First off, let me say these are my thoughts and perspectives and may not represent the other folks on the Broville team. We’re a rather loosely held organization of folks with our own opinions. I tend to be more cynical than most.
So, here we are, “day 2” of Microjang. It’s still pretty early in the morning but here’s what we know so far.
1. Upper management is taking the money and running. (I can’t say I blame them.)
2. Jeb is, as of 9/15, still lead dev. (Will he stay that way? Will he answer to a program director that steers his dev?)
3. Microsoft has game content rules that are quite problematic for the Minecraft community.
4. Broville could TECHNICALLY conflict with those game content rules. (I’ll explain in a moment, but you probably know why.)
1/2. Upper management and the vacuum of power.
So lets pick this apart for a moment. I was part of an aquisition a while back. My relatively small “family feel” company was aquired by a huge global mega-corp that wanted to “add our uniqueness to their own.” (Not their words..I’m making a reference to the borg.) Our management stayed on, despite getting huge checks. A lot of them got new cars and were very jovial, relaxed, and unconcerned about.. well seemingly anything. The fact that they remained however, meant that they had some influence over the steer of the aquisition. We maintained our corporate culture for the first few months (for the most part) for this reason.
Now, I can’t confirm this, but if Mojang’s management is gone, as in, they’re not coming in to work today, they lit out of Mojang studios at the end of the day yesterday with a briefcase overflowing with $100 bills like the monopoly man, hopped into their tiny metal car, put on their top hats and yelled “see ya later shitlords!” and never came back. If this happened (or something slightly less dramatic) this creates a cultural and managerial vacuum within the company that Microsoft will have to fill. In comes the guy from the mac vs pc commercials. A stuffy, suit and tie managerial robot that will potentially steer assimilation. This could be bad for Jeb/Dinnerbone/other improvident faces that aren’t managers and are left with 2 options. Comply, or leave.
When I was faced with comply or leave, I left. I was working with highly educated highly paid corporate IT folks who were so specialized in their particular pieces of Microsoft software I had to be on conference calls with 30 people. We’d spend most of the call asking who is on the call, then we’d find out the person who had the important information was not on the call because ??? and we’d adjourn. Ultimately though, I was handing off my servers to these people. I would work with them filling out forms, explaining my process, and would be shutting down my hardware and they would be scheduling it to be picked up by ups to be sent to their various other facilities where the resource was needed. This could very well happen at Mojang,with developers and developer’s resources. Maybe Microsoft sees something in Dinnerbone they feel will be better placed on some other project. (Like an entire underwater game for instance, or one where everyone walks on their heads) So they tell him, you’re moving to the US, you’re going to Raleigh, or you’re going to Redmond, and if you don’t like it, you can quit.
Lets say Microsoft sends.. oh I dunno.. Leeroy Jenkins, lead game community developer and coordinator for global sandbox gaming profitization modeling and totally made up title counselor out to Sweden. He walks in and tells Jeb, ok lead developer, we want everyone out of private servers by 2.0. You will be working on implementing microtransactions for skin and texture pack purchases, adding Microsoft single sign on support into the dashboard, and disabling Herobrine again.
Jeb might say “But we love Herobrine! He’s like awesome and stuff!” but if Leeroy says no, then the answer is no. Jeb may still be “lead developer” but that does NOT mean with 100% ceertainty that he is in charge of game direction.
3. Game Content Rules and their application
You probably know by now that Microsoft has it’s own set of game content rules. You can find them HERE: http://www.xbox.com/en-US/community/developer/rules What you, or I don’t know at this point is whether or not these rules will apply to Minecraft. (This is such a big issue we may know sooner than later. this is a BIG DEAL.)
To avoid picking these rules apart, let me paraphrase my interpretation of them as they relate to Minecraft:
1. You don’t own your map, your skins, your videos. Microsoft can add your creations to the game, claim its theirs, and even charge for it, and you have no legal right to it.
2. You cannot monetize. Videos, Maps, Skins. This could mean that ad.fly, youtube, and other monetization methods will not be allowed. You CAN ask for donations for your content however, and there are options for commercial licenses, which I’m sure are prohibitively expensive.
3. You cannot use the title of the game in your production. So if you make a minecraft video on youtube, you can’t say MINECRAFT: the adventures of Notchsauce or something to that effect.
4. You cannot use the game to create adult, racist, hateful, or divisive content. Also, this rule is left up to the whims of Microsoft and is intentionally vague.
So to recap, no more youtube videos from big players, the potential your work will show up in a Microsoft strategy guide, on a T-shirt, where Microsoft can make BILLIONS, but you make nothing, and potentially, having your map, video, skin etc. removed and/or legally challenged because Microsoft does not like the content.
It is my opinion that these game rules, as they stand, and if they are enforced to the letter, are a death blow to the Minecraft community. They stifle innovation, bully free speech and expression, and leave a massive swinging door for Microsoft to swoop in, take your creation, and say “I made this!” and get money thrown at them.
4. Why Game Content Usage Rules apply to Broville
Let’s assume for a moment that the game content usage rules as mentioned above are set in stone, apply to the letter to this game, and are enforced with an army of back coat, red tie wearing, briefcase toating, porsche driving, soul-less lawyers that march lock-step down the halls like some sort of corporate gestapo. How does this affect Broville?
Well first of all, what is the name of the large battleship floating in the open ocean off the northern coast? Anyone?
What was V10 like? Was it insensitive? Did it use “dirty words?” Did it insult you in some way? (no? Oh, I’m so sorry we missed you. We’ll try harder to offend this time around.)
After Curse bought out the minecraft forums, a moderator actually had Broville taken down from the forums because of this content. How do you think Microsoft will react to this kind of content on their IP?
We’re not going to stop development of the map, we’re not going to stop being insensitive, insulting, hateful in our snarky, no-real-harm-intended signage. If you’re offended, you’re offensive. It is something however that I felt should be addressed.
V. Final Thoughts and Predictions
My final thought is this. I feel demotivated, a slight tinge of hopelessness while standing, our David, against the Goliath that is Microsoft. I feel intimidated, powerless, and for the first time perhaps, nostalgic, for the “good old days” when we knew what was going to happen with our game and our community. The uncertainty this has created, more than any REAL threat so far, has already had an impact on this game, and the community of players at large.
I am however, going to continue as normal. I’m going to keep my ear to the ground, but I’m going to keep building, I’m going to keep working on my projects, and I would suggest to everyone out there, that we just keep moving forward. That storm we think we see on the horizon may be nothing more than an optical illusion created by the treetops.
My PREDICTIONS, are not so optimistic. Here’s the thing. Microsoft bought Mojang for a hefty sum. Why do you think they paid so much? I’ve also heard through various grape vines that they hope to recoup this money in only a few months. How do they plan to do that?
So here’s my predictions. You won’t like them, and they’re probably wrong. (I hope.)
1. The game starts to be boxed into vanilla with future versions. New content is added, the game becomes more stable, updates are faster, better, but modding starts to be frowned upon by Microsoft. Either through C&D notices, DMCA IP enforcement, or even an entire code re-write into C#, C++ etc, the modding community is methodically shut out. Bukkit, despite it’s promised update by Dinnerbone, is dead. Sponge never takes off because of Glowstone, and other mock products. The Bukkit vaccum of centralized standards and power leaves modders adrift in tiny pockets of civilization, ultimately to find that no source code will be available for 1.9, 2.0, and that no server version may even exist by 2.0.
2. Realms becomes the only avenue for online play, outside of locally hosted LAN games. Microsoft forces people into their box, a vanilla hosted server. It’s great! Even you can host your own server! No guess work, no bandwidth requirements. Just pay the fee! This increases in popularity among younger people, newcomers to the market. The people who aren’t Broville builders that rely on heavy mods and specialized server software. The ones more likely to have no understanding of money.. the ones more likely to agree to microtransactions.
3. A minecraft store is introduced into the game through the launcher. You can synchronize your microsoft account, use it to buy skins, texture packs from the Minecraft store. This becomes unpopular with map builders like us, but small children and newcomers to the game eat it up. (Did you really think hats would take off on Team fortress?) Gradually the Alpha/Beta players start to lose interest int he game because it’s not what they remember, but the community thrives and grows rapidly as new, younger people flood into it. New updates and features dangle in front of them like a carrot on a fishing line.
4. The game ultimately results in a divided community. Those who play the “old game” (1.8, now.) with “old” mods like Tekkit, older bukkit mods, client hacks and “offline” servers that rely on security patches made of duct-tape and zipties; and the new community of shiny new children buying diamiond pickaxes with unbreaking III enchantments from the Microjang minecraft store for 99 cents, downloading the latest texture pack, once created by the community, now seized by Microsoft and updated on their own. The game doesn’t die, the community doesn’t die, but it’s not the same commuity it used to be. It’s younger, it’s more naive. It’s more.. big business.
That’s it friends. Thanks for reading! Lets hope I’m wrong.