Minecraft is a 3D sandbox game that has no specific goals to accomplish, allowing players a large amount of freedom in choosing how to play the game. However, there is an achievement system.Gameplay is in the first-person perspective by default, but players have the option for third-person perspective. The game world is composed of rough 3D objects—mainly cubes and fluids, and commonly called “blocks”—representing various materials, such as dirt, stone, ores, tree trunks, water, and lava. The core gameplay revolves around picking up and placing these objects. These blocks are arranged in a 3D grid, while players can move freely around the world. Players can “mine” blocks and then place them elsewhere, enabling them to build things.
The game world is virtually infinite and procedurally generated as players explore it, using a map seed that is obtained from the system clock at the time of world creation (or manually specified by the player). There are limits on vertical movement, but Minecraft allows an infinitely large game world to be generated on the horizontal plane. Due to technical problems when extremely distant locations are reached, however, there is a barrier preventing players from traversing to locations beyond 30,000,000 blocks.[nb 1] The game achieves this by splitting the world data into smaller sections called “chunks” that are only created or loaded when players are nearby. The world is divided into biomes ranging from deserts to jungles to snowfields; the terrain includes plains, mountains, forests, caves, and various lava/water bodies. The in-game time system follows a day and night cycle, and one full cycle lasts 20 real-time minutes. A few of the monsters in Minecraft, displayed from left to right: the zombie, spider, enderman, creeper, and skeleton.
Players encounter various non-player characters known as mobs, such as animals, villagers, and hostile creatures. Passive mobs can be hunted for food and crafting materials, such as cows, pigs, and chickens. They spawn in the daytime, while hostile mobs spawn during nighttime or in dark places such as caves—including large spiders, skeletons, and zombies. Some hostile mobs such as zombies, skeletons and drowned (underwater versions of zombies), burn under the sun if they have no headgear. Other creatures unique to Minecraft include the creeper (an exploding creature that sneaks up on the player) and the enderman (a creature with the ability to teleport, pick up, and place blocks). There are also variants of mobs that spawn in different conditions, for example zombies have husk variants that spawn in deserts.
Many commentators have described the game’s physics system as unrealistic. Liquids continuously flow for a limited horizontal distance from source blocks, which can be removed by placing a solid block in its place or by scooping it into a bucket. Complex systems can be built using primitive mechanical devices, electrical circuits, and logic gates built with an in-game material known as redstone.
Minecraft has two alternative dimensions besides the overworld (the main world): the Nether and the End. The Nether is a hell-like dimension accessed via player-built portals; it contains many unique resources and can be used to travel great distances in the overworld. The player can build an optional boss mob called the Wither out of materials found in the Nether. The End is a barren land consisting of many islands. A boss dragon called the Ender Dragon dwells on the main island. Killing the dragon cues the game’s ending credits and a poem written by Irish novelist Julian Gough. Players are then allowed to teleport back to their original spawn point in the overworld and continue the game indefinitely.
The game consists of five game modes: survival, creative, adventure, hardcore, and spectator. It also has a changeable difficulty system of four levels. For example, the peaceful difficulty prevents hostile creatures from spawning, and when playing on the hard difficulty players can starve to death if their hunger bar is depleted.
The Minecraft crafting screen, showing the crafting pattern of a stone axe
In survival mode, players have to gather natural resources such as wood and stone found in the environment in order to craft certain blocks and items. Depending on the difficulty, monsters spawn in darker areas outside a certain radius of the character, requiring players to build a shelter at night. The mode also has a health barwhich is depleted by attacks from monsters, falls, drowning, falling into lava, suffocation, starvation, and other events. Players also have a hunger bar, which must be periodically refilled by eating food in-game, except in peaceful difficulty. If the hunger bar is depleted, automatic healing will stop and eventually health will deplete.Health replenishes when players have a nearly full hunger bar or continuously on peaceful difficulty.
Players can craft a wide variety of items in Minecraft. Players can craft armor, which can help mitigate damage from attacks, while weapons such as swords can be crafted to kill enemies and other animals more easily. Players acquire resources to craft tools, such as axes, shovels, or pickaxes, used to chop down trees, dig soil, and mine ores, respectively; e.g. tools made of iron perform their tasks more quickly than tools made of stone or wood and can be used more heavily before they break. Players can construct furnaces which can smelt food, process ores and materials, among others. Players may also trade goods with villager NPCs through a bartering system involving trading emeralds for different goods, and vice versa.
The game has an inventory system, and players can carry a limited number of items. Upon dying, items in the players’ inventories are dropped, and players re-spawn at their spawn point, which is set by default where players begin the game, and can be reset if players sleep in a bed. Dropped items can be recovered if players can reach them before they despawn, which takes 5 minutes. Players may acquire experience points by killing mobs and other players, mining, smelting ores, breeding animals, and cooking food. Experience can then be spent on enchanting tools, armor and weapons. Enchanted items are generally more powerful, last longer, or have other special effects.
Hardcore mode is a survival mode variant that is locked to the hardest setting and has permadeath, which permanently deletes the world if the player dies. If a player dies on a multiplayer server set to hardcore, they are put into spectator mode.
An example of a creation constructed in Minecraft
In creative mode, players have access to all resources and items in the game through the inventory menu, and can place or remove them instantly. Players can toggle the ability to fly freely around the game world at will, and their characters do not take any damage and are not affected by hunger. The game mode helps players focus on building and creating projects of any size without disturbance.
Adventure mode was added to Minecraft in version 1.3; it was designed specifically so that players could experience user-crafted custom maps and adventures. Gameplay is similar to survival mode but introduces various player restrictions, which can be applied to the game world by the creator of the map. This forces players to obtain the required items and experience adventures in the way that the map maker intended. Another addition designed for custom maps is the command block; this block allows map makers to expand interactions with players through scripted server commands.
Spectator mode allows players to fly around through blocks and watch gameplay without directly interacting. In this mode, instead of having an inventory, players have the ability to teleport to other players. It is also possible to view from the perspective of another player or creature. This game mode can only be accessed within the Java or PC edition.