Well, I guess I just write my personal review/view on Minetest (0.4.13). If you have no clue what this is all about, I hope this (admittedly opinionated) text gives some insight.
Minetest: An immature but promising voxel engine. It is quite capable of many things at good performance already, but could do so much more. It takes quite some time to get into this and understand all the stuff, but it might be worth it if you are into this type of games (or sandboxes) or just like to try out many different things.
Minetest Game: A sandbox which wants to be a game and fails in both being a sandbox and a game. Gets boring quickly and makes Minetest look bad. Look in the forums for “subgames” and “mods”, because this is where the real fun begins.
Some things have to be made clear first:
Minetest is the engine and not a game. What you can “play” by default (using the engine, Minetest) is called “Minetest Game”, which is not a game, but a sandbox.
Disclosure: I have written many mods for Minetest and have a few subgames (=games/sandboxes which run on the Minetest engine) which are all not finished. I also made very few purely technical contributions to Minetest itself and a few contributions to Minetest Game. For now I have basically given up on Minetest Game.
Now for my review of Minetest 0.4.13 (keep in mind that Minetest is unfinished and still evolving … a lot. So my review may likely to become irrelevant in a few years!):
I know Minetest for a long time, I had versions of 0.3 (and then something) installed, that is, before Minetest got a full-featured Lua programming API.
Minetest comes installed by default with “Minetest Game” (previously just called “Minetest” or “minetest_game”). First, the name is misleading, it is not a game at all. It is a sandbox to play around with. Minetest Game has game-like elements, e.g. you can die, but you have to be pretty clumsy for this to happen.
Well, what is Minetest Game? Minetest Game is basically a big huge Earth-like world with lots of blocks, in which you can walk around, dig and build blocks and eventually craft a pickaxe and other stuff from your collected item to dig into the underground for finding ores or just digging out more stones to build awesome buildings with all your blocks. That's basically it, in a nutshell.
Personally, I don't like the naked, unmodded Minetest Game anymore. When it was new for me (before 0.4), I kinda liked it any I build my own little worlds and mined around a lot and created extensive mine shafts. When modding support was added, I quickly added more mods to enhance my little worlds.
Now I don't play the naked Minetest Game anymore.
For a sandbox “with game elements” it is too shallow. As soon as you have dug every possible ore (there are not many) and crafted every possible item, there is not really anything challenging to do. The underground only consists of “stone” with some occassional “desert stone” or “sandstone” near the surface. The depths are mostly made of stone. The ores purely appear on depth, that is, the deeper you dig, the more valueable stuff you find. But this is not really challenging, the only danger you find in the depths are maybe holes and lava, but both are easily avoidable if you are not clumsy. So the question of finding the best “ore” (diamond) is mostly a question of time.
Minetest Game has no computer-controlled enemies of any kind. The only real enemies you might see will be other players in online games. ;-)
For a sandbox as such, Minetest Game does not really feature that many things to do or build. At least not for my taste. There might be other players for which the few blocks which Minetest Game provides are actually enough. And in fact, I have seen some servers where players build awesome buildings in a naked Minetest Game only. But I am just not one of them.
I don't think Minetest Game will see actual improvements anytime soon. I (and others) have repeatedly tried to get the developers to tell me what plans, roadmaps or even any kind of rough direction they have to Minetest Game. I never got an answer. So my guess is that the Minetest Game developers simply have no plan or at least no plan that everybody agrees on. And because of this, Minetest Game is what it is.
Now for a thing called “subgames”:
If you really want to see Minetest shine, you *have* to look at all the stuff the community has created. Look in the forums for subgames and mods. Subgames are complete experiences which you can drop into the Minetest folder and start right away. Mods run on top of existing subgames, but subgames themselves are also a collection of “mods”. Note the definition of “mod” here is not exactly the standard definition. E.g. there are many mods for Minetest Game which add new ores. There are a couple of subgames around (to which also mods can be added), some of them are based on Minetest Game, some of them are very different. Another important thing to notice is that many subgames *do* have actual enemies.
Another thing to notice is that it is not exactly easy for newbies to get into Minetest. It is impossible for newbies to the genre to really know what's going on without consulting the Community Wiki first. I have read it, too. Sadly, built-in documentation is practically non-existant so far (but it is desperately needed).
List of subgames I have enjoyed:
- Carbone: It is the best “Minetest Game”-based subgame I know so far
- Lord of the Test
- RealTest, because of a very different approach regarding mining and ores
- Hungry Games/Hungry Games Plus (Disclosure: I contributed a lot to this one for a longer time, especially technical contributions, but I also actually play/played it a lot)
Now for the engine part (don't worry, I write it purely from a player perspective):
I like the core voxel engine, which is obviously the most important part (for gameplay). It supports ca. up to ~60000 cubes (or voxels) into every direction. While this seems small, my experience shows that you are unlikely to ever actually hit the edge, unless you are really determined to walk (or dig) all the way to the end. You can do it, but it is not worth the effort, you just hit an invisible wall.
Minetest does not simply just support cube shapes, but also allows for custom shapes, sometimes even very complex ones.
Minetest has no direct support for enemies (called “mobs”). Instead, many mods try to emulate them with some tricks and hacks, which are not always very performance-friendly. That's also the reason why there are no enemies in Minetest Game.
The overall performance is pretty good, I was able to run Minetest without issues on my old ThinkPad T61 laptop.
Where Minetest is really the king is configurability and moddability, even if the programmer API is far from finished. There is a crazy amount of stuff which can be changed by mods. What this means for players is that there is a huge potential in the community to create cool stuff *with* Minetest. There is pretty much always something to find in the forums (but you have to get familar with mods and subgames in order to actually use this stuff).
Server and client support is mostly mature from my naive user-centric perspective. ;-) What I mean is, you can simply join a random server and Things Just Work™, meaning that all neccessary files get downloaded automatically, there is nothing to download manually (including mods/subgames) if you want to play on servers. However, a thing which is confusing at first is the way Minetest handles passwords. As soon as you join a server the first time and you specified a password, this silently creates an account on that server and accociates it with the password you provided! This can bite newbies in the ass pretty hard if they do not know they just created an account and don't know why they can't join the server the 2nd time.
Minetest's usability is frankly, a desaster. Many of the important menus are not really helpful or self-explanationary. In-game documentation is non-existing. There are many things you have to know from the wiki or other sources before you can really use Minetest the way it is supposed to use. My impression is that Minetest's usability is more developer-oriented, rather than player-oriented. I hope this will change as Minetest approaches the sacred version 1.0.0.
To actually use Minetest, you practically have to consult the Community Wiki, otherwise, things will be so confusing.
The controls are also largely nonsensical to me, there are way too many “quirks”. There are many special key combinations which are not exposed in the game itself and also not directly configurable. You can only learn from the Community Wiki. Mouse buttons and the mouse wheel have fixed meanings which cannot be remapped.
Minetest's sound support exists, but IMO it could be better. Much better. Currently, sounds mostly play for basic eventy like walking on dirt or digging something. Sounds can also play on custom, mod-defined events. What I am missing is something like “atmospheric sound”. There are a few mods which attempt to add this, but they seem to run awkwardly slow for me.
In a nutshell: Minetest is a very promising project, but it has still a long way to go. :-)