighting. My health is down but the damage has stopped. Whatever it was, I must have killed it. I'd feel proud, but now I'm just terrified. What was it? How did it get in? Did it spawn inside my house? Can they do that? Are there more?

Tense, I wait and wait and wait. Is it day yet? What if I've already missed it? I try to think how long my first day lasted. I've lost my sense of time as well as my bearings in the fight. I turn, trying to get oriented. I can't. I turn again and move and catch a flash of something tiny. Something white. Something light. Something square.

I stare at it and it gets whiter. And as it gets whiter, I start to see more. Eventually, the geometry resolves. The white square is the sky. A tiny square of sky. It's tiny because it's far away. And it's far away because I'm at the bottom of a 30 foot mine-shaft I accidentally dug when I was flailing at the night fiend. I'd be embarrassed if I wasn't so busy being jubilant. I survived. If I did it once I can do it again. I've earned my place in this world.

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