Minecraft is a all about blocks. Making them, breaking them, and building with them. That’s what most people know, but the truth of the game goes much deeper than this.
Even if you aren’t particularly into video games, you’ve probably noticed that LEGO has a few licensed sets out for Minecraft. A little casual research would also show you that Minecraft is a video game – one that has become so popular that it was bought by Microsoft for a whopping 2.5 billion dollars in 2014.
So what’s the connection with LEGO? While LEGO doesn’t have anything to do with the Minecraft game directly, it was clearly strongly-inspired by LEGO. Heck, it was even created by another Scandinavian guy, although he’s Swedish and not Danish. In another universe, it’s easy to imagine that LEGO came up with this game concept first, but here in our universe it did the next best thing and started producing real-life licensed LEGO with the Minecraft look.
The overlap between LEGO and Minecraft is clear, so I’ve decided to put up this Minecraft page on my LEGO site for AFOLs who are curious about Minecraft. While the game can be super-appealing to the average LEGO fan, getting into Minecraft can feel like meeting a foreign culture. Over the years, Minecraft has grown into a community of people and a base of lore that can seem daunting for a beginner. The truth is that Minecraft is plenty accessible and tons of fun, so let’s get you up to speed, eh?
In The Beginning
The primary creator of Minecraft is a man by the name of Markus “Notch” Persson. Following the Microsoft buyout, Notch decided to cash out his (1.5 billion!) in chips and take a well-deserved rest, but almost all of Minecraft at its core is the result of Notch’s work. Minecraft was Notch’s game project after he was inspired by games such as Dwarf Fortress and Dungeon Keeper. The feel of Minecraft’s gameplay also drew heavy inspiration from a game called Infiniminer, but Minecraft is mechanically very different.
The public got its first look at Minecraft in 2009. This was not the final version we get to play today, but a sort of pre-alpha version that’s now known simply as “Minecraft Classic”. This version of the game is free, but it doesn’t get any support and is not what we are talking about here when we mention Minecraft.
An alpha was released and sold enough copies that Notch could quit his day-job and work full-time on the game. The full version of the game came out in 2011 and it’s been actively updated to this day. Even better, it’s moved beyond just the PC. There are versions of Minecraft for all the major consoles, and even some less popular ones such as the PS Vita.
There are also versions for tablets and smartphones. These mobile versions are a bit cut down, compared to the main versions of the game, but as the phones get faster it’s been reaching parity with the full game and is a worthy title in its own right. This is also a good time to point out that everything on this page refers to the PC version of the game. Other ports of the title may have more limited features.
Today Minecraft is owned by Microsoft and they are pushing the game and all related content and products at full steam – including the educational version of Minecraft and a special version for their amazing Hololens headset.
So What’s it Like?
Minecraft is usually played from a first-person perspective, which is to say that you look at the world through the eyes of your character. There’s also a third-person camera available these days, but it’s not that great to use. Your character is a blocky little guy who can walk around, jump, and use a tool or block held in your right hand. This is how you interact with the world of Minecraft, by using what’s equipped in your right hand.
Chock Full of Blocks
The block is the basic unit of, well, everything in Minecraft. The whole world consists of cubical blocks of exactly the same size. Most blocks have a height of one meter, but the height of a block can vary in some cases.
Blocks can be solid or non-solid. Solid blocks are ones that the player or other non-player characters can’t move through. Blocks that aren’t solid can be passed through – water blocks and air are two examples. Although you may not think of it as a block, the air in the game is also subdivided into the giant world-wide grid of cubes. So, technically, it is a block, although the only way to “create” a block of air is by moving any other block out of the same space.
Blocks have attributes based upon their composition. A block can be “made” of stone, dirt, wood, and various other materials. The material type determines when and how you can interact with a given block.
Modes of Play
Minecraft has different modes of play and many people are drawn to one over the others. There are five game modes in total and each has its own quirks. Let’s go over them now.
Survival mode is one of the best-known Minecraft modes and is lots of fun. The point of this mode is to live as long as possible in the harsh and unforgiving (yet incredibly cute) world of Minecraft.
You see, there’s a day-night cycle, and when the sun goes down you better be ready with shelter or the creatures of the Minecraftian night are going to get you. The environment itself can be dangerous as well, so while you explore the world take care not to get caught out. How can you be hurt by the environment? Well, I’m not going to spoil that here, since learning the hard way is half the fun in Minecraft.
You also need to keep your Minecraft dude fed, as there is a hunger bar to keep full. The bar drains whenever you’re active, and if you sprint it goes down faster. If you have fewer than six drumsticks (the hunger icon) you can’t sprint at all. Not good news when trying to flee!
In this mode you have to do two things: mine and craft. Get it? You mine materials such as wood from the world and then you craft it into usable things such as tools and building objects. There’s a tiered system here as well, where you craft stronger stuff with weaker stuff, or need special crafting objects to create the best materials and tools. The more waves you survive, the better you’re doing! While it may seem that survival mode does not have a proper ending, there is a final boss of sorts, if you figure out how to get to it.
This mode also allows for you and other players to enter the same world together and either try to help each other to survive or play against each other as enemies or teams. It’s up to you!
For the LEGO fan, creative mode is where all the action is. This mode has no death and no enemies. You can fly around to your heart’s content and have access to unlimited supplies of (almost) every block type.
This is the mode where you can just build whatever you want and players have created some incredible structures. From working complex machines to recreations of movie locations, there doesn’t seem to be anything that Minecraft builders can’t achieve when they put their minds to it.
Although there are still enemies present in this mode, they won’t attack you in most cases and even if they did, they wouldn’t do any damage. It is still possible to die if you fly too far into the void surrounding the map, but that’s the only case of “natural” death in this mode. The admin can still kill you with a command though, so be nice to him or her.
Instead of an inventory screen, you’ll have an item selection screen. Here you can pick what sort of block you want to spawn. Multiplayer is entirely possible and this is how the really impressive builds are done over the course of weeks or months as players collaborate to fulfill a design.
Adventure mode is designed to allow players to experience player-made maps as intended. So some of the abilities that you have in survival mode are removed to make sure you don’t mess up what the level creator intended. You can’t destroy blocks with anything other than tools that have been tagged with the ability to destroy things by the level creator. Likewise, you can only place blocks on other blocks that have been tagged to allow it in game.
As the name suggests, Hardcore Mode is for those who feel regular old survival mode isn’t challenging enough. In normal survival, when you die, you can respawn in the world and try again. Not so if you go the hardcore route. When you die, that’s it. You can either spawn as a spectator that can look but not touch, or you can delete the world. That’s it. Game over man, game over.
Speaking of which…
This is a mode of the game that you can only access by executing a console command or dying in Hardcore Mode. When you are a spectator you can’t be seen by anyone (besides other spectators) and can fly through anything. One interesting ability in spectator mode is taking on someone else’s view. Think of it as possessing that entity without taking control of it. You see the world from their point of view until you dismount.
There are currently more than 100 block types in the game, so obviously we can’t talk about all of them here, but there are some common ones that you’ll encounter often and are worth highlighting here. Knowing your blocks can be very helpful when first starting the game, but discovering the properties of rarer block types is a lot of fun, so don’t be too tempted to look up all the block types before or as you play. Most blocks in Minecraft ignore gravity, but there are a few exceptions, which has important implications for some building projects.
Yes, dirt. Soil, sod – whatever you want to call it – the world of Minecraft has a lot of dirt blocks in it. The main use of dirt is farming, but you can build stuff from it if you’re desperate. However, just as a mud-hut doesn’t provide much in the way of protection, a dirt shelter isn’t going to cut it in the hazardous world of Minecraft. A shovel is the preferred tool to deal with the brown stuff.
Wood blocks come from trees. When you first start a game of Minecraft you have nothing but your bare fists, so you better start beating on some trees to get those sweet wood blocks. Wood is essential to the process of crafting. You can turn wood blocks into planks and then use the plank to make a crafting table. Once that’s done you can start making the tools that let you ramp up your technological level.
While you can use wood blocks in a pinch to build a structure, stone is the material of choice for much of what you would build. Stone walls, fences, roads – you name it. Just as in life, stone is a flexible material in Minecraft.
Like dirt, but drier. Yes, it’s that classic material – sand. As with dirt, sand somehow inexplicably remains in cube form, rather than spilling everywhere as it does in real life. Sand is one of the six block types that are affected by gravity in the game. This means that it will fall unless stacked on another block. Keep in mind that gravity affects this block type if you decide to use it for building purposes.
Sandstone is crafted from sand or can be found in certain Minecraft biomes. It has the resistance properties of stone, but looks like sand. It’s also not affected by gravity. So if you want to build something that has that sand look without all the drawbacks, sandstone is your material of choice.
If you want to power a forge, you’ll need to have a fuel source. That’s where coal comes in. These blocks look like stone at first glance, but you’ll quickly learn to spot the little black flecks that differentiate them from stone blocks.
Gravel is another block type that succumbs to the allure of gravity. It breaks down into flint, which can make better arrows and help you start a fire when made into the right type of tool.
Plonk iron ore into a furnace and you’ll get the iron ingots you desperately need to make improved weapons, armor, and tools. Iron presents as a gray block with tan-colored flecks on it.
Diamond ore yields the crafting materials to build the strongest items in the game. If it’s made of diamond you can do no better in terms of performance or durability.
Tools of the Trade
There are a lot of tools you can wield in the game. Some are meant to be used for crafting, but will also hurt enemies in a pinch. Others are weapons made to damage creatures in the game, whether you’re hunting for meat or defending yourself. Tools come in different material grades. These range from wood to diamond, with the stats of each tool going up as the grade of material improves.
Let’s quickly go over the important ones.
It’s a shovel, you use it for digging. It has a low attack strength, but dirt, sand, clay, gravel, and snow won’t know what hit it. Even a diamond shovel is pretty useless as a weapon, so don’t bother.
The only tool actually meant for mining. The wooden pickaxe can’t mine valuable and rare ores, but it’s a start. Don’t ask me how a completely wooden pickaxe can mine anything. Just go with it. It’s only slightly stronger than a shovel when used as a weapon.
You can till dirt so that it becomes farmland. If you till a block of grass you may even get some seeds. Even more useless than a shovel as a weapon, which is to say you can’t use it as one.
Chopping wood and a pretty decent form of self-defense. I mean – it’s an ax.
Armed and Dangerous
While you can attack hostile creatures with all but one of the above tools, none of them are very good at the task. Luckily, there are weapons in the game, and if you have one it’s a better choice than poking at an angry creature with a gardening implement. There are only two types of weapon – one for close-in attacks and one for ranged attacks.
Swords are your best option for getting up close and personal with a hostile creature in Minecraft. Be mindful of the durability of a sword. A wood sword only has 60 durability points, whereas a diamond sword has a hefty 1562 durability points. Swords can also destroy some blocks more quickly than a tool, but at a double durability penalty. You really don’t want to use a diamond sword as a hammer.
Bow and Arrow
This is your ranged attack option and you only get one grade. No durability to worry about, but you do have to create a supply of arrows for ammo, obviously. It has medium attack power, but you can stay out of reach.
Meet the Cast
The last thing I’ll talk about are some of the creatures you’ll encounter as you explore the world of Minecraft. This isn’t all of them, since it’s fun to discover unexpected things. These are just some of the common ones you’ll find out about almost immediately.
This is by far the most iconic Minecraft monster and you’ll find it in LEGO Minecraft sets, right on the box! The creeper is both common and quite scary with that unmistakable hiss. When it gets close to you it explodes, so step lively!
These guys are about as tough as the creeper AND skeletons shoot arrows, meaning you have to get close enough to get a shot in. You’ll see them come out at night, but if they are still around when the sun comes up, they’ll catch fire.
Arachnophobes need not apply. These spiders have glowing red eyes and spawn in the dark. Luckily, if you make it out into the sunlight they won’t attack you first anymore.
Very similar to the chickens we know from the real world, these guys are all over the place wherever it’s sunny or grassy. Every few minutes, chickens will lay an egg, which of course you can cook.
They don’t do much, but if you kill one, a cow will drop a crafting material. You monster.
It’s a pig. That’s how you get pork chops. It’s not complicated.
LEGO in all but Name
Minecraft is without a doubt one of the most creative and vibrant new franchises to come along in a long time. Its popularity is well-deserved and great in its own right. From a LEGO fan’s point of view this could very well have been a LEGO property. It has a unique and consistent aesthetic and it allows for unfettered creative play and discovery – both staple features of LEGO. So if you live LEGO, you’re almost certain to live Minecraft.