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Behind the scenes at Mojang: the birth and abrupt end to Minecraft follow-up 0x10c

Thursday, 13th February 2014 12:56 GMT By Thomas Arnoth

It is a bug

Even though Markus was tweeting and writing a lot about the game on his blog and the game’s website, it was a completely different process compared to how it was with Minecraft. Then he did not start writing publicly about the game until it was playable. The players had the first version of a game that they could give Markus feedback on, which he could then respond to. In the beginning there were not that many players either. It was a small audience. Now it only took a few days before you got tens of thousands of hits on Google when you searched for 0x10c, fan sites quickly started showing up and a 0x10c wiki was started.

And it did not take more than a week before an alternative 0x10c game showed up in the App Store, something that Apple removed when Alex Chapman contacted them. This was another difference compared to the 2009 version of a Notch game: certain basic legal steps preceded it. For example, Chapman had, on behalf of Carl Manneh, investigated and made sure that 0x10c was not a protected trademark; they did not want another ZeniMax affair.

0x10c_gun

The interest surrounding 0x10c was, in brief, huge, fully in line with when a bigger game studio reveals that they are developing a new game. Both game sites and other media were reporting.

But there was a small catch; there was no game to play for anyone other than Markus and his graphic artist. This meant Markus was only able to inform the fans about the game rather than having an open dialogue. Because the game was still in such an early stage of its development, a lot of the information was technically advanced. Like the instructions for how to program the 16-bit computer onboard or, for example, this post from the middle of October 2012: “I ran a few tests this week, and at 500 ms latency with 20% packet loss, it seems to be able to handle 1000 packets per second (quite a lot more than it will ever use) indefinitely, which is nice. Of course, I’m ending up reimplementing a lot of TCP, with packet resending and ordering for most things, so I’m not totally sure all this work is actually worth it, heh.”

It is not that easy for a mere mortal to understand what Markus was talking about here, even though it is far from the most technical thing that he has written about the game. But there was always that typical openness with his work. Markus wrote about what went right and what went wrong, like in the above where he finished with saying that he is not even sure that the work he had just done will be worth the trouble. When he posted a picture of a piece of source code from the game on Twitter, he discovered shortly afterwards that he had programmed a bug that was visible in the image.

At a big game studio, that would have been a disaster. Or, rather, it would not even happen. First of all, they do not post pictures of the source code. Secondly, every picture that is posted has been thoroughly examined in advance by developers, the PR department and lawyers. There are rules for what can be shown and how many images you need to display. For example, there are always two or three pictures released at the same time from war shooting games where you can see vehicles and weapons. The reason being that if you only show one image you risk being sued by someone who feels that their product, meaning a specific vehicle or weapon, is exposed too clearly. If you have several images, that situation is avoided. And that is just one example.

It is not the bugs or the complicated mathematics behind the game that eventually got to Markus. He just didn’t have the energy or feeling for the space game he originally envisioned. In 2013, he decided to abandon the project.

But Markus sent out a picture of a bug. He quickly corrected his mistake, but not in secret. He did so in full view with the tweet: “Haha, I just saw a bug in that screenshot. ResendInterval 0 means it’s sending the packets again immediately. Fixed!”

He even pointed out what his mistake was, in case someone had missed it.

But it is not the bugs or the complicated mathematics behind the game that eventually got to Markus. He just didn’t have the energy or feeling for the space game he originally envisioned. In 2013, he decided to abandon the project and told all the fans on social media — and that was it. Shortly thereafter, some fans ask to finish the game themselves if it is okay with Markus, which it is. No one yet knows if 0x10c will ever resurface and in what form.

Excerpt from A Year with Minecraft: Behind the Scenes at Mojang by Thomas Arnroth © 2014 by ECW Press. Used with permission from the publisher.

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6 Comments

  1. Ireland Michael

    This is some top class journalism right here. Reminds me heavily of the kind of detailed insight you would often find in culture magazines years ago, before they all got lazy and just started copy pasted shitty crap from the internet all the time.

    More of this please. Seriously, a lot more.

    #1 8 months ago
  2. fihar

    @Ireland Michael
    It’s an excerpt from a book, so there is still some copy-pasting going around.

    #2 8 months ago
  3. Ireland Michael

    @fihar I know that. That’s not what I meant. I’m saying this sort of thing works well as an article.

    #3 8 months ago
  4. fihar

    @Ireland Michael
    Sorry, I identify journalism with sleuthing.
    I liked what I read, but I doubt it involves much sleuthing.

    #4 8 months ago
  5. TheWulf

    Honestly, the best bit of “journalism” I’ve seen in years was the Double Fine documentary. Which is bizarre, yet undeniably true, and I suppose that that’s one of the reasons why Double Fine is so special and unique.

    I like VG24/7 as a news site, to be honest. No sleaze hounds, no sensationalism, just the news as it happens.

    #5 8 months ago
  6. Sadismek

    This is a game I would’ve loved to play. Too bad Notch felt too much pressure on himself, got carried away, lost interest or whatever. Too bad.

    #6 8 months ago

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