Before you jump into making a Minecraft game, spend some time designing it so that you can prevent major errors when you go to develop it. You should always design your code before writing it. When you have a program that is complex, like a game, this rule becomes critical because it has so many pieces of code that could introduce errors. Here, you learn about the design technique known as the gameplay loop.
Check out the basic gameplay loop below with these four parts:
Start: Create a basic scene (the place where your game takes place).
Goal: Add a way to win and lose.
Challenge: Make winning increasingly difficult.
Reward: Make players want to win.
Start: Create a basic scene
Start by creating a basic scene for your game. You can begin by sketching out an idea on paper or by building it in Minecraft, without mods. The purpose of this step is to help you start thinking about the constraints that the scene will place on the players, and therefore on how the game will play out.
For example, making a game where you use the normal Minecraft world is much different from making a game where you’re in a 20 x 20 arena with walls, because in the Minecraft world you have infinite space to play, while in the 20 x 20 arena you can only play in a 20 x 20 area. As you build and define the game, you can change the scene, such as make the arena bigger or add details.
The design process is iterative, which means that you repeat each step multiple times. If you were building Minecraft from the ground up, you might start by creating a small world, but as you iterate through the gameplay loop, you make the world larger — eventually making it infinitely large, as it is today.
Coding takes iterations, so if you make a decision early on in your design, you can always make a change later.
Goal: Add a way to win and lose
Some of the games that you will want to make may be truly complicated, but if you break up the parts of the game according to the four gameplay loop pieces, you start to see that you can make a simple version of the game by creating only a basic scene and a way to win (or lose).
For example, if you were playing a super-simple version of Minecraft in Survival mode, the goal would be to not die at night. With only the Minecraft world and the goal to survive, it wouldn’t be hard to survive, because there are no enemies. But at this point you would add the simplest feature to your game: the hearts. And you would add logic to the game to ask players whether they want to respawn whenever they run out of hearts.
Again, at this point the game might not be much fun, but when you reach the next step (the challenge, followed by the reward), you start to add enemies and ways that players can earn back hearts.
Challenge: Make winning more difficult
Your game gets interesting when you start making it difficult for players to beat. At first, you might want to offer a small challenge. Don’t worry: You can iterate up to the more difficult challenges as you cycle through the gameplay loop.
For example, in the simplified Minecraft game above, the first challenge you might add is one creeper. You would put into the world one creeper that, upon seeing the player, tries to attack. This challenge makes the game more difficult than before because now the player can get hurt and lose a heart.
This game might not be lots of fun, because players can only get hurt and can’t defend themselves, but as you iterate through the gameplay loop, you can start adding more creepers — and even other creatures, and items for the player to use to defend themselves.
Reward: Make players want to win
Rewarding your players makes your game fun for them. Rewards can come in many forms, such as allowing players to move on to the next level or awarding them items such as stars and coins. Some games even take coins to another level, by allowing players to use coins to purchase items that can help them beat other levels.
In the example of a simplified Minecraft game, a player is rewarded with full health after finding an Instant Health potion. Similarly, if the player is playing Minecraft at the Peaceful difficulty level, simply staying alive and uninjured is rewarded with health.