I’m sure others have mused on this in the past but it dawned on me today that Minecraft is by far and away the most successful casual game on the planet right now. What started out as a simple bedroom code project amongst friends has grown into an international goliath spawning memes, clones and bucketloads of merchandise.
What’s interesting is that most of its die hard fans would not view Minecraft as a very “casual game”. It’s easy to label Minecraft as a social game, given that the games popularity emerged from fan maintained servers where players met to build immense structures including some of the most lovingly recreated items from pop culture history, ever seen.
So what makes it a casual game, then? Well I guess it’s partially down to the fact that there is no clear cut goal or objective in Minecraft. The entire game is focused on allowing the player to explore, build, craft and create at their leisure. Sure there is a survival element but most players treat the game as a Lego sandbox. What’s more casual than pouring a bucket of Lego out onto the floor and designing whatever your brain can imagine.
If I’m to be honest, designers of social and casual games need to learn from Minecrafts example. So, listed here are my top five things that Minecraft does that designers need to embrace
1: Social Engagement
Minecraft totally embraces the fact that its players want to share their experiences and allows them to build and use their own servers to do so. Forget automatic matchmaking, Minecraft encourages players active engagement in building a strong community. Minecraft was one of the first games for years that saw players go out of their way to build and maintain their own servers just to play together.
2: Active Community
Minecraft sports one of the most vibrant and active gaming communities seen to date. Gamers are proud of their creations and niche sites will feature especially amazing worlds. Add to that the thousands of YouTube videos, Facebook fan pages and numerous fan sites and you see why Minecraft commands so much power in the gaming world.
The size of your community is not necessarily as important as how active they are however and this is where Minecraft excels. The game promotes active engagement and is fueled by word of mouth – the most powerful form of advertising there is.
3: Goal-less gameplay
This is one of the single most important aspects behind Minecrafts success. It hasn’t got any clear or specific goals. The only real goal is that you as a player enjoy your time in the world. This gives players a feeling of ownership over the gameplay. When game shout commands at you or even guide you subtly along, subconsciously you always know you are experiencing it the way the designers planned.
With Minecraft your brain is allowed to focus on nothing but your experience – whatever that might be.
4: Post Release Support
One thing that set Minecraft apart from its contemporaries a few years ago is its dedication to post release support. This is an area that devs need to become more accustomed to and with the age of the cloud creeping in, now is a perfect time to embrace ongoing updates and adaptive support.
5: Love being Indie
Now, I’m not saying that everyone needs to act like an indie developer but if you are a mall developer making games solely for the love of it – embrace that. Mojang gave the world a public face to the “bedroom programmer” in Markus “Notch” Persson. In spite of Minecrafts success Mojang and Notch are actively involved in the gaming community and even enter small gaming contests alongside budding developers.
It was this perception of notch and co. that made a generation of gamers tot fall for Minecraft and what it stands for.
So what do you think? Have you got what it takes to make the next Minecraft? Why not use a platform like Gamesparks to make your life easier?