It’s tempting to say that Mojang’s fans are working on more of their games than they are. Last year’s 60-hour MoJam game, Catacomb Snatch, spawned its own ongoing community project. And no sooner had Notch dropped programming-in-space game 0x10c than it was picked back up by his fans.
Now Notch hammers out tiny Unity experiments like Drop and Shambles, while the rest of the studio plugs away at Scrolls. And to hear the formerly fedora’d man talk at last weekend’s Minecon, experimental is how it’s going to stay.
Asked whether Mojang will default either to a continued prototyping or a more regimented development style in the future, Notch replied that he thought the studio “should aim for a mix of it”.
“I think there are some things that we need to do, like we need to have the customer support and payment systems working, but those are a bit more internal,” he told Mojang’s Chief Word Officer, Owen Hill. “I think when it comes to game development I would prefer it if we did it in more the style I’m comfortable with, just experimenting.”
As a small team funded by a game that’s “kind of too big a success”, Mojang have been afforded a unique opportunity to explore the ideas they like best at their leisure.
“So we could just do prototypes, hopefully, and see what sticks,” said Notch. “And then whether or not we want to talk about it publically depends on the team who’s working on it – because sometimes there’s a little bit too much pressure and it doesn’t feel as exploratory any more.”
If you’ve a suspicion that Notch is speaking from experience, you’re onto something. It was Minecraft’s gigantic, procedurally-generated shadow that sapped Notch’s enthusiasm for working on 0x10c.
“I didn’t necessarily know that I felt that way,” he said. “I just kept comparing everything to Minecraft, and that’s kind of how 0x10c came to be, but I think it was too big for me at the time to do.
“Maybe in the future when I don’t feel that burden, I might do it. But then I kind of thought about it for a while and decided, ‘No, I’m just going to do the small prototypes for now’, and it feels better.”
And of course, being the creator of Minecraft isn’t really a burden.
“It’s one of the biggest blessings in life, obviously, that it happened,” he concluded. “So I’m still happy about it, but it does affect me in a way. It’s a completely crazy thing.”
The Mojang prototypes that have seen the light of day have been uniformly brilliant. Now that Noth has given up on building a worthy follow-up to Minecraft, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to suggest that he’ll soon happen upon, er, a worthy follow-up to Minecraft.
What do you make of this paradoxical Swedish games company and their projected future?