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March 2, 2011 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Minecraft mastermind Markus "Notch" Persson has officially announced his company's next project: a hybrid online board game/trading card system called Scrolls. Spearheaded by Mojang co-founder Jakob Porser (interview) and with backstory penned by Penny Arcade wordsmith Jerry "Tycho" Holkins, the game will consist of turn-based battles between collectible "scrolls," illustrated character cards strategically deployed on an abstract gaming grid. In an interesting inversion of the Minecraft model, the game itself will be free, while updates in the form of additional scroll packs will cost a nominal fee -- a business model gaming analyst Sean Maelstrom decries as "snake oil." Mojang, for their part, is unafraid and even eager to target an untested slice of the gaming market, and is angling to get their playable prototype of Scrolls ready for a possible Alpha release this summer.
posted by Rhaomi (128 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cue about a million fanboys screaming "WHY HAVEN'T YOU FINISHED ADDING ADORABLE PUPPIES TO MINECRAFT!?!"
posted by The Whelk at 8:53 AM on March 2, 2011


Sounds not unlike the model of Magic: The Gathering online...
posted by utsutsu at 8:53 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh yay, another CCG. *runs far far away*
posted by kmz at 8:55 AM on March 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


I was thinking about posting this, but you did a better job than my post would have wound up.

I think Scrolls looks like a mess. I don't think very many people are willing to pay real money for fake cards and then still need to worry about rares and whatnot. Some (very few) people are into this kind of thing, but then there are already a number of games providing that exact thing.

Worst case scenario: this game burns though all the good will created by Minecraft and the million-plus fans come to resent the name Mojang. It could happen.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:57 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's not snake oil.

It's razor blades.
posted by notyou at 8:57 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gotta catch buy 'em all...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:59 AM on March 2, 2011


Rhaomi: eager to target an untested slice of the gaming market


Just for the record there have been at least 4 games to do this exact same paying-real-money-for-random-CCG-cards-in-a-game business model already.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:00 AM on March 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


This sounds... not good.
posted by odinsdream at 9:03 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just for the record there have been at least 4 games to do this exact same paying-real-money-for-random-CCG-cards-in-a-game business model already.

And approximately a zillion "freemium" games of various genres. So the business model isn't new, the concept isn't new, and the combination of the two isn't new. That leaves a couple of things: exceptional execution and brand recognition. So far I'm less than convinced of the former (e.g. grammar errors on the cards released so far, fairly typical looking game mechanics), and brand recognition can get people interested but it can't carry a game beyond that, especially one that relies on establishing a persistent player community.
posted by jedicus at 9:04 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is not exactly what I would have expected from the creator of Minecraft. Not at all, in fact.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:06 AM on March 2, 2011


Notch's next project: A farm simulation game on Facebook.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:06 AM on March 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Fuck this digital CCG crap in the fucking fuck. "Freemium" pisses me off like nothing else in computer gaming.
posted by charred husk at 9:07 AM on March 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


So is this going to be Evony with square boobs?
posted by Artw at 9:09 AM on March 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


"Snake oil" guy is spot on, and mimics many of the thoughts I had reading the interview. Yuk.
posted by absalom at 9:10 AM on March 2, 2011


PH, I was thinking more untested territory for *them*. Online CCG is indeed well-trodden ground, and taking time from a proven (and unfinished!) winner to try reinventing such a radically different wheel takes obsidian-caliber balls.

That being said, freebuilding online worlds had been tried and mostly fizzled before (Second Life, Roblox, Love), but Notch really hit on something special. If this is a concept that intrigues him enough to pursue, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt (especially since the base game will be free). The focus on artwork/story/etc. concerns me, though... I'd think a company like Mojang would focus more on addictive and emergent gameplay concepts papered over with minimal graphics. Sort of like a spruced-up version of Dice Wars. Those D&D wannabe cards are discouraging just to look at.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:12 AM on March 2, 2011


Ehh, Minecraft got boring. I'm really into this cup and ball now.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:12 AM on March 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


My cup and ball is a Stoner63.
posted by swift at 9:15 AM on March 2, 2011


This whole business model seems as fragile as a house of scrolls.

I was curious when I heard Holkins was involved - PA's work with Hothead games to make the Monkey Island-esque "On the Rainslick...." were great, if a little redundant. I'm sad that this doesn't sound very... good.
posted by OrangeDrink at 9:15 AM on March 2, 2011


I read the RPS article this morning, but this part made my eyes bug out: "It seems pretty amazing that they managed to get the [scrolls.com] URLs. I ask if they free? Both laugh, and shake their heads. So how did they get them? Carl explains, “It helps when you’ve got some cash.”"

Free tip: you encouraged people to look at buying the Minecraft beta as similar to a kickstart.com for you to finish the game. If you aren't going to finish the game then don't, but maybe don't laugh about blowing your "help me finish Minecraft" loot on buying a domain for a vanity game no one wants.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:15 AM on March 2, 2011 [17 favorites]


Despite being able to buy additional cards, they promise it won’t be a game you can beat by pouring in money. It’s all about how you put your deck together, they emphasise.

"Which is why, heck, come to think of it, charging for the cards doesn't make any sense after all in that context. Here, have free cards forever!", they did not add after a thoughtful pause.

I mean, I'm willing to hope. I like the deck construction, I like the roshambo nature of blindly constructed strategies, and I like the idea of making an explicit multi-dimensional tactical thing out of the intersection of deck and board space. But ala carte cards? Really?

The card game Dominion is pretty much something I had been fantasizing about for years before it came out: something that took the good side of the CCG model and shrugged off the pay-to-play bullshit. Build a tight game that uses cards as metaphor and deck construction as strategy, and eschews the collectibility angle entirely. And if Mojang takes a clear look around and sees that they can do the same thing and make a game that really works, I will be thrilled. If they stick with this booster pack thing, I'll be cautiously optimistic that it'll be fun with a starter deck but I'm not exactly holding my breath.
posted by cortex at 9:16 AM on March 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


I really prefer my scrolls to be Elder.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:16 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


We learn how Mojang’s open development philosophy will apply...

Their what now?
posted by DU at 9:19 AM on March 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is not exactly what I would have expected from the creator of Minecraft.

I love Minecraft, but this is pretty much what I expect from what I hear. I don't think Notch knows why Minecraft is popular. He just got lucky. Scrolls seems set to prove that.
posted by DU at 9:21 AM on March 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


DU: I love Minecraft, but this is pretty much what I expect from what I hear. I don't think Notch knows why Minecraft is popular. He just got lucky. Scrolls seems set to prove that.

Yeah, you could get glimpses of this when he talked about his ideas for the future of Minecraft. Quests to save villages from dragons? Seriously, do you think that the shitty combat is why people like Minecraft? Or that the story is what people need more of?
posted by paisley henosis at 9:23 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Given the parties involved, it sounds like this is a chance for them to work on something together to see what happens, not necessarily an Early Clue to the New Direction.

Also, the online store in Team Fortress 2, America's number-one war-themed hat simulator has proven that people will not balk at buying new strings of 1s and 0s to add to their account.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:24 AM on March 2, 2011


I don't think Notch knows why Minecraft is popular. He just got lucky.

That's disappointing. I guess the oft-dreamed of merger of Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress will probably never come to pass, then.

The card game Dominion

Is totally badass, and I've wanted to try some other non-collectible card games, too.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:24 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


PH, I was thinking more untested territory for *them*.

Wha? Majong is a new developer yet to put out a final release. (Like Google products, I suspect that Minecraft will be in perpetual beta. Unlike Google products, however, it will still be buggy as hell.) Everything is untested for them, from their marketing to their builds.

As for the CCG and the puppies, every update to Minecraft and every pronouncement from notch seem to prove that the factors that make their current product so compelling were synthesized through a healthy dose of unique and unrepeatable inspiration and luck. I get the feeling more and more that they don't understand the game's core strengths. I don't expect another Minecraft from Majong. I haven't been all that hopeful about the game's future since the Hallowe'en release.

On preview, DU is a little more concise than I am.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:26 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's disappointing. I guess the oft-dreamed of merger of Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress

Speaking of indie developers disappearing into their own assholes..
posted by theodolite at 9:26 AM on March 2, 2011


This looks really boring. Then again, this is not my genre.
posted by brundlefly at 9:26 AM on March 2, 2011


Even if I was head-over-heels in love with Minecraft, I would not be motivated to buy a CCG. Even with Minecraft's incredible success, you can't just throw all those players across the ravine to an entirely different and more labor/cost-intensive type of game. At most, I would be somewhat more apt to trust him if he built an open-world game with factions and political, relationship, and other metaphysical systems built in.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 9:27 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah I get a little worried about him adding villages etc. All he really needs it to make everything work and add modding capabilites and he is done.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:27 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


adamdschneider: Is totally badass, and I've wanted to try some other non-collectible card games, too.

Summoner Wars sells complete decks for different factions; you do pay more if you want to buy another faction, but $20 gets you two full decks for two factions. Further unlike Magic, there are no land cards (or similar) and cards battle and interact based on relative position, so you get a bit of moving-shit-on-the-table fun, too.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:27 AM on March 2, 2011


Yes, there's a lot of instant, reflexive hate for in-game stores in general by some, and I don't think those people will ever be satisfied regardless of the implementation. As a sort of counterpoint to all the instant revulsion, I think TF2 is an example of something like this working well.

Valve is another developer with overwhelming support from gamers, and the addition of hats and weapons was planned carefully and didn't break the balance of the game for those not inclined to play. They essentially become fashion items, and indicate personal wealth or a willingness to contribute to Valve's bottom line rather than an instant win button. Provided Mojang basically ends up selling shiny reskins of functional cards, it shouldn't break game mechanics and keep them well-funded by the obsessive collector types.
posted by Freon at 9:28 AM on March 2, 2011


Heh. Though I find. The pay-to-play aspect deplorable I'm beginning to suspect that the shear scale of the fan entitlement bullshit this will generate is going to bring me around to Notch's side. That snake oil article is pretty obnoxious, for a start.
posted by Artw at 9:29 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm at the game developers conference this week, if I can find notch I'll ask why they're going This way.

Also, I met Tim Rogers the other day. Batshit insane guy, but he liked my business card.
posted by hellojed at 9:30 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


This game could be good but it doesn't seem special. Personally what I think could be great would be a massively multiplayer trading card game with a fixed economy of cards that are allocated by a combination of performance, coordination, and persistance. Basically the macro-economy/ incentive structure of an MMRPG mapped over the game mechanics of a CCG. That could be fun.
posted by I Foody at 9:33 AM on March 2, 2011


I've wanted to try some other non-collectible card games, too.

I find bridge to be subtle, nearly infinitely playable, and doesn't involve collecting any cards you can't find for a buck at a dollar store.
posted by hippybear at 9:34 AM on March 2, 2011


Yeah, you could get glimpses of this when he talked about his ideas for the future of Minecraft. Quests to save villages from dragons? Seriously, do you think that the shitty combat is why people like Minecraft? Or that the story is what people need more of?

I'm pretty sure that the Minecraft fanbase is clamoring for exactly this kind of thing. MMO and FPS mechanics. And probably everything else that can somehow be imagined in a 3D game context.
Of course the customer isn't always right.
posted by _Lasar at 9:34 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Massivley Multiplayer Illuminati could pretty cool.
posted by Artw at 9:35 AM on March 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Whoa, thanks for the Summoner Wars recommendation, PH. I will definitely check that out.

I find bridge to be subtle, nearly infinitely playable, and doesn't involve collecting any cards you can't find for a buck at a dollar store.

I have actually always wanted to learn Bridge. Maybe I can get my hipster friends to play it and it'll be the Next Big Thing.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:37 AM on March 2, 2011


That's disappointing. I guess the oft-dreamed of merger of Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress will probably never come to pass, then.

Right, in DF, you save settlements from elephants, not villages from dragons. BIG difference.
posted by kenko at 9:38 AM on March 2, 2011


I'm pretty sure that the Minecraft fanbase is clamoring for exactly this kind of thing. MMO and FPS mechanics.
While I certainly can't speak for the rest of the Minecraft fanbase, as one member of it, I'm certainly not interested in that.
posted by infidelpants at 9:39 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


adamschneider: Bridge is pretty simple to play. It's the bidding and learning conventions which get complicated. The best in-door to learning the game mechanics is to play Spades, individually at first, and then partners. And then you can leap into Bridge, which is basically Spades only with shifting trump suit and different ways partners communicate to each other what they have in their hand (which is what is meant by bidding conventions).
posted by hippybear at 9:39 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


As long as it doesn't detract from Minecraft development, I don't really care what Mojang does with their enormous pile of money. Since someone other than Notch is in charge of Scrolls, I'm not worried.

But seriously, what was Tim Rogers like? I always wondered how much of his writing style came from his personality.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 9:42 AM on March 2, 2011


I find bridge to be subtle, nearly infinitely playable, and doesn't involve collecting any cards you can't find for a buck at a dollar store.

Bridge is awesome, but you do have to be careful about playing with somebody on your level. I never learned anything past the really basic conventions (Goren point counting, basic Stayman) so more advanced players tended to be very frustrated with me. "What do you mean you don't know Jacoby transfers?!"

I have actually always wanted to learn Bridge. Maybe I can get my hipster friends to play it and it'll be the Next Big Thing.

Bridge was huge at math camp. Which, uh, I've been told the next big hipster thing is doing everything math campers do. Yep. You heard it here first.

BTW, if you like games like bridge, Tichu is an awesome card game. (Ignore the game origins garbage though.)
posted by kmz at 9:43 AM on March 2, 2011


From the 'snake oil' link:

Imagine a writer saying, “This is a book I really wanted to do.” When a book is not set out to get money (which only comes from customers), it is called a vanity book and treated with a stigma.

That's a completely bizarre statement to make. There's far more stigma attached to books that were obviously written just to make money -- such as cash-in sequels and formulaic genre trash -- than to books that were written for their own sake -- such as, well, basically every work of literature ever.
posted by ook at 9:45 AM on March 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Never played Bridge, but I've always like the simpler Spades. Hearts too. And Dominion. Man I love me some Dominion.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:48 AM on March 2, 2011


Actually this seems to be going over pretty well on /r/minecraft.

Then they started arguing about Pokemon.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:48 AM on March 2, 2011


Yeah, like I say, far from finding snake oil guy a voice of wisdom he seems more of an obnoxious over-entitled tool.
posted by Artw at 9:49 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks, hippybear. Off to learn Spades.

Also off to check out Tichu.

I love card games.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:51 AM on March 2, 2011


> I've wanted to try some other non-collectible card games, too.

Just signed up here to recommend Ascension. Tichu, already recommended, is awesome as well, moreso because it reminds me of my favorite drinking card game, asshole.
posted by ego at 9:55 AM on March 2, 2011


...books that were written for their own sake -- such as, well, basically every work of literature ever.

I understand your point, but this is just false. Many, many, many famous works of great literature were written specifically to make money. The person who desperately needed money just happened to be a great writer.
posted by DU at 9:56 AM on March 2, 2011


Cue about a million fanboys screaming "WHY HAVEN'T YOU FINISHED ADDING ADORABLE PUPPIES TO MINECRAFT!?!"

Just great. Notch has a drunken encounter with Peter Molyneux and now Minecraft players are suck with the stupid Fable dog. Thank god Molyneux didn't ask Notch to add farts.
posted by straight at 9:57 AM on March 2, 2011


Massivley Multiplayer Illuminati could pretty cool.

Especially if you could have it mirror actual current events, with various individual personalities and organizations gaining or losing power accordingly. Imagine a Hosni Mubarak card with tons of influence and perks a month ago being totally hosed by the real-world Jasmine Revolution.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:59 AM on March 2, 2011


I haven't played Bridge but, from the wikipaedia description, anyone who enjoys that should enjoy a pan-Spanish trick-taking game called Truco. It mostly revolves around secretly co-ordinating bids and bluffs with your partner while trying to guess what the other pair is up to. It's quite a bit quicker and simpler than bridge sounds (Learn it in a few minutes, then each round lasts about 3 minutes and each game has about 8 rounds), and is great fun. A Spanish deck is ideal, but you can just take the Jacks out of a French (aka Poker) deck and re-name the suits.
posted by metaBugs at 10:12 AM on March 2, 2011


DU: I understand your point, but this is just false. Many, many, many famous works of great literature were written specifically to make money. The person who desperately needed money just happened to be a great writer.

Fitzgerald was my dad's favorite author, and he was very disappointed to learn that Fitzgerald hated his own short stories, and referred to them as "whoring."
posted by paisley henosis at 10:18 AM on March 2, 2011


It looks terrible, and the cash shop nature is bewildering not only because of the existing competition for cash shop CCGs online (Magic, which doesn't do that well on its own, but also has a lions share of your potential player base that's economically invested in not moving to a new game), but also because this seems to squander whatever good will you've built up by positioning yourself as the newest, greatest indie developer out there.

Here's why I think Minecraft worked: Notch isn't a good programmer, so the state that he released the beta in (which is what everyone fell in love with) he was far, far away from his vision of a completed game. Minecraft wasn't a success because it was a well realized game, but rather because it wasn't, and the lack of firm goals, storyline, or constraints that are usually applied to the gamer in a full game weren't there. This allowed people to create their own goals, stories, and play-modes and fall in love with the game that they created, not the one that the developer created. Notch also got lucky in the way that the charming graphics and quirky elements (like creepers) formed a bunch of memes and community spirit in places like Metafilter and Reddit.

Combine a personal feeling of ownership over single player worlds, and a community feeling of togetherness over multiplayer worlds, and you have a strong emotional connection to the game.

I had fun for a few months with Minecraft, but after a certain point the glow wore off, and I began to realize its limitations. By the time there was real development to the game (also when Notch hired a bunch of people to write semi-competent code and play with nerf guns) my interested had effectively faded. I don't know that I could go back to Minecraft at this point, because it feels like I've told every story I'd want to, and basically explored the entirety of the game.
posted by codacorolla at 10:19 AM on March 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


The best combination virtual card/board game was Sanctum, in my opinion, and that went under after three years, and was kept alive by fans as a nonprofit for an additional 10 years until the servers were finally turned off.

Without an innovative mechanic, like Sanctum's minions or Dominion's on-the-fly deck-building, I don't see a generic CCG like this going anywhere.
posted by Robin Kestrel at 10:21 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Free tip: you encouraged people to look at buying the Minecraft beta as similar to a kickstart.com for you to finish the game. If you aren't going to finish the game then don't, but maybe don't laugh about blowing your "help me finish Minecraft" loot on buying a domain for a vanity game no one wants.

This attitude and the idiotic Snake Oil article are ridiculous. Everybody who bought into the Minecraft beta paid a tiny (for video games) amount of money to fund a one-man indie game. Now they've more than doubled the number of people working on the game and have money left over to try some new things as well. And you're complaining?

I wish every indie developer had the ability to do that. We're flooded with market-driven focus-grouped games designed to appeal to the widest possible audience. If more indie developers had the cash to work on whatever the wanted, we'd gets some amazing games. Also some terrible games. Also some games that most people hate but a few people absolutely love.

I have zero interest in Mojang's CCG, but I'm so happy they have the opportunity to make whatever they want to make and I wish a lot more indie game designers had that freedom.

As for the CCG and the puppies, every update to Minecraft and every pronouncement from notch seem to prove that the factors that make their current product so compelling were synthesized through a healthy dose of unique and unrepeatable inspiration and luck. I get the feeling more and more that they don't understand the game's core strengths.


Which really won't matter once he finishes official mod support. Even now with just hacks instead of proper mods, Minecraft is almost more of a platform than a game.

I don't think Notch knows why Minecraft is popular. He just got lucky.

Notch's procedural terrain and cavern generation is a work of genius. He didn't invent the whole block mining/building thing, but realizing that the subjective meter-cube was a perfect scale to allow current computers to generate vast, amazing landscapes and tunnels (as opposed to the hollow facade of landscapes you get in almost every other 3D game), and then making it work as well as it does is very impressive.

The whole darkness & danger vs. light and safety game mechanic might have been a lucky accident, but I'm willing to give Notch credit for that as well, and given those two innovations (not to mention creepers!), I feel optimistic that Notch still has some great game design ahead of him.
posted by straight at 10:25 AM on March 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


kmz:

What do you mean, you don't know Jacoby transfers? It takes like 5 seconds to learn and is probably the most useful convention in bridge.

Also, if you underlead your ace again, I will leap across this table and strangle you.
posted by TypographicalError at 10:26 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm shockingly going to wait to judge the game before I call it utter shit. So far we've got a concept, a couple described lines of potential design ideas, and a few card ideas -- but nothing else. Ideas can be rethought, games can change heavily. Hell, the game isn't even lead in design by Notch; another developer in the company (Jakob Porser) is the stated lead designer.

There's far too much nebulous right now to make snap decisions about it. I personally don't know if I think it'll be good or bad , but I do know I want to follow this to see how it goes in the future.
posted by flatluigi at 10:37 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


A dude at Rock Paper Shotgun had a better response than mine to the crazy "I paid for Minecraft, not this!" people:

I bought a Volkswagen Polo. If I were to be outraged that VW used that money to design the Touareg, a car I’ll never use, people would just laugh.
posted by straight at 10:46 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is not exactly what I would have expected from the creator of Minecraft. Not at all, in fact.

Sorry your personal folk hero isn't doing exactly what you want them to do for the rest of their life.
See also: Steve Jobs, Jon Stewart, Thom Yorke
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:03 AM on March 2, 2011


Talked to notch, who directed me to the guy in charge of scrolls. From the sound of it the pay system is a bit more up in the air, but theyre going to have cards availible to everyone. Either you get them in game or you buy them. Sortsa like tf2 items. He also emphasized that he doesn't want to make it a paid vs unpaid thing, and there's a delicate balance. But from the sound of it they know what they're doing. Notch is mainly in charge of minecraft now, not scrolls. Sounds like a fun game, can't wait to check it out.
posted by hellojed at 11:03 AM on March 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


Either you get them in game or you buy them

I can get behind that. There would just be a black market anyway.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:06 AM on March 2, 2011


a robot made out of meat: Yeah I get a little worried about him adding villages etc. All he really needs it to make everything work and add modding capabilites and he is done.

In contrast, Toady implemented pure player joy. recent bugfixes:
# stopped dwarves from encrusting honeycombs with jewels etc.
# adjusted overinflated bee values
# added egg yolk/white liquid densities, fixed name error there


What if you pre-ordered a Tesla based on the concept art and before a road-worthy Tesla was delivered to you the company was already building a new kind of dumptruck?
posted by paisley henosis at 11:08 AM on March 2, 2011


I bought a Volkswagen Polo. If I were to be outraged that VW used that money to design the Touareg, a car I’ll never use, people would just laugh.

I'm not necessarily one of those people, but this is a ridiculous analogy. The Polo is a finished product, not a beta that was specifically marketed as "send us money so we can finish it".
posted by DU at 11:08 AM on March 2, 2011


straight: A dude at Rock Paper Shotgun had a better response than mine to the crazy "I paid for Minecraft, not this!" people:

I bought a Volkswagen Polo. If I were to be outraged that VW used that money to design the Touareg, a car I’ll never use, people would just laugh.


What if you pre-ordered a Tesla based on the concept art and before a road-worthy Tesla was delivered to you the company was already building a new kind of dumptruck?
posted by paisley henosis at 11:09 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


hellojed: "He also emphasized that he doesn't want to make it a paid vs unpaid thing, and there's a delicate balance."

I was going to say that "as long as a person who buys the base game doesn't have a disadvantage against someone who buys packs I'll withhold my rage," but then I realized that the base game is free so the money making is supposed to come from the packs. This means I'm still skeptical, but flaming fists of destruction are currently on hold.
posted by charred husk at 11:12 AM on March 2, 2011


cortex: The card game Dominion is pretty much something I had been fantasizing about for years before it came out: something that took the good side of the CCG model and shrugged off the pay-to-play bullshit. Build a tight game that uses cards as metaphor and deck construction as strategy, and eschews the collectibility angle entirely.

That is the thing; not a lot of computer game designers are looking, yet, at eurogames for design inspiration. Creators create based from their experience. Unfortunately most U.S. game developers are far more familiar with Magic: The Gathering than Puerto Rico, and M:TG exhibits an unhealthy attraction for marketers.

Every time someone walks up to me and says "You really should try Magic," and I counter with the whole "I don't have hundreds of dollars to spend on a card game" angle, the usual response is "You don't need a lot of money to play," or "I've won using a starter deck before," or some other such bullshit. Yet said bullshit possesses an unhealthy pull upon the minds of legions of designers. It's even leaked over to Wizards' roleplaying games; did you know that they sell booster packs for Gamma World?

Gabe from Penny Arcade tried defending it: "People seem to think that Gamma World is a CCG and that’s simply not the case. You do not ever need to buy a booster pack to play the game. "

It is a Collectable Card Game if the game encourages you to collect cards. I fucking bought Gamma World and it fucking does encourage you to collect cards outside of the game. It specifically states in the rules (not the back of the box) that players can construct their own Alpha Mutations and Omega Tech decks to draw from.

I guess what I am saying is: could this whole "micropayments" thing for game advantages system die now please?
posted by JHarris at 11:12 AM on March 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's even leaked over to Wizards' roleplaying games; did you know that they sell booster packs for Gamma World?

Have you seen... fortune cards?
posted by ego at 11:17 AM on March 2, 2011


Did anyone play star chamber? That was hands down the most fun CCG I have ever played, even though it was mostly an online board game. The small player base and micropayments kind of ruined it, but the game itself was awesome!
posted by outsider at 11:20 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh and:
I don't think Notch knows why Minecraft is popular. He just got lucky.

He basically says this in his article in the most recent issue of Game Developer, which isn't on the internet unfortunately. From what I've read, he's pretty clear-headed about the game's success and the role of chance in that.

I think Minecraft hit a magic combination of neglected gameplay niche, iconic art design, just-good-enough construction and (especially) player enthusiasm. Which in a way makes it difficult to proceed. I think he does have a good sense of what could be usefully added to Minecraft; monster villages sound like an interesting addition if implemented, say, as another kind of biome, maybe a rare type players would have to search for.

Of course, this doesn't necessarily extend into other kinds of design.
posted by JHarris at 11:20 AM on March 2, 2011


I'd also like to say: I really like Minecraft. Notch could pretend that it is finished and give me a Steam license for my copy and I would actually be fine with that.

But it wouldn't be what I paid for. I paid for a finished game, and this is basically just the engine that that game will run inside of. Notch had an entire, full, real game planned for this which still doesn't exist. The current state of affairs is a bit like if I was making GTA3 and sold it to you but for now all you get is the map and the ability to drive cars. Ok, maybe that is fun enough for you for your $10 or whatever, but the fact remains that it isn't actually a full, finished game, and even if I admit that I won't be doing any more, I still didn't actually live up to what I said I was selling you.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:22 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think he needs to flesh out the current biomes first... different flowers / trees / animals in the different biomes. I might have to search out the frozen ice caps to get some specific penguin body part to make a certain kind of dye for instance.

Right now its just... this one is green, this one is brown, this one has snow.
posted by outsider at 11:22 AM on March 2, 2011


What if you pre-ordered a Tesla based on the concept art and before a road-worthy Tesla was delivered to you the company was already building a new kind of dumptruck?

WHAT?! A car company working on more than one car at the same time? This is an outrage!

The Polo is a finished product, not a beta that was specifically marketed as "send us money so we can finish it".

Minecraft was never marketed that way either. Notch always said, "I'm gonna sell this when I'm done. Pre-order now and I'll give you a discount and let you play with my alpha builds." There was never any suggestion that there was a connection between sending him money and whether or not he would finish the game. He never said anything like, "I'll finish this faster if more people send me money." He certainly never promised not to take a break and work on something else for a while. He was clearly in the habit of stopping to make cool little 4k projects as well as working on Minecraft long before the game took off.

So many people don't know the difference between being a customer and a shareholder. Pre-ordering a game does not make you a shareholder.
posted by straight at 11:24 AM on March 2, 2011


Have you seen... fortune cards?

By doctor told me to stop reading about D&D 4th edition. I'm not surprised they added it to the game though. Gamma World, at least, as a long out-of-print game and a crazier angle, fits 4E's design better (IMO) than Dungeons & Dragons. And cards definitely can be made a useful component of a roleplaying game. Just not collectable cards. God, what could be less "immersive" than going to the local game shop and buying a new pack of advantages for your 4th level druid?
posted by JHarris at 11:27 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


straight: Minecraft was never marketed that way either.

From minecraft.net (right this second) in the benefits of buying the game section "# You help fund the development of Minecraft "

He also added some stuff about "you are buying the game as it currently exists," but the former has been on the sales page for over a year, while the latter has been there for a much shorter time.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:29 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eh, I'm ok with him spending the money however. It's not idea, but I didn't really, truly expect anything better than what I have now. It took me 30 minutes to get my $20 worth of entertainment out of Minecraft.

I didn't stop once I saw a return on that investment. Just ask my ex-wife, former employer and the widow of the repo man who tried to get his hands on my macbook.

Creeper got what he deserved, FWIW.
posted by pjaust at 11:32 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


s/idea/ideal.
posted by pjaust at 11:32 AM on March 2, 2011


I'm really impressed with the degree to which the Snake Oil article seems to be reacting to a completely different text than it's quoting. I don't doubt that Notch has at some point said things that could be read to support the accusations of vanity and selfishness here, but these are not those things.
posted by baf at 11:33 AM on March 2, 2011


Bridge players: Would you mind explain to me why bidding conventions aren't just codified and accepted cheating, and why they're superior to merely stating what you mean to communicate?
posted by zamboni at 11:33 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


But it wouldn't be what I paid for. I paid for a finished game, and this is basically just the engine that that game will run inside of. Notch had an entire, full, real game planned for this which still doesn't exist.

I thought this at first. Now I'm thinking, wait a moment.

I guess it depends on what you think a "full, real game" would be like. I think Minecraft's play is good because of its open-endedness. It would be great to have special events sometimes, or really secret ores, biomes, monsters, items, etc. to search for, special modes like Zombie Survival, and so on. But a quest in a traditional sense? No, that's what most people thinks a "real" fantasy game has to be.

Without it people have organized community spelunking sessions, built huge mob grinders, created floating forests hanging in the sky, and created scale models of Vatican City. With it, well, I can just say it'd better be ignorable and thus only have an ultimately minor effect on gameplay, or notch risks a damaging realignment of his player base.
posted by JHarris at 11:35 AM on March 2, 2011


Bridge players: Would you mind explain to me why bidding conventions aren't just codified and accepted cheating, and why they're superior to merely stating what you mean to communicate?

Not sure of the context, but here: Because Bridge is a game of limited information.
posted by JHarris at 11:37 AM on March 2, 2011


Not a fan. They've got a diamond mine in front of them and they're out mining for gravel.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:40 AM on March 2, 2011


Would you mind explain to me why bidding conventions aren't just codified and accepted cheating, and why they're superior to merely stating what you mean to communicate?

The whole point is that you and your partner can't communicate directly. Conventions use the mechanisms of the game to convey extra but incomplete information. Also keep in mind that with every bid, you are increasing the stakes for the hand.

If both partners knew exactly what cards they had from the start, bridge would quickly become very very boring.
posted by kmz at 11:41 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm already a heretic in Notch's eyes because I play in Peaceful mode 90% of the time (and, often, as Cheatin' Bastard Admin on my in-house MP server). The game, in his eyes, is about placing blocks while avoiding monsters, and I don't really agree-- at the moment, the game for me is about placing blocks and getting boiled the hell alive because I'm incautious around lava.

I got my $20 out of it and then some; he's allowed to let some of his devs branch out a little if he likes.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:42 AM on March 2, 2011


JHarris: I think Minecraft's play is good because of its open-endedness.

That's the rub: I agree with you 100%, and I don't especially want Minecraft to change into a more full, finished game. I don't want my $10 back, I don't want quests, I don't really need the game to change at all, for me to enjoy it.

My gripe (and my only gripe, really) isn't with Minecraft the product, it's with the Minecraft fans who insist that I'm factually incorrect or that I am not actually entitled to more than I have now: I am. Notch promised it to me if I paid a certain amount up front. This is not some silly internet entitlement complex thing, this is the flip side of a deal that he offered and I agreed to. If he decided not to live up to his end, or not to live up to his end in a timely fashion, that's on him, but it's silly to pretend that he doesn't have an end to live up to.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:47 AM on March 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


From minecraft.net (right this second) in the benefits of buying the game section "# You help fund the development of Minecraft "

I see a huge difference between that kind of comment and a Kickstart-type request where you say: "I'll make this game if I get enough donations."

Is Notch allowed to make a profit on the game? Is he allowed to spend that profit on anything he likes, including funding some completely different game?

Or did you think you were donating to a non-profit where every penny goes to provide building materials for protecting homeless shipwreck survivors from the terrors of the night?
posted by straight at 11:48 AM on March 2, 2011


I think Scrolls is an important step, not because it will be a good game, but because it will help establish Mojang as an indie studio and not just a developer. The more simple concepts they stand behind the easier it will be for them to expand their stable. Minecraft will lead by example.
posted by tmt at 11:48 AM on March 2, 2011


I don't get it. I mean, with a collectible system, you choose whether to get new cards, right? Which means you choose when the changes happen, right? So how will it automatically introduce new bugs?
posted by nickmark at 11:50 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


straight: Is Notch allowed to make a profit on the game? Is he allowed to spend that profit on anything he likes, including funding some completely different game?

Or did you think you were donating to a non-profit where every penny goes to provide building materials for protecting homeless shipwreck survivors from the terrors of the night?


There we go. This is a perfect example of the kind of bullshit I was just talking about.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:51 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


My gripe (and my only gripe, really) isn't with Minecraft the product, it's with the Minecraft fans who insist that I'm factually incorrect or that I am not actually entitled to more than I have now: I am. Notch promised it to me if I paid a certain amount up front. This is not some silly internet entitlement complex thing, this is the flip side of a deal that he offered and I agreed to. If he decided not to live up to his end, or not to live up to his end in a timely fashion, that's on him, but it's silly to pretend that he doesn't have an end to live up to.

I see this statement of Notch's intentions about MC, but I've never seen any kind of cite. Is there one? Is there a place where he says that you are paying for a game that will never be finished? Because if there isn't, the assumption is that you have paid for a game that will, at some point, be in a completed state.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:52 AM on March 2, 2011


What if Mojang spends $X on Scrolls, and ends up making $2X on it? What if they take some of that money and spend it on "finishing" Minecraft? Can you still be outraged then?
posted by crawl at 11:54 AM on March 2, 2011


Oh man. I just misread that completely paisley henosis. Apologies. I agree with you.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:55 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had fun for a few months with Minecraft, but after a certain point the glow wore off, and I began to realize its limitations.

You mean that you weren't able to play one game for the rest of your life? A few months is an excellent run for a $15 game.

Did anyone play star chamber? That was hands down the most fun CCG I have ever played, even though it was mostly an online board game. The small player base and micropayments kind of ruined it, but the game itself was awesome!

I agree on all points. Star Chamber was a lot of fun, but the CCG revenue model is a huge turn-off. Not only was it just fun, but it was a very well-designed and balanced game. Of course, it could easily be sold as a board game without too much hassle.
posted by Edgewise at 11:58 AM on March 2, 2011


it could easily be sold as a board game without too much hassle

It really surprises me that more CCGs don't get repackaged as full playable deck-construction sets once their initial revenue-generating collection fad wears off. It's like game companies are aiming to hit it big Magic/Pokemon-style and use the collectible model as a perennial cash cow, but they're content, if they fail to hit this goal, to just let the games lapse out of print. But there's a whole other potential audience out there, players who don't like how spendy CCGs are, but who'd enjoy experimenting with the deck-building strategy and just playing the games. To me, but evidently not to game companies, aiming for this audience seems like a reasonable end-of-life plan for non-bestselling games — but to my knowledge only the Illuminati CCG actually ever tried it, with the "One With Everything" set. For the others, the only option is buying up cheap sets on eBay.

I wonder if someone else could help explain the economics that I'm missing here; why isn't finally removing the irritation of the nickel-and-diming collecting mechanic a way to squeeze more sales out of a non-hit card game?
posted by RogerB at 12:11 PM on March 2, 2011


The whole point is that you and your partner can't communicate directly. Conventions use the mechanisms of the game to convey extra but incomplete information. Also keep in mind that with every bid, you are increasing the stakes for the hand.

If both partners knew exactly what cards they had from the start, bridge would quickly become very very boring.


So the purpose of a bridge convention is to allow limited communication between partners, with an in-game cost for bandwidth? Interesting.
posted by zamboni at 12:11 PM on March 2, 2011


paisely, you wrote:

Free tip: you encouraged people to look at buying the Minecraft beta as similar to a kickstart.com for you to finish the game. If you aren't going to finish the game then don't, but maybe don't laugh about blowing your "help me finish Minecraft" loot on buying a domain for a vanity game no one wants.

Which contains 3 completely wrong assertions:

1. Buying the Minecraft beta = kickstart funding to finish the game
2. Mojang working on Scrolls or attending GDC or not churning out new releases as fast as you wanted or whatever it is you're complaining about = not finishing the game.
3. Profits from Minecraft are not Notch's to spend on a "vanity game" or whatever else he wants, but are more like donations that have to be set aside only to finish Minecraft.

All three are factually incorrect and reek of entitlement, and it's not bullshit for people to call you out when you say such things.
posted by straight at 12:20 PM on March 2, 2011


Sorry your personal folk hero isn't doing exactly what you want them to do for the rest of their life.

Come on, dude. Out of all the bitching and moaning in this thread, you pick that statement? I never even knew Notch's name before this thread (don't care). Minecraft just seemed really innovative, and an online CCG does not. That is all I meant.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:22 PM on March 2, 2011


Since I've already responded to each one of these points, and since you are being a fucking dick at this point, I'm just going to link to the replies I already made…

straight: 1. Buying the Minecraft beta = kickstart funding to finish the game
2. Mojang working on Scrolls or attending GDC or not churning out new releases as fast as you wanted or whatever it is you're complaining about = not finishing the game.
3. Profits from Minecraft are not Notch's to spend on a "vanity game" or whatever else he wants, but are more like donations that have to be set aside only to finish Minecraft.


And now, because you seem unwilling to actually read what I type, I'll follow that by quoting the relevant sections.

#1: # You help fund the development of Minecraft
#2: If he decided not to live up to his end, or not to live up to his end in a timely fashion, that's on him, but it's silly to pretend that he doesn't have an end to live up to.
#3: I never actually said this, thanks for STFU.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:31 PM on March 2, 2011


The pop star made millions selling his demo tape, then he bought a studio and continued to work on his album. Now the house band is making an album of covers featuring Phil Collins on drums.

I can understand people wondering if the star is going to finish his album, and wondering why the house band is even bothering. Session musicians gotta eat too.
posted by BeerFilter at 12:41 PM on March 2, 2011




Lotta grar in this thread. Y'all better chill or I'll go back to notch and show him this thread. Seriously
posted by hellojed at 12:43 PM on March 2, 2011


Based off the minimal description, Scrolls sounds a bit more like an inferior version of Chron X... which is a bit disappointing especially considering Chron X is almost 15 years old. Not snake oil, but not very exciting given what has been done with online CCGs since then. Maybe it'll be more impressive with more details.

Did anyone play star chamber? That was hands down the most fun CCG I have ever played, even though it was mostly an online board game. The small player base and micropayments kind of ruined it, but the game itself was awesome!

I agree on all points. Star Chamber was a lot of fun, but the CCG revenue model is a huge turn-off. Not only was it just fun, but it was a very well-designed and balanced game. Of course, it could easily be sold as a board game without too much hassle.


Favorite computer game of all time for me [I am KrazyKow on there - I recognize you outsider and Edgewise =) ]. The buying cards never bothered me because I had come from Chron X [second favorite!] and paper CCGs, so I knew what I was getting into, and because of it being easier to resell the electronic cards than physical cards (no shipping hassles, mint condition guaranteed!), as long as the game was reasonably active. And the player base was good until Sony mostly killed it.
However, there is no way it could have been turned into a board game without a bunch of changes [combat, hidden ship/people movements, so many things to track, combat].
But now I want to go load my decks from my old laptop onto my new one and play when I get home...

I wonder if someone else could help explain the economics that I'm missing here; why isn't finally removing the irritation of the nickel-and-diming collecting mechanic a way to squeeze more sales out of a non-hit card game?

CCGs need a user base and a metagame. If you have one, you print more expansions. If you don't, then a full fixed set will not be very attractive as it will be relatively expansive [4 (or whatever) copies of every card + more of any equivalent to land/energy], and there will be almost nobody else that's playing/building decks. Plus, you'll really annoy some of the people that bought the booster packs since you claimed it was collectible, which might not be a big deal if it's your only game and you're going to shutdown afterward, but will hurt business with any others [especially if you have another CCG].

Living Card Games [LCGs] are a relatively new thing that are close to what you want; you buy a core set of nonrandom cards, and then can buy expansion packs of nonrandom cards, so you could just pretend the expansion packs don't exist. But, you might play other people who have those packs.
posted by radicarian at 12:53 PM on March 2, 2011


Regardless of what he said about other development, $20 for Minecraft is a good deal even to play the beta. Should he not have said it then? Yeah, probably. But in terms of value for money Minecraft is already way ahead of most games.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:29 PM on March 2, 2011


You mean that you weren't able to play one game for the rest of your life? A few months is an excellent run for a $15 game.

You misunderstand the intention of what I wrote. I was explaining my own personal experience with Minecraft, which I would assume that I know better than you do. This is the irritating part of trying to discuss the game with any of its fanatics -- it's impossible to suggest that the game might have flaws without having them shriek "BUT IT WAS ONLY FIFTEEN DOLLARS!" in your ear, as has been mentioned up thread.

Basically I think it has to do with the personal and community investment that people have, it makes them unreasonable to discussing anything other than glowing testaments to how revolutionary and inspiring the game is.
posted by codacorolla at 1:46 PM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did anyone play star chamber? That was hands down the most fun CCG I have ever played, even though it was mostly an online board game. The small player base and micropayments kind of ruined it, but the game itself was awesome!

I loved Star Chamber when I played the demo, but I decided against buying the game, because I didn't want to get stuck buying tons of booster packs just to get the ones that I wanted. I'd much rather just pay full price for a game, and have all the cards included. If Star Chamber had a different business model, I'm certain that I would have bought it and greatly enjoyed it.

As for Scrolls, based on what hellojed said about the exact details payment model still being up in the air, I'm certainly willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, until the game comes out. It's possible that they could come up with a reasonable payment model that doesn't give a huge advantage to people with more disposable income. The TF2 model is an example of this done well, I think. Everyone can get items for free through random drops, trading, crafting, and achievements. People who want their items faster can buy them, but through trading, everyone can get all the items they want pretty easily. Additionally, most items are side-grades, rather than clear upgrades, so even if you do go spend a ton of money on items, you don't get any massive advantage over players who only have the stock items. If Scrolls comes up with a payment model along these lines, I'd certainly give it a try.
posted by Katrel at 2:32 PM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Micropayment systems aren't bad in and of themselves - The kingdom of loathing does it particularly well, with a new shiny toy that you can buy, which might help you a little in game.

Though, back to the topic in hand: The game proposed seems extremely derivative, it's pitching to a small community who already have other, better games available to them.

Minecraft is an awesome game. Personally, I think it's a matter of time before we see a lot of "clone" games, based on the same concept. It's almost like playing Elite again - there's just so many different ways the game design could go in. What Notch really needs to do is make his game the best in the class - he's going to struggle to do that and he should really be focusing all his efforts on making minecraft "best in class" and not just "first".

Now then, I'm going back to creating the 1:1 scale soccer pitch with terracing, club house, and turnstiles :-)
posted by BigCalm at 2:45 PM on March 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


But it wouldn't be what I paid for. I paid for a finished game, and this is basically just the engine that that game will run inside of. Notch had an entire, full, real game planned for this which still doesn't exist. The current state of affairs is a bit like if I was making GTA3 and sold it to you but for now all you get is the map and the ability to drive cars. Ok, maybe that is fun enough for you for your $10 or whatever, but the fact remains that it isn't actually a full, finished game, and even if I admit that I won't be doing any more, I still didn't actually live up to what I said I was selling you.

I have sworn a mighty oath to never again use the phrase 'hateable whinebaby'.

And, therefore, I must remain silent.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:02 PM on March 2, 2011


Notch is wasting his time on this. Minecraft is a hugely successful game, with a huge potential as an RPG, MMORPG, or just a more advanced sandbox.

Imagine if the game was designed for multiplayer, and players were allowed to design, create, define the functionality of, and even sell their creations in game, with Minecraft taking a percentage. The game could combine the best of what it currently is, along with elements of Ultima Online and Second Life. It could be awesome and significantly more profitable, instead of just half-made.
posted by markkraft at 3:47 PM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


It appears Notch is not actually the one designing this new thing. It's a project of one of the other Mojang developers.

Jakob Porser says in the gamasutra interview:
Well right now, I'm working on it, and our graphical artist jnkboy, and we've hired a backing developer who's going to helping us, so I think us three for starters working 100 per cent on the game. Then Tobias [Mollstam] is going to help some, and one of the developers for Minecraft, Jens, is probably going to help a little bit, and we're also going to have an intern from Germany who's going to help us in April.
So I think Minecraft will be largely unaffected.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:40 PM on March 2, 2011


I don't get it. I mean, with a collectible system, you choose whether to get new cards, right? Which means you choose when the changes happen, right? So how will it automatically introduce new bugs?

Will all the players you ever play against similarly limit themselves?
posted by JHarris at 4:41 PM on March 2, 2011


Also, the console adaptations of Yu-Gi-Oh already did the "cards on a board" thing. They weren't very well received, as I recall. That might have something to do with being unfaithful adaptations of another game. The Eye of Judgment did this as well, but it required the PlayStation Eye, which might have set the barrier to entry too high.

So, while the target market for Scrolls isn't entirely untapped, there is plenty of room for innovation.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:44 PM on March 2, 2011


In the Magic community, the problem of "What cards do we play with" is solved by having different divisions for different expansions of the game. So if you want to play the game with only the standard set of cards, you attend a tournament of that type.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:45 PM on March 2, 2011


Will all the players you ever play against similarly limit themselves?

I believe that comment was stone cold taking the piss out of Minecraft's old Automatic Push Updates And You'll Like It, Too system, not making an argument about CCG economics and deck power disparity.
posted by cortex at 4:52 PM on March 2, 2011


I will also say, this reminds me of my time at LiveJournal in its early days.

The developer was a young, brilliant programmer.. but easily bored and mercurial. He created LJ and, with help, managed to grow the site to the point where it had more users than Blogger.

Although not widely recognized as such, for a brief while, LJ was the largest, most active blogging platform in the world, back when blogging was the Next Big Thing.

Unfortunately, at the peak of its success, its creator shifted focus to image hosting software. He went to Germany to study. He bought a house and a fast car. And when scalability became a problem, rather than dealing with it head-on, he restricted membership for about three years. He shifted the site emphasis from open source development to a small dotcom, largely staffed and run by old friends and family members.

As a result, about two years of rapid growth -- and rapid open source development -- was neglected. Potential projects like RSS and self-hosting of LJ journals were shelved, when they could've been adopted at a time when they could've been groundbreaking, because they supposedly would've taken people away from the site, rather than making it a very important hub that opened the site up to many, many thousands of the most advanced bloggers and open source developers.

It was only years later that the site's founder really focused on the problem, creating the brilliant memcached, which is arguably LJ's biggest legacy.

I get a sense that what is happening now with Notch is very similar, in many ways. He's hardly hurting for money, but he's got a lot of attention and a lot of new possibilities open to him, due to his success with Minecraft. It must be very attractive to him to concentrate on something new... a blank page... rather than crawling through miles of snaky code, trying to smooth out the rough edges of the Frankenstein's monster he created. It's not fun or easy work, and now he's got all these new options dangled in front of him by influential developers, many of whom he no doubt has a great deal of respect for.

"The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time."
—Tom Cargill, Bell Labs

(That's not true, actually... but it sure feels that way at the time.)

But Notch's success and all this attention? It's due to his work on Minecraft, isn't it?! And that's the point, really. It's a *BIG* mistake to back away from your creations, even when they become a hard burden to bear. It's far better -- and more satisfying in the long run -- to face them head on, and finish what you've started. Anyone remember the bad old days when Civilization was developed by several different developers at once?! It cheapened the project, and risked destroying it entirely. But then Sid Meier created Firaxis, to provide "his kids" a good home to grow up in. Does anyone think he really regrets his decision?! Not likely.

I remember an old post by jwz on his days at Netscape, where he mentioned that after the long, long days developing the first version of the Netscape browser, the company had a big client with a special project that occupied them for six months or so. Not a long time, perhaps, but he later felt it was an essential part of Netscape losing its focus and lead in the browser wars.

Others in these comments are right... Minecraft will attract a flurry of imitators, who want to finish what Notch started. Focus matters, especially when you are already chugging at a full steam with the right team. You can cut the 14 hour days back to 8 or 9, and give people most of their weekends back, and the loss to the end goal will be less than what you might suspect by simply throwing more drowsy hours at the problem. You can give bored developers an hour a day like they do at Google to work on anything that interest them, and see whether lightning strikes twice... but focus on the big goal is paramount. It's what makes anything great great.
posted by markkraft at 5:53 PM on March 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Don't worry, I'm sure that's the design philosophy over at Mojang.

That was a little joke Minecraft Defense Force, please forgive me.
posted by codacorolla at 6:06 PM on March 2, 2011


I'll get it as long as there's a Vietnam expansion.
posted by ODiV at 7:12 PM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sheesh markkraft, as the original article and dozens of comments have already the comparison to LJ makes no sense. Scrolls is being developed by other people at Mojang while Notch and Jeb's noses remain buried in Minecraft's "miles of snaky code." There's been no indication that Notch is going to put Minecraft aside to start some new big project. He's merely invested the some of his profits into creating a company that will make other games as well.
posted by straight at 10:51 PM on March 2, 2011


Yeah, I think people are generally overreacting here. More people are working on Minecraft now than ever before. Scrolls is hardly a reduction of effort or a change in focus.

Notch is an indie developer who struck gold and now has enough money to pay for a team of indie developers to do whatever the hell they want for a long time. This is good news for all of us.

I'm waiting for the Vietnam expansion too though
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 8:17 AM on March 3, 2011


More people are working on Minecraft now than ever before.

This is true. The game is seeing an infinite amount more development than even five years ago.
posted by ODiV at 9:02 AM on March 3, 2011


Micropayment systems aren't bad in and of themselves - The kingdom of loathing does it particularly well, with a new shiny toy that you can buy, which might help you a little in game.

Hah. KoL's micropayment system, for the unaware, is that you can "donate" ten dollars and you get a little in-game token item called a Mr. A. Now, there's also an in-game store in which you can trade in said Mr. A. for items - one for an item introduced monthly and two for one of two items that rotate yearly (but with identical stats as last year's)

Now, a slight divergement: KoL as a game is very simple. It's a satiristic slightly multiplayer RPG, with thirteen levels of content and a few sidequests. What happens when you do all 13 and are done with the main quest? You either putter around and do the very limited postgame content or you 'ascend,' resetting your character but carrying over a single learned skill to your next life.

This has caused the entire metagame to center around ascending multiple times, to obtain every skill in the interests of making future ascensions easier and -- more importantly -- faster.

Now, why am I saying this? The item introduced in the Mr. A store every month is always either near-useless for the metagame (resulting in less income) or is vital for faster ascensions, requiring nearly every player interested in playing the fastest to pick one up.

That's only exacerbated by the fact that half of the time the items are untradable and locked in to an account after using them, meaning that you either pick it up while it's in the store or wait and spend even more once it's out, relying on the community's stockpile.

I don't really agree with the idea that KoL's micropayment system is great.
posted by flatluigi at 9:48 AM on March 3, 2011


"Scrolls is hardly a reduction of effort or a change in focus."

...other than the fact that money that was given in the hope of supporting the further development of Minecraft is now being diverted to a completely different project, and time and developer hours that would otherwise go into Minecraft's development are similarly being diverted.

So, yes, it can be seen as a bit of a betrayal, and a bit of a diversion, but not a grand betrayal and grand diversion. Yet.
posted by markkraft at 6:19 PM on March 3, 2011


Did the people who bought Half-Life expect that Valve would spend the rest of its career putting out expansions? Geez.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:13 PM on March 3, 2011


money that was given in the hope of supporting the further development of Minecraft is now being diverted to a completely different project

No one gave money to support Minecraft. They bought a game and the developer is free to use the profits from that sale however he wishes.

time and developer hours that would otherwise go into Minecraft's development are similarly being diverted

No, it's not. Notch never suggested he would hire a big team of developers to make Minecraft if he got lots of money. It was always sold as a game developed by one man. Now he's got two or more people working on it.

Clearly, Notch has enough money to hire as many people as he wants to help him work on Minecraft. He's done that. He's got the team he wants. Whether or not he uses the remaining money to fund new games like Scrolls, the effort going into Minecraft is going to be the same.
posted by straight at 11:11 PM on March 3, 2011


Did the people who bought Half-Life expect that Valve would spend the rest of its career putting out expansions?

No, but I fucking well expect them to release Episode 3 eventually. You hear me, Gabe?!
posted by adamdschneider at 7:34 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Markus "Notch" Persson is not your bitch.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 9:17 AM on March 4, 2011


Speaking of KoL and such, I have some Godville invites (4, to be precise) to share with my MeFi buddies. Just MeMail me if interested.
posted by Samizdata at 9:59 AM on March 4, 2011


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