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Hopefully this will not sound too insulting -- but the world within Minecraft is one that has its roots in a bygone era of video gaming that the vast majority of gamers today (and no doubt the huge majority of serious Minecraft gamers) do not remember because it largely occurred before they were born!  That in no way makes the attraction less powerful -- and in fact thanks largely to the efforts of game studios and publishers like Atari, Square Enix, and Capcom in resurrecting the titles from their ancient catalogs and their efforts in seeing that games that they originally created and released for platforms like the Famicom/NES, Atari 2600/7800, Intellivision, TRS-80, and Commodore C=64 are being steadily re-released as compilations and collections for PC and modern consoles, there is a tacit connection to the past that the current generation of gamers can appreciate and identify with.

If you happen to be a veteran gamer (for example you are over the age of 40 and have been gaming most of your life) why then the chances are good that you can relate to the basic memory association that is widely understood to be part of the foundations for the popularity of Minecraft because you played games of similar design back in the day...  If you are 40 and you started gaming at age 10, that puts your Gaming Identification Quotient (GIQ) at a period that is roughly between 1978 and 1982 (give or take a few years), which  is precisely the right age for you to have a solid spiritual connection to this style of game play.

The block-style games of the 8-bit era are largely why Minecraft feels so familiar to you if you harken from this generation -- and if you are from a younger gen, chances are good that the nostalgia craze that is seeing older games re-released in modern formats likely plays a role in your fascination for the game, and if that was all that there is to it it would still be good, but the truth of the matter is that Minecraft maintains a compelling structure and a naturally addictive level of gameplay...

Recent mod packages released for Minecraft include efforts to insert interpretations of classic 8-bit era games into its world, and the PC Mod (that adds simulated IBM PC's to the game) includes a Minecraft-based text adventure, so the concept of retro-gaming appearing in the game (and appealing to its gamers) is certainly not unusual -- and with that being the case, is it any wonder that Minecraft itself has a game within the game for its SMP side? 

Well it does!  And it is called Spleef!


A Game Called Spleef


Spleef was introduced to the Minecraft community in the Spring of 2009, and is said to have been planned as part of the pre-Alpha development schedule, the idea being to provide a simple yet elegant competitive game for the SMP side.  While it quietly existed for a month unremarked, when Minecraft creator (and at the time core developer) Notch blogged about Spleef his musings gave it just the push that it needed at just the right time to ensure it was widely picked up and played.

Shortly after his first post gamers began to host Spleef Servers and limited organized play, and there was talk of a league...  Though much of the initial enthusiasm has since died away, making Spleef one of a handful of mini-games supported by the core game. 

So what is Spleef?

It is a sort of King-of-the-Hill type game in which the winner happens to be the last player standing. Spleef (the name is a clever jest on the word "Grief" though it is said to have yet another meaning) is played within the confines of the specially-constructed Spleef stadium, which consists of a large platform of blocks, known as the Spleef Block.  The reason that the game is played in a stadium is to provide adequate seating for the fans -- Spleef is a spectator sport.

Initially hitting its peak in popularity during the Minecraft Classic era, it briefly enjoyed a renassaince during the Beta phase, but its true comeback is largely credited to the full commercial release of the game and the large influx of new players that have found Minecraft, and their interest in maintaining an organized "official" sport in the game.  

Playing Spleef

The goal is to destroy blocks on the platform near or under the opponent to cause them to fall, while you work to avoid having that happen to you -- since being made to fall off of the platform area means that you lose that round -- and depending upon which stadium you are playing in end up landing in either a deep pit, a lava pool, or some other nasty trap -- the point being that in addition to designing the playing field and stadium to meet the exacting standards of the game, the host is also expected to design and implement impressively nasty consequences below the stage.

Stadium size is generally a fixed target in order to support an adequate number of spectator seats, while the playing field (stage) size varies depending upon whether it is 1-on-1 Spleef, or Team Spleef (the latter usually consisting of teams of three or more players on a side).

The Official Rules of Spleef

While some servers -- most notably those that offer theme-based play -- have special rules for play, all Spleef matches must follow the basic rules as set out by the official League Commissioner of Spleef:

Rule  1: Creating blocks between the official game Start and the End is forbidden;

Rule 2: Creating or Destroying Blocks by a player after the player has lost the round (fallen from the stage) is absolutely forbidden;

Rule #3: If players find themselves occupying "islands" separated by open areas that were previously part of the game stage, and no player is able to effect a block belonging to the opposing side, the player (or team if more than one member is still in play) with the most unbroken play area (blocks) in their sphere of control ("island") is declared the winner for that round;

Rule #4: Game Stage Construction Materials -- Stages for Match Play officially sanctioned by the NSL and ESL may be constructed from the following materials: Dirt Blocks, Clay Blocks, Glass Blocks, Wool Blocks, or Snow Blocks; for Mixed-Mode Match Play, 50% of the Stage comprising the center area may be Dirt Block; the remaining area evenly mixed by 25% of each of the two alternate blocks agreed to prior to the match.  Stage Construction for match play sanctioned by the ASL follows the above rule save for the exclusion of Snow, which is not a permitted material under the ASL Rules of Play for Stage Construction;

Rule #5: London Status Compromise: Under the terms of the Access Switch Rule agreed upon at the 2010 London International Spleef Day, Team Spleefers may not be ejected from the Stadium between rounds.  

When a member of a Spleef Team has fallen below Stage Level (removed from round play for that round) their status automatically changes to spectator, and they must be provided with minimal SRO access, or access to the designated player observation box in stadiums so equipped if they wish to observe the remaining play for the current round;

Rule #6: The loser(s) of each round must replace the blocks that were deleted during the game once the round officially ends, in order to reconstruct the play area (game stage) to exactly the same configuration as it was at the start of the game.**

** Official League Spleef Events, and sanctioned games hosted by member teams of the National Spleef League (NSL - North America), the Eropean Spleef League (ESL - Europe), and/or the Australian Spleef Federation (ASF - Australasia)  handle all stage maintenance via the official designated Spleef Stadium Engineer, who uses the designated official Stadium Script to completely remove and then replace the game stage.


Unofficial Spleef Courtesy


While Spleef Stadium design is largely considered to be both flexible and open to interpretation, Match Play, League Play, and Exhibition Play at events and stadiums that are officially sanctioned by the NSL, ESL, or ASL traditionally include penalty areas constructed directly below the game stage that include creative punishment as part of the onus for losing a round.  The use of Water, Lava, and other more traditional trap materials and construction are both encouraged and generally considered to be an honorable element for Spleefing.

For games that include very large stages, and/or team matches, it is considered to be good form to provide an access point from the below-stage penalty areas to either one of the general observation areas or to the designated player observation booth in order to allow players to observe remaining round play.

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