Can’t be all work and no fun – though this fun was a lot of work! See what it’s like to walk around inside of an Apple II:


After I originally posted this, I decided that it needed a little more explanation. (I also wanted those unfamiliar with the game to appreciate the work involved in making that Apple II stuff; walking to school uphill in the snow both ways was easy compared to this!) You can read about Minecraft at the entry discussing it on Wikipedia, or if you want a lot of detail you can read the Minecraft Wiki.

In brief, Minecraft is, in my opinion, like Legos on steroids. It’s like Legos because you can build things; the “on steroids” part comes in because you can actually be that little Lego guy or gal and walk around on or in your creations. It is also somewhat reminiscent of 8-bit games; it is gloriously pixellated, and does not do its best to be realistic. Everything is squarish, from the sun moving across the sky, to the smoke rising from torches you can use to keep the darkness at bay.

The game runs on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. You can even play it in a browser window, as long as you have Java installed on your system; it is a Java game, with little add-ons made to be compatible with whichever operating system on which you are using it. The game is still in Beta, which means that there are bugs, but they are fairly minor most of the time.

It plays in two modes: Survival and Peaceful. In Peaceful mode, your only problem at “night” is being able to see what you are trying to look at. In Survival mode, nighttime becomes dangerous, because various lethal creatures spawn and will attack you if you encounter them. If you don’t have a safe place to stay the night, you will die.

Unlike Legos, in which you simply open the package and start building, Minecraft requires you to create tools to use to make better tools, and ultimately use those tools to get better stuff that can be used to do the actual building. So, the first thing you have to do is break up a tree to get wood, use that wood to create boards, and then use the boards to create a workbench. The workbench helps you create a wooden spade and pick. These will help you dig a shelter for that first night. With the wooden pick you can mine stone, which can be used to make a stone pick and spade, which lasts longer, and makes it possible to find the next important resource: Coal. With coal you can make torches to help your underground mining (or cave exploring), as you search for iron ore to make the next level of tools out of iron. And if you dig deeply, you can find diamonds (the best material for tools and weapons), or gold (only good for making a clock at this time), or redstone (used for various switching devices and simple circuits).

There are animals all over the place: Pigs that are only good for food to regain health; cows, which can be milked or you can use their hides to make simple armor; chickens, which have feathers that can be used to make arrows; and sheep, whose wool can be used as a building material, especially if you want colored blocks. It was prolonged sessions searching for and harvesting wool from sheep that made it possible to create the Apple logo in its rainbow colors, and the various non-stone items in my giant Apple II, its monitor and its disk drives.

There is more to the game than this brief explanation provides. You can see it in action on the numerous YouTube videos about Minecraft; search for ones that explain how to get started. And although I doubt that the electric circuits the game allows the user to create will not get much more sophisticated than they are, if that ever happens, I’ve got the framework to create a computer to go with my case.

And if it becomes possible to change the color of stone to something besides gray, or more easily find sandstone (which is beige), I’ll have to try making this Apple II look less like a faded Bell & Howell Apple II, and even more like the Real Thing.