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Minecraft creator interview
April 6, 2013 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Markus "Notch" Persson, the modest Swedish creator of smash hit indie game Minecraft, talks about his life to The New Yorker. The game, Minecraft, a blocks-based worldbuilding sandbox for all ages, has sold 16 million+ copies so far and has been achieved extraordinary popular success as well as huge educational and critical acclaim.

As there is no middleman for his personally owned indie game business, Persson earned over 100 million US$ in 2012, although he is not that interested in money, and has moved beyond Minecraft in his game development interests
posted by Bwithh (100 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
The New Yorker piece is lovely, it's nice to learn more about the man and not so focussed on the game.

Whenever I think about Minecraft's development I go back and look at the first demo video from May 2009. "This is a very early test of an Infiniminer clone I'm working on. It will have more resource management and materials, if I ever get around to finishing it." It's really ugly and humble, but you can also see in it exactly what Minecraft is today.
posted by Nelson at 11:17 AM on April 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm a bit disappointed they didn't ask about his dead brother.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:25 AM on April 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


What's the story with his dead brother?
posted by fatbird at 11:29 AM on April 6, 2013


I remember getting Minecraft during the alpha and having to use Paypal. Now they sell cards in stores that you can take home, scratch off, and punch in the code to get your Minecraft license instead. Has there been a more successful indie game?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:30 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


fatbird: "What's the story with his dead brother?"

Herobrine
posted by Strass at 11:31 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


aaaand here we go.
posted by boo_radley at 11:31 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


People like to knock notch as a terrible developer, he probably is, but I don't know if having amazing developers is necessarily the key to having a successful game. I think Notch's strong suit is he has good taste. He turned All the quirky aspects Of minecraft, which may have actually been products of his own shortcomings, into assets. He left in his failed pigs as creepers. Creepers proved to be a huge boon for the game, maybe not as mobs, but as a focal point and icon.

He is also astonishingly public. Everyone knew about his marriage and divorce, he doesn't go a day without tweeting or interacting with fans in some way. His public persona really helped the game succed. The game gets cut a huge amount of slack because it's Notch, and Notch is cool.

Mojang is set to make even more money in the medium term with Minecraft Realms. I'd like to take some small amount of credit, I had been floating the idea that Bohemia do on demand servers for DayZ, but I know it is just wishful thinking that Notch read my Internet comments and stole my idea. Honestly it is a pretty obvious idea, but I think it is key to broadening the player base of games like DayZ.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:32 AM on April 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Soooo as someone who hasn't logged into the game for ...a ...year, can someone tell me if it's changed considerably? The last thing I remember happening was dogs being introduced and now there are like witches and cats and villages and spells and stuff?
posted by The Whelk at 11:33 AM on April 6, 2013


I actually signed up with PayPal to pay for the minecraft alpha. I had been avoiding paypal for years. Then I realized I could also pay for MetaFilter.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:34 AM on April 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Whelk, it's pretty much the same game, just there's so much more you can do. I'm way behind myself- I've been playing 3DS games, Borderlands 2, and WoW- but every so often I like to drop in on /r/minecraft and see what people are doing with it, and it's amazing how much more impressive it keeps getting.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:39 AM on April 6, 2013


This visualization of the development of the game is constructed by animating who worked on which files according to the logs. It is beautiful, and not surprisingly the game's complexity seems somehow to grow organically.

My 9 year-old kid loves this game and she'd live in Minecraft if I'd let her.
posted by Toekneesan at 11:46 AM on April 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Feed the Beast---a mod pack of more gadgets and blocks like motors and pipes---has reinvigorated the community recently. It's the Lego Technic to Minecraft vanilla's Lego.
posted by bonehead at 11:47 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


People like to knock notch as a terrible developer

Do people say that? I have only heard the opposite.
posted by zjacreman at 11:51 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been a programmer for a majority of my life -- 19 years to be exact. I have looked at the decompiled Minecraft code, going so far as to write a few mods for it. I don't buy the argument that he's a terrible developer. Yeah, there are things I would've done differently, but you know what? That code works. It runs decently for what it is, especially considering it's in Java, so there's an emulation layer between the program and the underlying hardware.
posted by spiderskull at 11:53 AM on April 6, 2013


Yeah I'm reading the wiki now and working back to what I last remember - it's so much bigger!
posted by The Whelk at 11:54 AM on April 6, 2013


I'm on the side of "Notch is a terrible software engineer". A lot of the code didn't work, for years, and was poorly tested. Things have improved considerably in the last year or two since Jens took over. There's still some persistent bugs but in general the game is on a much stronger foundation. Particularly the unification of single/multiplayer. Anyway code quality is beside the point; Minecraft's code was clearly good enough. And the game itself is brilliant, and that's mostly thanks to Notch. It's a unique achievement in game development.

I agree with bonehead that Feed the Beast has brought new fun to the game. It's sort of insane, some 50+ mods adding all sorts of chaos, but it's pretty stable and pretty balanced and fun. If you'll excuse the self link, I just blogged an intro to FTB that talks in more detail about what's there and how to install it.
posted by Nelson at 11:57 AM on April 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


has moved beyond Minecraft in his game development interests

Apparently also moved past 0x10c in his game development interests.
posted by DU at 11:58 AM on April 6, 2013


Do people say that? I have only heard the opposite

Well that is about Lundum Dare, Notch is admittedly very good at publicly coding a game in 2 days. I think where he fell short in Mincraft was architecture and maintainability. I'm not sure they have sorted out the issues that allowed the client side hacks that griefers use. Trusting the client in a multiplayer game is certainly an architecture issue.

Whatever, it's code, it can be changed. It is better to have a working successful game than beautiful code you pat yourself on the back over and causes no joy for anyone else.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:06 PM on April 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


The students at my (k-6) school are CRAZY for minecraft... girls and boys equally, which is pretty rare. They mostly play on iOS. The fact that I have a vinyl creeper with a diamond block on his head in my classroom has made me very popular.

In second grade we teach rocks and minerals, and while they always like playing with the rocks, this year they were intensely interested because we studied some stuff you can mine in minecraft. There are only a few concepts that are actually teachable within the game, like maybe making glass from sand, but the interest that it's sparked has been awesome.

Now, let's get some fossils in there, please...

Oh, ok. I think I'm heading for a virtual classroom inside minecraft...
posted by Huck500 at 12:29 PM on April 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you're interested in playing minecraft more as a game and less as a toy, I'd highly recommend better than wolves.

He's implemented a higher level tech tree including mechanical power and a more sophisticated enchantment system, but he's also made the early game much harder, including making torches much harder to make, a new hunger and food system, removing wood and stone swords, making the mobs harder to fight (spiders shoot web), eliminating beds except as decorative items, making all the food and animals harder to farm and so on.

It makes it a real achievement to survive long enough to even settle down, but it's fair, not frustrating. You have to make real decisions about whether you put down torches, and you may end up huddling by your furnace for light during the night.
posted by empath at 12:32 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I love Notch for this.
posted by Pendragon at 12:42 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


"So I introduced a rule: I’m allowed to spend half of anything I make. That way I will never be broke."

I think that might be a math joke.
posted by smcameron at 12:56 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a parent, I'm going to put this out there and say: Minecraft is the Mr. Rogers of my children's' childhood. It teaches them what griefing is and how it affects people; it teaches them that whatever they create is special and unique; it teaches them that a diamond sword is only as valuable as you can wield it.

and also...Tisssssssssssss
posted by digitalprimate at 12:57 PM on April 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


If you're interested in playing minecraft more as a game and less as a toy

Never! What I love about Minecraft is what I love about rules-lite RPGs. There is just enough game there to hold things together, while the real action happens in the imagination of the player(s). It's not so successful despite not being very game-like, it's so successful because of it.
posted by howfar at 12:59 PM on April 6, 2013


The students at my (k-6) school are CRAZY for minecraft... girls and boys equally, which is pretty rare.

Yeah, I have boys and girls and they ALL love playing it. Very unusual, especially with my very girly girl.

They play differently, of course, One of the boys and the girl prefer creative mode, or playing with animals while the other boys prefer fighting monsters. Oh and one uses it to build computers out of redstone.
posted by DU at 1:00 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not so successful despite not being very game-like, it's so successful because of it.

I think it's successful because people can play it however the want to. I like a game-play challenge. You don't. It accommodates both styles.
posted by empath at 1:33 PM on April 6, 2013


As someone who's heard tons about Minecraft but never actually played it, can anyone encapsulate the appeal? It seems like a virtual world made of Lego, more or less, maybe with a dash of D&D, where you can build and buy stuff?
posted by gottabefunky at 1:37 PM on April 6, 2013


I love that every preteen kid I know is playing Minecraft instead of Call of Doing Stuff With Guns. I may allow this next generation to gaze briefly at my lawn.

And it invalidates all the arguments that I've ever had about Java being a sucky language for games. $100 million worth of validation at least.

Though I don't know how I would handle the internet's level of scrutiny with stuff like Notch's vacation schedule. I would have probably fallen off the grid by now.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:41 PM on April 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


One of my favorite (of many) Minecraft moments was when my kids invited a troublesome cousin onto their server and warned him that any griefing would be dealt with harshly. Of course, he ended up spamming some dynamite, and so of course they used a mod to put him in prison until he agreed to behave himself.

The best thing about Minecraft is that it's an intensely social, creative and co-operative game.
posted by unSane at 1:58 PM on April 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Though I don't know how I would handle the internet's level of scrutiny with stuff like Notch's vacation schedule. I would have probably fallen off the grid by now.


Holy shit that's not OK. I would be so freaked out if people analyzed my life like that...
posted by Strass at 1:58 PM on April 6, 2013


can anyone encapsulate the appeal?

What do you want to do?

Do you want to explore? Minecraft has a pretty fantastic random algorithm that creates some pretty great natural caves and waterfalls and islands and etc.

Do you want to build? Find a sweet cave system and make it your own! Build a house out of whatever material you think looks coolest, fill it with all sorts of cool stuff, build pens to keep your animals in, harvest crops.

Do you want to fight? Upgrade your equipment through mining and killing dudes, build an obsidian gateway, and take down the hell dimension. Shit, I dunno, I haven't played since they added half of this stuff.

Do it all with friends! The game is compelling, and it runs well enough on just about anything.
posted by graventy at 1:59 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


can anyone encapsulate the appeal?

Sure! It's a virtual world made of Lego, more or less, maybe with a dash of D&D, where you can build...stuff...
posted by DU at 1:59 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


RobotVoodooPower: "Though I don't know how I would handle the internet's level of scrutiny with stuff like Notch's vacation schedule. I would have probably fallen off the grid by now."

To be honest, that image is both funny and damning, and spending 50% of a year's working days on vacation or other leave seems to fit pretty well with the "non-corporate" image he projects in the New Yorker profile.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:02 PM on April 6, 2013


To be fair, that was just 2 months of 2011.
posted by graventy at 2:05 PM on April 6, 2013


Though I don't know how I would handle the internet's level of scrutiny with stuff like Notch's vacation schedule. I would have probably fallen off the grid by now.

It really is insane. Not just that people analyze his every move but that he reports details of his life to the internet with that level of detail. In a way I think it is dangerous that he never separated Minecraft Notch, and Private Citizen Notch. We can't expect people to be always on, always representing their product or company. I think it leads to stuff like this recent kerfuffle with that creative director from Microsoft.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:10 PM on April 6, 2013


My partner read me a tweet a couple of weeks ago: "My kid doesn't need parents. He has Minecraft."

The kids here are really into it. They build amazing things--my oldest, who is 11, and a friend built a replica of the battle of Helm's Deep, for instance. My 8-year-old--oops, he just turned 9--likes to build tricky puzzle worlds where you have to solve things to get through them, with clever or misleading signage. He also writes books in Minecraft, and once he built a small amusement park with a roller coaster.
posted by not that girl at 2:20 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder how soon after I made my first $100 million I'd claim I had no interest in money. Probably pretty quickly, but I think I'm going to need to experiment to find out for sure. Someone want to show me how that Kickstarter thing works?
posted by item at 2:24 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


My son is 6. He and his friends (girls and boys) play 'Minecraft' on the playground at lunch - pretending to be creepers and skeletons and zombies.

This degree of cultural penetration is astounding, for a game I dropped $10 on the alpha version of three years ago.
posted by Jimbob at 2:25 PM on April 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


My son is 6. He and his friends (girls and boys) play 'Minecraft' on the playground at lunch - pretending to be creepers and skeletons and zombies.

That is awesome!! I played Minecraft heavily during Alpha, but haven't been back in a long while. Every time I see things like this thread, I want to go back. I miss my valley on the Aporkalypse sometimes... But too many other ways to spend my time these days. Still, I'm glad to have been a tiny part of the game's spread, and reading stuff like that makes me so happy.
posted by gemmy at 2:32 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there a space ( as in travelling to the stars and finding new plantes etc.) mod for Minecraft?

A friend of mine's 6/7 year old really like space at the moment so it will be a good intro hook.
(is 6 too young to play solo? do they need adult assistance?)
posted by Bwithh at 3:04 PM on April 6, 2013


Minecraft is the kind of game I enjoy for an hour or two per day, over a few days, until I recoil in horror as I realize I am taking time out of my life to pretend to be constructive in a virtual world. The Sims had the same effect when I played games where I wasn't trying to ruin their little virtual lives. I'm very engaged up until that moment, and enjoying myself. But that moment when I process that thought really sinks it for me.

Somehow, doing something in a game that would be horribly destructive or unrealistic in real life is more appealing to me. Such as managing an economy in Anno, or running and gunning against aliens in Half Life 2.

It's for this reason I never picked up redstone even though it was well incorporated when I started playing the game in earnest. I have a tackle box of electrical components. I could build something cool on perfboard that functions in the real world. Or I could crochet something. I guess despite being a video game nerd in high school, I kind of prefer the tactile, small scale creativity compared to a virtual, large scale creativity.

EDIT: To be clear, I'm not saying Minecraft is a bad game. It's a great concept that's been brought to fruition, regardless of the quality of the code. I just think it's kind of weird to play in a sandbox when real life feels kind of sandboxy, from my perspective.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:09 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, is 0x10c cancelled? Or just in a hiatus?
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:10 PM on April 6, 2013


nobody knows.
posted by boo_radley at 3:14 PM on April 6, 2013


I hope 0x10c gets finished, I mean there's already a standards committee for crying out loud.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:19 PM on April 6, 2013


He talked about it in this interview yesterday
posted by Ad hominem at 3:22 PM on April 6, 2013


0x10c has never really had a purpose. Fly around in a spaceship. Program a 16-bit computer. The thing that made Minecraft always fresh and interesting was the procedurally-generated terrain; lakes, mountains, caves, beaches, forests, swamps. I think 0x10c is severely handicapped in this area - one procedurally-generated star field is going to look a lot like the next, which means there had beter be something seriously interesting in the gameplay and strategy to make up for it.
posted by Jimbob at 3:24 PM on April 6, 2013


Which I haven't been able to read yet cuz it crashes my iPad. The gist I got from the 0x10c subreddit is that he is either hiring a dev team for it or it is dead depending on how much faith you have.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:24 PM on April 6, 2013


They've added too much to the game. The alchemy systems and final bosses all direct gameplay too much. The old game was a bunch of random Lego blocks; the new game is a prefabricated Lego TIE Fighter set, complete with directions.
posted by painquale at 3:26 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The cool thing about Lego though is that you can throw away the directions and do whatever you want.
posted by Aizkolari at 3:28 PM on April 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


"So I introduced a rule: I’m allowed to spend half of anything I make. That way I will never be broke."

I think that might be a math joke.

Yeah, on first reading you think he's talking about his piles of money.

But he's making a subtle reference to Zeno's Paradox, which I think I remember first from Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid retelling of the story of Achilles and the Tortoise.

He may be a crap programmer, I don't know, but he gets major points in my book for that alone. And Minecraft is a good argument for the agile "ship early and often" software engineering methodology.
posted by formless at 3:41 PM on April 6, 2013


The cool thing about Lego though is that you can throw away the directions and do whatever you want.

Yeah, but you're left with all these Yoda figures and lightsabers that clearly want to be used in a certain way and that constrain imagination.

I think you can make a game worse by adding stuff, even if everything you could do before is still available. I don't need suggestions about how to play whispered in my ear, even if I'm free to ignore those suggestions.
posted by painquale at 3:47 PM on April 6, 2013


I probably would have stopped playing Minecraft, but my kindergarten-aged son got into it last fall and it re-kindled my interest. He loves building things and watching Joe Hills getting blown up by Creepers on youtube.

I love playing on hardcore mode where every advancement has to be made very carefully.

It's the only computer game that's held my attention (give or take) for three years.
posted by drezdn at 3:47 PM on April 6, 2013


I read spend half of what he makes like this: he makes $100* in a month, and can spend $50 of it. Next month, he makes another $100 and can spend $50. He still has $100.

Zeno's Paradox is very cool, though.

*Amounts may vary.
posted by Solomon at 3:50 PM on April 6, 2013


They've added too much to the game. The alchemy systems and final bosses all direct gameplay too much.

I tend to agree, the whole magic component of the game feels out of place, and would maybe work better as a mod. Most of the spells are focussed on combat, which is not really one of Minecraft's strengths or why people like to play it. It's nice to see Mojang focussing on some more redstone ideas recently, as that kind of creative system feels more key to the game.

The villagers and trading system are a little questionable, too. The villager system still feels half-finished and I think it's going to be hard to make it feel like an essential part of the game.

I don't mind the fortresses and final boss, because they are so hard to find that they are almost a secret, and I like that the game rewards that kind of determined exploration.

I would like to see Mojang focus on adding more simple components to the game and let the players figure out fun things to do with them. Things like wheels, levers, pipes, trampolines. Mirrors, maybe. A simple mirror block would be a lot of fun.
posted by oulipian at 3:57 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


A few weeks ago a friend came through town on his way elsewhere and crashed on my couch for the night. We're both in our late 40s and we fall on opposite sides of the generational gaming divide. He still thinks Pac-Man and Donkey Kong when he hears the words "video game". I have had GTA5 pre-ordered for months and I've got an exhaustive list of everything I didn't like about the new Tomb Raider ready just in case anyone ever asks.

So after a few beers he jokes that all our pop culture references are more than a decade out of date, such is the fate of the middle-aged, ha ha. I noted that in his case he's decades out of date: he didn't know who Link was, where Big Daddy and Little Sister came from, what "zerg rush" meant.

His response was yeah, well, I don't have kids. And video games are for kids.

I started Minecraft on my XBox 360 and handed him a controller. Just mess around with it, I suggested. There followed about fifteen minutes of this is dumb how do I wait what's that argh which button why punch a tree etc. Once he got the hang of it, I left the room to grab fresh beers and rustle up some snacks.

His screams brought me running.

"Fuckin' green dude hissed at me and everything exploded! How do I go back?"

"You don't."

"He ruined my house!"

"Build another. Maybe better-lit this time."

He was transfixed. He stayed up until 4 AM playing it.

I don't know of any other modern game that could so quickly hook a non-gamer.

Once you really grasp the malleability and the size of the world Minecraft gives you, it's exhilarating. I set the game down around the time of enchanting tables and villagers. It was getting too complex, too grindy. But seeing the joy it brought a hopeless n00b rekindled my interest. I always liked building roller coasters.....
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:03 PM on April 6, 2013 [16 favorites]


Mirrors, maybe. A simple mirror block would be a lot of fun.

Oh yeah, and stained glass (although I think that's on the way); just the graphical improvement of metal and glass blocks being reflective would be amazing, although that's probably non-trivial to accomplish in a sandbox game like Minecraft. You can't have precalculated environment mapping etc.

I can see how the increasing complexity can be stressful, however. I like the vanilla game as it is, because I've kept up to date and managed to learn all the new additions, more or less. But I tried Feed The Beast last week, and I was completely utterly overwhelmed. Bees? What the fuck is that green rock in the ground? What's that white ore? Aluminium! What the hell do I do with aluminium? What is that glowing thing buzzing around me? What is that black alter up on the hillside? Oh shit what's killing me?!
posted by Jimbob at 4:07 PM on April 6, 2013


So after a few beers he jokes that all our pop culture references are more than a decade out of date, such is the fate of the middle-aged, ha ha. I noted that in his case he's decades out of date: he didn't know who Link was, where Big Daddy and Little Sister came from, what "zerg rush" meant.
I didn't know what "zerg rush" meant, so I Googled it. There was a very helpful example...
posted by Jehan at 4:09 PM on April 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


Hah! Googling zerg rush is hilarious.

BOP's friend is definitely decades out of date. Zerging is 15 years old now.
posted by Justinian at 4:28 PM on April 6, 2013


So... I'm 66 years old. My idea of video games is a TV set and and an Atari 800.

I've seen lots of references to Minecraft over the last few years including a recent article about building of Westeros in Minecraft.

This FPP convinced me to download a copy for my laptop and entered the world this afternoon. So where do I start? Do I just wander around the single player beginners game until a good feeling about what I'm doing? Managed to get myself killed twice before I gave up on this afternoon's session.
posted by jgaiser at 4:43 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


jgaiser: "So where do I start? Do I just wander around the single player beginners game until a good feeling about what I'm doing? Managed to get myself killed twice before I gave up on this afternoon's session."

Personally I took the easy route out and watched a few basic youtube videos after wandering around and dying a few times.
posted by Strass at 4:46 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


So where do I start?

Minecraft is quite unusual in the minimal intro it gives you. It pretty much assumes that you're going to google things in the early stages to figure them out. although once you get going, its kinda more fun _not_ to google things.

Early priorities are: get some wood, make a crafting table, make a pickaxe, get some stone, find some coal, make torches, stay safe at night.

See here: minecraft wiki - first day
posted by memebake at 5:09 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Minecraft is my go-to when I'm feeling depressed. Used to be, when I was sad or lonely or scared or I couldn't sleep, I used to lie in bed and pretend I'd suddenly woken up in a wilderness, and I had to make shelter, find water, hunt for food, build defenses, explore... Minecraft (and I usually use peaceful setting) is like that but with slightly worse graphics.
posted by The otter lady at 5:26 PM on April 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yeah, Minecraft on PC is pretty much unplayable without looking stuff up online at the same time. That's part of why it's so insane that the game has been so successful; I never would have guessed that would work. I mean, how do 6 year olds figure it out? The Xbox release worked around thsi by simplifying crafting and adding an in-game recipe book. Anyway, the first day guide linked above is great. Also this crafting page has all the recipes on it, a good way to explore all the stuff in the game.

One of the FTB mods I particularly like is Thaumcraft. It adds a magic system with wands and golems and fun stuff. The best part is that it makes discovering recipes part of the game; you research them by experimenting on various items. It's pretty neat and a nice solution to the wiki-dependent design that bugs me.
posted by Nelson at 5:38 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this the thread where I can tell everyone that I was playing Minecraft last night and I was returning from a long and productive sea voyage and was just heading into my little home harbor loaded with loot when my boat ran into a surfacing squid and I died? Because that is what I am going to do. I respawned and high-tailed it back to the scene of the crime to salvage what I could. Oddly my boat was still intact (Minecraft boats can fall apart on colliding with particularly burly lily pads.) In conclusion, Minecraft is a land of contrasts.
posted by gamera at 6:17 PM on April 6, 2013 [18 favorites]


When I get home, I'm totally playing myself some Minecraft. When I studied abroad in Spain, I got the alpha, which addicted me to a point that I regret now: I could have been at the Prado or the Parque del Retiro; I could have been making friends. Instead, I built a floating castle by a waterfall. But there's no changing the past, and the toy really is a wonder.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:35 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't really stand reading The New Yorker ever since they published that hatchet job on Will McAvoy.
posted by Bonzai at 6:52 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't buy the argument that he's a terrible developer. Yeah, there are things I would've done differently, but you know what? That code works.

A lot of times it hasn't worked so well.

A constant source of frustration was that there were some core architecture/best practice things that, professionally, would be Day 1 decisions. Like, what are we going to do about testing? How are we going to handle bug reporting/tracking? What exactly is going to be client side vs. server side? Some things you want to be doing right from the beginning because it will be very difficult to add in later, and trying to sort of solve them as you go is a bad idea.

On top of that, I think if you followed what he did/said about releases it could be maddening unprofessional, especially when it came to how much and what kind of testing he did before releasing. Then there are the little bugs that just took fucking forever to get fixed. Are there still random dark spots? I haven't played in awhile.

I think Notch is brilliant. I think he is very good programmer, but not a very good software engineer, gnomesayin'.
posted by fleacircus at 7:07 PM on April 6, 2013


To be honest, that image is both funny and damning, and spending 50% of a year's working days on vacation or other leave seems to fit pretty well with the "non-corporate" image he projects in the New Yorker profile.

Of course, this doesn't say anything about how much he works on the days when he's not on a vacation. I assume that with a game like Minecraft where features are constantly added, there's a lot of crunch time.
posted by ymgve at 7:42 PM on April 6, 2013


Yep. Still random dark spots, which apparently can't be fixed without "rewriting the lighting engine". I think this is bullshit. The dark areas fix themselves if you walk near them/update something near them. So why not, when a chunk is generated, send an update signal to every 8th block, or something?
posted by Jimbob at 7:43 PM on April 6, 2013


I still play obsessive amounts of Minecraft and I'm beginning to think I always will, given that it's been, what, four years now? It's a bit embarrassing now that it' s marketed so heavily to kids and I am rapidly approaching 50. Now I am the weird old lady who plays minecraft, freaky, although a friend's son after spending an hour wandering through a couple of my worlds thinks I am a goddess, which is nice. I'm not stopping, anyway. It's changed my life. For the better? Hard as hell to say. What would I have been doing with all that extra time? Tomb Raider?
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:18 PM on April 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Still random dark spots

That bug has a long and sad history. I distinctly recall one release Notch putting out that said it fixed it, then a followup patch the next day saying "terminate lighting calculation after N iterations of the loop". Apparently he has some infinite calculation bug and rather than finding and fixing it, he just put a band-aid on top of it. There were a lot of band-aids like that in the early days but much of it has been fixed. It's surprising this one persists. Especially since the OptiFine folks have gotten so deep into the rendering engine; you'd think they'd have looked into the lighting too.
posted by Nelson at 8:20 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


and here, I self link. There's more here. Argh. These are old, too, nowadays I mostly go around saving villages, making them into really well designed functioning towns with working economies. No, seriously. It's a full time job - a clinically insane full time job, but there you have it. See, the villagers are really not as down as one would hope with urban renewal even when it's done in an environmentally and culturally sensitive manner. And this is from me, the woman who honestly considered creating the incredibly annoying mod Vegan Pacifist Super Green Minecraft. Which kinda sucks, to be honest, but is actually doable.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:24 PM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I never, ever would've thought that BitterOldPunk could make me feel old and out of touch, but thus is the power of the mighty Metafilter, I suppose.
posted by item at 9:17 PM on April 6, 2013


Is there a space ( as in travelling to the stars and finding new plantes etc.) mod for Minecraft?

A friend of mine's 6/7 year old really like space at the moment so it will be a good intro hook.
(is 6 too young to play solo? do they need adult assistance?)


You do not want Minecraft.

You absolutely DO want Kerbal Space Program.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:52 PM on April 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Thanks for the tip, this looks promising... Is Kerbal Space Program playable by a 6 / 7 year old? ( with/without parent help?)
posted by Bwithh at 11:10 PM on April 6, 2013


Anyone can 'play' it. I'm going to bet that a persistent 6 year old is likely to be able to figure out how to get a ship to launch before your average parent.
posted by empath at 11:31 PM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Playing the demo:

Hurrah! I launched a rocket! It left the atmosphere!

Wait

The parachute didn't launch

And we're in orbit now

So the chute doesn't matter

Crap

Sorry little guy
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:44 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ooh, is this where we share minecraft pics? I only have them for my spoooooky graveyard, but I'm pretty pleased with it. (I don't think the password I give there for my Painterly settings works any more since the textures format changed, though.)

My first advice for new players would be to look at the achievements listed in the options screen, they're organized to suggest things you might want to try next. You'll still have to look stuff up in the wiki, but at least you'll know what to look for.

My second advice is to think of a project. Anything you want -- build a sweet pirate ship, or a bauhaus-style mansion, or carve that mountain into a lava-spewing skull fortress, or whatever. Caving for the sake of caving is fun at first, but it gets old eventually. Caving because you need diamond blocks for the corners of your ostentatious marble temple is much more satisfying.
posted by rifflesby at 2:47 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, how do 6 year olds figure it out?

I don't know, but my 5 year old, who doesn't know how to read yet, knows how to craft everything, how to make portals, etc., and he certainly didn't learn it from me.
posted by signal at 4:33 AM on April 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love how the mod community for Minecraft is like a macrocosm for Minecraft itself. The analogy doesn't hold up great under scrutiny but still: fabulous maker toy constantly tweaked and improved upon by makers.

The future, y'all. We're in it.
posted by wemayfreeze at 6:02 AM on April 7, 2013




my 5 year old, who doesn't know how to read yet, knows how to craft everything

That's awesome. This is on the PC? I'd love to know how he figured it out. Does he play online with friends? Maybe he reads enough to look at the crafting pictures on wikis? Ask him and tell us, for science!
posted by Nelson at 8:17 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd love to know how he figured it out.

Probably YouTube. That's how my kids learned about complexities of the game before they could read. And then the Minecraft Wiki gave them lots of practice reading once they started. And now Redstone is teaching them the basics of circuitry and logic design.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:22 AM on April 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


By the way, as far as kids go, there's a few things not really mentioned in the interview. You don't have to play with the monsters. There's what's called Creative mode without monsters and with infinite resources. Then it can just be a giant sandbox. We rent some server space and that allows me to choose who my daughters play with and in what mode. It also allows us to install worlds, skins, and mods they find on forums and on YouTube. You have to be vigilant in supervising their discovery content, but they are lots of safe places for kids to learn how to play and really cool worlds to install and explore. Now my older daughter makes videos herself. They're just on her own private YouTube account for now but I love that she's also interested in teaching others.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:34 AM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the tip, this looks promising... Is Kerbal Space Program playable by a 6 / 7 year old? ( with/without parent help?)

I have absolutely no idea what a 6/7 year old is capable of these days. I don't even really remember being one. I guess it depends on the kid. I will say there are a lot of good video tutorials out there. Now, with parental help? I don't see why not! How easily frustrated is the child in question? My first couple of hours with the game were pretty much like that montage in the Right Stuff when the rockets are all just blowing up on the pad or immediately after launch, but I found that fun and amusing, too. Your rockets are going to crash. That's just how it goes.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:42 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


> The best thing about Minecraft is that it's an intensely social, creative and co-operative game

I recently went to a Minecraft themed birthday party for a 10-year-old. His parents had set up a server and a bunch of computers (some guests brought their own laptops) and it was awesome. About half of the kids had Asperger's or similar problems with social interactions, and I'm not going to pretend it was all peace and love and sustained eye contact, but they all played together and they all had fun.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:55 AM on April 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


You don't have to play with the monsters. There's what's called Creative mode without monsters and with infinite resources.

You can also set the difficulty to Peaceful, for no monsters but without the unlimited resources. Personally I feel like the thiings I build in Creative mode aren't as meaningful to me, because not having to scavenge materials (and being able to fly) makes it too easy. I do use creative for planning out what I'm going to build, though.
posted by rifflesby at 10:30 AM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think Notch is brilliant. I think he is very good programmer, but not a very good software engineer, gnomesayin'.

This is a good distinction, and I've been wondering if it doesn't apply to other products for a while. I haven't met a dev yet that doesn't dislike the WordPress internals (in a way that goes beyond the usual "hell is other people's code" reaction), plus it's in PHP which is most definitely not a cool-kid language these days, but WP has been wildly successful at its job and has a big ol' fanbase. Not to mention even some n00bs manage to write themes/extensions for it.
posted by weston at 10:51 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]




The corpse in the library, I have two daughters, one 7 on the spectrum, one 9 and not on the spectrum. They both play, but 9 is much more immersed in the game than 7. 7 likes watching games being played, but doesn't typically want to join. 7 loves drawing more than almost any computer game. She plays them occasionally, but leaves after a while for marker and paper. I was worried about her getting too obsessive with the game, I was even advised by her doctor to discourage computer games, but it was for naught. These days, if she isn't making art then she's more likely to be watching her sister making a movie of her gameplay than she is to play herself.
posted by Toekneesan at 12:47 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


People like to knock notch as a terrible developer, he probably is, but I don't know if having amazing developers is necessarily the key to having a successful game.

I have no idea if he's a good programmer, but as a game designer, he's a genius. Minecraft has a dozen brilliant design features, any one of which would be sufficient to call Notch a great designer:

1. The whole 3D Lego thing. Notch got so many things right here.

1a) The scale. Each Minecraft block is a subjective meter cubed. Imagine how tedious building would be if the basic unit were the size of a real-world brick. Lots of people are initially turned-off by the coarse blockiness of Minecraft, but once you start building stuff you realize how right it is. And the interface for selecting and placing blocks and the mechanics of putting them in place is all very slick and easy and satisfying.

1b) Mining for materials - it's amazing how much more satisfying it is to build things out of materials you've gathered yourself. And like the building - mining and gathering materials is very well tuned (with, for instance, just enough delay that using stone tools is not tedious, but iron and diamond tools are a worthwhile upgrade).

1c) Creative mode and Peaceful mode. So very many sandbox games create worlds that are enormous fun to play around in and then ruin it by putting a bunch of obstacles between you and the fun: forcing you to play a bunch of missions before exploring the world (GTA), forcing you to sit through hours of cutscenes before you can play (Assassin's Creed), ramping up the combat difficulty so you're too busy fighting for creative messing around (Just Cause 2). If you want to just get building without having to mine for materials, you've got Creative Mode. If you want to build without harassment from monsters, you've got Peaceful mode.

1d) Multiplayer. Building stuff with friends, wandering around on a server filled with other people's amazing building projects, in retrospect it's obvious Minecraft should be a multiplayer game, but there are plenty of games that seem like they'd be great co-op experiences yet remain single-player only.

2. The random terrain generator. It is an enormous achievement to create a program that can create endless beautiful hills, valleys, mountains, canyons, forests, oceans, beaches, lakes, and oceans -- all filled with caves, caverns, and tunnels -- all of it as fascinating and rewarding to explore as an authored and designed game world. And again, the design decision to make the world out of big meter-cubed blocks was essential to successfully do this on low-end computers (in a browser window, no less!). Minecraft would still be one of my favorite games if it had no building, no mining, and no monsters or combat.

3. The day/night and dark/light mechanics. You're safe to build by day, but at night monsters come out. Tunnels are dark and dangerous, but you can light them with torches and be safe in any area that you've explored and illuminated. This is a brilliant game mechanic, adding a strategic dimension to the traditional RPG dungeon crawling in a way that's never been done before. Even without the monsters, just the ability to place torches, illuminating a dungeon as you explore it, is a great game innovation.

4. Creepers. Monsters that lurk outside doorways or sneak up silently behind you as you're digging or building or exploring and then explode. Do you have any idea how hard and rare it is to come up with a genuinely new kind of video game monster? Much less one so iconic? In Minecraft, dying isn't necessarily a big deal, so having a monster that not only can kill you, but can wreck what you're building? Genius.

5. Sound design. The creepy sounds of zombies and skeletons shuffling and moaning nearby. The way the game will sometimes play creepy ambient sounds if you're just looking in the direction of a dark cavern (even if it's behind a wall, or in the ground beneath you) is a marvelous bit of procedurally-generated foreshadowing: you will find something creepy if you dig in that direction. The addictively-satisfying bubble-wrap-popping sound when you gather up mined raw materials. The horrible thunk when your pick breaks. The sound of a nearby underground river. The cinematic (but unscripted) way that a skeleton's arrow will go thwiiiiipTHUNK! into the wall next to your head when you peek into a dark place.

6. Emergent gameplay. Minecraft has just enough components (including monsters, caverns, animals, water, lava, resources, crafting of tools & weapons) that all interact with each other sufficiently to generate compelling game narratives like Mine The Gap and The Minecraft Experiment, none of which were authored or designed explicitly by Notch, but are made possible by the systems he created and by his decision not to try to force the player into some kind of pre-designed adventure or story.

7. Selling beta access. Notch realized, "Hey, this isn't remotely done, but it's already lots of fun. What if I let people who preorder the game play around with the beta version?" He sold 4 million copies before the game is officially released, that's what.
posted by straight at 3:15 PM on April 7, 2013 [38 favorites]


My angle on Minecraft: teaching programming! The pull that Minecraft has on the 4th-8th graders at my children's K-8 school is amazing. I've informally polled groups of them asking whether learning how to write server mods would be appealing, and about 2/3rds of them light up and start bouncing. Wide-eyed, they say "you can teach me Java? Cool!" I plan to gather 10 -12 or so of them this summer for a day or two and work on doing something fun and cool. I was happy to see this has recently been tried with some success.

I've been thinking about doing this for about a year, but I was holding out for Mojang to publish their Mod API. I have now officially given up on that, and will use the fine Bukkit API. The main drawback as I see it is that the poor Bukkit folks have to keep reverse engineering any changes Mojang makes to the server in order to preserve the API. Odd that hiring a group of the Bukkit folks (over a year ago!) hasn't made this situation any better.

I believe my main challenge will be in setting expectations about what we can do in a day or two so that expectations are exceeded, yet it's still fun. Well, that and harnessing the energy of 10 or so middle-schoolish kids. It should be a hoot.
posted by dylanjames at 3:21 PM on April 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Each Minecraft block is a subjective meter cubed. Imagine how tedious building would be if the basic unit were the size of a real-world brick.

This is a funny thing. I know they are supposed to be 1m cubed. I know this. Stack two on top of each other, they are as tall as my character. I can walk down a 1x2 tunnel. However, when I'm playing I can't get past feeling the blocks are actually more like 1ft cubed. Maybe it's the perspective of the view you're given?
posted by Jimbob at 4:42 PM on April 7, 2013


when I'm playing I can't get past feeling the blocks are actually more like 1ft cubed.

Well, that might be because the items in the game are all one block wide or high, and most of them (torches, pieces of chicken) probably wouldn't be a meter long. Looking down at your feet in the game, there is no way that the block you are standing on is a meter square. The way I think of it is that a Minecraft "meter" doesn't equal a real-world meter, and if Minecraft people were real they'd only come up to our waist.
posted by oulipian at 5:30 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh god.

I just bought the game because of this thread at 6pm and now it's midnight and I have not eaten dinner or done anything to get ready for the week.

I do have a cool mountaintop fortress though.
posted by Aizkolari at 9:12 PM on April 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


The way I think of it is that a Minecraft "meter" doesn't equal a real-world meter, and if Minecraft people were real they'd only come up to our waist.

The camera is a bit fish-eyed, too.
posted by rifflesby at 9:29 PM on April 7, 2013


Oh god.

I just bought the game because of this thread at 6pm and now it's midnight and I have not eaten dinner or done anything to get ready for the week.

I do have a cool mountaintop fortress though.


I returned to this game today. I created a new world. Seeing no impressive hills near the swamp where I started, I dug an underground shelter. This offered only one exit, though. The local fauna could explode next to me as I went out. Rather than dig a second exit, I used daylight to build a tower over my burrow. At night, I mined stone for the tower. When complete, it stood two stories high. I made the upper floors of glass so I'd have a skylight.

From my shelter's antechamber, I mined down to the left and down to the right. The right mine turned up nothing but stone and ore, as I'd hoped. The left mine uncovered a massive cave system. When I'd stocked up on armor and weaponry, I explored the caves, placing torches to the left so I'd always know which way was home. Where the torches doubled back on themselves, I placed signs.

I hoped to find redstone so I could make a compass and a map.

I found redstone, but it lay far out of reach at the bottom of an abysmal ravine. The caves returned and returned to the ravine, always at different levels, always without access to the bottom. I made at least half a dozen forays, taking as much iron and gold as I could.

On the last trip, having gone much farther than felt comfortable, I found a tunnel that rose almost to the surface. I could hear rainfall. I tried to dig up, but everywhere I dug, I brought sand and water down into the caves. My shelter was on a peninsula. I had dug north: I guessed I was still under the ocean. I decided I couldn't explore the whole system with the equipment I had. I turned back.

A weird lack of monsters greeted me as I made my way through the tight and dark way home. After what must have been an hour, I saw the staircase back to shelter. I mounted the first step. Something hissed behind me. BANG.

I survived - nothing had much weakened me - but I decided I would celebrate my homecoming by building a house on a low hill to the east of my tower, where the swampland met a snowy taiga. I made sure it had plenty of windows to let the sunlight in. It felt good not to be underground.

And that was my day today. Oh, this is a wonderful game.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:08 PM on April 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


I posted this in the Bioshock Infinite thread, but someone's already built the city/world of Columbia in minecraft.
posted by mothershock at 5:39 AM on April 8, 2013


Mefight Club still runs multiple servers (including one running Feed The Beast, I think), and you won't find a better gang to play with, so if you're new to the game or returning, do stop by, sign up, and jump in!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:36 PM on April 8, 2013


I just signed up for MeFight Club last night. I tried to join one of the Minecraft servers, but it seemed empty, and the doors at the spawn kept shutting in my face. So I went back to my single-player game.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:42 PM on April 8, 2013


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