It is rare that an indie game receives such an outstanding, and avid, response from the public as Mojang’s Minecraft. Based upon the original code of Infiniminer, Minecraft’s success has spawned many pretenders using a similar basic break/build block format.

Thrown into a 16bit world, players are only asked to survive the environment in which they have spawned. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Fundamentally it is. Break trees to gain wood, use wood to make planks, and planks to make sticks and the wood based crafting equipment that is so vital to an individual’s success. More importantly, players must soon realise that building structures is as integral to their survival as getting wood. Most games play with the basic formula of survival, however they also include additional elements and objectives that can both enhance and overcomplicated the gamer experience. Minecraft sets itself apart by allowing the player to discover the importance of building – or ‘crafting’ – by themselves. Exploration is part of the fun!

New players of Minecraft, will find this sandboxer gloriously open ended. Do you explore the land and build structures that defy both gravity and physics, or do you go up against the monsters that wait for you in the darkness as you try to survive as long as possible?

The latest “leaked update” (Friday 09th September 2011) – though I have my suspicions to this being a cleverly disguised and orchestrated secret friday update – of Beta 1.8 includes the newest elements demonstrated in last months Penny Arcade Expo (PAX). While the new additions have been eagerly awaited for, both by myself and most of the Minecraft community, do the new features undermine or add to the game we have all grown so attached to?

My first impressions are good, apart form the obvious bugs and glitches that can be expected from an update in need of tweaks. The additions give the game a greater element of mystery that feeds my desire to explore. The new monsters, and updates to existing monsters, do make me some what more anxious than earlier versions.

I’ll have more to say on this after the official update tomorrow (12/09/2011), but for now I’ll leave you with the 1.8 first impressions video from one of my favourite Minecrafters, AntVenom.