Will we lose the Minecraft modding community? And can Microsoft be trusted with a truly iconic franchise?
A major concern for those who play Minecraft on the PC is the future of third party mod support. There are entire sub communities that don’t even play Vanilla Minecraft anymore, choosing instead to spend their time with one of the countless mods that has popped up during the game’s lifespan.
Each of these mods takes things in their own weird direction, letting people choose what sort of Minecraft they want to play. There’s a Pokemon mod; there are mods that add countless new elements; enemies, creatures, weapons, tools, abilities, textures, resources and so on. There is one huge mod pack that lets players build huge mining and drilling facilities, allowing the player to automate the mining and processing of entire swathes of land. You name it, someone has probably spent a few dozen hours programming it and adding it to their own bespoke version of Minecraft.
For these people it is a game that lets them make the game they want to play. Like Steve Jackson’s Generic Universal Role Playing System (or GURPS for short) in the world of pen and paper RPGs, Minecraft for some is more like a toolset than a game. But to be able to get all this usability from the game requires that the players are allowed to modify and adjust the code, play around with the parameters and manipulate various other factors to their hearts’ content. Will Microsoft allow all this stuff to continue to happen? For now they probably will. But it would not be a shock to see an “Official” Mods section on their cash shop. And why would you buy a mod when someone can figure out how it was done and make that mod themselves for free?
(By the way, I am almost positive that there will be a cash shop at some point in the next few years.)
The truth is that of course someone was going to buy Mojang. It was really only a matter of time until it got snapped up. It’s actually not hyperbolic to say that Minecraft and Mojang have changed everything about the landscape of current gen gaming. They introduced the concept of crowd funding to a mass audience, brought online gaming to a whole new generation and convinced parents around the world that games can encourage learning on a scale not considered before. Game companies are starting to experiment with different art styles as pixels and voxels come back into fashion. And now all of that has been claimed by Microsoft in one single purchase. Every single piece of it. It’s not just the game itself that has been bought. The entire world around the game now also belongs to Microsoft. The books that have just recently been released and spent most of the summer at the top of the children’s book charts are all now property of Microsoft. The Lego sets, the plushies, the action figures, the Minecraft Convention ‘Minecon’, all of it. Even the Steve heads.
There are those who say that there is absolutely nothing to worry about; that Microsoft has a history of making quality games. And I can agree that in the past there have been some great titles. Solitaire and Minesweeper are pretty good. The original version of Flight Simulator is one that I remember fondly but looking back on it I can’t actually remember why. And then there is Age of Empires, which was a respectable series in its day. But you only have to look at how long Age of Empires Online lasted to see what they are willing to do to even their most beloved of PC franchises. It was, like so many similar games these days, a glorified shakedown machine disguised as an old favourite. In terms of how badly managed it all was, it was matched only by EA’s latest shambles, the once beloved Dungeon Keeper. And then there is Games For Windows Live which has officially been dismantled, but it is easy to get nervous about what Microsoft might be planning when you look at the captive audience that they now have control of. It worries me that they won’t be able to help themselves and will shoehorn in some bloated social network overlay that connects you directly to the online capes and hats shop. And some sort of online Minecraft/Bing network.
I can’t do this anymore. I tried to remain as impartial and as fair as I could. But even I am a little bit dubious as to what Microsoft will do. There have already been confirmations that there will be a Pocket Edition of Minecraft specially designed for Windows Phone. I’m guessing that it will come bundled as Standard with all new copies of Windows – whatever number they are up to. The Mac, Linux, PS4, iOS and Android editions will probably stay exactly as they are now for the rest of time. There will be minimal free updates. There will be special Xbone tie-ins and Avatar items. There will be at least one film out in the next five years. Probably a TV show. All pigs in the game will start wearing I ❤ Surface t-shirts. All glass textures will be replaced with the Windows logo. Cows will have cameras in their eyes so they can spy on you and send the information back to Microsoft HQ. Steve will be replaced with Bill Gates. The Nether will be filled with pixelated Macbooks and iPad, all of them on fire. All the tools will be monogrammed with little MS’s. And all the graphics will be changed so it looks like they were drawn in MSPaint.
Maybe that last one isn’t so bad.
…TO BE CONTINUED.