Do you have a development methodology like Scrum or Agile? Or do you just do things? Is it as simple as, "Notch says snowman, snowman happens."
JB: Yeah. So far it's been like that. It has only been me and Notch working on it. We started off using Kanban for the whole team. Yeah. It kind of fell apart. I know the other teams are still using Scrum. The Scrolls team is using Scrum. The web team is using Kanban. Since it was only Notch and me, we kind of discussed small pieces every day.
Sure. But things are changing, though, aren't they?
JB: Yes. So... When I'm working now, I'm kind of planning to release when I feel I have a full feel of the release. So, it's not that I work towards "When I've done this, I have a release." It's more like, "Okay, now I feel..."
Comfortable. You don't want to lose what makes Minecraft Minecraft, and part of what makes Minecraft Minecraft is that it feels right. You don't want to lose that creativity and that spontaneity.
JB: Right. But, I mean, I'm slightly more... I'm not sure of the word, but I think I'm more...
JB: Yeah, than compared to Notch. No, not methodical... I'm more hesitant to throw things in [laughs] ... maybe. Maybe that will change as I grow more comfortable being the lead, because previously, if I wanted to do something weird, I always felt like I must ask Notch first. That automatically created slightly more lag from idea to implementation.
I'm assuming you're still going to talk to him?
JB: Yeah. Yes, of course.
But you're making the decisions now, ultimately. Right?
JB: Yeah. I think that's also why I'm focusing more on non-gameplay content features. Like languages, mod API, and maybe friends lists when we get time to do that. And leaving the game a little bit like it was when it was released, only fixing bugs and doing smaller changes.
Just until you get comfortable with this role, or until you see a direction?
JB: I think it's more that there are a few things that are unfinished, I think. As I said, we planned one week ahead at a time, more or less, but we had a list of things that we wanted to include in the game, that we counted as "boring" stuff to add.
It feels like I don't have time just to fool around and add stuff just because I think it's fun. [laughs] But maybe it will change... Now after Christmas, we will have a new programmer starting who will work both on Scrolls and with me. I will ask him to improve the AI of animals. That's not an engine bit. That's a gameplay change. That will probably also make me feel like, "Oh, I have to do something in the game for fun as well." Yeah, I'm not sure.
Well, it's continuing in the spirit of what you've already achieved, right?
The game drives the game.
And the community drives the game, too.
It's not so much the plan drives the game.
I mean, you have some goals. Obviously you have goals that you want to get to.
It sounds like you have a list of things, too, that you know need attention.
JB: Yeah. Also we have the community is organizing all of the bugs lists. So sometimes I go there and fix those that feel relevant. Usually I fix those that seem easy to fix, more quick stuff.
How many programmers do you have working on it right now?
JB: It's only me.
And then one and a half after Christmas.
You and the other person.
JB: Yeah. I mean, we have Aron [Nieminen]. He works on the [smartphone] Pocket Edition.
JB: And we have 4J in Scotland working on the Xbox version.
Right. I talked to Daniel [Kaplan] about those, but it's different. They're not working on the same codebase. Well, at some point it was the same codebase, but then it split, right?
JB: Yeah, exactly.
And their stuff isn't going to get committed to the PC version. It's going to stay split?
JB: Yes. it would be very difficult for us to merge those because it's not even the same programming language, but the Xbox team, they have made a lot of optimizations to make it work on a console. We probably want to get them into the main game as well just for performance reasons.
That sounds like a challenge in itself.
JB: I think they will have to describe the optimizations, and then I will have to re-implement them in the game, yes.
No wonder you don't have such a process-driven atmosphere here. It's just you. [laughs] I'm just so used to talking to game developers who have to have a certain way of working because it's not just a person. It's easy to forget how indie this is just because it blew up so much. Do you ever feel that way too? I mean, you can't, because your perspective is "I am the dude."
JB: I actually feel it's kind of pressuring. Like I said, we're trying to release Cobalt now, and we have some problems. On Cobalt, we've been mainly three people working on it, and I've been working on it maybe four hours per week, or something? And then we have one full-time developer and one part-time graphic artist.
So, we're really small. The game will probably not work for most people. There will be lots of bugs. We'll be kind of like, "Here's a game!" -- that kind of style. [laughs] We're releasing it, or [rather] giving alpha access to millions of interested people. ... It's not a triple-A product, but we have a triple-A audience, if you understand what I mean.
There's nothing wrong with the game, but we don't have a QA team, we don't have a marketing department, and so on. And also we don't have a legal department either. We have to ask lawyers when it's necessary, but I'm sure that there are things that we don't think of that big companies would have thought.
But that's the atmosphere that allows a game like Minecraft to thrive. It couldn't anywhere else.
Or at least not at a big company.