posted by Thom Holwerda on Tue 28th Sep 2010 22:11 UTC
IconThere are some things in this world that just happen. There's really no logical reason for it to happen, there's no explanation as to why it happens now, and not, say, three years ago. Minecraft is one those things. It's a game, but not entirely. It's digital Lego, but not entirely. It's impossible to explain what it is in words alone - you need to experience it. All I have to point to is this: someone has created a working 16bit ALU inside Minecraft. Which is a videogame. An ALU running inside a videogame running on a processor which has an ALU. In blocks. Wait, what?

We haven't discussed Minecraft yet here on OSNews, mostly because web trends kind of pass me by because, I don't know, they just do. Anywho, after my brother introduced me to it yesterday, I've been playing around a bit, and I still can't really put my finger on what exactly Minecraft is; the best I can think of is that it's kind of like Lego, but not really.

The key is that you need to experience Minecraft first-hand to understand grasp the appeal of the concept. It's an independently developed project, which has already made its developer Markus Persson quite rich; he's working on setting up his own development studio to support Minecraft and is in the process of hiring people.

Coincidentally, his stance on people pirating his game is pragmatic in the best of ways. Big Content, read and learn. "If someone pirates Minecraft instead of buying it, it means I've lost some 'potential' revenue. Not actual revenue, as I can never go into debt by people pirating the game too much, but I might've made even more if that person had bought the game instead," Persson explains, "But what if that person likes that game, talks about it to his or her friends, and then I manage to convince three of them to buy the game? I'd make three actual sales instead of blocking out the potentially missed sale of the original person which never cost me any money in the first case."

He further details that by adding online services only legitimate users can access, he'll be able to offer something compelling that will cause people to buy the game anyway instead of pirating it. "Online level saving, centralized skins, friends lists and secure name verification for multiplayer," he lists, "None of these features can be accessed by people with pirated versions of the game, and hopefully they can be features that turn pirates from thieves into potential customers."

Moving on, if you want the best possible textual explanation of what Minecraft is all about, I urge you to read Rock Paper Shotgun's in-depth series on the game (scroll down for day one). You can purchase Minecraft's alpha, which is updated automatically almost daily, for a mere $10 (I'll be loading up my PayPal later this week), and before purchase, you can run around in the limited Classic mode to get a feel for the game. After sales have dropped off, Persson intends to release Minecraft as open source.

So, apart from building your own shelter and running from monsters at night, what, exactly, is Minecraft capable of? Well, lots of people have already created outlandish objects inside Minecraft, but I think few can claim they have actually built an arithmetic logic unit - one of the basic building blocks of a processor - inside a video game.

Oh and mind you, this is not just a inanimate replica - this is an actual, working and calculating 16bit arithmetic logic unit that had to be debugged in-game. Its creator's next goal is to - I'm not kidding you - build memory to go with the ALU. This is completely and utterly mindbogglingly crazy and insanely awesome all at the same time.

A video game in which you can create something as complex as this just has to be something special. I've only dabbled with all this for a little while in the limited free version, but I can't wait until I've purchased the alpha.

This is something special.

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