Crafting & Building: There’s No Short Answer

… the great thing about being so deep underground is that the zombie menace plaguing the surface isn’t really a problem… nor is day or night for that matter. Sure, the music might change and the voice-chat gets a little busier as my friends moan about the house being attacked or whatever (I call those “surface problems”). Occasionally my view of the rock face is cluttered by a message letting me know which of my friends has perished at the hands of the undead hoards, but generally it is peaceful here, just listening to the gentle taps of my pick-axe against the granite…

My recent gaming hours have been primarily spent in the slightly glitchy world of “7 Days to Die” (the remainder has been spent on a super-secret project .. Shhhh…), which is an odd choice because if asked “Do you like mining, crafting, and building games?” my instinctive answer is “no”. 7DtD is made a little more magpie-shiny for me as our regular mid-week gaming group have rented a private server so I don’t have need to attempt to engage outside my own social circle and we can really team up against the zombie menace; well, we could, right up until I started my hole, now I barely leave the confines of my tunnel empire. It began as a simple hillside cave with a vague plan that I could fortify it and it might be more secure than the house we’re currently residing in, but it has now become a tunnel network, gradually linking the various key locations around our assigned home, secured by metal trap-doors and far enough under the rock that I doubt even the most determined of walkers would even know I was there. The appeal of this ingame project is tricky to articulate, especially considering that over the years I’ve had a rocky relationship with the whole mining, building & crafting type games.

This is ‘Shaft A’ leading back up to the main house… why thank-you, it is nice isn’t it!

It would be foolish to try and deny that part of me enjoys creating things in an ingame world. I’m secure enough to hold my hand up and admit that some years ago I fell into a pretty big ‘Sims’ pit in terms of gaming, which chiefly revolved around using the firework exploit to gain cash and build my very own dreamhouse; the lives of the virtual inmates really didn’t interest me that much, but a Tiki themed roof-terrace was captivating. Likewise, significant portions of time in ‘Theme Park’, ‘Sim City 2000’, ‘Roller Coaster Tycoon 3’, and most recently ‘Cities: Skylines’, all played on my desire to design a virtual space. The obvious binding theme here is that these are games where the primary goal is to hover, bodyless, above a virtual world and create these spaces, and as any devoted readers will know, I am enchanted by exploring diorama-like worlds in games.

For me, there seems to be a difference when the floating entity aspect is taken out of the game and I’m placed in the boots of a character. At this point, some combination of the increased effort to collect materials to make my wicker-house, or the pull of adventure in the unknown, drives a wedge between me and any joy I take from building. My wife has previously tried to convert me to the ways of ‘Terraria’, but all that inventory management, messing around building a house, and crafting upon crafting left me pretty disinterested in a vast and expansive world. From that one example you could argue that I picked a pretty high jumping off point into the crafting/building world, but I was left with a similar feeling last year whilst trudging through the wastelands of ‘Fallout 4’. The heavily advertised building mechanics there did nothing to wet my appetite for the game; Fallout is about being a wanderer, a renegade, a drifter, a lone wolf, a [insert further cliches here]. It’s not about building your very own town, or taking a moment during a daring raid of a mutant base to pick up a few more tubes of wonderglue for that shotgun mod you’ve always wanted. Worse than not being a draw, I began to see how settlement building actually detracted from the game; I hated having to fast travel back to my ‘base’ to drop off all the pocketfuls of filler that I’d picked up and whilst I was there the blank faces of the personality-less inhabitants made the game feel empty and small, despite the vastness of the map. In short I felt tied to, and constrained by, this place in a game heavily showcasing ideas of freedom and choice.

Rust is a little more polished than 7DtD

A different group venture involved stepping out into the world of ‘Rust’, or at least stepping out before being beaten with a rock, shot with arrows, or duped by a friendly seeming un-clad local who was inexplicably hiding an automatic weapon. I quickly lost track of the amount of times I awoke, naked and trembling, clutching that lump of granite and occasionally making it as far as owning my own primitive axe, before a swift demise, post-death taunt, and rebirth. Our group retreated to a private server in an effort to gain some experience of what it was like to own more that simple tools, and even moving on to having… clothes… Sadly the presence of clothes didn’t help me warm to the game any further; from a monotonous rebirth cycle it switched to a monotonous ‘cutting down trees’ cycle, occasionally being killed by an animal then trying to navigate back to our settlement.

Our 7DtD zombieproof fortress

Given 7DtD’s, at least superficial, similarity to ‘Rust’ I wasn’t holding out hope that it would be much better – but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Overlooking the bugs (drifting slowly upwards on a minibike before plummeting to my death tops the leaderboard of these currently) there are some subtle differences that seem to have made it more palatable. The zombies add … well.. what zombies add… a common enemy for our group to rally against, the world is expansive & interesting enough that quests out to loot feel worthwhile even if the terrain shifts are jarringly sudden, and the crafting seems to be marginally less laborious. The building aspects are more freeform than some of the other games I’ve mentioned here which brings us neatly back onto being able to dig and tunnel; I think more than anything the draw there was simply realising that it was an option. I don’t think I’m a crafting & building convert just yet, but maybe I finally understand… maybe I just like tunnels…    

10 thoughts on “Crafting & Building: There’s No Short Answer

  1. I loveee this game. I have it on Xbox One (had it on PS4 too lol). I love when the blood moon emerges and the zombies are crazier along with Bears trying to break open your shelter. The giant wasps, the boomer type zombies spitting acid on your walls. It’s crazy. Thanks for the post! I really enjoy reading about others adventures in the zombie surviving world. There were few times I’ve killed myself on my on spike traps and broken my leg jumping out a building to escape the horde. Fun times!
    Side note: my boyfriend has played Rust and watching him play is hilarious. Especially with him getting hunted down constantly.
    -Luna 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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