Thursday, December 30, 2010

Minesweeper - Windows Vista/Windows 7

Minesweeper is without a question my most favorite computer game. Back when I was a young child and most computers used the Windows 3.1 operating system, Solitaire and Minesweeper were the only two computer games that came pre-installed with the operating system. Since Solitaire offered zero mental stimulation, and I had no real use for computers either way, I used to spend most of my computing time with Minesweeper. Although I started by aimlessly pressing the buttons, I eventually learned the rules, and after some practice began winning games. Eventually I became quite good at it, and I would easily sweep the expert level.

As I became an expert mine sweeper, I began loving the game. It was time to search the Internet for websites that would support my hobby. After clearing the expert level mine field in about 120 seconds, I felt I was probably the Minesweeper world champion. Who else would waste enough time with a silly game to come even remotely close to my timing? However, a small online search was all I needed to discover my error. Many people had beaten the game in less than half my time. Additionally, I found entire websites dedicated to the game, and I learned there were some basic tricks of which I was completely unaware. The website by the name of Authoritative Minesweeper even has a section of World Ranking players. Players on this list were capable of sweeping all the mines in each level with a combine timing of less than 100 seconds. I realized that I was nowhere near the best at the game. I also realized that many other people had much more free time on their hands than I did. My newly found minesweeper company was a source of encouragement, and I continued to improve at the game. I incorporated all the tricks into my playing techniques, and I eventually achieved a World Ranking score. Beginner was swept in 2 seconds, Intermediate was swept in 23 seconds, and Expert was swept in 67 seconds. With those scores I would be considered ranked the 700th best mine sweeper in the entire world! With a ranking like that, who wouldn't love the game?

Recently, however, I have been introduced to a new kind of Minesweeper. Our family computer has been showing the blue screen of death way too many times, and my father decided it was time to buy a new one. The new computer uses Windows 7, and it comes with many more games than previous versions of Windows. Among them is a new and updated version of Minesweeper. This new version offers many new features. Unfortunately, I am very displeased with a majority of the upgrades, and I am quite certain that I am not alone in these opinions. The programmers at Microsoft seem to have little knowledge of public opinion for this game, and some grave mistakes were made with their latest product.

This is the current version of Minesweeper for Windows Vista and Windows 7:

Without any serious inspection, some glaring problems are readily apparent here. The iconic symbol of Minesweeper has been removed from the display. Of course I am referring to the smiley button that used to occupy the top center of the gaming board. This character was quite literally the face of Minesweeper. Aside from completely ruining the appearance of the game, it's now impossible to restart the game by simply clicking on the icon. This brings me to some other problems with the game. Every time one wins or loses, a dialog box asks whether one wishes to play again or cancel. Any experienced mine sweeper knows that this can lead to hours of aggregated "wasted time." Additionally, some extra animations have been added that distract serious players.

I have found many more problems with the new Minesweeper version. The "best time" feature has been modified in an adverse manner. One can no longer submit their names with their best time. I assume this feature was eliminated because many more people have their own personal computers now than when the game was originally programmed. However, I still like to see my name next to my astounding records. Another interesting tweak was the changing of the name of Expert to Advanced. This change is very minor, but it's still a little irritating to those who are big fans of the game. The next change that disturbed me slightly was enacted as a result of some Minesweeper critics. Apparently some people felt the idea of sweeping a mine field as an entertaining game was a little offensive. These people felt that flowers should be used instead. Thankfully, Microsoft has not allowed for a complete destruction of the mine setup, but they have added a compromising feature to the latest version. Those who wish may play flower garden, and navigate through flowers instead of those horrible mines. Personally, this version makes me feel like I winner even when I lose. Instead of seeing a field of mines explode, one sees a field of flowers in bloom. This is not a proper feature for such an intelligent and dynamic game. Finally, perhaps the worst problem with the current version is the restart feature. Being able to restart a game based solely on the hiding of mines seems to be completely absurd. After one sees all the mines, it's quite easy to print the screen, redo the same game, and win in half the time. There is no more credibility in any of the best times. Similar to all the various cheats in the Space Cadet pinball game for Windows, Minesweeper has turned into a big joke. This is very problematic for us serious players. Below I have demonstrated how I can now win a custom board with 67 mines in a 9 by 9 tile grid.

You may also notice the beautiful flowers in this most serious mine sweeping adventure. Such a feat would have been completely impossible without the current methods of cheating.

To be fair, I have to admit that there are some positive features in the new Minesweeper as well. I have to admit that I love seeing a green minesweeper board. Green is my favorite color, and it's great to see my favorite color synthesized with my favorite game. Additionally, the little question mark that appears after one removes a flag is no longer part of the default settings. Professionals have known for years that there was no use for this feature, and it's great to see that the programmers finally agree. Another cool feature with the best time function is the dating of each best time achievement. This is definitely a plus because I love to document great moments in history. Finally, although some of the animations may be annoying, they are easily turned off and on with the click of a mouse. I may be a serious mine sweeper, but there are times when I may find it fun to turn on the animations just to fool around a little.

Minesweeper will never be the same in the Windows Vista/Windows 7 version. I have some major issues with the new form of my favorite game, and I guess I will just have to live with it. This isn't the worst thing in the world, and it should be the biggest of my problems in life. Hopefully I will seamlessly adapt to my new environment, and I will continue to break records during spells of boredom. I have already documented some of my latest winnings in the new version. Here are some of the results:

I hope everyone out there continues to enjoy this wonderful game.

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