Mobile Mining

(Editor’s Note:  I’m pretty sure we’ve done an article on Minecraft for mobile before.  However, I’m sure that there have been many updates since that article.  Also, it’s been a while since I’ve fed this particular addiction.  What could go wrong?)

I loaded up Minecraft on the phone earlier today.  I’ve been keeping an eye on the updates that have been happening in recent weeks.  For a while there, it seemed like they were coming in rapid succession.  It might have just been because they were working so hard to get all of the versions compatible.

Ever since (and maybe even before) Microsoft acquired (invested in?) Mojang, there has been a push to make Minecraft cross platform.  They’ve already experimented with the idea.  The boys and I played on a “cross platform” version of the game.  They played on their Kindles and I played on my computer on the Windows 10 version.  I put “cross platform” in quotes because Windows 10 is Microsoft’s attempt at merging their mobile and PC markets with the same operating system.

Now, however, I’ve heard that they’re talking about allowing players to play simultaneously on PC, Mobile, and XBox One.  There were rumors that Playstation would be included, but those have been tempered.  Because Microsoft owns XBox and Sony is a direct competitor.  I still hold out hope that Minecraft can be the game that overcomes the console wars and gives us our first truly cross console game.

Imagine all the Steves…living life in peace.

One of the roadblocks to bringing the three other platforms together was that some platforms didn’t allow for infinite worlds.  Another was that the non PC versions were often several update cycles behind.  As I mentioned earlier, they seemed to be working hard to remedy both situations through an intense series of updates earlier in the year.  From what I was able to see on the mobile version, at least, they were successful.

The Good

The best thing that I can say about the mobile version is that it is much closer to Minecraft that I recognize.  The last time I played it, there was much missing from the game.  It didn’t impact playability, necessarily, but it did obviously limit the options in the game.  The first improvement I noticed was the opening menu.  It is much more user friendly.  Also, infinite worlds!

That might not seem like a huge improvement.  Even the old worlds are huge.  However, there were a few times, mostly during multiplayer games with the boys, that we mined up to the edge of the world.  It takes you out of the fantasy a bit when it happens.  Plus, one of our borders was on the ocean, which is doubly annoying because there could have been a water temple down there!  Alas, that’s not something that we have to worry about anymore.

This must be from an earlier edition before they added the ability to choose infinite worlds, but it’s there trust me. Or don’t. See if I care.

The other great thing about the game that I noticed was that opening your inventory automatically shows you the items that you can craft based on the items that you’ve collected.  Then, you can just click on that item and it will automatically add the items for the recipe.  Again, it is a small improvement, and some more traditional players might not even consider it an improvement, but I love it.  The first thing I do on the PC version is I download an addon that does something similar to this.  It just saves the time of not having to alt+tab to a browser and look up recipes.

There are other cool things.  Addons, as you can see in the screenshot above, have been added.  The nether is more than just a new dimension.  The last time I played, the nether was there, but the only mobs were Zombie Pigmen, so it wasn’t very interesting to explore.  Now, everything is there.  Ghasts, Blazes, those little hopping things, firebats, fortresses!  It’s going to be a ton of fun playing this game.

The Bad

The only bad thing that I could find about the game is that the controls are still super awkward.  I don’t have a bluetooth controller for my phone, so I have to use the touch controls.  While they lend themselves to an easier crafting experience, the mining and moving leaves much to be desired.  I can’t cont the number of times that I’ve accidentally started combat with a farm animal instead of cutting down a tree or mined the wrong block because of the controls.  It’s a minor annoyance, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it at times made me not want to play the game until I’m able to get a controller.

The Ugly

I know that the game is known for and defined by it’s blocky graphics.  And, I’m usually a sucker for old school games with terrible graphics.  But, the graphics in this game are really awful, even by the campy standards that should allow for bad graphics.  I mean, honestly.  The basis of the gameplay is simple.  The graphics are terrible.  Why is this game so popular?

Seriously, Grandpa. What am I doing with my life?  What madness is Minecraft?

I know that I mentioned earlier that having the nether in the game was a good thing.  That’s true in the context of making the games compatible for cross platform play.  However, having lost many a game and too much inventory to even count when I made a misstep and fell off of a cliff into a pool of lava that I twitched a little bit when I set up the nether portal and took the trip into that burning hellscape, even though it was on creative and there was no chance of me dying.

The Verdict

I said earlier that I might not play again until I am able to get some kind of controller for the phone.  I might even have to get a tablet for the bigger screen.  I doubt that I’ll ever go through with it.  First, that requires spending money, something that I’ve only done on beer and comics the last 3 months.  Second, having played the game again, I realize just how much I enjoy the game.

I can and often do already play the game on the computer.  There’s no reason to abandon that for a game with inferior controls.  Of course, in less than a month, I will be back at work and not in front of a computer most of the day.  Well, I might be in front of a computer most of the day, but my employers would frown upon me playing Minecraft instead of illuminating people on the wonders of math and physics.  If I could port my PC worlds to the phone…

I agree, Batman. It’s just crazy enough that it might work.

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