Minecraft vs. Terraria

"What does it mean to be the best? It means you have to be better than the number two guy. But what gratification is there in that? He's a loser—that’s why he's number two."
-Jarod Kintz
I have a few larger topics planned for the upcoming weeks, so today I'm going to lean back and cover something smaller. You may have guessed what it is from the title. But just in case, I'll tell you anyway. It's Minecraft vs. Terraria. Minecraft Alpha was released in May of 2009, and then to Beta in mid-December, 2010. It passed one million purchases in early January of 2011, having been advertised mainly (if not exclusively) through word-of-mouth. In May of 2011, (the day before the anniversary of Minecraft Alpha) Terraria was released. Minecraft was updated to version 1.0 in November of the same year. Because both games are block-based sandbox games, a lot of competition has arisen between their fans. Supporters of Minecraft often claim that Terraria is a sad ripoff of Minecraft, while supporters of Terraria say that Minecraft is superior to Terraria by only one dimension, and no gameplay aspects. So, I'm going to go over the differences and similarities between the two games. (I will not be offering an opinion as to which is better, because I've played both games, and therefore would be able to pick categories to judge that would benefit one or the other.)

Both games are, as has been previously stated, block-based sandbox games. In other words, there isn't really a specific story. The world is made up of various blocks that represent different objects or items. You can mine and place these blocks at will to customize a house, piece of art, or whatever you want. Because these games are similar in this respect, many have chosen to compare them. In a way, they are very similar. However, there are differences that set them apart. Let's examine them in the order of their original release, meaning that we'll look at Minecraft first.

Minecraft is a game of exploration, building, and survival. Beginning with nothing, your first task is to punch a tree. ...Yes, you read that correctly. (Or rather, I assume you did. If you thought that it said your first task is to punch a tree, you read it correctly.) Many blocks can be mined or otherwise harvested by punching them repeatedly. Other blocks require you to use special tools. You can use your wood to craft a workbench, which will allow you to craft armor, a furnace, a sword, a pickaxe, and a vast number of other items. You craft items by putting the correct ingredients in the applicable positions on the crafting table. Monsters appear at night and in caves, and most players build a base or home to keep them at bay. Minecraft has been praised for its diversity and wide variety of options. Several difficulty settings and gamemodes are available, including peaceful mode, which removes all monsters, and creative mode, which gives you access to flight and an infinite number of almost every block in the game, allowing you to build massive structures and creations. In addition, Minecraft includes a complex wiring system called redstone, allowing users to automate a vast number of functions in the game.

After Minecraft, of course, came Terraria. Because this game was similar in many respects to Minecraft, people instantly began comparing the two, even going so far as to call Terraria "2D Minecraft." Terraria includes similar gameplay features such as mining, crafting, and building. However, Terraria is not at all identical to Minecraft.

Terraria is a game of exploration, survival, and advancement. You spawn in a forest with a shortsword, an axe, and a pickaxe. You will use these tools to harvest the materials you need and make a shelter to keep you alive throughout the night. When you make your first house, an NPC (or, Non-Player Character) called The Guide will move in with you. He gives you various tips about the game. If you make more houses, more NPCs will move in. The Merchant provides simple items used for exploration, such as torches, rope,  and arrows. The Nurse will heal you when you're hurt. The Goblin Tinkerer will reforge your items to give them different (hopefully better) stats. As you upgrade your weapons, armor, and even how many health points you can have, bosses become available for you to fight. If you defeat them, you get loot that allows you to become even stronger and fight the next boss. About halfway through the game, you can defeat a very particular boss that, upon being defeated, will upgrade your entire world. Terraria has several different types of difficulty settings. These determine how your character's death affects the game, how hard enemies will hit, and what types of enemies will spawn. Defeating this midway boss will upgrade your world to "hardmode," allowing new monsters, ores, and bosses to spawn.

The games are certainly similar in some respects. Both include a blocky world where monsters spawn at night. Both involve mining ores and upgrading your armor. Both include a minor fishing feature (with Terraria's being a bit more developed) and a wiring system (with Minecraft's being far more diverse and complex). However, this is as far as people really go when they compare them. Minecraft is extremely diverse, allowing for mods, texture packs, and custom maps. It has command blocks, redstone, and a lot of features centered around creativity. Terraria, on the other hand, has a vast number of weapons and tools. Hundreds, if not thousands, of unique items that each have a different function. Rather than the upgraded armor just giving more defense, you also have to question benefits about speed, strength, etc. You can equip accessories that will grant you new abilities. Unlike in Minecraft, your tools and weapons don't degrade over time, meaning that you don't have to keep crafting more. It has a lot of features centered around combat.

Terraria and Minecraft are similar in some respects, but while Terraria may have been inspired by Minecraft, it didn't copy it. Each is a different game, with a different emphasis. Minecraft uses flight for creativity, and doesn't allow you to take damage in creative mode. Terraria uses flight for combat, allowing you to equip a pair of wings and fly for a limited period of time. Each game has a creative side to it, and each game has a combative side to it, but Minecraft has always been more about, "what can you make?" while Terraria is more about "how far can you go?" The games are similar, and yet, different, and therefore, can't be truly compared. However, there is a bigger question. What does the comparison gain you? If Minecraft is better, what do you get for being right? If Terraria is better, why does it matter? If a comparison will have some benefit, then go for it. But if not, then why does it matter if team green triumphs over team yellow?
"Comparison is the death of joy."
-Mark Twain

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