*NOTE: viewers might want to full-screen the video. – Jay
Good morning, good afternoon or good evening – hopefully this week finds everyone well. As I type this Spring Break 2014 will be over in approximately twelve hours, so after reading for my English literature class the next day and ensuring that all of my Financial Accounting coursework is complete I wanted to do something worthwhile to conclude the break. Seeing as how a friend of mine had recently caused me to get addicted to Minecraft (posted about the Pocket Edition previously), I thought that I would post a short blurb and video regarding it’s biggest mobile competitor SurvivalCraft, a Minecraft clone which – ironically – is a lot better than the game it’s “cloning”.
Usually I’m wary of clones, especially in the App Store – mainly because about 92% of them turn out to be rip-offs, i.e. are mere cash-ins on the coattails of popular and more legitimate franchises. This can’t be more proven then the Flappy Bird craze (not worth linking to, because I’m sick of the whole ordeal) in which more than 700 apps imitating Flappy Bird flooded Google and Apple’s distribution services, so much that they started pulling out the ban-hammers and began rubber-stamping the denial process. Flappy Bird wasn’t the first game to be vastly copied, as there have been (and still are) Jetpack Joyride, Final Fantasy, Puzzle Quest, Angry Birds, Grand Theft Auto and Left 4 Dead clones (and rip-offs) all competing for attention along with the established official releases.
At this point though, I want to make a distinction between mere “clones” and “rip-offs”. Before I discuss Igor Kalicinski’s SurvivalCraft (an obvious clone of Mojang’s Minecraft), we first need to briefly note that there is a difference. A rip-off is a blatant attempt to imitate an established franchise in the hopes of luring in a customer by it’s lower price and extra features, and then once the customer purchases the products, locks necessary gameplay features behind pay- or time-walls. Some are even blatant copies (nearly line-for-line of the game’s code) in an attempt to hurriedly lure customers away from legitimate products and finance talentless developers whose game are mere shells of official products.
While a clone may also be classified as a rip-off, it depends on the nature or intent of the clone. A game like Cornfox and Bros./FDG Entertainment’s Oceanhorn for instance can be viewed as a blatant Wind Waker rip-off (the protagonist sails from island to island on a similarly-designed ship); however the developers publicly stated that they wanted to play a Zelda-like adventure on high-resolution mobile devices and assumed that others wanted that experience as well – an experience that everyone knows that Nintendo will never provide unless it’s on a next-generation Nintendo-developed mobile device. Yes the mechanics imitate Nintendo’s console game, but the intent (providing an experience accessible to a group of players that another party refuses to cater to) makes the imitation ethically sound, not to mention the four years of effort in developing and releasing Oceanhorn, even more so due to famed former Squaresoft music composers (Nobuo Uematsu [Final Fantasy] and Kenji Ito [Mana series]) lending their talents for the game’s soundtrack.
In other words, though the state of the App Store is a HUGE freaking mess right now, there are still instances in which the saying “imitation being the sincerest form of flattery” rings true, and such applies to Oceanhorn’s availability on the App Store. However, I’d like to talk about another (and stronger) instance of imitation, a “more legitimate” clone that expands on the original material in such a way that the “official” release (the original work) has been completely overshadowed, but not due to the imitation itself or the lower price. In SurvivalCraft‘s case, it’s due to more sincere efforts by a single developer who wanted to emphasize the true fear of surviving in an unknown wilderness, the wilderness being much more vast (i.e. much larger horizontal vistas, though I’ve found limits on height) than Mojang’s Minecraft: Pocket Edition, which (as of this writing, consists of maps which are fully enclosed in a maximum 256×256 [horizontal] x150 [height/depth] block grid). In short, SurvivalCraft expands on Minecraft’s gameplay traits in almost every conceivable way, providing more value for the money (currently $3.99 USD on the App Store) than the official Minecraft app ($6.99 USD).
In SurvivalCraft, you’re a castaway tossed ashore on an uncharted land by scrupulous pirates who yell at you upon their departure that they’ll never return for you. At that point you have until sundown to find wood, build a quick shelter, craft a workbench and build a door on your shelter. Oh, and if you have the time, gather stone or at least more wood so that you can craft weapons to fight your way past the wolves and maybe a lion or bear or two the next day so that you can try to hunt and gather food before you starve to death!
SurvivalCraft doesn’t include zombies, strange exploding humanoids, bow-wielding skeletons or nether-gates. The game depicts one man against the unknown, a vast, near-limitless world filled with wild beasts which will kill you in a second if you’re caught unawares or don’t have strong enough weapons. Even when fully prepared and with a nigh-impregnable fortress, one mistake can cost you your life, and depending on the mode chosen, your game will immediately end!
Yes, you’ll start the game with no shelter, no food and a pack of wolves that go mad whenever day passes into night (and when a full moon rises, they become demented werewolves, too!), lions, bears, tigers and hyenas roaming, and piranhas, sharks and even killer whales claiming bodies of water as their own. You have to satisfy your hunger or you’ll quickly begin to lose health. You’ll need to sleep at regular intervals or you’ll drop instantly, possibly leaving yourself vulnerable. You’ll need to be mindful of your stamina, or you’ll run out of breath when climbing steep hills or running. With all of these in mind, your task is to make use of this vast land filled with deserts, caves, forests, swamps, snow-covered fields and mountains using any and all of the resources, tools and even some of the animals to stay alive for a long as possible.
But you’re a human being, and as a human you’ll have to demonstrate to nature as to why humans have earned their place near the top of the food chain. By crafting machetes and axes out of stone rather than wood, you’ll inflict more damage on hostile beasts, so much that they’re run away more quickly than continue to pursue you. By defeating (but not killing) the wolves, both they and any new arrivals will leave you alone during the day (but you’ll still need to stay clear of them at night). By crafting a bow and sets of arrows, you can easily hunt the seagulls, ducks and ravens that fly around and add to your food supply, and by finding coal and cooking the meat rather than eating it raw, it’ll satisfy your hunger stat twice as much. Smelting sand into glass and crafting other resources into stronger tools (once you have iron weapons you’ll never look back, and coating iron tools with a diamond layer grants you with the strongest, most long-lasting tools of the game, but you have to earn diamonds, by digging way, WAY underground) and better blocks can potentially yield materials in order to construct bigger, better more secure shelters (such as the one seen above), as well as tools, items and lights to outfit your base with. If you’re lucky, you can even craft a saddle from a defeated bear’s skin and tame a horse or donkey so that you can travel longer distances on this near-limitless world, as well as outfit them with saddlebags to carry extra equipment. Once you learn your limits, priorities and proper use of your weapons and resources, surviving against the elements is lot less stressful.
Regarding the official Minecraft: Pocket Edition, it’s a fun game in which players are prompted to fully explore their environment and craft as many unique items and bases as they can; however the environment is so enclosed that the experience on iOS becomes limiting before it’s potential is realized. In other words, once I found invisible barriers, the gameplay became limiting and nearly-monotonous, and the enemies too predictable and easy to defeat. In SurvivalCraft, there’s never a dull moment. You can be armed to the teeth and still be taken out in a few seconds by a fast-running tiger or an angry bear, if Mufasa the lion or Ed the hyena don’t kill you from behind first. There’s the anxiety of trying to reach your home base before nightfall and especially a full moon rising, in which case you’ll have werewolves to contend with. You’ll be hunting seagulls over a piranha-infested lagoon and wondering if the seagull carcass is worth the risk of retrieving. It’s situations like these that make the SurvivalCraft experience more fulfilling than Minecraft:PE.
I guess if you haven’t figured it out by now, Igor Kalicinski’s SurvivalCraft provides WAY more value for the money than Mojang’s limited mobile attempt. I guess it’s more understandable that MC is more limited in scope and gameplay compared to SC or Mojang’s PC/Mac/consoles equivalents, because at the time of it’s release (November 2011), tablets weren’t nearly as powerful as the ones currently available today and couldn’t handle barrier-less environments. Still, for an official Minecraft release (currently alpha build 0.8.1, with only two programmers assigned to it part-time) it’s kind of a disappointment, though it was admittedly addictive when I first played it (thanks Dan!). Kalicinski’s “clone” (released April 2013, during the first six months of the iPad 4/iPad mini era and constantly updated and supported by a strong fan community) takes the good things about SurvivalCraft and (seeing that mobile gamers wanted a more fulfilling Minecraft-like experience) and expanded on the ideas of survival, crafting, manipulation, and discovery tenfold.
In SurvivalCraft‘s case, it’s more than an imitation of Mojang’s Minecraft: Pocket Edition. It’s a single developer telling Mojang how to do an open-world item-crafting game for mobile devices the right way. Minecraft is the king when it comes to crafting games on the PC and Mac, but on mobile devices, it’s SurvivalCraft that currently holds the cards on mobile.
Four memorable experiences while playing SurvivalCraft:
1) Outgrowing my first all-wood base and being sick of being surrounded by friendly (during the day) wolves, I dug a short tunnel further inland and found a large lake with horses and cattle roaming about. I traveled back and forth through the tunnel carrying tools and chests, slowly building my glass-and-polished stone base per several days while retreating back to the coast before sundown each day (before the nightly wolf and lion attacks).
2) Crafting a bow and a set of arrows (iron arrow tips) and being able to kill birds with a single shot instead of having to sneak up and smack them with a machete or axe. Satiating my hunger became much, MUCH easier. I wondered if this was how our real-life human ancestors felt when discovering/using ranged weapons.
3) Digging diagonally downwards in the hopes of finding diamonds while wondering what SurvivalCraft‘s bottom layers looked like. It was almost sunset when I finally found the bedrock layers, and knowing that it was too late to journey back to the base I kept digging around the bedrock blocks…and I finally found blocks containing diamonds embedded among the unbreakable bedrock. By the time the morning came I was starving half to death and almost ready to drop from want of sleep, but I carried home nine fresh diamonds, which I immediately used to build a compass (the magnet shown in the base in the video allows me to find my way back to it using the compass) and coat a couple of iron tools to increase their strength and durability.
4) Finding out how to make batteries (requires two copper bars and four pieces of coal to make a four-pack) and replacing the old wooden+torch wicker lamps throughout the base with a modern lighting system. I had fun tearing up parts of the floor to add new blocks which allowed wires to run through floors and ceilings as well as placed new columns so that light switches could be placed. As you can see in the video, the lighting system isn’t perfect, but it’s much brighter at night and gets the job done.
Hope you enjoyed the video and my long exposé on the game, and with this post comes the end of my spring break. With a busy week coming up I’ll post again soon, though I have no idea when.