During a talk at GDC 2012 described as a “fireside chat” with the man behind Minecraft (there was, in fact, an HDTV with a Minecraft block flame behind him), Markus “Notch” Persson discussed the evolution of the PC phenomenon in a talk moderated by Chris Hecker. In particular, he outlined how many of the game’s most interesting features were the result of feedback and unexpected interaction from the community.
Near the outset of the talk, Persson revealed that the original concept for the game was more of a dark, serious fantasy, but gradually, he discovered that players got more enjoyment out of the more whimsical elements strewn throughout early versions of the mining and construction game. He explains the design process as a mirror of the player experience: Persson discovers something he likes in the game and then iterates on it. As a result, many time he implements features without regard for whether they contradict another mechanic or code, and it’s at this point that it’s clear the developer almost relishes the minor and major chaos that can and does emerge from his game.
Persson went on to say that he tried to “localize” the Minecraft experience for players, or make sure that events that happened in the game were happening near the person playing it, illustrating his point by explaining it might not necessarily be very fun to build a house, go away, and come back to find out that it’s burned to the ground. He discovered that a major part of the player interaction in the game is players talking about their Minecraft experiences, although he still doesn’t know many specifics about user metrics—or measures of how people are playing—the game.
Finally, Persson revealed the answer to one of the most pressing questions about the Minecraft experience: why are there no female characters in the game?” According to Notch, he tried to make a girl model but given the construction tools in his own game, it ended up being “really sexist.” Still, if it’s any consolation, Persson likes to think of the characters in the game as genderless.