Friday Fun: Minecraft

by Shawn Powers
Minecraft. Not free.

This week's game is one that isn't free. In any sense. It is closed source, and requires payment to even try it out. Why would we mention such a game here at Linux Journal? 2 reasons:

1) It works quite well in Linux

2) It has a strange, cult-like following that makes absolutely no sense to me. I'm hoping our readers (some of which are likely fans) can explain the fascination to me.

3) The author claims once sales begin to dwindle, he will release the source code under some OSS friendly license.

First, in order to play Minecraft, you'll need to download the Java application. You can find it on the Minecraft website. If you have the proper dependencies installed (openjdk-6-jre, openjdk-6-jre-headless), you simply run the program as described on the website:

java -Xmx1024M -Xms512M -cp minecraft.jar net.minecraft.LauncherFrame

Once the game starts, you need to log in with your paid account, and the game will update itself to the latest version automatically. Then your top-of-the-line 3D accelerated video system will show you a 3D world with such low resolution graphics they make Mario look like he lives in Blu-ray world.

Q-Bert would be very comfortable in this world.

Once inside, the goal of the game is to build things. I think. By destroying certain blocks and adding different types of blocks together, new and complex blocks can be formed. If that sounds rather dumb and pointless, in some ways I agree with you. I think the only way a person can enjoy a "game" like Minecraft is to look at it like a bucket full of digital LEGOs.

When I was a kid, I played with LEGOs all the time. I loved them. In fact, I would spend hours and hours creating elaborate constructions for no other reason than I could. I think that's what Minecraft is. The differences of course are many, but the underlying desire to build I think is the point of Minecraft.

There are both single player and multi player modes for Minecraft, and the server (which also runs very well under Linux) can be downloaded for free so you can host your own multiplayer game.

I'll be honest, I don't understand the charm of Minecraft. Perhaps I'm too old to enjoy LEGOs, or perhaps I'm old enough that actual LEGOs seem more fun than digital blocks. Whatever its draw, however, Minecraft is a game with a huge following and devoted fan base. If you're a fan of Minecraft, please explain to the rest of us why you love it so much. And if you've never played it, but want to experiment, there is a Minecraft Classic version that is free to play. Check it out, maybe it's your cup of tea.

Oh, and if you do start playing Minecraft and get get hooked? Yeah, we're sorry. But at least it's Friday!