Minecraft's New Lead Designer

Submitted by minecraftmike on Mon, 12/19/2011 - 08:47

By Jasen Hill of the Sydny Herald Tribune.

The award-winning Minecraft by Sweden's Markus “Notch” Persson

The award-winning Minecraft by Sweden's Markus “Notch” Persson

Minecraft creator Marcus Perrsson has handed his enormously successful baby to experienced colleague Jens Bergensten after his indie gaming juggernaut was officially released last month.

Over four million people have now purchased Minecraft and there are over 16 million registered users.

Swedish creator Marcus “Notch” Perrsson began developing Minecraft solo back in 2009, and has personally built a dedicated following in the worldwide gaming community.

Minecraft: the work of just one man

Minecraft: the work of just one man

But now 32-year-old Jens Bergensten has taken the role of lead developer on Minecraft after working at Perrsson’s studio Mojang for the past year.

“We’ve been working together on Minecraft for a year now, and I’m amazed at how much in synch we two are when it comes to how to design the game,” Perrsson wrote on his blog last week.

“And when we don’t agree, we discuss it and something much better comes out at a result. He’s truly a great person to work with, and I feel very confident handing over the leadership of Minecraft to him. He will have the final say in all design decisions.”

Speaking to Screen Play this week, Bergensten says “it feels cool” to be given responsibility to guide the future direction of one of the world’s most popular games, but “I've been working very closely with Notch so initially my job hasn't changed much”.

Bergensten says his first priority is to add more people to his team “because I can't do everything on my own”.

He says he will then focus on creating a "mod API" – an application programming interface for tinkering with the game.

“This API will make it easier for people to create, find and play with game modifications,” Bergensten explains.

Minecraft currently has one of the most active and creative modding communities in the gaming world, despite no official tools being released yet. A mod API would be high on many Minecraft player's lists for "most wanted" features.

But Bergensten finds it “hard to say” when asked about how much community feedback has influenced the direction and features of Minecraft since work on the game began back in 2009.

“We usually work on our own ideas,” he says. “But obviously it's important to listen to the feedback of our users. I tend to try to change things that people find annoying or buggy.”

Bergensten agrees with Screen Play that Minecraft's success will encourage a flood of other indie developers to follow a similar business model, giving access to a game as soon as possible to help fund further development.

“Absolutely, it's a very good business model if you don't have much money,” he says. “Also it will quickly give you an idea whether your game is any good or needs improving.”

But the developer says he is still surprised at how popular Minecraft has become. “I think everybody is,” he laughs.

One of the game’s strengths is that Minecraft allows players wonderful freedom to play how they want to, and Bergensten says he personally loves exploring, but also building and adventuring.

He is also constantly amazed at the level of creativity displayed by Minecraft users. “I've seen a lot of amazing and huge builds of bridges, dams, castles and cities,” he says.

My 11-year-old son is a huge Minecraft fan, and many schools have now incorporated the game into their teaching.

But Bergensten says the team at Mojang did not deliberately try to target kids or make the game accessible to a young audience.

“We do not work to make the game specifically for the younger audience, but at the same time we try not to push them away either,” he says. “One of our design decisions is to avoid adding gore or blood to the game, and to try to keep all difficulty settings loose and optional.”

Mojang recently released a Pocket Edition of Minecraft for Xperia Play, Android and iOS devices such as the iPhone, and the game’s player base is certain to further increase when an Xbox 360 version is released next year.

Bergensten says the 360 version is “very similar” to the PC game. “The biggest difference is that we have a new crafting user interface that will make crafting a little bit quicker on controllers,” he says.

A new audience will also be introduced to the joys of Minecraft at the upcoming free exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne.

The new curated exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, Best of the Independent Games Festival 2011, opens on December 20 and features a selection of 14 award-winning games, including Minecraft.

ACMI curator Fiona Trigg says the titles on show "push the boundaries of what video games can be".

I believe much of the innovation in the industry is currently happening at the independent fringe, but Bergensten also acknowledges that the larger studios are also pushing boundaries. 

“I think there is a lot of innovation in the big industry, but indie developers usually have to do as much as possible with very little resources,” he says. “That kind of environment creates a lot of new ideas.”

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/minecrafts-new-creative-force-20111211-1opmw.html#ixzz1gzJYFPfy