Minecraft FAQ: Notch Shares The Secrets Of Minecraft's Success At GDC 2012

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Posted March 9, 2012 - By Rob Manuel

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Marcuss Persson, better known to the gaming community as Notch, is the man who created a world one block at a time, and an indie empire to go along with it, in the cultural phenomenon that is Minecraft. Notch sat down with Chris Hecker from definition six, inc at GDC 2012 to break down the very elements of what made Minecraft a huge success as well as the future for both him and the game itself as it continues to grow on the PC and comes to life on XBLA. In his talk, the developer reveals how by doing less you encouraged others to do more, and that there are still some secrets still left in Minecraft.

In keeping with the spirit of Minecraft, here are few choice conversation building blocks summarizing the big takeaways Notch presented during his discussion.

1. If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? Not in Minecraft. Actually, trees don’t fall in Minecraft. Chop away at the middle of the tree and the rest remains in place. Notch chooses simplicity over simulation to keep the work from becoming too complex. The foundation of the game is rooted in serious physics while additions over time get to be a little more whimsical. In order to fulfill the theme of an epic fantasy, the ambitious developer balanced simulation with the abstract.

2. Sometimes you just need to do first and fix later. Notch talked about working up a set of goals rather than concentrating on mechanics. By throwing things into the game, emergent behavior and unexpected consequences started to appear. Following goals instead of mechanics seems to work out for the best. Items such as the crafting box came from suggestions of things to put into the game. If the game feels as though it’s missing something, just toss it in. Contradictions sometime springs up like burning wool, but it doesn’t happen that often.

Minecraft PC

3. Notch said that watching wolves chasing sheep turned out the biggest surprise for him in the game. Wolves were never given the behavior to chase sheep, but they do. It makes sense. Instead of pushing mechanics and behaviors to the front of the game, Minecraft lets players find what they added to the game.

4. Crafting took on a life of its own early in the game. Originally, Notch wanted to create recipes that players could follow within the game. Instead, players turned to online resources such as wiki or used brute force to determine what would work and what would not. Making players use the internet to find concoctions helped to make the game go viral. For the XBLA release, Notch mentions that he’s introducing something new to crafting to help players create, but never mentions what it may be.

5. Everything you can craft has been discovered. Not everything in Minecraft itself has been discovered. Notch said that there’s one thing that players have not yet found. Go! Go! Go!

6. Notch mentions that making any sort of change within the game is a difficult process. He won’t take away anything that will destroy someone’s preexisting building or wreck their save. With that said, any sort of change will eventually mess up something someone designed because of how complicated some of the designs turn out. Someone brought up mobgrinders; devices created to spawn mobs of enemies, kill them instantly, and then loot the material that they drop. A whole community gathers around these gadgets to see how much loot they can collect in a limited amount of time. It's not that Notch doesn’t love these devices, but any tweaking of loot drops messes up the grinding competition.

Minecraft Ghasts

7. Theme is an important part of developing games. They give a way to set the audience’s expectations about what they’ll do or see in the game. Notch always tries to maintain the epic adventure feel with every addition to the game.

8. Creating female characters in Minecraft is tough. They don’t come out right.

9. If he had to start Minecraft all over again, Notch said that he would start thinking about multiplayer earlier in the design cycle. They’re currently working on how to make it easier for players to find their friends online.

Minecraft FAQ: Notch Shares The Secrets Of Minecraft's Success At GDC 2012


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