Minecraft, the indie darling that has been on many many minds this year, has finally been released officially, during Minecon; the convention specifically about all things Minecraft hence the name. This is both a good thing and a bad thing, of course and neither is really an objective thing as it all depends on where you are and what side of the fence you're on here. The main bad thing would be that, for those of us who didn't jump on buying it earlier (for various reasons), the price has now been raised to a hefty $26.95 which by all means still isn't bad but considering that anyone could've gotten the Alpha build oh so long ago for much less than that and been able to update it as it came out, it's just the bargain person in me screaming that I blew it for not magically having a computer that could play it and a way to buy a code.
Still, it's one of the few big bad things that the game has, though I imagine the other complaint several will have is, surprisingly, the content. It's hard to say as someone who has watched the game start from those humble beginnings whether or not there's 'enough' game to Minecraft to actually be considered release-worthy, given that in essence, not a whole lot has been added. By that, I mean a lot has been added, but it's sort of....well, it's a step above cosmetic. The game has always been about digging, mining, exploring and building and remains so, basically, with the difference now being that there's more for you to find and a few other things to do. Basically take a Bethesda game, your Oblivions, Skyrims, etc. and strip out the main story and quests. What you're left with is a wide world to explore, things to find, monsters to slay, and a personal story to develop; that is Minecraft in a nutshell.
Some would argue that's enough, as I would, but I can understand if someone would suggest that there needs to be more. And luckily enough, the fact that the game has been released means frankly little to Mojang Productions, as they're devoted to supporting the game post-release to add in whatever they please....much like they did during Alpha and Beta. Which would also lend a little more ammo to anyone wondering whether or not Minecraft is a 'game' or at least a 'done game', given that Mojang simply sees Release as another 'phase' which questions whether or not they feel there's -enough-. Granted, most everything essential will likely be added to the game freely, rather than as paid DLC, so finished or not, there likely won't be much issue with what comes now.
What -is- next is another point of interest as, aside from continued support of the PC version of Minecraft, there still is the XBLA version of Minecraft far off on the horizon. As far as I know, the release window is "sometime 2012" and that's about all that's really known about it. Content is something else to talk about for that version as they won't really be able to just drop whatever they want into it willy-nilly unless they work out a deal with Microsoft (unlikely) or they work around some sort of "teh internetz" style magic (little more likely, but not much) to work within the limits of Microsoft's "No Free DLC" constraints.
As much as I hate to let my fanboy flag fly, I -really- think going with XBLA was a bad move for Mojang since, well, as mentioned XBLA isn't that open for post-production support which they seem to really be a fan of, whereas it would likely fly on PS3/Vita. And unfortunately, I'm pretty sure Notch has gone out and said that the XBLA version will be the only console version. Could be a lie, could be a short-sighted statement, but either way I'm officially not getting my hopes up. I guess if Minecraft Pocket gets Playstation Suite certified, I can play it on the Vita without getting an Xperia Play, but it just won't be the same since Minecraft Pocket looks...er...yeah. Not as good.
Oh well. One day, I'll have a computer that can run it well and I'll be able to jump in and experience all that's existing currently, plus whatever else they've added by that point. Hopefully the NPC quests will be in by then (as there's (ugly as sin) NPCs, but nothing to do with them yet) as well as a few more nuances to The Nether (little castles are cool, but...) and just the world itself (higher level randomly generated cities?) as, yes, half the fun of the game is crafting whatever you wish and on the top of that list would likely be the pretense of civilization, but the other half is the exploration and Random little villages, abandoned mines, caves and strongholds (underground expanded dungeons) aren't quite enough.
Really, it's just a weird feeling to think of Minecraft as a finished product as we've been taught (by the game and the nature of it) that it is, in fact, not finished and you can always look forward to more. Calling it released tends to make you think that you're not able to look forward to more, though you actually are able to do so and are encouraged to. So it's just one of those strange conflicting things that you can't really put a finger on. Regardless, it's a game, it's growing and it's going to be around for quite a while, so all there is to it now is to enjoy it (if you can) or see what happens next with it.