When kalen_nighteyes tweeted that Mojang had finally released a demo version of Minecraft, in association with PC Gamer, I hightailed over to the PC Gamer download page, to grab a copy. Yes, I already legally own a copy of the game, but I wanted to see what the demo had to offer new players – and it also seemed like a great topic to blog about I also made sure I backed up and moved my original Minecraft folder, just in case the demo made things go amiss; no way was I going to lose everything, just for the sake of a review!
So if someone was to download the demo version, what would they find? For starters, they’d get a spiffy, branded opening title screen:
As you can see from the above screenshot, what isn’t available is access to multiplayer, and that’s fair enough: Mojang and PC Gamer’s intent is to show the features of the game, and you don’t need to be in multiplayer for that (as fun as it can be). Additionally, only a demo world is available, and a playing time of just 100 minutes (five days and nights in the game). After that time, no editing can be done, but would-be Minecrafters can reset the world and play another 100 minutes over and over again, in the same seed, if they’re still not quite sold on the concept (some people just need more persuasion). Of course, everything’s going to reset, so it’s not as if the whole game is suddenly free.
As far as I can tell (simply by looking at the dates of the files involved, admittedly), the demo is based on the 1.3_01 build, so no stats, achievements, wolves, new rails or that sort of thing; a quick check (by INVedit-based hacking on a short second run-through) confirmed the inability to make the rails, at least. But in any case, there’s still more than enough available to get to grips with the basics of the game.
The first thing we see when the game starts proper is an actual, proper, introductory screen, with probably the closest thing to a tutorial as we’re likely to get for now:
The 100-minute clock, incidentally, is not ticking at this point – it’s going completely on the day/night cycle of the game, so if you do anything which pauses the game’s passage of time, that clock stops, too. Rather nice. Just don’t dither over your inventory screen and run down your time.
Click on the Continue Playing button, and… what this? A chest?
Well, let’s take a look inside…
Wow, talk about easing newbies in gently… Actually, it’s a rather nice touch: the chance to get some exploration and digging done without having to figure out recipes and the like, or to go online to find them (though if any people are planning to try the demo, make sure you pause the game clock, by pressing Escape, if you plan to switch windows and look stuff up on the Internet!). Besides, those iron tools, and the flint-and-steel tool of incineration, are partly used. Those newbies had better getting hunting around to find more stuff, even if they don’t know what to do with it yet… And note that there isn’t a sword, either…
I don’t know who picked the seed for the game, but I think they chose quite a nice one – a pretty dense forest area, backing onto the sea. Very picturesque, and handy for those early resources, too:
Mind you, as I wandered around, I did hear a sudden twang from a skeleton’s bow – I ran like heck back to the spawn point, and hoped there’d be enough open space to set my undead foe aflame. Thankfully, there was, so I was able to continue my scouting around.
What I found rather amusing – though I was forewarned by the screenshots in the PC Gamer article – was what had been done to the cows… I don’t know if the pun was intended, but it does play on the double meaning of “branding”:
Then, in the interests of completeness, I decided to run down the clock so that I could see what, if anything, was possible once those 100 minutes had elapsed. Luckily, I had this blog post to write in the meantime, so I wasn’t just staring at the screen. Imagine my surprise, then, when I clicked back into Minecraft to see what was going on, and found this screen:
Ah, more tutorial-type stuff, with a nice little nudge in the right direction, as far as recipes are concerned.
Those screens continued on Minecraft days three, four and five, though without more tutorial information:
While waiting for the game to run down the clock, I had a bit of a play with the controls, discovering that in addition to F1 and F2 working, F5 is also available, though F3 and F8 aren’t. But then there’s probably going to come a time when full-version players aren’t going to have that access to F3 either, so enjoy it while it lasts, Minecrafters…
On a whim, I decided to see if the “Mods & Texture Packs” button works just like it does in the full version, so I saved the game (I was having trouble with the computer with all the window-switching by this point), and headed over to quickly grab a custom Painterly Pack. Yay, it did!
Okay, okay, so it’d be a bit silly including the button if it wasn’t going to work, but I like to exhibit some degree of thoroughness when reviewing something! But I do like its inclusion, because it gives those potential new Minecraft addicts a feel for some of the customisation that’s available. Another nice touch, there *thumbs up*.
Then, on the dawn of day six, this screen appeared:
featuring a rotating slideshow of creations, in an effort to further tantalise the hesitant would-be purchaser.
Funnily enough, for a few seconds after choosing to continue to play the game, I was still able to mine blocks, even though I shouldn’t have been able to. But it’s not too long before this message appears:
… and you can’t do anything much except move around. I’d have tried to find out if I could still attack the spider I’d been hearing for about 30 minutes or so, while I ran down the clock, but I didn’t have enough sense to leave the little cave, and I couldn’t open the door. Damned if I was going to run through another hundred minutes, just to find that out – given that you can’t even use the workbench, I’m going to assume that killing mobs after the time runs out isn’t possible. Have fun with that, if you’re intending to play after the hundredth minute.
My only real quibble with the demo relates to the start-of-day intro screens, because of the “Purchase Now” button. Yes, I can understand the need for it, but right at the start of the game? Seriously? Personally, I think it would have been better to just have that button on the final intro screen, rather than pestering people through the game. From years of trying out shareware software, though, I do realise that this is how things are done.
That aside, I am very impressed with how the demo version of Minecraft’s turned out, and even though there’s still no actual tutorial (and we probably won’t see one until the game hits full release), I think it could well be a great introduction for those who haven’t had the chance to check out the game before. Good work, Mojang, and thanks to PC Gamer for promoting and hosting it!