October 22, 2022

On cohesive Game Design: Minecraft

So I said I’d write a whole blog post about this and I’m going to do just that.

I have a lot of thoughts about how people seem to understand Mojang’s game design and I’m not stupid enough to just tweet about them or put them on youtube or god forbid Reddit so It’s going on my private blog. If anyone has a problem with this they can email me.

Mojang, the developers behind Minecraft and its associated games, is under a lot of scrutiny from spoiled pissbaby fans online right now and it’s so agonizing to watch. Like I feel like I’m being pranked or something because surely everyone making these posts can see how entitled they sound??? The TLDR of recent “drama” is that 1) Mojang showcased some concept art of fireflies and birch forest updates in a live show a few years ago and everyone is crying and throwing up that they weren’t added to the game immediately. And 2) Everyone and their brother agrees that the inventory system needs some changes made to it due to the sheer number of blocks in the game, however literally no one seems to understand that Mojang operates under a pretty strict game design bible. They’ve shown the book from the outside in livestreams before, but it’s a book that I believe Jens, the chief creative officer, wrote detailing the design principles of the game. We weren’t shown the contents of the book, they’re secret. But it’s a set of guidelines that any new update should follow to keep the game cohesive and on brand etc. And I feel that a lot of the people talking about Minecraft updates these days have no idea what could be in that book or care that it exists. Well, I do. I’m not even a game dev. I don’t watch the dev diaries really because a lot of Mojangs public stuff is like. Things I already knew lol?

So to the first point, fireflies. Mojang showed them as two-pixel ambient particles that they were going to have the frogs eat. However, after showing this, they learned that fireflies are toxic to frogs, and cut the feature altogether. People were mad they didn’t just implement them minus the frog eating mechanic, which is fair, however it’s my belief that the fireflies weren’t as fleshed out as Mojang usually has features be, and therefore it wasn’t ready for the game anyways, and was easy to cut for how early it was. Think about it, if they’re a mob, they’d need full mob mechanics that other mobs have: breeding, use, taming, etc. How would you breed fireflies? How would you move them, capture them? They’re designed to be very small, a lead would look very strange on them, so maybe you could use glass bottles to transport them like buckets with tadpoles/axolotls? Would Bottle of Firefly have a use? The clear thing people would want is a light block, something placeable. It would need block mechanics then. What if the bottle is broken? Are the fireflies freed? Do fireflies serve any other purpose? Do they interact with anything else? What would their AI be like? Would they stay in the area or pathfind far away like bees? None of this was stuff shown in the live. There’s clearly a lot of stuff to think about. And then, if they’re just a particle effect, what triggers it? Is it the swamp biome? Can you turn it off? Can you move it? Mojang doesn’t have an aversion to biome-specific particles, see the basalt deltas and soulsand valleys in the Nether. But I could see it as something people would want to move, so having it be biome specific is the lesser desired ambience. The particles in the nether are just that, ash or dirt in the air. But something like a bug as particles can be a stretch. Even the spore blossom in the overworld has its particles as just vague little droplets that don’t need to look alive. I think by removing the interaction with frogs, Mojang removed all the ideas they had worked out for the frog, and weren’t ready to reimplement it.

Next is the issue of the Birch Forests. People were SO MAD about this for nothing. All that was shown was concept art. So much stuff that’s concept art doesn’t make it into final games. They’d probably shit themselves if they saw concept art for any other beloved game that didn’t make it in. IIRC concept art for Mercy Overwatch had her as a black man? Jesus the gamers didn’t like that and would have been SO MAD if that got into the game, so why are they mad this concept art *didn’t* make it into the game? Pick a battle, kids. Furthermore, the birch forest upgrades shown were very basic. Just taller trees with some more variety. Done by one artist at Mojang. Mojang thought they were being cool and pulling back the curtain a bit to show some of the work that doesn’t get to see the light of day and y’all bit their hands. Rude as hell. If you want a birch forest with more cool trees like that: BUILD ONE! Also everyone bitches that birch is their least favorite tree and they cut down birch forests anyways so like. Shut up. You would be so mad if an update was Only birch forests, now wouldn’t you?

Continuing, the next major thing I’ve noticed is speculated/proposed changes. I recognize a lot of these are put forth by either content creators looking for clickbait/engagement so the sincerity of their ideas is a little questionable but the fact that the audience largely takes it as sincere and shapes their opinions is something worth considering. A lot of these proposed ideas (like Xisumavoid’s showcased upgraded shulkers) fail to genuinely consider if it’s actually a Mincrafty solution to the problem, or just the elegant/artsy/easy solution. Mojang has time and time again said that they try to problem solve things in the Minecraft way. Take shulkers to begin with. They wanted portable storage containers: they created an end-game mob that you have to kill in a creative way and collect their drops and craft them to get those storage boxes. Wanting bigger or more nuanced storage systems would not be as simple as ‘fix whats already there’. That’s just not the Mojang style. If they were to add a different type of storage, it would be like bundles, where the answer is something brand new, with a new mechanic. Another thing they try to do is make updating between versions fairly seamless, so any major overhaul to something existing wouldn’t be feasible unless it was a new version of that thing (Like I will concede with Xisuma’s video that crafting shulkers into something new would be the Fix that wouldn’t break existing shulkers). My next point is to do with shulkers specifically, and that I can’t see Mojang updating them or adding any further endgame-like content (beacons, elytra, shulkers, etc) without an End update. Now, this could be egg on my face in two weeks when they announce the 1.20 update is going to be the end update with new storage boxes, but until there’s an end update, you won’t get endgame content. You could argue that respawn compasses are kind of endgame content, but I’m going to be honest I haven’t seen anyone on the content side of the game use them. I haven’t used them in my gameplay because even in my peaceful world I haven’t found an Ancient City and I haven’t died either. It’s not something with a TON of use cases like the aforementioned end game content. Why do I think that we would have to wait for an End update for that? Because conceptually that’s what the End is. It’s designed to be the end of the game. The credits roll when you kill the dragon the first time. Then you can go forth and get the shulkers and elytra as a reward for beating the game. If they were going to add anything “better” than those features, they would have to gatekeep them behind making the End different in some way. Making it harder. Overhauling it somehow. Making it a super rare find or something. Simply making it something anyone who has already beat the game can do is not Mojang’s style. They want you to explore, they want you to work for the good features. It isn’t enough to kill the Wither and get a nether Star, you have to grind ores to make a beacon base, and feed the beacon to get the effects. You need to do it over and over if you want it to work elsewhere, or move your beacon. Same with Conduits. You need to explore and grind and discover these new features yourself. They won’t hand you an easy fix.

Oh, while I’m here I’ll touch on the Archaeology Update stuff that was shelved. I think it was very Education Edition/Marketplace content and not Minecrafty enough to be in the base game as is. Especially with Mojang’s interest in conservation and biological accuracy, I think archaeology would need to be fixed. In an episode of the Spawn Chunks, they had an archaeologist who also plays minecraft on the show to discuss what they would add in an archaeology update in a way that would be accurate and ethical. I think they had a lot of good ideas, not necessarily ones that would actually be Mojangy enough but closer than what Mojang actually showcased. I liked the idea of having a villager that if you find an Artifact in that biome, you give it to the Elder Villager and they give you a blueprint/crafting recipe/etc to make your own. So you return their Sacred Taiga Clay Pot and you get a recipe for Taiga Clay Pot. and this can be different things like statues, art, etc. Pots were just the example from Mojang and the podcast I listened to. The main thing the archaeologist brought up is that they wouldn’t want to condone taking artifacts from their culture and storing them or using them elsewhere, or at least, not outright endorse it. Like reward keeping it in the culture, but you can also sandbox play the game and take it anyways. Maybe taking it lowers your villager reputation until it’s returned or something. I think that was the driving factor in Mojang canning archaeology for now, it wasn’t ethical in its current state. Cool, but not realistic either. The archaeologist suggested a trowel as an archaeology tool, not a brush.

What do I want from future updates? While we’re here, what I think we could expect from future updates? I think any inventory updates are going to be small. I think the only people who struggle with inventory management are the big time youtubers/streamers/long term players who frankly are a small portion of the game players. They’re vocal and have huge platforms, but realistically are small. I think a toggle like in SDV that sorts your container/inventory alphabetically and a button that adds stuff from your inventory that is in the container already to it. One or the other or both. I don’t know how to make it work in the chest GUI but I think that’s the easiest, content-free way to fix this problem. How do I think mojang would fix it? Bundles. Fix minecart chests for moveable storage. That’s about it. Something new, or slight updates to existing mechanics that make them easier to use. Not different, just less buggy. For a future update I like the stuff we’ve seen proposed in biome votes! I like adding new mobs just for ambience, and like new trees, even if the wood types are not new (I’m not beat up that azaleas use oak wood, honestly. I don’t think its bad). I think prickly pear cactus should be in the game. Cactus varieties and I want prickly pear fruit so bad. I would love a food overhaul, honestly. I think adding new foods, and a new cooking mechanic would be really fun and bring all the cottagecore bitches back to the game. I like the cooking in SDV and in Littlewood and Breath of the Wild etc. I think bringing a cooking workspace where you can combine ingredients together and discover new recipes. I think placeable food like cake would be fun and cool, IDK if it’s necessarily mojangy though because even though they’ve introduced more complex block models I’m not sure if food blocks are voxel enough to count.

I cant believe I haven’t talked about chat reporting in this. My main point on that is don't say slurs. It’s really that easy. Don’t go on public servers and say slurs. It’s super super easy not to say slurs. You’re a baby and an asshole if you think chat reporting is a major issue. They’re patching security issues with it all the time and if you get banned: good. If you claim you got banned “for nothing”. You’re lying for clot. Permabans are reviewed by a real human (allegedly) so you deserved it. Play on secure private servers with people you know and you won't have this problem.

Well that’s 2.2k infodumping on minecraft updates. This has been autism corner with Donnie, in the best way I can infodump: not having to say any of it out loud because no one will listen: but those who want to read it can do so here.

Like with my other blog post, if you have any comments on this, feel free to email me at itsdonniecroce@gmail.com and I’ll either answer privately or answer in a future blog post! It’s my website and I make the rules.