Rob-GFI’ve been going over the “Big Board” that we use to plan podcasts, and I realized that there are more gaming-related things I want to talk about than we can fit into our upcoming shows. So, I’ve decided to wander over here into Nick’s domain (pun intended) and offer up some thoughts on the games I’ve been playing.

Minecraft launched on PS4 and Xbox One this week. The Vita version is slated to arrive in “a few weeks” (sad trombone.) It’s been a rocky journey for this particular port. After being delayed from the HD twins’ launch last November, the nebulous promise of “August” was dangled before a ravenous fan base, only for that date to slip as the bug-squashing continued into September. Finally, the wait is over.

Users from the previous console versions will be able to transfer their world over to the PS4 and Xbox One. I’ve been playing Minecraft on PC, so now that I’m switching over to the PS4 version, I’m leaving all of my previous worlds behind. Am I sad to see my majestic cobblestone and acacia wood tower go? Absolutely. But there’s enough new to the updated console version to entice me to check it out. Plus there’s always a thrill that goes with creating a new world and seeing what biome I start out in. The Independent Socialist Republic of Pugistan will live again. Soviet Pugistan: Where Mine Crafts you!

I’m still relatively early in, but I’ve been around the block enough times that I don’t sweat the early days of survival mode anymore. I had a makeshift house and tools by my first night, and a bed by my second day. Heck, I’ve even managed to tame a wolf so far; a first for me.

I have mixed opinions on the console version of crafting. It’s nice that I need only select what I want to make from a list and if I have the components in my inventory, I can craft it. It speeds up gameplay and it suits the change in control scheme well. But, as someone that started on PC, it almost feels like cheating. I liked that on the PC version I had no idea what the recipes were. Assuming I even knew what I wanted to make, I had to either look up or experiment to get the recipe, then manually place the ingredients in the crafting matrix. It made for a slower, more natural progression. As you learned more about the game, you got more daring in the recipes you’d try to make. There was also a social aspect to it as well. Looking through websites for recipes and seeing tips on their usage made it feel like I was part of a larger community. While I’m sure that in time I’ll learn to appreciate the added convenience, I still feel like an important aspect of my Minecraft experience is missing.

To my mind, the big promise of a PS4 version of Minecraft was going to be the trackpad. I was worried that the point-and-click controls wouldn’t translate well to a controller. Well, it turns out that in practice, the d-pad is easier to use than the trackpad when it comes to moving thing around in my inventory. Cumbersome? A little, but it’s manageable.

The other major feature of the console version that I was excited for going in was the promise of a farther draw distance. The worlds generated in the PC version were huge, but the draw distance was so short that mountains would pop in fairly close to you as you’d approach them. The drawback to this was that a) the world feels smaller since you can only see a portion of it as a time and b) it’s easy to get lost when you can’t properly orient yourself. Maps and compasses (compassi?) were a must. So I was excited to see how the draw distance would fare on the beefier hardware. 

To be honest, I haven’t had a chance to test this out yet. I spawned right in the middle of a forest, so my viewing distance is limited no matter what. Finding my house is a hassle whenever I wander too far, so building a tower that I can see at night is next on my agenda.

Minecraft is Minecraft. At this point, everyone knows what it is and whether it’s for them, so I don’t need to sell anyone on it. But, for what it’s worth, this new port is an excellent version of the game so many people have come to love. Definite “Game On” (thumbs up) from me.

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