Minecraft: a Study in Community-Enriched Game Development

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Minecraft: A Study in Community-Enriched Game Development
Arts of Expression: Computer Games with Julie Johannes Authored by Pete Biancaniello November 10th 2011

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Who do game designers and developers create games for? Seems like an obvious question right? Game designers create games for consumers, for gamers. Yet typically gamers are not very involved in the process. These are people who are experts in their field, who know what they want and are a resource that is mostly untapped. There is one game where this is entirely not the case however. The game in question is called Minecraft. Its unique communityenriched development style has made not only made it one of the most successful computer games in history, but has allowed it to have a large impact on game development as a whole.

The Minecraft Wiki provides many details about the history of Minecraft’s development. Minecraft began as a pet project of game developer Markus “Notch” Persson in May of 2009 after he left his job with a larger company. Originally priced at ten USD Minecraft has been available for sale since its initial alpha versions. When the game moved into its beta phase the price was increased to twenty USD. These costs assure users every future version of the game. For a bit of background on the actual game turn your attention to a description taken directly from the games website. Minecraft is described as “a game about placing blocks to build anything you can imagine.” It really is that simple. The earliest version of the game featured only a few different types of blocks and just let players roam around building whatever they chose. As time went on however this changed drastically. The first major updates were essentially aimed at improving the game’s physics. This meant allowing the player and certain blocks to be affected by gravity and then adding water, lava, and lighting.

With all of these new features being added eventually the concept of different game modes arose. The original idea of “place and remove blocks freely” would be dubbed classic and

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a new, more “realistic” mode would be called Indev. Indev was the first mode to feature the advanced physics options mentioned above as well as other additions like fire, day and night cycles, and resource collection. Players no longer had full access to blocks and instead had to find them in their worlds. Around this point in the development process Notch decided that in order for Minecraft to continue evolving it would need two things. One, some sort of overall goal, some conflict to resolve and two, a larger development team. Eight other people were brought in and thus Mojang Studios was founded (Mojang). Keeping with the original design philosophy of simple is better, Survival mode was born. Survival featured the addition of monsters to the game that spawn during the night. It also featured a more robust terrain generation system, allowing for new and more interesting terrain for players to explore. Later additions included new creatures, a new underworld dimension to explore, a simple circuitry system, and more items. Eventually another mode similar to Classic that contained flight and access to all of the new features called Creative came into existence. At the moment Minecraft is in beta version 1.9.5 (Minecraft Wiki).

There is one extremely common question surrounding Minecraft that needs to be addressed at this point. Why is it so popular? More specifically, why have so many people bought it and why do they enjoy it so much? Minecraft is not a graphically advanced game like so many others on the market nowadays. The graphics are very simple and almost primitive and while three-dimensional are reminiscent of an older time. This perhaps is one of the sources of appeal. It harkens gamers back to their younger years spent playing far graphically simpler games. Nostalgia seems to be a key factor in Minecraft’s success. Many people can relate the...
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