In this exclusive excerpt from his book A Year With Minecraft: Behind the Scenes at Mojang, Thomas Arnoth details the beginning and abrupt end to Notch’s “difficult second album.”
Look, I made a mistake
There is another universe parallel to ours, one where the space race never ended. In fact, space exploration once was so accessible that it became popular with wealthy companies and individuals. But in 1988, something went horribly wrong. A new type of cell for deep sleep was released, a cell compatible with every 16-bit computer.
Unfortunately, there was a design flaw with the computers controlling the sleeping cells, a flaw that made everyone in the cells sleep until the year 281 474 976 712 644. When people then slowly started waking up, they awoke to a universe on the brink of extinction, a universe where the black holes were many and energy scarce. This is the set up for 0x10c, Markus Persson’s new creation that was made public in March 2012. The actual sequel to Minecraft. Or as Jakob [Porser, Mojang co-founder] put it: “The difficult second album.”
“I think he was hit by a late hangover from Minecraft” – Carl Manneh, Mojang CEO
In the beginning, Markus did not reveal exactly how 0x10c should be pronounced; people had to figure it out themselves. But of course, it did not take more than a few minutes before someone came up with an answer. It turned out that the mathematical formula it represents can be pronounced something like “ten to the see.” The number also has its own name, Trillek. But it seemed to be “ten to the see” that stuck, at least at Mojang’s office. I have heard Jakob say “Trillek” and Patrick [Geuder, business development] “zero x ten c,” but other than that they all referred to it as “ten to the see.” Markus himself claimed that you could call it whatever you like.
The explanation to the title is as following: 0x10c is a mathematical formula, which makes no sense to me, that programmed the cell to keep people sleeping until the year 281 474 976 712 644.
Simply put, in this game Markus was to move from labors of the earth, to labors in space. If you know the history of video games, it is yet again not a surprising step; science fiction has long had a prominent place in the gaming world. “It is a space game with space fights, simply because it is ‘pew pew fun,’” Markus said in an interview with the website Penny Arcade.
To me, he elaborates a bit: “I did not come up with the idea because I’m that much in to sci-fi, because I’m not. To me it is more about science; I am fascinated by space from that point of view. Then I also like the concept of being alone in a gaming world, as you are in Minecraft too, unless you go online of course. And how much more lonely can you get than being in space?”
For the first months, Markus was blogging and tweeting about it. He said that we will be able to build our own spaceships and that the ships would have 16-bit computers onboard that we will be able to program ourselves (and, scarily enough, the computers will also be affected by viruses, and the players will have to repair it themselves). Specifications for the programmable computer were soon published, and you can still read them yourself at the website 0x10c.com, if you want to sit down and work on programs or games for it already. Other things the game promised to include are hard science fiction, abandoned ships full of loot, an advanced financial system and duct tape.
“But I have given up on hard science, I think. In real life, a normal person can only jump, like, 12 inches, and that is not very fun in a game. I also tried to take away gravity, then you could jump longer but all goes very slow. Not very fun either. So the hard science bit has had to get a little looser.”
However you look at it, it is in every way an enormous project that Markus undertook.
“I had several ideas I was working on, a few smaller and one big. The big idea was the space game. But in the end I thought that I might just as well take on the big one,” he says. But he quickly adds: “It’s on the other hand so big that I’ll probably have time to work on the small ones in between.”
However, Markus’s work on 0x10c quickly began to decrease and during the summer of 2012 he stopped working on it completely.
“I think he was hit by a late hangover from Minecraft,” said Carl Manneh after the summer.
In addition, Markus and his wife Elin, whom he also met at King, separated. They had been married for a year. Such things take a toll, even though it appears as if he and Elin continued to be good friends.