Proto-MineCraft Abandoned Due To Epic Error

By Quintin Smith on January 20th, 2011 at 1:29 am.

I can dig it.

We’ve got an interview with SpaceChem designer Zach Barth (of Zachtronics) going up tomorrow, but I’ve got to give you just one terrible tidbit now. Two years ago Zachtronics made a game called Infiniminer, which as you may or may not know was the game that inspired Notch to make MineCraft. Why did Zach make Infiniminer? Why did he stop making it? Does he now spend every night howling into his pillow, mourning for the riches that might have been his? Read on for these answers.

What does Infiniminer have in common with MineCraft? A look at any of these screenshots should tell you that. Both games are set in cuboid worlds where players can strip blocks away with the greatest of ease, but while MineCraft is (currently, at least) about the joy of building, exploring and excavating, Infiniminer was about the joy of competing, exploring and excavating. In the words of Zach, “Infiniminer is a combination of Infinifrag, Team Fortress 2, and Motherload. I wanted to make a competitive mining game, and this was it.”.

As for what happened next and why he didn’t continue to develop the idea, Zach’s answer had me sucking air through my teeth in sympathy.

“I stopped working on Infiniminer when the source code was leaked. It was totally my fault, as that’s what I get for releasing an un-obfuscated .NET assembly, but it nevertheless enabled hackers to create hacked clients and players upset with my balancing decisions to fork and write their own clients and servers.”

Ow. We’ll never know precisely how popular Infiniminer might have gone on to become, but it’s still a wincesome situation, albeit one that Zach is magnanimous about.

“The act of borrowing ideas is integral to the creative process. There are games that came before Infiniminer, and there are games that will come after MineCraft. That’s how it works.”

Fine words, Zach. For more of Zach’s fine words, tune in tomorrow on this very site.

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87 Comments »

  1. Brumisator says:

    This is a typical case in the history of mankind. Someone comes up with a great idea, dies in misreable obscurity, then someone else picks up that idea, makes it acceptable, and gets a nobel prize.

    OK, so I was extremely vague, but deal with it.

    • vanarbulax says:

      As evidenced by Banvard’s Folly which I highly recommend people read. You don’t know intellectual property conundrums until it is explored through the inventor of the modern American grape.

    • Calchas says:

      Because everyone remembers Eddison, and not the 3 guys that invented the lightbulb before him :P

    • dadioflex says:

      Interesting looking book and only £2.74 on Amazon.co.uk – sold!

      I dismissed Space Chem when I saw the earlier piece but now I feel like I should at least try the demo. I just prefer my puzzle games on DS or iDevice.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      Ford did not invent the assembly line, Edison did not invent the lightbulb, Bell did not invent the telephone, Marconi did not invent radio. (Apple did not invent WIMP interfaces, mp3 players, or the touch screen, but that’s another story for another day.)

      So it goes.

    • Baboonanza says:

      Likewise – sold!

      I love SpaceChem. In some ways it would be very suitable for the iPhone, but I’m not sure the interface could survive it. When you get to the higher levels the intricate designs would be a bit too compressed on a small screen I think.

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      Hidden_7 says:

      Edit: Whoops, posted this in the wrong place. Ignore it.

    • Jimmy says:

      I’m trying my best to ignore the above message.

    • Foxfoxfox says:

      Ideas are environmentally induced, a bit like plants. Or genetically cripple purebreed dogs. The reason so many things get ‘simultaneously’ invented in multiple places throughout history is the sudden presence of the appropriate antecedent concepts in the zietgiest.

      So in other words lets stop getting all het up about who had what idea because none of them belong to any individual.

    • zbeeblebrox says:

      That’s true. Ideas are ultimately environmental, and ownership of ideas carries no weight into the future. If we had all decided to praise Leibniz for “discovering” Calculus rather than Newton (they both figured it out at roughly the same time, from two different parts of the world), Calculus wouldn’t be any different, or made any less irrelevant by General Relativity. On the other hand, Newton’s quality of life probably would have greatly improved had he not be so paranoid of other people taking credit for his discovery.

      For ideas, ownership changes nothing.

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    Diziet Sma says:

    Kudos to Zach for having that kind of attitude, the right kind. If only ‘big business’ would behave the same way especially with regards to software.

  3. BAReFOOt says:

    Lesson one of information physics: If you pass information on to anyone, all control over it is gone forever. Including copying and modifying it. :)
    That’s the reason “selling” games is so absurd and unrelated to reality. :)

    • DavidM says:

      Yeah, when IW spends 10 million developing COD:MW2 you should be able to copy it at will with a 20 cent DVD and a 20 dollar burner.

      Its stealing, period. Rationalize all you like but its their hard work you are trivializing(and their future games).

      (And by this i mean copying, not modding)

    • Pantsman says:

      Piracy is bad. It harms the industry, makes the games you love less likely to keep being made, and forces us to put up with all manner of nasty DRM. I don’t pirate games, and neither should you.

      But it is NOT stealing.

      Stealing is taking a piece of property away from someone without their permission. Piracy is making a copy of information that IP law deems illegitimate – which usually means without the permission of the originator. The difference – and it is a very important difference – is that when you steal something from me, I no longer possess it. When you pirate a work I created, I still have my copy, and I still created it in the first place. You haven’t taken anything from me, you’ve just created something new.

      Theft is, like piracy, a bad thing. But saying it’s the same thing as piracy is too big a stretch to be taken seriously. Piracy is one of the most hotly debated subjects in the gaming community. One important thing in the discourse about piracy, as in any discourse but especially in those where tempers run high, is clarity. Words should be used the way they’re meant to, not just however we’d like to. Conflating terms obfuscates their meaning and serves only to cause confusion and to inflame tempers further. I don’t conflate piracy and stealing, and neither should you.

      So please, everyone, stop doing it. Thank you.

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      thristhart says:

      I should point out that he never said it was a good thing. It’s just the nature of information. We can try all we like to stop it, but it just makes it harder, not impossible.

    • Shadram says:

      “But it is NOT stealing.”

      Not this nonsense again…

      Piracy IS stealing. It’s the same kind of stealing as shop lifting, where you go into HMV, pick up a copy of the game, shove it in your underwear and walk out of the shop. You’re not preventing anyone else from purchasing the game (assuming they’ve got lots of copies in stock), but you are denying the retailer, publisher and developer their money by not buying it.

      Piracy is theft of data. Yes, it’s different to “theft of neighbour’s car” or “theft of neighbour’s wife”, but it’s still taking something that is not rightfully yours. This is what defines the act of theft, not the “preventing other people from having it” part.

    • DOLBYdigital says:

      Well written comment pantsman…
      I don’t really want to see another one of these discussions, but since it will go on either way I guess I’ll comment. This is the first one I’ve ever replied to probably because this is RPS and people actually know how to hold a discussion here and not turn it into flaming and bashing one another.

      The only thing I kinda disagree on is my own personal definition of ‘stealing’. I guess my own definition of stealing doesn’t involve the actual possession but instead the act of taking something without permission. So even though I can take a ‘copy’ of something, if it isn’t given to me or the public then in my mind its still ‘stealing’. I can see both sides of the fence on this topic and can see why its hotly debated. Probably because many feel when something is sold or given to them, they should be able to do with it what they please. However this gets cloudy when you talk of something that can be copied and distributed to the masses from just one copy. An interesting debate that would be fun in a philosophy class :)

    • Cronstintein says:

      The difference between pirating and stealing is the same between opportunity loss and actual loss.

      Stealing a cd from HMV means they won’t be able to sell THAT cd. They’ll run out one cd sooner, have to order more, etc… it’s an actual loss of something with a measurable monetary value.

      Pirating a game is only a loss if the person would have otherwise bought the game. The only loss is the opportunity to sell to *that person*. If they weren’t going to buy the game anyway, there was no actual loss.

      (This applies only to downloaders. The people cracking the exe and providing it for download are obviously doing much more harm to the company).

      Is piracy morally good? No.
      Is it stealing? No.

    • Pantsman says:

      But that’s just it: piracy isn’t taking anything. At all. Piracy is making something, something that didn’t exist before. The fact that theft involves taking something is inseparable from the fact that the original owner no longer has it. Those are the same thing.

      In your “stuffing boxed copy down pants” example, you’ve stolen a physical object. In a sense, you have stolen the data because you actually stole a copy of it, instead of creating a new one. You’ve also made it so that the store will run out of copies sooner, and will have to pay for one more new one than they otherwise had to. They’ve suffered a material loss.

      I hope that clears things up. Just to make the point another way, consider that when the RIAA was suing all those kids for file-sharing music, they didn’t sue them for theft. They sued them for copyright infringement. Most (all, as far as I know) legal systems recognizes the distinction, and so should we.

    • pipman3000 says:

      remember the days when trying to justify piracy got you called a warez kiddie and banned in moments? things sure were different back then!

    • Bonedwarf says:

      To be contrary, piracy can LEAD to sales. The example I always give is “The Wire”. A show I’ve never had any opportunity to see as it doesn’t air on any channel I get (and I pay $50 a month for cable TV). I pirated it. Immediately went out and bought the box sets.

      HBO ultimately got around $250 from that they would never had received had I not “pirated” the show. I’ve also convinced at least 3 other people to buy the box sets. Piracy ultimately resulted in 3 more fans addicted to the show.

      But of course the potential benefits of piracy for the publisher (ultimate sales that would never have happened, word of mouth etc…) are never stated because they’re impossible to know.

      The piracy numbers themselves make far more dramatic reading. And are mostly outright lies. Remember when the goon in charge of Starforce claimed every pirated copy equaled FIVE lost sales? Stats from the same company that posted torrent links to the non-DRM’ed Galactic Civilizations… (An “oversight” which seemed more like a protection racket to me, and given where I’ve heard their funding comes from…)

      All the time there is ridiculous hyperbole regarding piracy floating around, like the one above saying it’s like shoplifting, which it isn’t, or the overused car theft analogy, which is flat out ridiculous (It’s not “Stealing a car”. It’s “Would you like a copy of my new Mercedes?” as to legally be theft the owner has to be deprived of their property, which is why copyright violation carriers far harsher penalties than actual stealing does) there cannot be a serious discussion.

      Of course IMO piracy is completely morally acceptable when purchasing games at brick and mortar stores. Why? Because these games have DRM, but if the DRM prevents you from playing, you can’t return the game. Why? Because you may have copied it.

      Treat the customer like a thief and they will live down to your expectations.

      Given the figures they tout for piracy, games protected with Starforce when it came out and went uncracked for almost two years should have been the biggest selling games of all time if you believe the industry numbers of sales “lost” to piracy.

    • dadioflex says:

      “Piracy.. blah… blah.. But it is NOT stealing.”

      In the modern vernacular there is no distinction currently made in the wider community between piracy and stealing BECAUSE the guys with the money have been ramming it down the throats of the gen pop for years now. It’s become part of the language,

      There’s still a legal distinction but outside of the courtroom and angry lawyer blogs the two words are effectively interchangeable.

      I COULD make up my own language but I CHOOSE to speak English, and in so doing I accept the rich history of the language which has thrown a sack over the head of many a fine young word, absconded with it and perverted its meaning with nary a tearful glint in its stony eye.

      That’s what I like about it.

    • Wulf says:

      I kind of feel bad for BAReFOOt because everyone completely misunderstood the point he was trying to make, and then went off on a mad tangent. I think his point was similar to the notion that selling data is similar to selling ideas, it’s done, it’s the nature of this capitalistic world of ours, but it strikes even me as a tad odd. This is why I don’t think of things as ‘buying’, per se, I’m funding a person to spend their time dreaming up other ideas. If I think about this any other way, it makes my head hurt.

      Also, there’s a simple way to shut down the imbecilic piracy vs theft argument, and it goes as follows: Theft involves scarcity. Data does not involve scarcity. Therefore data copying cannot be theft. It may be illegal, it may be many things, but since there is no scarcity involved in data, it is absolutely not theft. Theft requires scarcity and anyone who doesn’t realise this just doesn’t have the first damn clue what they’re talking about, honestly.

      If something exists in abundance, then theft ceases to be an issue, because you’re not depriving someone else of something by taking it. Therefore – if I could create a perfect copy of your car without actually touching your car or harming it in any way, this would not be theft, because I am not depriving you the use of your car. Theft always invokes scarcity. Grand theft auto is grand theft auto because you’re taking a car, you’re not duplicating a car. Theft does not involve duplication, data copying does. Theft involves scarcity, data copying does not. This is an incredibly simple concept that should not elude anyone.

      I’m not advocating piracy, I’m just pointing out that it’s amazingly ignorant, stunningly ignorant even, to call piracy theft. That’s just Garbage In Garbage Out. You’ve been told it’s theft so you believe it, but there’s no scarcity. If you want me to buy that piracy is theft, then you must show me that there is scarcity in data. (Which there is not, scarcity in duplicated data does not exist.)

    • bill says:

      I’m wondering about two hypothetical examples.

      Imagine someone invents one of those star-trek matter cafeteria machines that allows you to copy physical items.

      (a) I buy an apple, copy it infinitely and give them away to everyone. No one ever has to buy an apple again. All apple farms go bust.

      (b) I buy an apple, copy it a lot, and give all the apples to people in africa who have no food. And who would never have bought the apples in the first place.

      Theft? No theft?

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      lurkalisk says:

      @dadioflex

      By “English” you seem to be referring to the absurd, overcomplicated mess that most English speakers use, as opposed to proper English. For the purpose of a thoughtful argument, the former is a horrible thing to use for the very reason courts use the latter.

      A thoughtful argument requires nothing less than careful, considered approach, something the sort of English you speak of is nearly incapable of allowing. Therefore, a quantitative distinction between software piracy and theft is necessary to move any such discussion forward.

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      lurkalisk says:

      @dadioflex

      Any thoughtful argument requires nothing less than a careful, considered approach, something the English you speak of (as opposed to proper used-in-court English) in nearly incapable of allowing. Any such argument on the subject needs a quantitative distinction between software piracy and theft if there is any hope to move it forward.

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      Nogo says:

      @Barefoot

      Good thing binary information is licensed to be executed then. Nice straw-man though.

      Pray tell, what is the end-game of the information utopia you’ve been inappropriately formulating through the RPS comment system recently?

    • ChaK_ says:

      Stealing…copying…. Those are only words.

      Facts remains, and it does hurt the industry we love.

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      Hidden_7 says:

      It’s really important to use the correct words here and not the ones that “the guys with money” have been “ramming down our throats” because there’s a very good reason why the people with money have been ramming it (the word theft) down our throats, and it’s for rhetorical use and to obfuscate the real issue.

      Because the issue of theft has been decided. Everyone agrees that it’s bad to steal things. So by equating piracy with theft they want to resolve the issue quickly, with very little thought. Everyone agrees theft is wrong, so this is theft, so it’s wrong. You would have thought calling it (copyright infringement) piracy would have been enough.

      At this point I should give the standard spiel that copyright infringement is illegal, and I don’t necessarily condone it and what not, so that I’m not immediately branded as a piracy apologist and thus dirty and unworthy of discourse, but that would actually be a shade antithetical to my point. The point that, really, there should be an open discussion about accepted business models and practices with regard to post-scarcity “products.”

      Consider this. An electrician spends a year working to install and maintain electrical services in various buildings. He is compensated for his time, so nets a year’s pay for a year’s work. A writer spends a year working on a novel. He is then permitted to sell the product of that year’s labour again and again, since the supply is effectively unlimited (yay ebooks) and making new copies requires trivial effort and resources, until he dies. After he dies his daughter can continue to sell the product of that labour. The electrician gets paid for a year’s work, the writer, who put in the same amount of work, gets paid forever.

      Not a perfect analogy, but what about instead of an electrician, a real estate developer. And instead of the writer, we have a movie studio. Each company puts in a significant amount of monetary and time investment into creating a product. They aren’t paid for the work they put in, but after the couple of years spent building the apartment complex, and making the movie, each company has a product they can sell. The difference being that the real estate developer has 150 or so units they can sell, and once sold, that’s it. The movie studio has unlimited (yay digital download services), and they are are allowed to sell these unlimited products for nearly a century. However long Mickey Mouse is old.

      I’m not saying that this is necessarily wrong, or that it shouldn’t be this way, but at the very least this should maybe strike some of you as odd. Maybe this is a system we want to think about at least. Do we really want copyright to be used this way? Is this the best way to go about things?

      These are all questions that companies that stand to gain from the current copyright scheme don’t want people asking. And so, copyright infringement (which includes a whole host of things, not just illegal copying, mods, for example) gets labelled piracy, and then piracy is equated with theft, and the issue of theft is already decided, so these questions don’t get raised, because anyone who has questions about piracy is just a thief, or a thief apologist and they just want things for free don’t they.

      In conclusion, uncritical use of terminology is doubleplus ungood. Use the correct terms, they are correct for a reason.

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      Nogo says:

      Hidden_7: “the writer [...] gets paid forever.”

      “Uncritical use of terminology is doubleplus ungood. Use the correct terms, they are correct for a reason.”

      You’re being a bit uncritical with your usage of “forever.”

      Additionally that analogy is just plain silly. The electrician did nothing novel so he deserves nothing more than payment for the application of standard practices. And it was quite cruel of you to deny a maintenance contract to that hypothetical electrician.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      “Theft involves scarcity. Data does not involve scarcity. Therefore data copying cannot be theft.”

      I can’t believe I’m wading into this mess, but: this is 100% wrong. Creating that data takes at least time and calories (not to mention other business overhead), both of which ultimately cost the developer some form of currency to keep going. Piracy is at least taking food out of developers mouths and wasting their time. I grew out of it, and currently only use back channels to obtain copies of things which there is no option to buy them. There’s waaaaaaaay too much free and cheap stuff all over to justify piracy except in the case of the odd item that can’t be bought for one reason or another (like something that’s out of print and not even available second-hand).

      The problem with this whole debate is that there isn’t a decent proportion of software engineers to teenage idiots on the internet anymore. If the internet was somehow made by cinema owners and a bajillion idiots were trying to justify theater-hopping by saying it’s not stealing… Well idiots will be idiots no matter what you do, but at least the issue of trespassing would clarify things a little.

    • Wonko the Sane says:

      No piracy thread is complete without this anti-piracy video.

      That is all.

    • ChaK_ says:

      Maybe there should be a new word then.

      Thiefopy of something.

      You Take/get/copy/whatever something for free. That something normally cost money. That’s illegal and wrong, I don’t even see how this can be debated.

      Just like you working for a year, and your boss decided not to pay you. He wouldn’t steal anything from you, though he’s avoid you gaining money.

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      Hidden_7 says:

      @Nogo

      Whoops, you’re right. I should have said for the rest of his life, not forever.

      Also wouldn’t the maintenance contract just be an offer to pay for additional years of work? Like the writer getting offered a second book deal. It’s not like the electrician could just sit around and watch the money pour in from the electrical work he did last year. Though yes, I’m sure my hypothetical electrician is very good at his job and would earn a maintenance contract.

      As to the issue of the electrician doing nothing novel, while the novelist (ha! words!) did. Sure, writing is more creative work than electrical work (maybe, I don’t know, I’ve never done electrical work). But then again, there is an awful lot of fairly formulaic stuff out there, and every house poses a slightly different problem, re: wiring.

      I think the building / movie analogy holds fairly well though. An architect needed to be commissioned at some point, and that can certainly be fairly creative and novel work. Yet, he gets paid one time for his work on that one building. Then the company builds it, and people can take photos of it, and the movie studio can have it in their movie, and he still is paid one time for his initial work. If he had painted a picture of the same building however, money per copy, even digital copy that costs him no extra effort.

      I understand that copyright exists to reward innovation and creativity, because those things are good, and I absolutely think people should be compensated for their creative work. I also think that corporate interests have warped the perception and application of copyright law over the years, and maybe it behooves society to have a look at that and chat about it without one half calling the other half dirty thieves.

    • dragonhunter21 says:

      Piracy is bad, and stealing is bad. Can we just allow the terms to be interchangeable?

      Seriously- either way, it’s getting something you didn’t pay for.

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      lurkalisk says:

      @Nogo

      …I’m confused. I think, perhaps, you either don’t know what a “straw man” argument is, or completely misunderstood my post. I’m inclined to believe the latter.

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      Nogo says:

      @ Hidden_7: I’m confused by your analogy. If the architect is commissioned then he owns nothing. He willingly transferred ownership of his design to the developer, for an agreed upon amount, who is thus free to reap the benefits of commercial use of said design.

      In fact his contract may even include a percentage of future revenue.

      How is this different or unfair compared to intellectual property? A screenwriter can either attempt to sell their work freelance or do commissioned work, just like an electrician can either take contract work or attempt new, patentable methods of home wiring.

      @ Lurkalisk: Sorry for the confusion. I’ve updated my original post with twitspeak goodness.

    • RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

      We should pay developers for developing, not specifically for the distribution. This is more or less what happened with Minecraft. People bought the game, with the promise they would get all updates. But do you work around the “others will pay, so I don’t have to”- mentality?

    • kyrieee says:

      The right of ownership came from the uniqueness and irreplaceability of physical objects. The same grounding for ownership doesn’t exist for virtual objects or information. The only reason to pay for games is to be pragmatic about it and say that games cannot continue to be made with high production levels unless people pay for them. That doesn’t mean that there’s a strong philosophical grounding for intellectual property and copyright.

      That said, I don’t think most people who pirate games reason that way and there is nothing that pisses me off more than people expressing a self claimed right to digital media. I don’t think you can tell people to not do it though, the realities of technology are what they are. If intellectual property was as tautological as physical ownership then people wouldn’t pirate to the degree they do. All you can do is appeal to people’s pragmatism.

    • Medo says:

      “Piracy is bad, and stealing is bad. Can we just allow the terms to be interchangeable?”
      @dragonhunter21: Murder is bad too. Can’t we just equate that as well?

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Isn’t it bad to use your large amounts of money to crush anyone with a legitimate case against you?

      I’m just saying, the studios aren’t exactly innocent in all this. In fact, some of them are downright evil.

    • Dinger says:

      An IP thief takes the assets and asserts ownership over them. An IP pirate takes the assets and copies them. For software, theft occurs when, for example, a company convinces a contractor to let it “evaluate the source code”, then publishes it, asserting copyright without compensating the contractor. Piracy occurs when that same company distributes the work as the contractor’s without asserting copyright, but without authorization either.

      To argue otherwise (e.g., “Piracy is bad and Stealing is bad, so let’s call them both the same thing”) is stupid. On the same logic, bickering on comment threads about piracy and stealing is bad, but so is molesting badgers, so you’re all a bunch of badger molestors.
      And to say that it’s a fine legal distinction that can be safely ignored in practice is also dangerous: the major IP industrial powers are using the “theft-piracy” confusion to make the punishment for IP piracy (practiced largely by consumers) far higher than the punishment for IP theft (which is practiced largely by the big players in the media).

      When record companies routinely use fraudulent takedown notices to prevent others from making their own work public, they are asserting ownership over IP they don’t own. That is theft, and a far greater crime than putting someone else’s song on a P2P sharing service. One has been punished by fines of $150,000/song. The other has so far no practical legal repercussions.

    • Legionary says:

      Home taping is killing music.

    • Quirk says:

      @Hidden_7:

      There are a number of pretty obvious differences between the way the writer works and the way the electrician works, which makes the “paid for the rest of his life” thing a bit overly simplistic.

      Firstly, writing does not on average pay well. Many writers never get published, never make any money out of their work. It’s high risk for what is very rarely a high reward. Of those who do, the majority are not particularly well recompensed for the time they sink into the writing, even over the course of a lifetime. The suggestion that they get paid for their whole lives is also in most cases for practical purposes incorrect; the initial print run is made, the copies are dispatched to bookshops, and if demand does not necessitate another printing, there will likely not be one.

      Software is similar in certain respects, especially games. Games date rapidly. Many games from ten years ago are no longer on sale, anywhere. Games programmers are mostly poorly paid, and many of them work for companies which survive on a knife edge. Those which strike it big can do incredibly well for themselves. If they didn’t, people wouldn’t attempt to make a living out of it; making games would merely be a hobby some people poured time into.

      The “unfairness” of the writer or the games programmer being paid for years after they’ve written their book or made their game has to be balanced by the serious danger they face of not being paid at all, or only getting a pittance for all their hard work. Copyright is compensating here for vicious job insecurity.

      There are other funding models. Rich people have kept pet artists for millennia. You could have some version of state funding. In neither of those models though do users like you and I get to shape the market, helping to keep alive some segment in which we personally have an interest. It is in our interests to keep the incentives for the successful writers and programmers high, so that the great many who fail to achieve commercial success are replaced by newcomers with unrealistic dreams, of whom a few will in turn go on to inspire others.

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      Nogo says:

      @ kyrieee: If you view a physical objects as commissioned works (which is frankly how all goods were produced until fairly recently) then a virtual product has just as much “grounding” as a physical one.

      Viewed this way, we aren’t paying for a product, so much as funding its creation. If we continued to pay upfront for a product, then waited for its completion, IP law would be much more intuitive.

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      Hidden_7 says:

      Just to clear some things up.

      I am fully aware that the writer vs. electrician isn’t a perfect analogy. Nor was I imply that it was “unfair” for the writer to be compensated the way he was. Certainly I am aware that most writers don’t actually make very much money at all, you would be far better being the electrician.

      I was just attempting to draw attention to the fact that for one job you are rewarded for your time, and the other job you are rewarded with a product that you are allowed to sell (whether you can actually realistically find buyers is another story) for the rest of your life.

      Maybe a better analogy is a chair maker and a writer. They both spend some time crafting something, all on speculation. The end result is a product they can sell. The chair maker can sell his product once, the writer, for as long as people are buying.

      Not saying that’s wrong, or unfair, or that writers are scamming society or anything. Just saying it can seem odd when looked at in certain ways. Certainly, at the very least, it doesn’t seem self-evidently the most correct way to go about things. Maybe there’s a better way to reward creative work, maybe one that lowers some of the potential reward but also lowers some of the potential risk. Maybe in a way that actually fosters creativity by not locking away ideas for years and years where only one person can use them.

      Maybe not. Maybe this is the best way to do things. However, the point I was trying to make is that by equating piracy to theft, companies are trying to shut down this discussion before it starts, because theft IS self evidently wrong, whereas someone not being paid for every single copy of a thing they made, when it requires no effort or cost on their part per copy, isn’t quite as self-evidently wrong.

      Certainly people should be rewarded for the work they do, just wondering if the current system is the best way to do that.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      1. If you do not remove an item from stock, that item is not missing and therefore is not a lost sale.
      It’s still there, you can still sell it. There is no difference/change in economic state.

      2. If someone who does not possess _ANY_ economic capacity at all and is not included in the economic macrosystem therefore, his actions cannot tangibly influence it, as he has no means to.

      For these instances, one therefore cannot cause a loss(1), and one could not have caused a profit/sale by oneself (2) either.
      Therefore anyone seperate of the economic system in terms of funds / money / other profit relevant goods is unable to cause any harm to any entity within it. This one person may have and store copies of all the software in the world, all books, movies and games, yet not have made one inch of a difference.

      If he now tells all of his friends how awesome all these possessions are, he runs risk of increasing sales and acting as a free marketing agent. This has happened before, and is happening every day still.

      A manufacturing plant in southeast easia that produces near perfect hologram copies of MS operating systems and software and sells them for profit, effectively eliminating marketshare and profits for the original distributor, is piracy.

      A douchebag with a fast car, high paying job and a completely copied DVD/game/MP3 collection who instead of buying them put that money into a savings account has had an economic impact and has deprived the _overall_ marketplace of potential sales, not just that part which he pirated items from.

      Those that put their money into buying blurays, but completely pirate their games and MP3s are not depriving the economic macrosystem(because their items are still taxed, their money is still spent and circulated etc pp), but SHIFTING the bias within the marketplace towards whoever makes money off of their bluray purchases.
      Once their money is gone, their influence on the market is, too(outside of the sphere of the whole social interactions / communication area which I hinted at above).
      What they have bought up to that point has had the capacity for change, nothing else(i.e. they could after buying 3 new xbox games copy every MP3 in the world and it would not do a thing to “the economy” whereas the xbox purchases do) does.
      Arguing that once copied, they will never purchase said MP3s again as a legit purchase is just as fallible an assumption as that the fact of them not being available in any other way than via legit purchase will make one purchase them on that grounds alone. It is a shortsighted and incorrect assumption.

      The long and short of it is: that which you purchase, you encourage by creating demand, but you CANNOT diminish supply by creating exact duplicates yourself. You can only increase it and complicate the rational choice paradigm when weighing purchasing / financial decision / ethic choice / risk of sanction balance.

      If you cannot understand that a few details (who does what how and why) might make a complete difference to the incredibly loosely used term “piracy”, then you should not be in this, or really any, discussion.

    • sirjefferson says:

      it’s not “piracy” which is bad, it’s intellectual property which is bad
      people who are acting purposefully to make it impossible for others to use/modify stuff without their license are evil
      restrictions only help the developers by restricting people, which is a bad thing

      it is also evil to oppose the production of something because people will then, if it is available, less use the product you favor

  4. liq3 says:

    ” it nevertheless enabled hackers to create hacked clients”

    Because not releasing the source totally stops hackers, as shown by the complete lack of hacks for games. *rolls eyes*.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lim-Dul says:

      You don’t understand the difference between hacks and forks and what it means to have a game’s source code on hand, do you?

    • Rhin says:

      There’s a difference between “can read the source code” (which is what an onobfuscated .NET assembly basically provides) and “can hack.” An indie developer is not a production-grade network engineer — they spend their time and effort designing games, not in making their netcode watertight. Although at this point Notch really needs to hire some professional guns. .

    • Warskull says:

      I would say the forks hurt the game more than the hacks. Open source just doesn’t seem like a good way to design a game. Everyone thinks they know how to make games, very few people actually do. Multiplayer games really need a “this is how the game is meant to be played” mode. Otherwise you would have everyone trying their own little variant of Starcraft because they thought race X was underpowered and race Y was overpowered.

  5. Coded_One says:

    Ouch. That does indeed suck.

    On the bright side, Spacechem is probably the best damn puzzle game that I’ve ever played!

    • squidlarkin says:

      Indeed. The way things worked out, we get Minecraft and Spacechem. Even if Zach isn’t wearing as many moneyhats as he probably deserves…

  6. sinelnic says:

    Nah he had half the thing, no building means a completely different motivation for the player and an abysmal gameplay difference. Credit to Notch for being monkey_with_typewriter_#_1000.

    • Qazi says:

      I just want to point out he had building even if it wasn’t the main focus.
      There was a sandbox variable where everyone had infinite metal, and we could all go on one team and build forts and towns with working roads.

      My greatest infiniminer build was a recreation of No Mercy 5′s rooftop, sadly lost now to the wastelands of time (and reformatting).

  7. jonfitt says:

    A gentleman developer.

  8. pakoito says:

    I spent all fucking night dreaming about space-fucking-chem and how to solve some goddamn dreaming puzzle and it was so annoying I woke up still tired. True story, sadly.

    Now I discover he made infiniminer….god I love this guy.

  9. Premium User Badge

    frymaster says:

    ironically enough, EVERY SINGLE MOD for minecraft (including texture mods, before support was added) works by decompiling and reverse-engineering notch’s code (and that isobfuscated)

  10. Premium User Badge

    thesundaybest says:

    In the same way every online argument eventually mentions Hitler, every RPS comment thread eventually gets down to justifying stealing…er…pirating games. It’s like a self-spawning comment virus.

    • Jake says:

      Annexing the Sudetenland is NOT stealing. As the comment threads said at the time.

    • Premium User Badge

      Fitzmogwai says:

      Jake: Top marks. Well done.

    • Temple to Tei says:

      Only because the Forum Moderators deleted any post that claimed it was stealing.

  11. Urthman says:

    I literally can’t understand anyone who criticizes Minecraft for being somewhat derivative of Infiniminer.

    Do those people criticize Half-Life for being derivative of Quake? Do they deride Starcraft for being just another C&C clone?

    Are they really asking for a world in which game developers don’t borrow great ideas and gameplay from other games?

  12. Premium User Badge

    Daiv says:

    Spacechem is 1000x the game Minecraft is, and this is a true fact.
    Minecraft is 1000x the toy Spacechem is, and this too is a true fact.

    (Using, of course, subjective and highly personal definitions of “game” and “toy”, neither of which is used in a pejorative sense)

  13. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    What.A.Shame.

  14. Tei says:

    I am hacker, and moder, and I have to make a comment.

    The situation zatch describe for Infiniminer is the same on Minecraft.
    Infiniminer is written in .NET, and the code was open, you can read it.
    Minecraft is written in Java, and the code was open, you can read it ( using tools like JED).

    Infiniminer: some people did modifications of the game, and custom servers.
    Minecraft: some people has done modifications of the game, and custom servers (+theres C++ and Python versions of the Minecraft server built from scratch)

    The only difference I can see, is that Notch never panicked because the fact the whole source code of Minecraft is available for the community, and Minecraft itself as a creative sandbox, has less urgent needs to stop custom clients. Zatch could have solved his problem in different ways, much probably evolving forward the game, with new versions that make the older obsolete both in compatibility and coolness. He can stil do it.

    • MrMud says:

      I think the problem here is that it sounds like Infiniminer was a competetive game (pvp) instead of co-operative (pve) where its much more important to make sure that no one is cheating.

    • Baboonanza says:

      The key difference is that Infiniminer was intended as a competetive game. While a game/toy like MineCraft can survive custom clients a competetive game cannot, it’s balance will be destroyed and the purpose of playing removed.

    • Tei says:

      “The key difference is that Infiniminer was intended as a competetive game. While a game/toy like MineCraft can survive custom clients a competetive game cannot, it’s balance will be destroyed and the purpose of playing removed.”

      Once you have a game like Infiniminer built, is simple to convert it in a creative game. The complex thing is convert a game like Minecraft in a PVP game,… Notch is doing the required steps, like moving inventory serverside so people cant have infinite arrows, but Is still not totally appropriate for that use.

      Theres also something to say about skills. These textures of infiniminer are horrible, the ones of Notch are much better. And Minecraft support a map bigger than earth, how big can be a infiniminer map? Maybe Notch is a better game dev than Zatch and as done a better game. Infiniminer looks a lot like a prototype in a bad way.

  15. Wulf says:

    I think that this game would’ve worked better as more of an open source project that you buy the media files for, and I have similar thoughts about Minecraft as well. Forks don’t really hurt the core game so much, you can still run the ‘official’ one, and section things off so that forked servers required forked clients, and so on. A specific client for a specific server. This has worked for so many open source projects.

    It’s just something that people will want to mod. Doesn’t mean that you can’t still sell the media files and a license to use the compiled code, either. I really think that developers need to be more clever these days in how they sell their stuff. I don’t expect many people to agree with me because many gamers still seem to have outmoded thoughts on this, but more *nixy people who think like this have been observing baby steps toward this end all the time. More and more developers are inching toward this.

    I’d love to see a big indie project outright try this. I don’t think it’d be at all harmful. I don’t think it would’ve harmed InfiniMiner. I don’t think it’d harm Minecraft.

    Disclaimer: I apologise for having an opinion that matters to me, and thoughts that I wanted to air.

  16. MrSafin says:

    What a pave.

  17. Premium User Badge

    Okami says:

    Only been in the office for ten minutes and already learned a new word. And what a splendid one it is: “magnanimous” – I like it. Thanks, RPS!

    • balooba says:

      I already knew it. From playing hours of Civilization II (its from the diplomacy dialogues). Thanks PC Games!

  18. Medo says:

    I feel him. This is exactly what happened with Gang Garrison, so I can tell you from experience that it sucks to have this happen to you, even more so when many people don’t seem to understand why you’re upset about it.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Stijn says:

    There was Cube before Infiniminer, anyway.

  20. Premium User Badge

    The Sombrero Kid says:

    The vast majority of Minecrafts success was it’s Marketing, notch didn’t do nothing to generate those sales, primarily he exploited the herding nature of Humanity, “1 million people like this? I’ve gotta check it out!”, it obviously wouldn’t of worked if it didn’t have a good game at it’s core & the tangibility of the updates also made people keep going back to see what was new.

    • Urthman says:

      Yeah. The game was a complete flop until Notch started telling everyone it had sold a million copies. And then everyone started buying it.

      I have thought, however, of what a perfect evil genius Notch would be if it turned out he had completely invented those sales statistics. If, say, he’d only sold a few thousand copies but told everyone it was 100,000 and then the internets reported that figure and lots of other people actually bought the game.

      But that scenario assumes Notch created about 9,000 YouTube sock puppets and spent several months posting videos non-stop 24/7.

    • Legionary says:

      Over 9,000, I’d have thought.

  21. terry says:

    Good on him. I will buy his game when I have the buxx.

  22. Phydaux says:

    I had always thought that Minecraft was like Wurm Online, but without all the tedium. I then found out that Notch was one of the founders of Wurm Online. Basically Minecraft = Infiniminer + Wurm Online.

    I also wonder if Rolf (of Wurm Online) has any bitterness towards Notch, or Minecraft’s success.

  23. SBBTD says:

    minecraft中文论坛竟然进不去了,坑人。