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Minecraft Alpha


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Rating: 4.8/5 (453 votes)
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FunnyManMinecraft AlphaSometimes, a game goes through such a metamorphosis during its development cycle that it's practically a different product from its original release. Thus is the case with Minecraft, a little old building game, inspired by Infiniminer and Dwarf Fortress, and created by Markus Persson (a.k.a. Notch) that we originally reviewed back in 2009. After a huge explosion in Best of Casual Gameplay 2010popularity and steady development for over a year, the team has evolved the game to add a new branch, a significant update dubbed Minecraft Alpha.*

Mojang Specifications has clearly been doing something right, as Minecraft Alpha has sold over half a million copies. And yet, at first glance, one might think nothing has changed since Minecraft Classic. The game generates random 3D landscapes just like before, still uses the same blocky world with low-resolution graphics, and continues to have no real goal. Even the controls are unchanged, with mouse movement to look around, [WASD] for movement, and [space] to jump. What, then, has changed? Why have half a million people paid money for a game that's still available for free?

Minecraft AlphaThe simplest answer: survival. Minecraft Classic is a straightforward creativity tool that allows players to sculpt a world to their liking. With Minecraft Alpha, however, the twin elements of scarcity and danger have been added. No longer do you get a limitless supply of any resource you wish to build with. Now you start with nothing, a limited amount of health, and precious little time to build a place of safety before the sun sets and all the various denizens of the night come out and hunt you. That's right, hunt you.

Your first task in Minecraft: make it through the night. Because you won't have the materials to construct weapons or armor, your only option is to set up a rudimentary shelter and wall yourself off from the various baddies that will soon attack. By gathering a few resources, you can use Minecraft's crafting system to build dozens of items, from shovels to pickaxes to mine carts and staircases. It's a very simple matter of dropping materials into a grid and watching what happens. It's probably a good idea to consult the Minecraft Wiki to get some more details on your first shelter, as it's an important first step in learning to play the game. You can't very well build a castle if you can't live through your first night!

Analysis: Minecraft is one of those games where what you get from it depends on what you put into it. If you come in looking for a way to "win", you will be disappointed and run out of things to do. If, however, you are willing to put yourself in the shoes of a greedy miner searching for ever-greater riches, a heroic warrior fighting off the forces of evil, an explorer in search of new and beautiful areas, and a builder striving to fill the world with the products of his own two hands, you will get endless hours of enjoyment, especially with the new features each update brings. Few indeed are the games that offer a world that is both infinite (or effectively so) and infinitely malleable.

Minecraft AlphaThe graphics may look horrid at first glance, but this impression is something of a standing joke among the Minecraft community. Many a player has reluctantly tried it, then found themselves wondering where the last twelve hours went and why the birds are already singing when it surely can't be any later than one or two in the morning.

Minecraft Alpha's biggest weakness is the one revealed in the title itself: it's in alpha. It is buggy, and sometimes demonstrates the programmer's half-joke that fixing one bug creates two more. Multiplayer is available, but is far buggier than single-player, and minecraft.net is famously unreliable, often making updates and authenticated multiplayer unavailable for hours when a new version comes out. However, this is changing rapidly! The website is slowly being hardened, bug fixes have been streaming in for the last couple weeks, and beta has just been announced.

Whether you can only play it for fifteen minutes at a time, or end up devoting hours at a stretch (often unintentionally) to it, Minecraft is intensely enjoyable, and an incredible bargain even at the slightly higher price point it will hit at the end of this month.* Currently, players can buy in for some Minecraft goodness for 10 euros (around $13). When the game enters beta, however, the price goes up to 15 euros (around $20). I cannot recommend this game strongly enough.

*Note: Minecraft Beta will be out on December 20th, so this is your last opportunity to get the game at Alpha pricing and with the promise of all future updates for free.

WindowsWindows:
Play the free Minecraft Classic (also in multiplayer)
Order Minecraft Alpha

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Play the free Minecraft Classic (also in multiplayer)
Order Minecraft Alpha

LinuxLinux:
Play the free Minecraft Classic (also in multiplayer)
Order Minecraft Alpha

53 Comments

*claps* Thank you, jayisgames, for promoting this wonderful (and ridiculously addictive) game.

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Personally, I don't really like the change to BETA with this promise being taken away for future buyers. It just sounds... weird.

On another note my brother plays this game a LOT.

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Theprogram00 Author Profile Page December 12, 2010 8:55 PM

Highly worth it! Very addicting, hugely exciting, addicting, cheap simple creative fun. Especially great with a couple of friends on a multiple server, however can be enjoyed single player just as much.

Games definitely don't need to be large or in-depth to be fun. However, Minecraft falls under the "simply complex" category of being very indepth for those that want it :)

Hugely recommend.

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Man, i love this game. You should get in on the ground floor, case when it goes into beta, and there are no more free updates (except for major bugs) then you will be sad.

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Wow, this indie game has become so well-known! Great job Markus!
Great sign JIG :)

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TheMusicGirl Author Profile Page December 12, 2010 9:54 PM

YES! As soon as I saw you guys re-reviewed this game I did a fist pump. It absolutely deserves this review! Recommended to the power of infinity! It's one of those games where, when trying to explain it to someone else, (You're dropped in a world where you have to mine and fight zombies and build stuff. What? No, there's no, like, point...but you make your own point! Heh?) you make it sound super boring...but it's so fun! Purchase it and become part of the community!

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Yesssssss I was just about to submit this. Very great game. I've gotten bored with it lately, as I'm too big of a wuss to not play on Peaceful difficulty by myself, but it's great fun, and always improving.

Note about the Beta: All future updates until release will still be free, it's only after that that you will stop getting free updates. IF you buy on/after the 20th. If you buy beforehand, you'll still get everything forever free. Notch said on his Twitter that he had to change this because of lawyers and stuff.

Great job to JIG for putting this review out before Beta, and not screwing a bunch of people out of infinite free releases.

JIG dedicated server, Jay? :D

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It's about time!

I've been wondering how long it'd take you guys to re-review this! A word of advice: If you haven't bought this game yet, do it. Don't question it. Just buy it! It's more than worth it.

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If anyone's curious as to how amazing this game can be, simply youtube search minecraft computer. As one of the top comments says, "Yo dude, I heard you liked minecraft, so I built a computer in minecraft that can play minecraft" It really shows how versatile the game is, and with each update a new little touch unfolds.

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The main beta to alpha license change is (from Notch's twitter account) "if you have alpha, you get all future updates for free, including beta, release, and all expansions".

Beta only gets the full release and updates for free not expansions, as in they'd be paid DLC. A bit annoying for anybody that bought it late, but how many games do you know that say they'll give any expansion packs for free at all?

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Anyone else notice that Bardinelli suddenly looks a lot like FunnyMan?

This is one of the few PC titles I sprang for this year and absolutely love it. It does become tiresome after awhile, but I always get right back into it after taking a break for a few days; and it's all the fun all over again. My best suggestion is to not be shy about just starting a new world, it always ends up even better than the last.

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If you're interested based on the review, I'd just go out on a limb and buy the game. The free version isn't even CLOSE to the full version. They feel like completely different games. It's not an accurate preview. I got bored with classic almost instantly, but I've put a good 100+ hours into alpha already.

Also: The whole thing about the beta players not receiving updates is a "just in case" sort of thing. Notch (the game's creator) has said that all players will receive updates before and after release. He just doesn't want to be restricted in case he wants to sell an expansion or something in the future. And of course, alpha buyers are still guaranteed everything, so why not just get it now?

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Yay! Been playing this game since last year, I'm glad that it's been re-reviewed.

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I love this game! Definitely get it! But I've got to ask, how in the world do you make that giant treehouse in that screenshot?

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Wow, I knew this game was popular (and I love it myself), but I didn't think it would INSTANTLY shoot to the top of the "best games" list. XD

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I have been playing this game non-stop for the past month. I love it!

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How do you build anything? All I can do is mine, and not build. I can change the cursor in the build menu, but I can't do anything different with it.

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Ok I worked out how to build, (power of posting) but I want to know how long does it take until it gets dark.

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@Anne

Right click.

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Minecraft is ridiculously fun to play, even though I've never played it. I already have enough games on my desktop, and I'm content to just watch people do LPs of it instead. XD

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"Anyway, buying during beta = get everything up to and including release version for free. Expansions might cost."
Just wanting to get the exact quotes from notch, for clarification.

"The cost at final release will be about 20 euro (19.95, probably). Alpha = 50% off, all updates for free. Beta = 25% off."

"If you buy the game within a week, your account counts as an alpha account. That's a good thing."

"If you buy the game, regardless of when, you never have to pay again to get the full version."

"If you have alpha, you get all future updates for free, including beta, release, and all expansions"

Meaning, BUY THE GAME BEFORE THE 20TH! Doing so gets you any future expansion packs, for only ~$12!

And thank you JIG, for re-reviewing this game. It greatly needed it.

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I bought the game in november, and it's great! Reviewing it was a GREAT idea.

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May I point to the YouTube user PaulSoaresJr for guidance on surviving your first few nights (and beyond) - helped me insanely.

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Finally you guys made a minecraft alpha review! I've been waitning so long for you to review this game again, thank you!

Oh, any chance you want to share that level with the tree? ;)

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Is there a JayIsGames sponsored multiplayer server? Or even an unofficial one?

Also I love this game, but I was also a little weirded out by the beta change. I misunderstood, though, what it meant. It didn't mean that beta users have to pay for the final release, it means that alpha users DON'T have to pay for DLC type stuff?

I'm glad I got in way back when now.

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Cheeseable Author Profile Page December 13, 2010 6:15 PM

W00T W00T, I play this game TOO much, haven't found too much >:(, BUT I have found 2 dungeons! And pumpkins (lots of them)! I saw this and jumped for joy that it was reviewed. Have a nice farm. YOU PEOPLE SHOULD REALLY BUY THIS GAME.

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123 votes so far. Average score: 5 mushrooms. Whoa.

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aaaaahhhh... good memories. I remember when I bought the game way back in august 2009, and when survival was unheard of. It's amazing how much this game has evolved, and it was just as amazing back then too : )

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awesomelyawesomeAJ Author Profile Page December 13, 2010 8:34 PM

You know you should buy a game when: it gets 126 votes and still has a perfect 5/5 mushrooms.

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Infant Tyrone Author Profile Page December 13, 2010 10:15 PM

I keep hearing about how great this game is, and I've played the free online version a few times, but I don't get it. Every time I try the multiplayer, everything just freezes up. And the solo world is just... Nothing. I can run around and dig and build, but there's no resources, no enemies, no "building" beyond a selection of pre-set bricks.

What am I doing wrong? Night never falls, I can't collect any resources-- I want to catch the fever!

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Flaming_torch_120 Author Profile Page December 13, 2010 10:24 PM

Who built that tree in the review? I'd be curious how they did it. Hopefully, it's possible to do without a level editor. That sort of base would be awesome to explore. Any chance of posting the world file for it?

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Flaming_torch_120 Author Profile Page December 13, 2010 10:26 PM

@Infant Tyrone Sounds like you haven't purchased the full game. It's fairly easy, and cheap to do off of the minecraft site, and that will give your account access to the new features, like day/night cycles, and tools.

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Is there some sort of place or community or whatever where people go and post world files for their rad Minecraft worlds? Because I would really like to explore that tree, or something similar.

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Kirbypowered Author Profile Page December 14, 2010 10:28 AM

Funny, just yesterday I was thinking that you guys should review this again. It's amazing to see how far the game has come since I originally found it, back from the You Are Games review last year, and I'm glad I've been playing it since then. I haven't played it much lately, but this review has prompted me do so. Thanks!

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I nearly died when I went to the top 1000 games and it said minecraft alpha was 4.9.

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Wuuuuppp eeeeeeeeeeeee! horray for minecraft alpha. if I knew how to recommend things, I would have recommended this. truly amazing.

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arcticwolf15 December 16, 2010 7:04 PM

If you dislike the graphics, use a texture pack. Easy and simple. It doesn't even require unzipping it.

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@ Kirbypowered: I was thinking the same thing.

The fact that this relative newcomer, indie-developed, so-called low-res, mechanically simplistic, buggy, and most importantly not-even-beta-yet game, is generating such a large following and such high ratings, raises a very important question about the game industry.

Why make a product that can't be fixed without patches, or can't have good gameplay without an overly complex narrative, or can't be open-ended without DLC? You know what I'm getting at. This highlights the importance of one mechanic that seems to be often overlooked. Replayability.

And Minecraft has infinite replayability.

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LuckMage26 Author Profile Page December 21, 2010 8:31 PM

Oh.My.God.How did you managed to do such a giant Tree?With a Treehouse...MADE OF PURE WOODEN! GOD,LOVED IT SOOOOO MUCH!

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You've put my poor Minecraft tree to shame. :(

Though I'm so excited to use some of those improvements to fix up my own tree. :D

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That tree is made by user named ocpy, there is link to the schematic somewhere on minecraft forum.

I'm so far addicted to the creativity you can pour down easily on this game. You can find my stuffs on the forum (username rosedragon) or take a look of my rollercoaster to dragon's belly on youtube.

Mostly playing on rpg.halfmonty.net since it got some awesome plugins and awesome people that enchant the experiences of minecrafting.

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This game is the reason that I don't visit jayisgames as much - it satisfies a lot of casual gaming urges. There is a lot of different ways you can play - from creative building, adventure, exploration, mindless resource-gathering, action/survival/zombie killing...
It somewhat feels like like real life (despite the blockiness) by having a day/night cycle, limitless and interesting landscape. The caves and mountains can be awesome.
Just an FYI/BTW: The version change to 1.2 on January 13 is a substantially big change, with new items and mobs.

Of course, some people will not "get" it - the beginning steps for survival are a little awkward (punching trees), you may have to spend a lot of time, and the community, especially the wiki, is important to proficiently play.

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Cheeseable Author Profile Page February 5, 2011 8:30 AM

Updates galore! Now there are squids and dyes for wool! What I recommend is that you play on Normal at first, maybe Easy if you're bad, but if you want to build a ginormous house requiring many materials, set it on Peaceful. Then set on Normal when your house is done for more fun!

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Doodle Gamer Author Profile Page March 21, 2011 5:40 PM

I bought the game in October 2010 because of it rushing through my school. I'm very glad I did now I've gone from minecraft noob to minecraft guru at my school. Brilliant game. On a scale of 1 to 10 I give it a 1000. BUY THIS GAME NOW!!!!!!!!

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Trolls are everywhere in multiplayer, and then I get kicked for no reason.

Solo=good

Multi=Horrid

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marionoer Author Profile Page April 17, 2011 5:44 AM

mario is my name

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nerdypants Author Profile Page May 25, 2011 12:00 AM

Holy dang this game is addictive. It's like a giant Lego set that doesn't have to obey the laws of physics.

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insanejoeperson Author Profile Page May 29, 2011 3:39 PM

Cool! I've been playing Minecraft Beta(you should review that too, btw) for about a month now(my friend gave it to me for my birthday)and I felt happy inside when I decided to look at the Best Games and saw that Minecraft Alpha was the number 1 game on this very prestigious site. I'm gonna spam the inboxes of everyone I know with this link!(I actually only know one person's e-mail. :( )Anyway, Minecraft is a great game and everyone should get it!(P.S. Beta's nothing like Classic. Trust me.)

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Can i download mods to Minecraft Alpha? (And texturepacks)

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Sounds great, and I would love to play, but how do you play it? I have been through the wiki and read articles on multiple sites, but I really have no clue on whats up.

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ChadisGames Author Profile Page October 7, 2011 8:08 AM

Minecraft is possibly one of my favorite games. It's ranked right up there with Dr. Lunatic: SWC by Hamumu, and Aveyond by Amaranth Games. I love the element of survival, and creating amazing things out of nothing. I remember when I first got Minecraft, it was in Classic Mode. That's right, there was only classic mode! You had to pay to save creations. So, I bought it. I'm so glad I did. When it updated to Alpha, I didn't like it at first, because I loved the sandbox feel. But then I realized crafting, and mobs, and survival. I loved it! I pay it almost everyday, and I can't wait for the full release!

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nerdypants Author Profile Page October 7, 2011 9:15 PM

ChadisGames, the best part is that there's now a Creative Mode in Beta, which keeps all the neat stuff from the Beta (mobs, items, etc.) but gives you an unlimited amount of blocks to build stuff with like in Classic mode. Plus, you can fly!

This game just keeps getting better and better.

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Does it have any viruses? I downloaded roblox and my computer got a virus. I've been pretty traumatized after that. (Of course, roblox is completely different)

[There are no viruses in Minecraft. We're 100% sure of that. Anyways, Minecraft is out of Alpha now, you might want to check one of the later reviews. -Jay]

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