So that’s what I’m going to do.

Back before anyone knew who I was, I used to wanted to make huge games. Games where you can do anything, and everything you see in the game is there for a reason in the game. No fake doors that don’t lead anywhere, no trees you can’t cut down, and no made up story being told to the player to motivate them. Instead, the player would make their own story, and interact with the game world, decide for themselves what they want to do.

I’ve worked on two games like this. The first one I made with Rolf, and it was called Wurm Online, and it’s slow and grindy, but amazing. A few years later, I made Minecraft just as indie games were becoming a big thing, and it absolutely exploded. Because I enjoy talking to the players and community, and possibly because I will gladly share my opinions on things, I became recognized and got loads of fans. And then my tweets started becoming gaming news.

About a year ago, I started working on a third “omg you can do anything” game, called 0x10c. It was supposed to be a space game about actually being in character in space rather than playing as a space ship like you do in most space games. You’d try to keep your ship live while shooting aliens with laser guns, putting out fires and programming your own virtual computer in the ship. It was quite ambitious, but I was fairly sure I could pull it off. And besides, if I failed, so what? A lot of my prototypes fail way before they get anywhere at all.

What I hadn’t considered was that a lot more people cared about my games now. People got incredibly excited, and the pressure of suddenly having people care if the game got made or not started zapping the fun out of the project. I spent a lot of time thinking about if I even wanted to make games any more. I guess I could just stop talking about what I do, but that doesn’t really come all that natural to me. Over time I kinda just stopped working on it, and then eventually decided to mentally file it as “on ice” and try doing some smaller things. Turns out, what I love doing is making games. Not hyping games or trying to sell a lot of copies. I just want to experiment and develop and think and tinker and tweak.

Recently, I was streaming some Team Fortress 2, and got asked about the progress on 0x10c. I said I wasn’t working on it, and it became news. I understand why, and it really shouldn’t surprise me, but I really really don’t want to turn into another under delivering visionary game designer. The gaming world has enough of those.

Some people in the 0x10c community decided to work together to make their own version of their game, called Project Trillek. I find this absolutely amazing. I want to play this game so much, but I am not the right person to make it. Not any more. I’m convinced a new team with less public interest can make a vastly superior game than what I would make.

Last week, I participated in the 7dfps and made a hectic shooter greatly inspired by Doom, called Shambles, and it was some of the most fun programming I’ve done in many months. This is what I want to do. I want to do smaller games that can fail. I want to experiment and develop and think and tinker and tweak.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’ll also keep talking to the players and I’ll keep streaming myself rocket jumping in tf2 for whoever wants to listen to or watch that, but for now I don’t want to work on anything big.

I love you, dad

One of my fondest childhood memories is me sitting on a sled, being dragged along a thinly snow covered road by my dad. I was looking up at him and reflecting on the fact that he is also an individual person, just as I am. He has his own thoughts, his own wants, and his own memories. He’d had an entire life to live before I even existed.

Before he had me and my sister, he struggled with substance abuse and addiction, but managed to get over it with the help of religion and will power. I never knew anything about this, and never suspected anything until he had a relapse when I was a young teenager. This led to my parents breaking up and me not talking to him for a couple of years. When I eventually got over it and forgave him, we developed a very close and loving relationship.

He was around when Rolf and I made Wurm Online, and would play it a lot. He ran his own homestead and built some alliances, before finally getting tired of the game and moving on to Half Life 1 and 2. He’d sometimes call me and ask how to get past a certain point, and I would try to give him subtle hints. He had moved pretty far away in the country, both to avoid bad influences in Stockholm, and to isolate himself. I’d go visit sometimes.

Once during a spring visit, we went out with his car to a beautiful lake area and had some coffee and sandwiches, when his dog suddenly ran out on the very thin ice. We freaked out a bit and yelled at the dog to come back when the ice suddenly gave out and the dog fell in. It struggled to get up for a while before giving up and just hanging on to the ice, at which point my dad lays down on the ice and starts sliding out towards the dog. I’m running around, looking for a long stick or something (I wasn’t entirely sure what I would do with it, I just vaguely remembered something about long sticks being useful for ice accidents). I find one, turn around, see my dad being really close to the dog when all of the sudden a big chunk of ice around him breaks loose, tips over, and my dad falls in. I freak out. Then he stands up, the water only reaching about hip height.

The speed at which things had escalated from beautiful spring day to almost losing my dad was incredibly scary, and then suddenly realizing there never was any real danger sent me into a state of shock. I love my dad.

When I said I wanted to quit my day job and work on my own games, he was the only person who told me they supported my decision. When I made Minecraft, he was incredibly proud. He saw me win awards, and he saw the fans embrace the games, and he saw me start my own company. I said I wanted to fly him to Minecon, and he was reluctant because he wasn’t very comfortable with crowds of people, but he still went. He was obviously very proud of me the entire time, but acted a bit strange. We were afraid he had started abusing again.

He had wanted to move back to Sweden to be able to spend more time with us, so I helped him with the rent on a small house just outside of Stockholm, but at the last minute, he backed out. He had begun drinking alcohol again, and his anti-depressant drugs was making him act a bit strange at times.

The speed at which things escalated from him wanting to move back home to him shooting himself in the head was incredibly scary. His last thoughts, wants and memories was one year ago. I now have an entire life to live without him existing.

John Callaham: Don’t be a goat murderer

(I changed the title of this post to “goat murderer” to offend less)

An open letter to John Callaham:

I have never once said I don’t like closed platforms. I have quite a few of them laying around my house, and I love most of them. My Nintendo 3DS brings me headaches and remakes of good games, my PSP Go is pretty much the only one sold in the entire world, and my cable modem from Cisco brings me amazing internet access almost 98% of the time.

But my favorite device out of all of them is my PC. It’s an open platform, designed to be open, and to allow different hardware and software to all work together kinda-sorta crash free, and it’s amazing. I can install whatever OS I want on it, or even write my own if I happened to be a mad genius (I wish). I care a lot about my PC, and I want it to stay open, and will not participate in anything that would make it more closed.

For every user Microsoft convinces to use the Modern UI, they have one more user they get to choose what programs they can see. They get to certify programs and control the experience. This is great for them (and possibly arguable makes for a smoother end user experience as well, but that’s debatable if it’s good), but it places faaaaar too much power in the hands of a single entity.

This is my complaint.

Now, on to personal things.

You’ve never ever been cruel to animals as far as I know, and I find that very charming and manly. It’s one of the things I like most about you, in fact, and it would be a huge shame if you ever did something cruel to animals, but I know you won’t. So thank you for not being a goat murderer! It wouldn’t fit you at all!

Thanks for the personal attack,
Markus

Gender in Minecraft

[Keep in mind I am no longer the lead developer on Minecraft, Jens is. This post is about what I thought about back when I was making it]

If it wasn’t for the fact that the default Minecraft character is referred to as “Minecraft Guy” and that I once jokingly answered “Steve?” when asked what his* name was, Minecraft would be a game where gender isn’t a gameplay element.

The human model is intended to represent a Human Being. Not a male Human Being or a female Human Being, but simply a Human Being. The blocky shape gives it a bit of a traditional masculine look, but adding a separate female mesh would just make it worse by having one specific model for female Human Beings and male ones. That would force players to make a decisions about gender in a game where gender doesn’t even exist.

All the other mobs in the game are genderless and usually exhibit the most prominent traits of both genders. Cows have horns and udders (even if I’ve later learned that there are some cows where the females do have horns), and the chicken/duck/whatevers have heads that look like roosters, but still lay eggs. For breeding, any animal can breed with any other animal of the same species.

Obviously, I’m not saying this is a good way to deal with gender in all games, as the better your graphics are, and because of how quickly the human mind tries to identify the gender of other humans, you are going to have to make a decision as a developer about gender, but I felt we could get away with it in Minecraft.

There’s no point to this post. I just wanted to clarify, so there’s an official word on it.

Also, as a fun side fact, it means every character and animal in Minecraft is homosexual because there’s only one gender to choose from. Take THAT, homophobes!


* I do regret using masculine terms to talk about the default character. These days I try to use the up-and-coming use of “they” as a genderless pronoun.

Even experts get it wrong

This post is a reply to this: http://ricrichardson.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/mojang-reaction-incredibly-strong.html

Specifically, to this portion:

3. Patents are there to stop people stealing a technology you invented and letting you have a fair shot at making a living from it. If Uniloc wants to test this in court it is there prerogative, the same way that Mojang contested the use of the copyright term “Scrolls” and took people to court.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/113531-Bethesda-Doesnt-Enjoy-Being-Forced-into-Mojang-Lawsuit 

He’s confusing four very different things here. First of all, he calls it “stealing”, but nothing is lost from the victim in the case of using the same idea. In fact, you can break this law without even knowing that someone else thought of the idea first. This is one of the biggest problems with patents; there is no good safe way to find out if any idea you come up with is patented or not. Most other crimes require intent, patent infringement does not.

Then he goes on to compare patent infringement to copyright infringement, by bringing up when Bethesda sued US for trademark infringement, while implying that it was us suing them.

So in a single bullet point, he confuses theft, copyright infringement, patent infringement and trademark infringement. And confuses us with Bethesda.

Incidentally, the fact that they want to test this case in eastern texas doesn’t surprise me one bit.

On Patents

Let’s say you’re Neo, and you were the first person ever to come up with the idea of a novel. It’s like a short story, but longer, and you’re really proud of it.

Trinity then runs up to you and takes one of the few printed copies of your novel. You don’t want her to do that, as you paid good money to have it printed, and was hoping to get that money back, so you taze her. Trinity tried to commit theft.

She sulks for a bit, then asks if she can borrow one copy to read it. You say “sure”, but she sneaks off to the copy machine and starts printing her own copies of the book. You don’t want her to do that, as you want to be the only one who can make new copies of your novel, as you want to make a profit of it, so you taze her. Trinity tried to commit copyright infringement.

She sobs for a bit more, then starts writing her own novel. You don’t want her to do that, because you came up with the idea of writing a longer short story first, and you want to profit from all novels that are ever written, by anyone, so you taze her. Trinity tried to commit patent infringement.

I am fine with the concept of “owning stuff”, so I’m against theft. Society breaks down if people can’t “own stuff”.

I am mostly fine with the concept of “selling stuff you made”, so I’m also against copyright infringement. I don’t think it’s quite as bad as theft, and I’m not sure it’s good for society that some professions can get paid over and over long after they did the work (say, in the case of a game developer), whereas others need to perform the job over and over to get paid (say, in the case of a hairdresser or a lawyer). But yeah, “selling stuff you made” is good.

But there is no way in hell you can convince me that it’s beneficial for society to not share ideas. Ideas are free. They improve on old things, make them better, and this results in all of society being better. Sharing ideas is how we improve.

A common argument for patents is that inventors won’t invent unless they can protect their ideas. The problem with this argument is that patents apply even if the infringer came up with the idea independently. If the idea is that easy to think of, why do we need to reward the person who happened to be first?

I will say that there are areas which are very costly to research, but where the benefits for mankind long term are very positive. I would personally prefer it to have those be government funded (like with CERN or NASA) and patent free as opposed to what’s happening with medicine, but I do understand why some people thing patents are good in these areas.

Trivial patents, such as for software, are counterproductive (they slown down technical advancement), evil (they sacrifice baby goats to baal), and costly (companies get tied up in pointless lawsuits).

If you own a software patent, you should feel bad.

Hype!

So in an interview, Double Fine lead Tim Schafer mentioned that they wanted to make Psychonauts 2 happen, but that nobody had been willing to fund it so far. Being a big fan of the first one, and thinking a sequel could probably be profitable, I semi-jokingly tweeted Tim about me funding a sequel.

And then the internet exploded. (Or at least my inbox did)

And then Double Fine did their highly successful kickstarter.

Here are the facts of what’s happening now, from my perspective:
* Tim and I haven’t spoken much at all other than a couple of emails.
* We mentioned meeting at GDC, I hope that will happen
* I assume Double Fine will be very busy for many months with the kickstarter project
* The budget for doing a Psychonauts 2 is three times higher than my initial impression
* A couple of other parties have mentioned also being interested in investing in it
* I would not be investing in this as a charity. It would be because I think the game would be profitable
* And naturally, I wouldn’t want to have any creative input in the game. It would be purely a high risk investment in a project I believe in.

I have NO idea if this is actually going to happen. The kickstarter stuff obviously changes the playing field a lot. Investing that incredibly high amount of money also requires a lot of planing and discussion, and I’ve never done anything like that before, but I do have contacts and advisors to help me out.

All I know is that IF the numbers work out and IF they still want to do it and IF they don’t decide to self fund a sequel by doing more crowd funding (which is honestly what I would’ve done if I were them), I would be most interested in doing this type of investment.

Point is, stop hyping over this, internet! You’re going to scare me into doing things secretly instead of being open and transparent via twitter. I am incredibly scared of the very real risk of people feeling let down just because I took a chance at something that doesn’t end up panning out.

Also, I realize you won’t stop hyping, so I’ll just go into hiding for a few years if it falls through.

A poll on letting us snoop

We have no idea how you’re playing the Minecraft.

Right now, the only way we can figure out roughly what people are doing with the game is to track logins. Once you’re logged in, we have no idea what happens.

I was thinking it would be awesomely cool to add some kind of player tracking to the game. This would work by having the game connect to minecraft.net and send some anonymous and non-private data about the game, such as current game mode (single player, multiplayer), operating system (windows? mac?), how long you’ve been playing for (so we know how long a game session is), and whether or not you’re playing the downloaded game, or the applet on the webpage. It would probably connect every ten minutes or so so we can get some semi-realtime data. We’d share the data with the community, as usual.

Naturally, the data sent will be fully anonymous, so it wouldn’t contain any session information or your user name, and it wouldn’t send any sensitive information that you might not want to share.

Would you be ok with this? We’d really appreciate having that data!