Do you know who the very first architect in history was? Current thinking suggests it was Imhotep, one of the officials of the Pharaoh Djoser. Imhotep designed the Step Pyramid at Saqqara in around 2615 BC. Think about that – that’s over 4,000 years ago. Remarkable that humanity was building and constructing structures of that magnitude and significance such a long time ago, eh? It’s truly humbling to sometimes think of our human ancestors and marvel at their incredible achievements.
If we want to celebrate what we have built, though, we don’t need to look so far back into our past. This year, the venerable Minecraft turns 10 years old (yes, 10 years old, you have our permission to feel old). As a celebration and commemoration of Minecraft’s remarkable achievements, its developer Mojang and its publisher Microsoft have decided to release the 2009 version of Minecraft Classic online in its entirety. You won’t even need to pay a penny to play this.
First, a little history. Minecraft was created by Swedish programmer Markus “Notch” Persson and was inspired by numerous games that came before it. Chief among these games is Zachtronics’ sandbox puzzler Infiniminer, which would massively influence the graphics and general gameplay of Minecraft. Eagle-eyed players will also be able to spot influences like Dwarf Fortress and Dungeon Keeper in Notch’s original design for Minecraft.
Eventually, of course, the game evolved into the globe-straddling phenomenon we know it to be today. Minecraft came from humble beginnings, and it’s these humble beginnings that Mojang and Microsoft want to show players. “Humble” is very much the word here, too; this is the skeleton of Minecraft, the basic building blocks before all the adornments are added to make it the masterpiece it is today. How much of Minecraft is available in Minecraft Classic? How much does it still “feel” like Minecraft?
It might surprise you to learn that the answer is “very much”. Minecraft Classic might not be quite as complex or deep as Minecraft, but it’s definitely still Notch and Mojang’s baby. When we think about the elements of Minecraft that define it, we think about a massive creative sandbox in which players can do whatever they want. We think about those quirky voxel-style graphics. We think about open-ended freedom without the constraints of goals or objectives.
Minecraft Classic has all of these things, and although it doesn’t have much else, that gives it a simplicity that makes the play feel more focused and fun. The only geographical style represented in Minecraft Classic is a rather basic grassy knoll-type affair with patches of water and sand. There are caves underneath the map which can be mined through, but you won’t be able to gather resources or craft anything; all that’s available to you are the blocks you’re given via the game’s rather simplistic menu.
What this means in practice is that Minecraft Classic is only really limited by your creativity. Real creatives perhaps work better under pressure and constraints, so Minecraft Classic becomes an exercise in figuring out what you can make with reduced tools available to you. This makes the game immensely fun; the idea that you’re not able to simply reach into the ether and grab whatever you want like you can in today’s Minecraft makes for a different but equally enjoyable experience.
This is an experience you can share with others, too, via a rather lovely little link system. Everything is here from 2009 Minecraft, warts and all, including the way in which players share a server together. Now, of course, things are much smoother, but Minecraft Classic isn’t interested in convenience; it’s interested in posterity, and that’s what the link multiplayer system provides. Turns out Minecraft Classic is still incredibly fun with more than one player, too, so we recommend enjoying that mode.
One would think Minecraft Classic would lose something from not having monsters or survival elements in it, but this is not the case at all. We’ve always been big fans of the Creative mode in Minecraft, simply because it removes all the tense and confrontational elements of the game and allows us to just create, unfettered by the challenge. Minecraft Classic is effectively the game’s Creative mode turned up to eleven. This is a game that’s exactly what you make it and nothing more or less.
Whether or not we recommend Minecraft Classic depends on the same factors we would use to potentially recommend Minecraft. If you love the idea of a creative sandbox that’s only limited by the outer reaches of your imagination, then the free Minecraft Classic is an absolute no-brainer. If you’re more of a shooter fan, probably best to go elsewhere. Gather some friends, set aside an evening or two, and make a cup of your favorite hot drink with which to enjoy Minecraft Classic. You won’t regret it.