How Telltale Spun Minecraft’s Systems into Story

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Light Spoilers Scattered Within

Minecraft: Story Mode’s first episode is out this week on most platforms, and since Telltale Games’ announcement, players have been wondering one thing: “How is this even going to work?”

Luckily, thanks to an early hands-on from our friends at Telltale, we got to see Minecraft: Story Mode and dig up some answers. Rest assured, this isn’t just a random adventure with Steve arbitrarily deciding to build a giant castle. There’s some really cool storytelling and design choices that prop up Minecraft: Story Mode–like a story mode.

To start thinking about how Minecraft: Story Mode makes the transition from systems to storytelling, it helps to consider the main actions players take when playing Minecraft. Players break things so they can craft items and build structures, all while fighting monsters. The characters throughout the game represent these core activities, like Lucas, the brute who can fight and build, and Petra, an explorer who harvests rare minerals.

And after calamity strikes (repeatedly), the game begins introducing familiar Minecraft tropes and scenarios. Do you take someone’s stuff when you’re in an area that looks inhabited? Do you try to fight hordes of zombies or just start running? By anchoring key decision points on situations that feel familiar to Minecraft players, Minecraft: Story Mode lets you take another look at those encounters and start thinking about what kind of person you want to be in this world of wood, diamonds, and Wither skulls.

Speaking of Wither skulls, it’s worth noting that Minecraft: Story Mode pulls quite a bit from Minecraft itself. From The Nether to the number of the tools and materials present in the game–such as beacons, slime blocks, and more–the choice to utilize these elements so casually helps create a sense that Story Mode‘s characters aren’t all that different from Minecraft players.

Where Minecraft: Story Mode steps away from its source material is in the arc of its plot. Jesse (the main character) and friends get wrapped up in a revenge plot of a wizard-type character, flee from the monstrosity he accidentally unleashes, and clash with each other over petty squabbles and old grudges along the way. The game is reminiscent of 80’s adventure flick, yanking ordinary schlubs out of the day-to-day and into an extraordinary world. And hey, it’s out today, so maybe it’s worth setting off on a little adventure of your own?

(All the playable Jesses)

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