'Minecraft' Designer: Gaming Industry Should Emulate Board Games, Not Hollywood - Developer Pop Quiz #8


Developer Pop Quiz is a weekly interview series in which we ask developers from around the industry the same 10 questions and post their responses.

"Minecraft." If you frequent gaming news sites, you've likely heard the name bandied about. You may have even seen screenshots, like the one above. It's not an easy game to convey, and it's not the most user-friendly game for newcomers, but it's one of the most innovative games I've played all year. If you're looking for a primer on what "Minecraft" is about, watch this "Inception"-style trailer, and then watch this video of a dude accidentally burning his house down in the game. That should give you a good idea about the magic of "Minecaft."

Perhaps more interesting is that such an innovative game was dreamed up by one individual, Markus Persson (or "Notch," as he's known). He started developing the game just over a year ago, and since its release it's had 1,317,860 registered users, over 400,000 of whom have paid for the game. In other words, it's a massive success. And with that, here's Markus:

Name: Markus Persson

Title: Game Developer and Founder

Company: Mojang Specifications

Job Description: I design and program games

First title worked on: First commercially released title? "Wurm Online"

Most recent title worked on: "Minecraft"

What game has most influenced you, and why?

Possibly "Dungeon Master" on the Atari ST. There's a lot of clever game design in there for the time, and it does a great job at telling the player what to do without relying on text. "FTL" also really managed to pull of the feeling in the game, making it feel almost like a real physical space.

What are you playing right now?

Right now I'm playing "Civilization 5" on PC, "The Treasures of Montezuma" on iPad, and beta version of a crazy indie game called "Super Crate Box."

What was your first break in the games industry?

I'm not really that involved in the mainstream game industry. We're starting up a company now and try to do our own thing as much as we can. The first time I really spoke with someone on the inside was back when I was working on "Wurm Online" and we started talking with a guy working for Bethesda.

What's the best advice you've ever gotten?

"Don't take advice". While you should listen to what people say, as they often have a great reason for saying it, things are much more interesting if you do things your own way.

Where do you look for inspiration?

Music, usually. I usually listen to either electronic music a la Squarepusher and Autechre, or to hiphop, where it's anything from Beastie Boys to 50 Cent.

What's the biggest lesson you've learned about game development?

If you take the time to make sure the immediate interaction with the game is fluent and fun, you're much more likely to end up with a good game. There are some counter-examples, though, like "Resident Evil 4" being a really good game despite, or almost thanks to, a horrible control scheme.

Who do you think will come out on top this console generation?

I'm a Sony fanboy, so I'm going to ignore the facts and go with the Playstation 3.

What do you think is the biggest problem current games suffer from?

Fortunately, people are starting to wake up to it, but there's been an alarming trend of focusing on block buster games with huge production budgets that are expected to sell well for a week or so, then everyone forgets about it and moves on to the next one. Not only does that lead to worse gameplay as taking risks gets too expensive, but it also means that games get designed to be played for a much shorter time. Why the computer game industry has chosen to emulate Hollywood rather than the board game industry is baffling.

What is the most important thing that has happened to gaming in the last 10 years?

Digital distribution, and the gradual move from seeing games as a product towards seeing games as a service. For the games themselves, nothing major has happened in the last 10 years.

Where do you see gaming in 5 years?

The obvious trend is micro transactions and games with a longer lifespan. I think we will also get more games that are playable across many platforms, so you can check your character level from your pc at work, romp through a dungeon from your console when you get home, then accept a guild invitation from your cell phone before going to bed, all in the same game.