Article from Issue 204/2017

Discover this open world, open source, Minecraft play-alike with giant maps and oodles of nifty features.

If you've never played Minecraft, you're missing out. Yes, the game was hyped to ridiculous levels during its glory days, and some players spent arguably an unhealthy amount of time in their fantasy worlds building enormous and highly intricate constructions, but it was still something very special. Minecraft was created on the fly using algorithms, creating a giant, procedurally generated world, in which you were plonked at a random point with no particular goals or equipment; you just had to explore and survive with what you could find.

For the first few minutes of Minecraft, you wonder what the point is. It feels empty and lonely, but then you start collecting items, crafting (combining things together to make other things), exploring the various landscapes (beaches, jungles, arctic tundras, and mountainous highlands), and finding non-player characters in villages. Before you know it, you've crafted a robust set of armor, developed some powerful weapons to protect yourself, and even built a house. Every change you make to the world is saved, so it starts to feel like a real, living and breathing place. Exploring caves full of nasty critters becomes a terrifying experience.

Now, Minecraft was (and still is) a great game, but it's not open source and free software – which is a bit of a downer for many FOSS purists. Fortunately, however, you have an alternative in the form of Minetest [1] (formerly Minetest-c55, named after the online handle of one of its lead developers). Minetest has been in development since 2010. Although its most recent version is 0.4.16, suggesting that it's still in the early stages of development, it's very much playable and loaded with cool features. On top of that, you can play with others online and even extend the game using modifications written in Lua. (For a text mode alternative, see the "Dwarf Fortress" box.)


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