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Minecraft currently has an online game world that is larger than the physical surface of the earth. It didn’t start out like that, though. Little by little, the game has expanded and become far more than its humble origins. Let’s take a look back at the past of Minecraft and where it all begins and trace its steps up to the current day and the future of this revolutionary game.
Marcus Persson, also known as Notch, released what he initially called “Cave Game” back in 2009. This was released on the PC and was attractive to people who liked to code and design gaming worlds. It was more of a source tool than a game for most people at that point, and users could go in and create what they wasted using the basic blocks that had been set up by Persson.
Once this small project started to take off, the creator released it in an updated format as Minecraft, but that is still a far cry from the game we know today on PC and consoles. It was very basic, for the most part, but early versions of Minecraft allowed for more than just building. What made the game so unique is that it was also a resource management simulation. It allowed players to gather the resources they needed to create, so the creations meant more to them since they had to build them with parts they had collected on their own.
You can see the influence of this mechanic in games all over today. Other games had players gathering resources before, but not usually to directly build something block by block with their own digital hands. Now games like Skyrim, Terraria, and many others have incorporated a rather simple mechanic like this in their games and as part of different genres and experiences.
Minecraft stayed in beta for a long time, longer than most games ever do. There was speculation that it would never come out of beta, as new features were always being added and the owner just kept tweaking the project as new ideas came to him and players made suggestions.
The early days of Minecraft were important for the modding scene. On PC, players often take their favorite games and modify them using programs they created themselves or that others created for everyone to use. These allow them to customize the game to their liking, add new quests or features and even update the graphics to some degree.
Minecraft has always been a simple looking game, with very basic block shapes making up the entire world and the graphics made to look like pixels. This allows it to do incredible things with its very limited visuals, and it can process user requests much faster than if it were using high-end graphics. It also allows changes to be made easily and at less expense than they would for a more modern looking game.
Before the end of 2009, several modes had been added to Minecraft. They include Survival, Indev, and Infdev. At this point, the game was still in its alpha stages.
The beta stage began in 2010, and the creator had stopped his daytime job to work full time on Minecraft, adding new features, updating the game and fixing bugs. While new versions other game cost money, all bug fixes were free during this development cycle.
The beta phase only began once publisher Mojang grew interested in the project and began to fund its development. They would eventually go on to release a full version of the game in 2011. It sold millions of copies and spawned a worldwide phenomenon, but there were still lots of change for Minecraft yet to come.
Once the game was published, new updates were still made, and bugs were being dealt with. New server hosts were put in place, allowing the game to run smoother and do a lot more with its processing power. The world expanded in size as players tried to travel across the seemingly endless digital space. It was designed to go on endlessly, and new areas were added to make the game more interesting.
The Nether and the End were added to the base world. The Nether was a Hell-like region that was only accessible by a portal. The End was a series of islands, on which the final boss of the game resided. Once the boss was defeated, the credits would roll, but players could continue to go back to their worlds and explore the game environment after beating the game.
Mojang put out a few different versions of Minecraft while they had the publishing rights, releasing a free to play version known as Classic Minecraft on the PC, along with the full version they had put most of their publishing power behind. Microsoft bought the game and the brand from them a few years later, though, and went into a publishing frenzy.
First of all, they put Minecraft onto their systems, the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One, later bringing the same game to the PlayStation and the Wii U. It’s even on mobile platforms and Windows 10 at this point, and Microsoft is showing no signs of slowing down with the publishing and development plans for Minecraft.
The game has expanded beyond its single-game roots. Microsoft tasked Telltale games with creating Minecraft Story Mode, which is a single player, story-based game that plays mostly like an interactive story.
An educational edition of the game was also released to be used in classrooms, and its focus was more on exploring and building than combat.
Microsoft continues to support the base Minecraft game, through releasing timely skin packs, which offer new looks for the major characters. Players can dress their characters up like holiday favorites, as well as pop culture icons, such as characters from Star Wars and Harry Potter. No matter what fanbase a person belongs to, they are likely to find Minecraft skins that will interest them. Dozens of these have been released already with more on the way all the time.
There have been whispers of a sequel for a long time. After all, this original game is almost a decade old at this point, and it makes sense that as one of the best-selling games of all time that it would receive follow up. So far, updates, remasters and spinoffs seem to be the only thing coming down the pipeline, and Microsoft is hesitant to dish out any concrete details on a sequel.
Everyone in the industry seems to feel that one will come, but they don’t know when. Microsoft is more concerned with protecting their brand and making the most of what they already have with this game than making a quick buck with the sequel. They paid good money for the brand and the game, so it makes sense that they will take their time with the sequel and make it something that will propel the brand forward for another decade, if necessary.
They are still making a lot of money off the base game, its many versions and the DLC (downloadable content) for the game. There is no rush to get a sequel out on store shelves when so many people are still spending money on the original.
Microsoft’s plans right now for Minecraft, at least as far as they have told anyone, is that they are prioritizing those platforms where the players are most heavily concentrated. So, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows 10 are all getting priority over other platforms where there are not as many players. Once the player base on other platforms grows, then those players will become a priority for Microsoft as well.
What this means for players on those consoles and platforms that Microsoft is actively supporting is that they will receive regular updates. They can enjoy features like Realms, which lets players rent a dedicated server. This will allow them to connect with friends and family without the host ever being online and create a persistent world for them to play around in.
Microsoft has adopted a wait and see attitude for development on Minecraft. This is a new IP for them, and they are careful about how they are pushing to forward and where their development priorities need to be. They did pay a hefty 2.5 billion dollars for it a few years ago, and that’s not an investment that should be taken lightly.
E3 2017 was the last place anyone was able to learn about some of the new additions to Minecraft, and we can expect more on this at the next E3 for sure. Microsoft showed off its Better Together update. What this does is allow players from the Switch, Xbox One and Windows 10 PC to all play together. This is almost unprecedented for a game that belongs to a console maker, and it’s very exciting how Microsoft has been willing to play nice with everyone when to comes to inter-console connectivity.
The Super-Duper Graphics pack is another big change for Minecraft. It improves the graphics to never before seen heights and adds in all sorts of dynamic lighting effects. It dramatically changes the look of Minecraft without changing up the mechanics at all. This new downloadable pack makes the difference between night and day more aesthetically appealing and helps to set a mood for the game that wasn’t previously possible.
Players don’t have to worry about this changing up the classic look of Minecraft, though. This update is entirely optional, and players can keep the same look they have known and loved for years if they want. Microsoft is moving forward with updates like this with their focus on allowing players to play and experience Minecraft anyway they want to.
Exposing the code for players is another feature that Microsoft is testing out with players. This allows Minecraft users to customize the game to their liking, altering mob behaviors and other aspects of how the game functions. There are no plans to allow players to customize the skins or the graphics in any way, and that’s understandable on Microsoft’s part. They know a lot of people would abuse that kind of power and make creations that are not in line with the brand Microsoft is going for with Minecraft.
Minecraft is always changing. Not all of those changes will be required for everyone right away, but you can bet that a single version of the game will not stagnate for long. The developers just won’t allow it with such a well-known brand. You can bet that Microsoft has big plans for the franchise moving forward, but they are staying tightlipped about a sequel and spinoffs. We know that Minecraft Story Mode is likely to continue for a while, and the educational version of Minecraft used in schools is doing very well and will also continue for the foreseeable future. We also know that Microsoft plans to continue to update the current game for a while.
Microsoft has already been very clear that they have a 100-year plan with this franchise. At some point, that means a sequel will come down the line, but there is obviously no rush to disrupt the current user base beyond growing it and feeding it with new content for what they already have. We can expect big things from Minecraft in the coming years, but it’s hard to say right now exactly what form they will take.