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In December, Markus "Notch" Persson handed the reins of Minecraft development to Jens "Jeb" Bergensten, who became the lead developer so Notch could move onto another project. "[It's a] scary move, but I feel strangely confident," Persson told Gamasutra at the time. "I guess we've worked close enough for long enough for me to feel confident about it."
Gamasutra traveled to the Mojang offices in Stockholm in December to speak with Bergensten about his plans for the game -- a busy day for the developer, because in his other role, as the co-founder of Oxeye Game Studio, he had made the decision to launch Cobalt that day. Cobalt, still in alpha, is the first game from another developer Mojang has chosen to publish.
Still, Bergensten's primary focus is Minecraft development. In this interview, he explains what the future holds for the massively popular indie game, how he feels about taking control of the project from Notch, and what he expects to concentrate on as far as additions go.
You're the cofounder of the Cobalt developer, Oxeye, but at the same time you're in charge of Minecraft, so you must have a lot going on.
Jens Bergensten: Yeah, yeah. It's kind of busy. [laughs] I work full-time on Minecraft, and I work on Cobalt during evenings and weekends.
You took over for Notch, basically, is the way to put it?
JB: Yeah. He wanted to try new things. I took the design lead for Minecraft so he could have free hands to do other things.
How is that going to affect the game?
JB: That specifically won't affect the game very much because Notch and I have very similar game design philosophies and ideas. The things we are doing are quite similar.
But it's 1.0 now, and we are such a small team that we can't compete with the rest of the world with content. So, there's a change in priorities, that we really need to open up the game for other developers to add mods, and share mods, and run servers more easily. So, what I mean is I will work less on features, and more on the engine part of the game.
Is there a difference between someone building something versus just sharing it, and actually a team just working on something within the context of Minecraft? Have you seen that?
JB: You mean like the comparison of building stuff in Minecraft and adding stuff to Minecraft?
JB: Yeah. There will definitely be much more content -- tools and blocks and mobs and stuff added to the game -- that other people can use in their constructions. There are already a lot of mods that add a lot of stuff, but they are quite complicated to install. So that's what we're trying to do.
Simplify that process, so more of the community can actually enjoy those things.
JB: Yeah. And also, Minecraft is a sandbox game, so people have very different opinions about what you're supposed to be able to do in the game. Like, some people really hate the adventure and RPG part of the game, and some people want more of that, more dragons and whatever.
Some people want more engineering tools. Some people hate engineering tools because they don't understand how Redstone works anyway. So, the good thing about mods is that then we can let people who really want to specialize on one part of the game, we can tell them, "Here's a really great mod. Just install it. You'll have fun."
Are there any plans to curate or point users to mods? Because right now, I guess, all of that stuff is out in the wild.
Do you feel like it's part of your responsibility to point people towards things?
JB: Well, I don't feel I have the responsibility to do it, but I kind of envision that in the game, there will be featured mods, popular mods, and then you just click on them, and you can play them. In that way, we can put popular mods into focus.
You want it to be that simple.
JB: Yeah. Preferably.
Do you think there's a point where -- this is a really weird analogy, but it's sort of the best I can do -- you could enable a Counter-Strike of Minecraft, where it becomes a new game.
JB: Yeah. I mean, that would be really cool. But we would have to put a lot of effort on the mod API because that will have to allow the game to really change. So I'm not sure if you've heard of a game called Ace of Spades. It's a Minecraft game but with rifles, so it's kind of like Day of Defeat combined with Minecraft. And it would be really cool if you could actually do that without actually hacking the client. If everything just sort of started the game in that setting, and that worked. I mean, it will take us a while before we have reached that point, but it will be nice.
You guys tend to release often.
Is incremental functionality something we're going to see, or are you going to save this until it's a little more done? Do you have to make these kinds of decisions?
JB: Yeah... We're used to doing things incrementally. I think that's probably how it will turn out. Sometimes we will have to say, "Sorry, modders. We broke this. You have to adjust your mods." Sometimes that will probably happen.
I think the initial mod release will take kind of a leap. There are already mod APIs that are based on modifying the JAR files. And I'm trying to get help from those communities to, already when we do the first version of the API, all the mods that are working on those [laughs] are working in the full game as well.