Monday, October 3, 2011

Mojang up, Minecraft down.

The success of Minecraft severely damaged its development. When minecraft went viral and became a cash-cow, Notch decided to make Mojang into an honest-to-goodness software company. Mojang would make less money from rapidly improving Minecraft than from creating new products and selling them to new markets--markets which are augmented by the existing Minecraft fanbase.

The community would've done Notch's work for him if he let them. He could have started shifting the development of Minecraft to a model where the base game is a sandbox into which content makers can plug in different kinds of mechanics. But Notch didn't do this, he implemented a few nice, bigger features (like biomes) and a lot of piddly stuff (like more flowers, dyes, and such). Contrast Minecraft's content level with Terraria's: Terraria has been public a small fraction of the time, yet is continually adding new content and significant outstrips Minecraft in most meaningful measures of content.

Here's an example of where business gets in the way of game design and fun when it could have just as easily stayed out of the way. Here's where what is short-sightedly best for a company is not what's best for a game.

It also highlights the fading "games as platforms" trend. Notch could've turned Minecraft into a great platform for mods, but instead he has spent a significant amount of time implementing features that could've been designed and implemented better through the work of the modding community. The Minecraft community is large and the number of modders doing great work suiting the game towards different playstyles continues to grow. People have done all this work before Minecraft even had a real modding suite--these people had no sanctioned tools for modding, yet they did work of higher design quality and with fewer bugs and issues than the new content implemented by Notch himself. Imagine what they could do if they were given the full support of development tools and APIs specifically for their use. Minecraft would be a platform for a myriad of amazing games. Now people are doing that anyway, but the progress is significantly slower and Mojang actively impedes this progress through implementing more features that only a fraction of the community care about.

Minecraft passed up on the long-term business decision of becoming a platform upon which hundreds of good and fun games rely and instead opted for the short-term route of continuing Minecraft development conventionally and deallocating resources from it to work on other projects. The damage this does to Minecraft's future is palpable and frustrates me every time I play.


Jason said...

I know some people love mods, and even I do occasionally, but especially when it comes to multiplayer games it becomes annoying to try to keep up with all the various mods, to enable and disable as required for each server. I'd actually prefer it to be a game and not a platform, but I do wish he'd take cues from the community and implement their ideas (even their code) as easily configurable options that I wouldn't have to manually update to enjoy.

Ryan said...

I agree with you. A lot of times while I'm scampering around Minecraft, I say to myself "Wow! So and so would be a really cool idea to implement!" But so far I've found it rather difficult to search through, find, and install mods I'm interested in, and often they don't match my ideas very well.

If Notch did switch the focus to making just a base game, his own website could feature the modding and maybe the whole process could be more streamlined.

One mod I always want is one that allows you to place NPCs in buildings you create, and they wander around and generally "populate" an area. To me, that would create a much grander sense of a world population. Since I use Minecraft to give me ideas for world maps for other designs, this would be extremely useful to me.

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with evizaer. There are so many brilliant modders out there that it's a great shame Notch is so slow with implementing at least a proper API.

A few of my favourite client mods, in case the readers haven't seen those:
Better Than Wolves - a realistic (in-universe) industrial development mod featuring mechanical rotation power, steel making, pottery, and *many* more, all tied into the existing vanilla resources. The level of detail is more like Dwarf Fortress than vanilla Minecraft.
Zeppelin - a mod that allows you to turn any combination of blocks into a seamlessly moving (air)ship, controllable with your keyboard. This is quite a breakthrough and could have been a part of the original Minecraft design. The development on this is still quite in progress, so expect a few bugs (backup your world and ship designs).
Millenaire - an indirect-control town simulator. Features various historical middle-age cultures that inhabit settlements that randomly appear around your world map as you explore. Their citizens are NPCs that obey basic needs and work to maintain and expand their towns. Player can trade with them and aid their construction (no warfare yet but it's being worked on). The mod is a framework that supports custom content and will be expanded upon.

All these mods are singleplayer, but they are compatible with each other and you can still join vanilla servers.

P.S. What I would really like to see, is a 3d multiplayer Dwarf Fortress clone. That would hit the spot for so many people. The market is there.

Anonymous said...

With Minecraft being so "simple", perhaps it could revolutionize gaming with player created content?

Sure, in any ohter game user created contect would create all kinds of concerns, but perhaps it could work in Minecraft I surmise.

Anonymous said...

Minecraft ideas:

Tidal water: Not sure how that could be made interesting.

Message in a bottle: Dropped in the ocean floating outwards and eventually reaching some random player somewhere.

Anonymous said...

i agree its very annoing to have to seacher for the mods i want and then minecraft updates almost all my mods are uninstaled and its all for some stupid little superfluece thing when my mods made the game way better than it already was and yes some one should make a dwarf fottress mod that would be really cool!

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