He now gets help with the business and support side of running a company but only one of the developers he hired is working on the game with him together. The other developer is getting their next game up and running.
What’s also interesting is that Notch does not want to run the business, at least not at the scale at which it is now. He hired people to do that for him.
"Time-lapse screencap video of a games programmer"
It is a masterpiece. I wish that I could play it again for the first time.
Do you think that might be a concern? I would very much love to see Notch continue to be successful, and it would be a shame to see him lose his multi-million dollar company due to silly legal reasons.
I don’t see any problems with that, at least if Notch hired the right people. If you think that running a business (that’s not just one guy selling a game on the Internet but a real business with an office and employees and all the rest) is not your strength and if you much rather want to spend most of your time coding it should be possible to let someone else run the business for you.
Eh, I would not say that. Minecraft is not seriously competing with AAA big-budget titles like God of War. They have completely different audiences. Yes, GoW is extraordinarily expensive to create, but it offers a gameplay experience that Minecraft doesn't and never will. Or at least, by the time minecraft can procedurally generate an experience like GoW, the big-budget AAA franchises will have moved on to something flashier.
And certain franchise titles are attractive because of the licensing, eg the NFL. That is unfortunate but not something the gaming industry can do much about immediately.
I picked GoW to contast with Minecraft because its a big-budget title with exactly the strengths that Minecraft lacks. It's narrowly focused on the theme of a god-slayer who engages in brutal close-combat. It's loaded with detailed, hand-crafted content that all fits together coherently, supporting that theme. The story, the art, the scenario/level design, the cinematic design, which is seamlessly integrated into the actual gameplay and superb performance on its target hardware (at least, for the length of time I've played it) all make a difference.
A cow in Minecraft looks like a Gateway computer box: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eD6qUTQDvU4
A cow in God of War is a 35-foot tall minotaur whose armor spews some sort of steam as Kratos rends it asunder: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_xbbD7RgCg
I'm not taking anything away from Minecraft here. It is a fantastic game-- the point of Minecraft is entirely different from the point of GoW. Anyone playing Minecraft cares more about what the cow represents than what it looks like. But people playing GoW care a great deal what that Minotaur looks like. They care how he looks, how he moves, how the camera tracks him during the encounter, whether there is a brief fps hit when the garbage collector kicks in, etc. Currently, to get a game full of scenes like the one linked in that GoW youtube video, you need a team of designers, artists, and developers working with excellent directors and leaders.
Publishers definitely like the idea of pumping up their games with unnecessarily large budgets, even though it works against them on a risk/reward basis, because, at least in theory, throwing money into a game will lead to a work of higher quality than the competition. And internally, everyone in charge of such projects can fall back on the prestige and instant attention assumed from having such an obviously detailed, polished work.
And yet Nintendo has never felt much need to compete on that level. They give their games plenty of marketing, for sure, but product development stays pretty tight. As far as the public knows, they never let a product explode into a monumental 4-year effort. But their games are still good and still attract a sizable audience, and they've had the most success of the big publishers in substantially expanding the game market.
Comparing the two approaches, I take the opinion that most of the console publishers are overextending themselves with an outdated strategy. It was more compelling to try to push the budget upwards in past eras, where the technology was just barely making new things possible each time, and the market was full of early-adopter types who wanted to see the shiniest thing around. But the differences between the best-looking games of 2011 and the best-looking games of 2006 are pretty subtle to the uninitiated viewer, nothing like the gap between any previous five-year comparison. And the overall trend of gaming has been towards more accessibility and less (overt) complexity. So our notions of quality have to change with it, and that greatly upsets the balance of power in game development.
The people buying games? God of War 3 moved 1.1 million units in a single month at ~$60 retail. Minecraft just topped 1 million units total last week, at $13-20 a piece.
This isn't taking away from Minecraft's success at all -- and what was essentially a one-man show making $15M+ off a single title is absolutely phenomenal success -- but I think it's silly trying to directly compare the two given the differences in scale. Neither is a replacement for the other.
Reminds me of what I heard happened with American cars. The more space your team's components had under the hood, the more prestige you had in the company. As a result, American cars kept on getting bigger and bigger. American companies kept on ignoring the small car market, which left an inroad for foreign companies.
That question is almost entirely irrelevant. Here are some relevant questions:
1. Is the game entertaining? (If so, why?)
2. Do enough people buy the game to cover development costs?
3. Do the people involved in the project feel they are fairly compensated for their work?
4. Do the people involved in the project derive satisfaction from their work?
Publishers definitely like the idea of pumping up their games with unnecessarily large budgets, even though it works against them on a risk/reward basis, because, at least in theory, throwing money into a game will lead to a work of higher quality than the competition.
I don't have much game industry experience but from what I've seen of business in general there are different parties pushing in either direction and a final budget is a product of negotiation and chance. I doubt such a generalization about the game industry is actually true.
Comparing the two approaches, I take the opinion that most of the console publishers are overextending themselves with an outdated strategy.
Fortunately, there are more than two approaches to game development.
I would be the first one to want that to be true (since I'm trying to break into indie gamedev). However, only notch with minecraft showed that so far, and while it is an immense success for an indie game - sales figures are modest in contrast to AAA games.
Sure, but there's a large audience who doesn't care about flashy, they care about fun. Minecraft is fun; flashy doesn't make a game fun.
The big paradigm change here, is for people who want to create videogames.
If I want to create games, I probably will send resumes to all big videogame companies and call it a day. But minecraft has shown me that doing indie game development is a much more rewarding path, both in terms of money and in the feeling of accomplishment.
So lots of brilliant programmers that could have ended making money for the big-budget AAA franchises will probably start making money for themselves.
The game has a reward schedule in the form of hard to find materials (diamond). It's not uncommon to spend half an hour strip mining underground looking for materials. 19/20 times you just find more stone, but every once in a while you find coal, iron, diamond, etc.
I heard of the game from the dwarf fortress forums, penny-arcade, and then later on Techcrunch and other blogs. The people talking about the games, who made the most out of it, tended to be the type with gaming experience, willingness to turn a blind eye to its current graphic set, and an imagination large enough to see the potential of the game world.
Basically, outside of the core audience of the game, there will be a sudden drop in the number of people who would be willing to give it a shot.
I'm sure that will first sell to teenage boys, then by word of mouth to their sisters, and from there to their mothers and grandmothers.
Not even all boys like noisy games that require fast reactions and a zillion different key combinations (which I guess applies to GoW)
"Because I want to avoid us just focusing on reaching release,
I suggested that we should dedicate 50% of the development time
in Minecraft towards adding fun new stuff. Basically, any developer
working on the game (two people at the moment) can just come up with
something they’d want to add on a day-to-day basis, as long as the
rest of the team thinks it’s a decent idea. If it ends up being fun,
it gets added." 
 - http://notch.tumblr.com/post/2687176736/information-dump-inc...
"Braid and Minecraft are both examples of how a few good
ideas, executed in an accessible and affordable way, will
outsell franchises by orders of magnitude."
How much profit has CoD made after all costs are accounted for? (including advertising, which minecraft skipped by going viral)
How much money did CoD make per developer?
This specific group of people maximizes profits by producing big AAA titles which require some genius but mainly a lot of solid work. If they started churning out 1000 pseudo-Minecrafts every year, 99% would crash and burn. The rest would make good profit -- not as much as one Call of Duty, though. For EA- or Blizzard-like entities, the Minecraft-model makes a lot less sense than producing predictable juggernauts like Starcraft III and Halo 43.
Call of Duty: Black Ops credits 60 artists. It's very clear, watching Minecraft, that they have hired zero artists.
Making a commercial game is not merely about hiring 900 average developers. Frankly it's becoming clear to me that many people posting here have never been involved in a large creative project, even something as common as stage crew in your high school musical.
I don’t really see the connection to Minecraft. It managed to be commercially successful and critically acclaimed without any artists, isn’t that just the point? It’s nice that economies of scale allow us to throw 60 artists at a game and that’s something independent games can probably never deliver but that doesn’t automatically make games by big studios better than those that cannot afford 60 artists.
The main difference between Notch and EA is not that EA has 900 "thoroughly average" developers, that's the point. If EA has 900 developers it's probably because they have dozens of projects going on at the same time. The difference is that EA's approach to game development typically requires a diverse array of specialized talent, which incurs administrative and organizational overhead, which is costly and slows everyone down at least a little. But, the goal is a game that could not be made by just one person. The number of "notch-like" developers they may have would just be one factor in the success of the game.
EA is old, enormous, and there is almost certainly full of bureaucratic inefficiency and mismanagement that a single programmer won't have, but "900 thoroughly average developers" aren't representative of those resources.
People would get motion sickness watching me playing Descent.
I would turn around when moving forward just for the sake of it.
All Java haters should watch the video of Notch coding away in Eclipse.
I think it's more interesting that Minecraft is a Java APPLET. (at least the free version I played was)
The paid version gives you the option to run it either as an applet or a downloadable auto-updating jar.
> Why it matters
> Sounds interesting, you say, but why should I care that a few guys have put together a cool little indie game? The reason you should care is because a team of four or five people using free libraries and cross-platform tools have just made a mockery of the last five years of franchise-oriented, $50 million budget, yearly-release, AAA game development. And it’s not just a fluke. The Humble Indie Bundle, World of Goo, Braid, and a number of other extremely low-budget titles have electrified the gaming community, while games with millions in marketing budget like APB and Kane & Lynch fall flat on their face critically and commercially. Gamer discontent with these barren blockbusters is palpable, and Minecraft is the new poster boy for it.
Oh, they've "electrified the gaming community", have they? But how well are they doing financially?
Apple's App Store has enough successful apps to give developers hope, but the PC videogame scene needs more data points, before I'll start considering going "indie", as the kids call it.
How well does Minecraft do in terms of protection against piracy? I haven't heard a lot about it, and considering games like the aforementioned World of Goo's problems with it.
This is like saying that the success of Audiosurf on Steam ushered in a new era that developers would now be able to repeat. Steam has definitely made a big different, but everyone, calm down and take a deep breath for a second.
Notch is a friggin' wizard, and as much as people will try to reverse engineer its success, don't try to create a trend graph with one data point. I think it'd be devastating to give aspiring developers the impression that the road to success has been paved. Notch has found a way, but he hasn't paved it for the rest of us.
In a while i'll show HN my project relating to this. :)
I find myself thinking only of Half Life and Portal. Half Life, in which people were crazy about Gordon Freeman (and he fit the part) and Portal, which did not do this in the slightest.
Has it become conspicuously common? I've fallen a bit out of touch with modern games.
Moreover, the incredibly high cost of production of many modern games limits the sorts of games that get made. Minecraft level sales are barely enough to cover the costs of making a game at a company like EA or Activision.
Hopefully Notch's success will lead to the development of Minecraft as a highly modable platform for roughly similar games and also to the development of new low-cost game systems that produce no less enthralling experiences.
And when we look at the quality from that time period - A little over a decade ago - games like Diablo, Starcraft, Quake (2) and Unreal were the ones with the best quality. With a bit of effort, indie developers and startups these days can easily beat the quality they had.
If this continues, what will we see in 2020? As the quality a game can achieve converges towards some limit (At least I'm assuming so), will indie games be more and more common and actually manage to make games that will challenge big-budget franchises?
Minecraft hits so many of my "god I love this game!" features it's easily my favorite game of 2010, even though it was an alpha release.
It doesn't sound like Farmville (also seems to have negative connotations here for some reason).
And the lego includes a few sets of mindstorms for programmable fun.
For Farmville part. Isn't there not much to do after the 'survival mode' at night?
However, one huge warning: The learning curve is 100 times harder than Minecrafts, and the base art for he game is asci!(although you can upgrade it with user made graphic packs) It will also take all of your processing power.
The games ambition is to simulate an entire fantasy world, literally. His recent update was on the lines of:
" Now you can take rock nuts, for instance, mill them into a nut paste, then put them in a screw press to get oil (into a jug) and a press cake. Both of these can be cooked and the oil can also be made into soap. The press cake shouldn't be as yummy, probably, or maybe it should be restricted as animal feed, but currently it is just food. Jugs are currently anything but clay pretty much, and clay is the next step." - (http://www.bay12games.com/dwarves/index.html)
The game procedurally generates a world, identifies different types of biomes, soil layers, weathers the terrain, flows rivers, amongst other pre-start activities. After that it populates the world with civilizations, and simulates interactions, wars, kidnappings, interactions/fights with monsters/demons, for about a 1050 years before presenting you the world to do what you will.
The game creates a LOT of emergent scenarios and stories, one of the more recent ones was this: http://www.nzfortress.co.nz/forum/showthread.php?t=20768
Its immense fun, but the learning curve is brutal; the starting screens without any graphics pack look like the matrix. Really - http://www.bay12games.com/dwarves/screens/dwf5.html
The game is mind-bogglingly complex, and immense fun. Worth taking a look into.
Some other interesting stories which derived from the game-
Boatmurdered - http://lparchive.org/Dwarf-Fortress-Boatmurdered/
Curated thread with links - http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=41896.0
I really wish I could have played that game.
I'll try again with vanilla DF when I have the time.