Review of Minetest Game 0.4.16
I have planned this for a long time, now here it is: This is my ultimate review of Minetest Game 0.4.16.
In this big
in-depth review I pretend as if Minetest Game would be an officially released game at version 1.0.0. I do this to point to specific problems in Minetest Game, but I am of course aware that it is still in alpha stage. Also, I talk of Minetest Game without any mods!
Disclaimer: I have made some commits to Minetest Game myself, but only small things.
Very Quick Summary
Good: Strong modding API and lots of de-facto support for it, many of the popular servers use Minetest Game with mods
Okay: Creative Mode, biomes.
Bad: Poor depth, gameplay, balancing, coherence, atmosphere, no mobs, unsuable for beginners. And finally, an apparent lack of vision.
Recommendation: Drop as default subgame (not neccessarily drop development), give other subgames a fair chance.
Basically, you just dig and build stuff, and there's no goal! There's nothing wrong with that. :D
The devil lies in the details.
There is very little depth. You run out of new things to do way before 6 hours of playing.
I acknowledge the new biomes added by paramat and the support to v7, etc.
The biomes are pretty nice and add to the flavor of the game.
But the biomes are not really offering much in terms of gameplay. The blocks and plants are not really unique. There is no real reason or reward for exploring other biomes. The biomes mostly just differ in blocks used. The biggest impact on gameplay is maybe the kind of wood you find because of differing burning times. Or if you don't find any wood at spawn so you have to walk. But that's basically it!
There is almost no underwater life. There are corals, which are limited to hot biomes, but that's it. Overall, the underwater world is very bland.
The ores are not really interesting. There is somewhat a progress here, but it quickly just cuts off. Below Y=-1024, everything just repeats.
The underground is not a big challenge. Just avoid the lava. And it's the overly simple (and boring) rule of “the deeper you dig, the more you find”. But while ores become more common as you dig deeper, the difficulty stays basically the same. Reaching diamond ore is not any more difficult than, let's say, iron ore. It just takes longer. The biggest criticism I have about the unerground that it is almost entirely stone. There are no other underground
stone types. For a game where the underground is very deep, this is a big disappointment.
Farming is fun for max. 2 hours, then it becomes just the same again. There are only 2 plants to farm which is way too little.
Building in Creative Mode is okayish and there is a small but healthy set of blocks to choose from. In Minetest Game you are already able to build a lot of great things (see the various screenshot threads). For people who are only interested in creative building, Minetest Game is already good. But there's still room for improvement. I still feel there could be more blocks, some ideas are simply unexplored. I think of snow/ice bricks. More walls, door, xpanes types. More cobblestone.
What is definitely missing are more uses for dye. Currently only wool can be colored. There are no colorful beds, brick blocks, wood, glass, stone …
One of the major weaknesses is poor balancing. My overall impression is that balancing really has never been on the TODO list so far.
- Food is extremely overpowered. Just stockpile 99 bread, react quickly and you can take a bath in lava or survive very long PvP fights. This is absurd
- Mese axe is faster than diamond axe
- Wooden shovel and wooden axe are almost worthless, they seem to be no noticable upgrade over the hand. I know wood tools are supposed to suck, but at least they should be better than hand, right?
- The hardest block is not obsidian brick or diamond block, no! It is a locked chest you don't own. :D
- Bronze tools don't seem to be not much better than steel tools, but it is quite a hassle to craft them. It does not seem to be thought through very well.
- The bones delay can be easily defeated by surrounding your victim's bones with locked chests and sitting out the timer
- As said earlier, it's easy to find diamonds, you just need a bit patience
- The fuel times seem to be acceptable
- The smelting times are strange. Most things (including ores) need only 3 seconds, keys need 5 seconds and bread needs 15 seconds. Where's the logic behind that?
- Multiplayer is chaos (see below)
Poor balancing is bad becaue this is one of the areas which you can't just fix with mods. It must be fixed in the core.
- Uses the same braindead crafting system as Minecraft. It's braindead because it is needlessly complicated and unusable without crafting guide (which Minetest Game still doesn't have)
- Most recipes are okay but …
- Steel ingots are currently too overpowered. They are used to craft almost everything, while other ingots are almost useless.
- Bronze crafting is poorly thought through: For your first bronze pickaxe you need 8 copper and 1 tin because of the braindead bronze crafting. While a mese pick just needs 3 mese crystals and can completely skip the step of smelting.
- I feel there's a lack of crafting possibilities for a couple of items. There are some items which are not useful for crafting (corals, dry shrub, dry grass)
- You can't craft beds without red wool. This seems awfully specific
Multiplayer is very chaotic in nature. It is almost just singleplayer with multiple players thrown into the same world. There is no focus on neither cooperation nor combat. I'd say Minetest Game in multiplayer is very, very WIP.
Combat is just completly broken because food is overpowered. Whoever has stockpiled more food, wins.
The bones cooldown is not exactly helpful when you realize you can simply surround your victim's bones with a hard block or even multiple layers of locked chests and wait out the cooldown period.
There is a very basic protection system with locked chests and steel doors/trapdoors, but everything else is completely open to griefing. There are also keys. This is an interetesting and unique feature indeed, I have to admit it. But in the context of a mostly non-existing protection system, they are mostly pointless.
Minetest Game has some interesting multiplayer ideas, more than Minecraft even (Minecraft does not even have locked chests), but overall this feels very incomplete. If you take all of the multiplayer mechanics together, it is not coherent and it's still just chaos. Keys are a great idea, but in the context of a limited protection system they are still pretty much pointless.
Playing multiplayer in Creative Mode is just silly, because anyone can build anywhere, but also destroy everything. This is a long known problem as “griefing”.
Unsurprisingly, servers with a completely unmodded Minetest Game are a rare sight and very unpopular. One of the most popular Minetest Game based server is JT2 and has many mods. I know, the idea of an “anything goes” world might be appealing (I play it, too, sometimes), but then you have to keep in mind the combat system is also completely broken.
So, you can basically forget vanilla
multiplayer on public Internet server, especially in Creative Mode. You need
to use mods.
This is one of Minetest Game's greatest strengths. It provides many tools for modders to extend it, and I have extensively used this possibility.
All APIs are documented and easy to use. This is not something you can say often elsewhere. Minetest Game is a good example what to do when you want to provide APIs in your subgame. I know all this from experience.
In the forums a ton of mods for Minetest Game has been made, there are some true gems among them. You can basically design your own game.
Minetest Game also stays strong on servers when modded
. The most popular servers are based on Minetest Game and include various mods. Minetest Game can actually be good when it is combined with the correct mods. The fact that you can easily join (some) random servers in Minetest helps a lot. Servers I like include JT2 and Jungle.
In fairness, it also has to be said that some server operators put a lot of work in compiling a proper set of mods together only for their server. Sometimes they go to such lengths that you could say they have created an entirely different game. I'd say it's still a big win for Minetest Game for enabling
Mods are very important for Minetest Game indeed. If it weren't for the mods, Minetest Game wouldn't survive.
There is pretty much none. If you are completely new, you are completely lost.
There is also no crafting guide, which is completely inexcusable now that >20 subgames have crafting guides.
Biomes give a nice good flavor and I am glad to say that this is finally not an area anymore where Minetest Game is lacking. The lack of mobs or just anything dynamic (besides liquids maybe) limits the atmosphere, however.
The sound ambience is almost non-existant. If you don't do anything, the world stays completely silent. But ambience in general is still an unsolved problem in Minetest, so this is excusable. For now. :-(
There are none. This is a major flaw. There are many reasons why mobs would be a major improvement: The world feels less dead, there would be some sort of challenge or danger, they would be a new source of things to explore/loot or it would just be fun to watch them roam the world.
If some people still won't to have any mobs to keep their world clean, this can be solved by a simple option. So this is no excuse to not have any mobs whatsoever.
Also, Minetest 0.3.0 already had mobs but they were removed when Minetest 0.4.0 was released.
Other bits and things
- You can place ladders on the ceiling and on the ground and you can place ladders in front of other ladders so you will get floating ladders if you're not careful. This is super annoying
- You must point to signs to read their text. The sign is not visible otherwise
- Bookshelves and vessels shelves are usable as storages for books and vessels with half the capacity. Seems pointless to me. There is zero reason to craft bookshelves or vessels shelves as storage. Making them usable as storage would make sense if they had at least some unique feature or difference compared to normal chests.
Nobody really knows what Minetest Game is supposed to be. There is a lack of vision. Or at least there doesn't seem to be any consensus. This is definitely my major criticism of Minetest Game. I know it's alpha software, so being incomplete is to be expected. So all the missing features, the poor balancing, lack of depth, etc. all of this would be excusable if there is at least a direction, a design document or whatever.
Project development is extremely sluggish. In the 6 months between 0.4.15 and 0.4.16, only 146 commits were added by multiple programmers.
Minetest Game is closely coupled with Minetest and shipped as default with Minetest. Many people still equate Minetest Game with Minetest which is completely wrong!
Minetest Game has a few strengths and many weaknesses. Its strength lies in its extensibility and well-documented and easy-to-use APIs and also the de-facto sheer amount of mods people have created. You can basically create your own personal game by just compiling a set of mods.
Creative Mode and biomes are kinda okay.
The weaknesses of Minetest Game are its shallowness, lack of gameplay, poor balancing, poor coherence, no real atmosphere and being completely unusable for beginners.
I'd also count “lack of vision” as another major weakness of the project.
Given this conclusion, the target audience of Minetest Game can not
be complete beginners. But Minetest Game is the first subgame which beginners will see, because it is the default. Beginners have a reasonable expectation to see a playable game without mods
but they don't get that. Beginners have no reason to expect that they first have to add mods before they get a semi-decent experience.
The target audience of Minetest Game is advanced Minetest users
who feel comfortable to install and try out all sorts of mods. If you are not prepared to do this, then Minetest Game is not for you
The goals of Minetest Game are not really clear, so I don't know how to measure Minetest Game.
If the goal of Minetest Game is just
to be a simplistic base for modding, then that goal may have been achieved long ago. Still I think the “modding base” is just too small. And mods can't fix everything. Things like poor balancing should be fixed in the core, not by mods.
If the goal of Minetest Game is to be a game or sandbox you can enjoy out of the box
, it's a complete failure.
Drop Minetest Game as the default subgame. Development can continue as usual, but the heavy over-promotion of Minetest Game needs to stop. Other subgames need to be given a fair chances as well (I am talking about the homepage).
Newcomers should not get the impression that Minetest Game equals Minetest, or that Minetest Game is the best we have to offer.