The Games of Christmas ’11: Day 12

By RPS on December 12th, 2011 at 2:33 pm.

I simply must go
(but baby it’s cold outside)
the answer is no
(but baby it’s cold outside)
your welcome has been
(how lucky that you dropped in)
so nice and warm
(look out the window at that meteorite storm)

Shelter with me inside the ramshackle construct behind door number twelve.

It’s…Terraria!

Adam: Terraria surprised me in many ways. First of all, the gap between first hearing about the game and actually playing it was incredibly small. Sometimes, the first details of a game reach me decades before I actually have a chance to play it. With Terraria, the process was something like this.

1) Oh, look, someone is making a side-scrolling game that has monsters, mining and extensive crafting.

2) I am now playing a side-scrolling game that has monsters, mining and extensive crafting.

That was a good feeling. It was (and is) hard to talk about the game without mentioning Minecraft but of all the many attempts to jump on the blocky bandwagon, Terraria is the one that has managed to forge an identity of its own. The viewpoint makes a huge difference but it’s the emphasis on combat, loot and progression that I find to be the big differentiating factor.

There are more obvious goals in Terraria, with tiers of equipment that tie more strongly to depth of exploration and specific events and locations to discover, even though each world is unique. It’s not only the terrain that differs for each player though, it’s also the nature of the challenge provided.

It’s rare to see so much variety in the way that people approach a game. When I see someone else’s path through Human Revolution, I am sometimes baffled by the particular method they chose to enter a building or cross a room, unnerved by the amount of unnecessary carnage they caused, or intrigued by the specific hideous alterations they have inflicted upon their body, but I never ponder how odd it is that they decided to build an Olympic-sized swimming pool and collect rabbits in it. When I see a certain friend playing Terraria, that is exactly what I am left pondering.

The amount of possibilities alone isn’t what I find fascinating, it’s that people so easily find their own way of having fun. It’s easy to offer an absurd amount of options for creativity and play – a blank sheet of paper and a pen will do that – but it’s not often I come across a computer game, with all of its rules and limitations, that people enjoy in so many wildly divergent ways.

For me, it’s mostly about digging, uncovering the horrors that lurk below and attempting to vanquish them, my last few torches and the reassurance they provide almost as important as whatever ridiculous sword I’m wielding at the time. For others, it’s about building giant phallic towers, or complex, stylised castles. Some want to be the best, working out how to gather the best materials, craft the best armour and duff up the toughest enemies. And, yes, some want nothing more than to collect rabbits.

So many people enjoying themselves, sometimes not even bearing in mind that there are other ways to play. For something that looks so simple and could be considered derivative in the extreme, Terraria manages to be both relatively complex and incredibly imaginative. With my occasionally self-imposed inventory limitations, I mostly enjoy the struggle for survival and the construction of an occasional ragged outpost.

How do you play?

John: Terraria is unfairly described as a Minecraft rip-off, no matter how heavily it may have borrowed. Because when you play it, it’s a starkly different experience. Yes, blocks, yes day/night cycles and survival, yes digging for ore. But my memories of both have little in common, and both are games I spent exceptional amounts of time with this year.

The 2D, side-on view limits things just how they should be, while still allowing enormous freedom. Because although this is a finite world, with pre-generated locations to discover, and a continual sense of progress, it’s still possible to wile an evening away just digging down to see what you can see. Which is a tremendous thing, and all too rare. Burrowing downward reveals treat after treat, with eventual discoveries of rarer, more interesting ores, or terrifying boss baddies, and more cool stuff to allow you to feel stronger, braver, and explore further.

That’s what makes it so special, I think. It manages to go beyond aspects of Minecraft, and somehow finds the balance between a pseudo-open world, and narrative journey. It also features double-jumping, which is – as I have well established – automatic entry into Games Worth Noticing. In fact, you can augment yourself with tons of cool stuff if you persist for long enough, and have the patience to read the wikis to learn how to make any of it. Because, well, it’s not quite a contained game yet. Relying too heavily on outside guides is a proper shame, and was more noticeable when I was entertained by the game for an eight hour flight, but ended up making notes of things I wanted to find out how to do.

Still, it’s massively engrossing, and really there’s little more a game needs to be. And like I say, that balance between mucking around and moving forward is so splendidly found, that you really can approach it as two games. Sometimes I’d fancy just digging around and finding caves, another time I’d want to defeat a boss and discover a new location, and it allowed both to be easily accessed. And that’s a fine thing to have done.

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46 Comments »

  1. Teronfel says:

    One of the best games i played this year.

    • Gnoupi says:

      Same for me. Really nicely tickling my “explorer” side.

      And it was also filling the thing I missed in Minecraft, which is some kind of purpose to the exploration.

      Although it tends to wear out when I’m out of “new stuff” to actually achieve, if playing alone.

    • Underwhelmed says:

      Definitely. Every time I get tired of it, and leave it for a month or so, they add a bunch of new stuff and the process starts all over again. The 1.1 update almost doubled the amount of content.

    • Mage says:

      I agree, I haven’t revisited it since the latest patch but I’ll stick up a chummy server if any fellow RPS’ers want a whirl with friends, its at 192.168.100.231

    • tungstenHead says:

      Mage, 192.168.x.x addresses are reserved for local intranet. You won’t be getting many visitors to your server there. :(

      Google itself will tell you your public IP if you simply search for “What’s my IP?”

    • Mage says:

      Ahem well, your completely right. Here tis 149.5.41.166 with the customary port 7777,
      so 149.5.41.166:7777

    • Gandaug says:

      I joined Mage’s server and set up a starting area for new players. Just some housing and storage with materials found at the start. I’ll be checking in every so often to see who’s about.

  2. Suits says:

    They now help you with housing in v1.1, by saying if you meet all the requirements for NPC to move in and even appoint specific NPCs. Which is a pretty important feature of the game. So they are improving on the ‘contained’ part, which can’t really be said from Minecraft.

    • Harlander says:

      Not to mention that you can now ask the guide what you can make with any given bit of junk you might have hauled out of a festering sinkhole.

    • MaXimillion says:

      The Guide was giving crafting advice before 1.1, it was added in 1.0.5, about a month after release .

    • Harlander says:

      Huh.

      I guess after seeing the guide’s nigh-uselessness in the first version, it took me a long time to try talking to him again.

    • Milky1985 says:

      I thought the gyuide was very useful at the start, he taught you the dangers of relying on doors for holding back the zombies by randomly opening them up all the sodding time.

      Made the blood moon a bit easier when you learnt ways to avoid doors being open being a invite to a take a brain party :p

    • Ian says:

      This is good. One of the reasons I abandoned Terraria was because I couldn’t work out for the life of me why the NPCs didn’t like my house (as part of my general oh-well-I-guess-I’ll-need-to-use-the-wiki-again tiredness.)

      I know I could explore all this for myself, and most of what I did in the game was through my own experimentation, but there’s some stuff I was just never going to work out on my own. :P

  3. angramainyu says:

    Good pick. I loved Terraria and MineCraft both a lot this year, but they certainly do scratch different itches. Multiplayer Terraria with a few friends probably got some of our best Ventrilo laughs we’ve had due to friendly-fire incidents and botched boss-battles. I really need to fire it up again to see the 1.1 stuff.

  4. Duckee says:

    A mention of the 1.1 update should perhaps be included?

  5. MaXimillion says:

    Minecraft is a sandbox in which you can play games if you choose to.

    Terraria isa game that contains sandbox features.

    Or something along those lines. It’s the reason I find Terraria quite engaging but haven’t really spent any time with minecraft.

    • Enikuo says:

      That’s a great description. For me though, it’s why I can see the light at the end of the tunnel with Terraria, but my backlog of Minecraft projects keeps growing. I’m really glad to have both games.

  6. Casimir Effect says:

    This is one of those games I’m scared to start up again, both because it’ll eat my spare time and also because I left it needing to take on the Eater of Worlds to progress. Although I hear the new patch is out and I need to create a new world to see all it does, which means all that digging and building again, which means discovering new things, which means the Eater will get postponed…

    Well fuck, there goes my christmas.

    • Gnoupi says:

      Actually, I don’t think it’s really mandatory to create a new world.
      The content added in 1.1 is mostly something which is changing your current world (hardmode), when you defeat a particular new boss (and you’re not there yet, you will need to be at the point in which you can actually laugh at the eater of world).

      So even if you start a new world, you won’t be seeing much of the new content before a while, and not much that is incompatible with your actual world.

      Besides, in Terraria, worlds matter less than the character. Sure, you’ll have to rebuild your home, and dig all the way to underworld, but anything else can be transferred through your character.

    • Casimir Effect says:

      So is there nothing new for ‘lower-level’ characters or will it be spawned into the world I already have? I’ll probably just make a new world anyway as it’s half the fun, but then again I do have a very nicely built house.

    • Gnoupi says:

      I’m not sure about what changed in the biome generator code. But i’m quite sure that you won’t miss on a new biome being generated in your world (as long as you created your world after the jungle update).

      What you might miss are locked chests (added in a previous patch), for example, or shadow chests (I created my world just after jungle, and I miss those). But besides, this patch adds new items to craft, mostly. And 3 new NPCs which you find in existing zones (2 in dungeon, one in hardmode).

      The completely new biome appears by itself in hardmode. The new ores are also added in the existing places, randomly. So in theory, you shouldn’t miss on new content. There might be differences in the generation in general, I though I noticed more hills and pits, and less “flat grass lands”, when I created a new world in 1.1. But not sure about it.

      But then again, nothing prevents you from keeping both worlds. With the piggybank and the safe, you have ways to share inventory easily between two worlds (not counting your own inventory).

    • Gandaug says:

      It sounds to me that you’d probably be better off starting a new world. A lot has changed since last you played. Some things may not work if you keep the same world from far enough back. I had a small world I used for storage from release and I couldn’t access the new content at all. For spoiler reasons I won’t go into detail.

      Start a new world and move your valuables over to it.

  7. Jockie says:

    Have they made it any easier to transport all your stuff to new worlds? I don’t have the patience to move all my boxes and I’m a hoarder by nature and I can’t bear to be parted with all my junk.

    • MaXimillion says:

      Well, the piggy bank and safe both give 20 extra slots of character-specific inventory, so that gives you 58 slots to work with, assuming you’re bringing both along instead of buying the piggy bank from the merchant once you build a house for him (safe isn’t sold until much later), which would give you 59.

      Of course, you can always make the trip several times.

  8. sneetch says:

    Brilliant game, bought it at release after reading about it here on RPS but it took me a while to start it, it’s great though.

  9. Zaboomafoozarg says:

    I’m surprised Mojang hasn’t sued them for stealing their intellectual property and trying to make it appear unique by simply removing a dimension.

  10. thekeats1999 says:

    Ever since 1.1 has been released Skyrim, Batman and Saints Row 3 have all been Put on the back burner.

  11. Consumatopia says:

    It’s a great game. It’s more of a “game” than Minecraft.

    But, even though I ordinarily love 2D games, I do find it a lot less visually interesting than Minecraft. When I first heard about Terraria, I didn’t anticipate feeling that way, because 2D Metroidvanias are some of my favorite games ever. But it turns out that once you take away the beautiful sprites and backgrounds and replace them with (IMHO) generic-looking ones arranged procedurally I don’t want to look at it anymore. A world of 3d blocks, even the simple ones of Minecraft, leaves room for a great deal of artistic expression, either by players or by whoever makes the procedural landscape. 2D tiles, while being perfectly functional for gameplay purposes, makes building feel more like a combination of puzzle-solving and knitting than an act of aesthetic creation.

    Could we expect someday to see a Terraria-like game implemented in 3D? Does something about the gameplay not work in 3D, or is it just too technically time-consuming to create something like that?

  12. Snargelfargen says:

    Well this article finally convinced me to try it out!

    It’s not terribly friendly to beginners. How on earth do you place doors? I’ve restarted 3 times creating increasingly elaborate houses, but creatures just walk through the walls. The worst was when I had the bright idea of tunneling underground at night, trapping myself in a pit with three zombies.

    • Enikuo says:

      With the door selected, or equipped (you’ll see your toon holding it when you attack) click in a three-block high space to place it. Then, put a block of dirt in front of the door and zombies can’t open it.

      Can’t imagine why they are walking through your walls. If it’s completely enclosed, monsters shouldn’t be able to get in anywhere that you can’t.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Ahh didn’t see your edit. I’ll muck around a bit, hopefully I can get walls to uhh, wall stuff somehow.

    • Enikuo says:

      If you have trouble figuring stuff out, take a peak on the steam forums or visit the r/terraria subreddit. The community around the game is pretty friendly and willing to help. You can also find public servers listed there.

    • CVraden says:

      Doors are three blocks high (same height as you) so make sure you’ve knocked out three blocks in your wall to make room. And when you’re placing it, make sure you’re clicking near the top or bottom block as clicking in the middle of the gap won’t do anything. I think it takes a little while to figure out where you need to click to place everything how you want it in Terraria.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Problem solved! I was turning all my wood into “walls”, which make them into some sort of background object instead of a wall. On a related note, I have now safely walled myself inside the second floor of my tower and I can’t get out. Google tells me I need to craft a hammer to break through the floor boards. Night is falling.

    • tungstenHead says:

      Are you turning your wood into wooden platforms or are you just leaving it as plain wood now? Because the platforms need a hammer to be broken, but wood blocks will just need an axe, which you should have started with. The wood wall backdrop will need a hammer to be broken.

      Wood platforms can be fallen through by yourself (and mosnters) by pressing the down key (which is defaulted to “S”). Platforms can be jumped up through and walked through as well.

      Also, in order to build a real house, you need to have the wood blocks forming the structural walls and you’ll need the wood wall backdrop filling in the room in order to keep monsters from spawning inside.

      On top of that, a light, table and seating are required for an NPC to consider it a home. The housing query (the house at the top of your equipment screen) will let you know if you’ve got it set up right or not.

    • Gandaug says:

      It may not seem like it at first, but Terraria is a game of precision when it comes to clicking. If you’re running at a very high resolution the blocks can be rather small. To place anything you must be clicking exactly where you want it to go. The precision of your cursor is everything. A visual cue is that you’re cursing will turn into a representation of the object you’re trying to place. You’ll see a door when you are on the right location to place a door, etc. Once this is learned it becomes second nature and it can be easy to forget how tough it was at the beginning.

      Things called walls will always be a background placement. These are to fill in empty spaces behind the main scenery. If the item is named a brick or has a simple named like wood or glass it will placed in the foreground where it will impede movement.

      Picks are used on dirt, stone, ore, etc. Axes for wood like trees and wooden walls. Hammers will remove placeables like platforms, doors, background things, and furniture. Right clicking something like torches will simply pick them up.

      Again the visual cues are helpful. Observation and experience will make this all second nature quickly.

  13. CVraden says:

    I think the crafting help option with the Guide really takes away a lot of the reliance on outside guides. Most of it at least.

    Also, probably my game of the year seeing as I’ve put 200+ hours into it.

  14. tungstenHead says:

    So I finish reading up this article, make a few (hopefully) helpful replies and I go on to do something else. I decide I’d go do some drawing and I ask myself, “What was I working on last?”

    Oh yes. Terraria fanart.

    I figure at this point I should take a minute and make a proper reply to this thread if Terraria is consuming that much of my thought.

    I have enjoyed and do enjoy this game very, very much. I anticipate I will enjoy it much more still. I hooked my clan on it, played the bejeezeus out of it, and have just altogether fallen in love with it.

    I find the biggest and most important difference between Terraria and Minecraft to be tone. Terraria is bright and cheery whereas Minecraft is more grim and foreboding. It’s a big difference, I think, and one that isn’t mentioned a lot. That difference stems from a lot of things: the music, the monster design, and the variety of things that can be made, found or purchased (rocket boots! grappling hooks!). But an integral part of the difference is that Terraria is in 2D and the lighting penetrates a few bricks down. You’re never one brick away from a sudden, fiery encounter with lava. Creepers and spiders don’t suddenly appear behind you. It’s so easy to become lost and suffer the panic that inspires in Minecraft, but in Terraria, it’s impossible to be completely lost. You can always find your way to the surface again. Terraria could have creepy, moody music, freaky, sneaky monsters and simple, mundane equipment, but it would never succeed at being scary because it’s presented in 2D and you know your immediate surroundings. And being the big sissy that I am, I’m very happy that Terraria doesn’t leave me feeling as scared as Minecraft often does.

    • Saiko Kila says:

      It’s actually quite easy to get lost in Terraria, especially in in large world, where you can know only height above/below ground. And I often wander one brick above lava, waiting for the bone serpent. Or mining inside lava lakes. The most scaring is underground jungle for me, I never ventured to it. I built a metro system above it (and the whole map) and built artificial jungle below my house, for harvesting roses, stings and the like. Creepers appear suddenly – they spawn in corridors you’ve just built, though off screen.

      Maybe I have just a good imagination (I’ve spent over 850 hours in Dwarf Fortress) but Terraria can be creepy – if I set my mood to creepiness :)

  15. Zankmam says:

    I won’t waste my time commenting on this game.
    It is. quite simply, just to awesome. Played it since release, and, now with 1.1, I especially do.

    Instead, I just want to mention another “just to awesome game” that must be included in the Games of Christmas list – Magicka.

  16. Museli says:

    Why, hello there, game of the year :)

    I lost an entire weekend to this on release, and many more hours since. I’m scratching the surface of hard mode now with a chum, and it’s as fun as ever. John’s tales of a Smurf in Terraria were super cool too.

  17. hermpesaurusrex says:

    Definitely one of the worst games I have ever played, period. I would go so far as to say that Monkey Kombat was more fun than this crap. Are ya’ll furries or something?

  18. DOLBYdigital says:

    Simply amazing game that is very different from Minecraft. I find it offers the best of both worlds since you can just run around and build stuff or you can play the game by getting better gear and fighting the various end bosses. I also love how you create your own town for the NPCs and then defend it against goblin armies etc…

    I just started a new character for the latest huge 1.1 update and the game is almost new again. They added so much content its crazy. Some of the concepts I’ve read for future bosses makes me think this game is far from complete so keep your eyes on this one. Well worth triple the asking price in my opinion!!