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Minecraft: In search of diamonds

Minecraft is now over 1 million downloads, and is currently in beta.  Price is now 15 euros, or around $20 US.  By now, every child/teen in our family has purchased Minecraft and it has surpassed Blockland in our house in popularity.  The older kids are still waiting for the ability in Minecraft to easily create your own programming scripts for mods – it can be done, but it’s not built in, so it’s difficult – which is one of the reasons they love Blockland (and RTB).

Our review on Minecraft is here, and Blockland is here.  And yes, you can ride a pig in Minecraft.  Really.


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Reviews By Kids, For Kids: Minecraft

Review by Nick, age 15

A little more information about Minecraft

If you like Blockland, you should check out Minecraft.  All of my boys laid out their cash ($15 each) and purchased Minecraft (Alpha) over the weekend, after playing the free online version (Minecraft Classic) for a couple weeks.  They came home from school today, and said kids were sneak-playing Minecraft after school in the computer lab.

Minecraft is an online 3D sandbox style construction and survival adventure game with over 1,333,000 registered users, created by indie developer Markus “Notch” Persson from Sweden.  Everything – landscape, structures, mines, people / avatars, animals, and monsters (creepers, zombies, skeletons, spiders) – is built out of blocks or cubes, and you can play in single or multiplayer mode.  Built in Java, and published by Persson’s Mojang Specifications company, there are 2 versions:  Classic – released 5/17/09, and Alpha – released June 28, 2010.  Classic is only building with unlimited blocks; Alpha includes building, crafting, mining, and monsters.

According to the Minecraft official site at

“Minecraft is a game about placing blocks while running from skeletons. Or something like that.  The game…has has enemies and cave exploring and mining and farming and flowing water and dynamic lighting and a huge (huge) randomly generated world map. AND it has music!  Minecraft is still in alpha, but is rapidly nearing beta. I’ve only got one more feature to add; multiplayer support… The main branch of the game is currently called “Minecraft Alpha”, and is under heavy development. It can be a bit unstable at times, so don’t get too attached to your save files yet.”

For an excellent, in-depth review of Minecraft check out this article on Crave, the Gadget Blog from CNET:

“Minecraft has ancient-looking graphics, no plot, and generates massive, sandbox game worlds with seemingly infinite creative possibilities, but no clear instructions telling you what to do or how to get started.

Despite that seemingly user-unfriendly formula, Minecraft’s buzz is so strong the server hosting its Web site crashed this weekend under the weight of the incoming traffic. Spend an hour with Minecraft (which can easily spiral into two or three) and you’ll quickly understand the reason for the enthusiasm around this indie hit.

Minecraft puts you in the role of a nameless avatar. You begin the game in a randomly generated world of textured blocks that depict a gigantic, mountain-pocked environment bounded by water. You start with no inventory, and no clear concept of how to interact with the world. With a little experimentation you’ll likely soon discover that you can gather resources from the vast blocky landscape.

Spend a little time in Minecraft and the creative urge will likely take hold.”

Don’t forget to check out the comments section for the article, too, where players describe Minecraft as:

“The true beauty of this game lies in its multiplayer. When you’re on a server with 20 people, all of which are digging and building incredible creations, the game really turns into a virtual world. A very simple, and fun, virtual world.”

“What i really like about Minecraft is how anyone can play it. There is hardly any violence in Minecraft, so this is a game I could see children play as a way to express their creativity (unless you consider punching sheep for wool too violent).”

“I could see children play as a way to express their creativity…But don’t get your kids this game. It’s so addictive…

This game is more then addicting. I love it. The sandbox is really truly sandbox. No 2 games are ever alike (literally since the land is randomly generated) Its great how simplistic it all is yet can create so much.  I plan to populate many more islands/ areas and build anything I can imagine. your only limited by the resources you collect. (and what the creepers dont destroy) I cannot wait for multi-player. and invite my friends to my world along with me going to theirs. 


For more information: – official Minecraft site.

Minepedia – offers info on blocks, gameplay, servers, programs and editors, crafting recipes, and development resources, along with forums, museum, skins, development blog, IRC, and more.


Twitter – very active Minecraft Forums, along with links to Twitter, Status Blog, Play Minecraft!, Development Blog, Music Blog, Minepedia, and Minecraft IRC.

The Word of Notch – blog by indie developer Markus Persson

iPod apps:

Guide to Minecraft $.99

Minecraft Companion $.99


Your First Shelter in Minecraft (Tutorial Machinima) 

Building a starting house (Minecraft Tutorial) 

How to Survive your First Night (Minecraft Tutorial)   

What’s different between Blockland and Minecraft?

Blockland you have to install, but with Minecraft all you need is an internet connection and the executable file.  Also, you can play Minecraft in your browser because it’s made in Java.

Minecraft randomly autogenerates the landscape when you log in, and has building, crafting, mining.  The best part is the adventure game – when it becomes night, the monsters come out, and you have to stay alive (reminds me of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, when the Stalfos skeletons would come out at night…). 

Blockland has landscapes you can choose from – default ones, and custom built maps from RTB – and is basically building.  However, you can set up adventure games or building scenarios on your server as:  knife death match, TDM (Total Death Match), dodgeball game, mining, freebuild, dogfight, sniper/warfare battle, challenge, medieval RPG, city RPG, family, school, arcade, artwork, or anything else you can imagine.  You can download add-ons from RTB for maps, weapons, vehicles, games, and more, and create your own add-ons using TorqueScript.

Lastly, the Minecraft community (so far) seems to be a more friendly, less hostile group than you typically find on Blockland, with its foul language and “EPIC FAIL, NOOB!!!”


There are some amazing numbers associated with this game.  According to Wikipedia, as of October 2010, Minecraft has had over 415,000 purchases – that’s over $6.25 million!  After a recent “free to play” event, there were over 25,000 sales within a 24 hour period (that’s $375,000 in downloads in 1 day!).  Minecraft Alpha is currently 9.95 Euros, which is around $15 – a 50% discount off the price when it goes to Beta.

Clearly Minecraft is HOT and worth checking out, but keep in mind the game has some serious issues.  If you pay, don’t necessarily expect to be able to play without issues and an always-available-server.  Alpha version multiplayer has a lot of glitches – it’s alpha version, so expect it to be rough around the edges.  Also, Minecraft was down most of the day yesterday, and the website was unavailable due to hackers/DDoS attack.

Minecraft has also received many positive reviews, and there is huge interest in this creative and fun game right now.  The best thing about Minecraft is the joy of creating (building and crafting), mining resources, staying alive through the night, and playing with other people.  I’d recommend this game for ages 10 and up.

Have you played Minecraft?  What did you like/not like about it?  If you haven’t played, check it out (the free version, anyway) and tell us what you think in the comments.

How To

Blockland: How to create a character (playertype)

We’ve had a couple requests on how to create a Blockland character, so I’ve asked our kid pro Blockland scripter to write a quick guide, which follows:

How to create a Blockland Playertype (Character):

Note:  for PC users only.

First you have to create a ZIP folder.  To do this, first download WinRar (Search it on Google).  After you have that, copy another ZIP folder from your Blockland Add-Ons folder and rename it to what you want.  (Most playertype’s use “Player_YourPlayerNameHere”).

Once you have that done, open it with WinRar.  Inside you will see a “server.cs” file and a “description.txt” file.  All the other files you won’t need, so you can just delete them.

Now, open the “description.txt” file, and replace its contents with your own.  Then open the “server.cs” file.  To open a .cs file, you can use notepad, Torque IDE, C++ Express edition, Torsion, and more.  I don’t recommend Microsoft Word, and Word Pad.  To set it so that whenever you want to open a .cs file, it opens with your text editor / code editor, you do this:

1. Rightclick the file.

2. Go to Properties.

3. Find “Opens With:”

4. Click “Change”

5. Find your program.

Ok, now that you have the server.cs file opened, let’s look at the code.  It should look something like this:

//no jets at all

datablock PlayerData(PlayerNoJet : PlayerStandardArmor)


 minJetEnergy = 0;  //how much energy you need to jet

 jetEnergyDrain = 0;  //how much energy it drains for jetting

 canJet = 0;  //The player can’t jet

 uiName = “No-Jet Player”;  //The name of the playertype

 showEnergyBar = false;  //Does not show the energy bar


That is the code for a No-Jet Player, a player type is normal, but can’t use jets.

Now if you want to change how fast the player can go, this is some code that you can use:

datablock PlayerData(PlayerQuakeArmor : PlayerStandardArmor)


   runForce = 100 * 90;

   runEnergyDrain = 0;

   minRunEnergy = 0;

   maxForwardSpeed = 15;

   maxBackwardSpeed = 15;

   maxSideSpeed = 15;

   maxForwardCrouchSpeed = 7;

   maxBackwardCrouchSpeed = 7;

   maxSideCrouchSpeed = 7;

   jumpForce = 9 * 90; //8.3 * 90;

   jumpEnergyDrain = 0;

   minJumpEnergy = 0;

   jumpDelay = 0;

 minJetEnergy = 0;

 jetEnergyDrain = 0;

 canJet = 0;

 uiName = “Quake-Like Player”;

 showEnergyBar = false;

   runSurfaceAngle  = 55;

   jumpSurfaceAngle = 55;


This is the code for the “Quake-like Player”.  This one runs faster, but jumps lower.  You can take bits of this code and put it in your own to see what it does.  Enjoy!

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Review By Kids, For Kids: Blockland


If you like legos, I think you will like Blockland.  Blockland is a game where you build with bricks and create structures.  You can also make the bricks do things like disappear or set off traps.  You can create your own world, just like with legos, but in Blockland, the legos are interactive, such as guns and bows that actually shoot bullets and arrows.  You can also create a Deathmatch where everyone kills each other and see who is the last one left standing, or you could make a farm, with animals that move and do things.  The possibilities are endless with Blockland.  However, I do think that the online servers that you can join might not be the best for kids.  Some of these servers may contain inappropriate language.  But you can still play by yourself or start your own server for people around the world to join.

With Blockland you can also create your own weapons and maps to play on.  Blockland uses TorqueScript, a coding language.  If you want to learn TorqueScript like I have, you can make new weapons, maps, scripts, or vehicles.  Blockland only costs $20 for a lifetime membership, so overall I think it’s a good deal.

Reviewed by Nick

A little more information about Blockland 

It’s 94 degrees with high humidity outside, and all my boys are cooling off inside playing Blockland.  They spend hours working with friends from all around the world building their own multiplayer games.  Today, it’s a Call of Duty Deathmatch server, with Red Team versus Blue Team.  They’ve designed their own lego brick style weapons, characters, buildings, and maps, and now they’ll play the game they built.

Blockland is a non-competitive multiplayer sandbox-style construction game – like playing with legos on the internet.  You can play the freeware version, which is limited to 150 bricks, to get a feel for the game.  Or, you can unlock the entire game by buying a lifetime membership for 19.95. 

According to Wikipedia, Blockland is built on the Torque Game Engine and was developed by Eric “Badspot” Hartman for released in 2007.

Blockland allows users to write add-ons for the game to share with other players. Generally an add-on will consist of new building blocks, weapons, maps or items.  While Blockland is not open source, all of the default vehicles and weapons in the game use the add-ons system so players can examine working examples to help them learn about how to modify the game.

Structures can be built in a single-player or multiplayer setting.  The game also features a variety of vehicles players can control, weapons, saving and loading of constructions, automated construction through macros and a mini-game system. The minigame system enables users to create configurable and self-contained game modes using options and then play in the world they create.  These can range from a simple deathmatch to a zombie survival game to Capture the Flag. This system can allow players on a server to be in a minigame while the others continue to build. Any player who buys the game can create a server. A standard server is able to hold up to 32 players.  Blockland uses a trigger and event-based system to create basic interactive objects such as light switches, missile launchers, collapsing brick structures, or arcade-like games such as Pong. Players can also script triggers and events.  Blockland features an add-on system to aid users in managing custom content, such as weapons, vehicles, types of brick effects, player commands and game modes.

Using RTB (Return to Blockland), you can find high quality add-ons you can download in game that have been screened and approved by the RTB moderators.  And, if you have questions, RTB forums are better moderated than Blocklands, so there is less swearing and attitude.

Where is LEGO in all this?  Why isn’t this a LEGO game, if you’re building with lego bricks?  According to Wikipedia, the creator of Blockland, Eric Hartman was in talks with LEGO early on, but nothing came of it.  LEGO is currently working with NetDevil to create an online multiplayer LEGO game, called Lego Universe, to be globally distributed by Warner Bros.  Delayed again and again since 2008, Lego Universe is currently scheduled to be released by October 2010, and is currently in Beta testing.

By all appearances, Lego Universe will be quite different than Blockland – it has brick building, but it also has a storyline, a cast of characters, plots and quests, and is more of a RPG (role playing game) in a LEGO designed and created world.  Whereas Blockland is all about building, connecting with friends, and created your own world.

So check out Blockland, for free.  And if you like it, go for the $19.95 membership.  Get creative.  Build with bricks.  Create elaborate towns with castles, moats, blacksmith shops, campfires.  Create  games – visit the arcade servers.  Create maps with oceans, mountains, rivers, trees.  Learn how to create and script add-on’s, or mods, and minigames.  It can be as easy or challenging as you want.  Play on open servers with people from all over the world.  Or, password protect your server, and just play with friends.  You can even play just local LAN, with only the computers, laptops, and netbooks in your house on the server together.  The possibilities are endless, for endless fun.

Blockland free version:  recommended for ages 6 and up.
Blockland $19.95 paid version:  recommended for ages 10 and up.