The Cult of Minecraft: Chain World

By Alec Meer on March 15th, 2011 at 5:32 pm.

There isn't a rule about not trashing absolutely everything, I notice. Uh-oh

You could play Minecraft right now, very, very easily. What you couldn’t play at all easily is a very special – unique, even – version of Minecraft known as Chain World. A game you could, even if you had the chance, play only once. A game only a very few people will ever play, and a game no-one who hasn’t played it will ever be told the details of.

You can know of it, but you will probably never know it.

Chain World is the brainchild of Sleep is Death/Inside A Star-Filled Sky creator Jason Rohrer, it’s a Minecraft world that lives on USB drive. Only one person may have access to that drive at any one time. Should they die in-game, a special script wipes the save game from their PC but clones it, with a fresh character, onto the USB stick, which must then be passed onto the next player. No replays. No do-evers. Once the world ends, it ends for you – but it carries on for just one other person.

That next player receives, and must play in, a world created and shaped by their predecessor, and by those who proceeded him or her. Every player must obey these commandments:

1. Run Chain World via one of the included “run_ChainWorld” launchers.
2. Start a single-player game and pick “Chain World”.
3. Play until you die exactly once.
3a. Erecting wooden signs with text is forbidden
3b. Suicide is permissible.
4. Immediately after dying and respawning, quit to the menu.
5. Allow the world to save.
6. Exit the game and wait for your launcher to automatically copy Chain World back to the USB stick.
7. Pass the USB stick to someone else who expresses interest.
8. Never discuss what you saw or did in Chain World with anyone.
9. Never play again.

(There is discussion about a tenth commandment – more on that on the current Chain World website). Whether that’s the official Chain World website remains to be seen – it’s the one set up by its current ruler, at least. No doubt there will be many more Chain World websites, as ever-more people inherit the holy drive and dream up new ways to pass it on.

Will Commandment 8 is the one most like to prompt gasps, Commandment 7 is the real key to how this secret world will be ruled and shaped. How is that interest expressed – i.e. how is the next player chosen? Well, being Jane McGonigal helps – she’s fourth in line for the sacred drive – but also an option is bidding for it on eBay. All proceeds go to charity.

So far, bidding to become Player 3 of this unique world is up to $510, but I’m willing to bet that’ll hit triple figures at the very least before the auction ends on Friday.

Once Player 3, whoever he or she turns out to be (you? Could it be you? It could!) perishes in-game, they then have the peculiar honour of posting the USB stick to Jane McGonigal for her go, who’ll be the only person to see what you made in its unadulterated form, and will probably write a book about it or something. Only she can’t because it contravenes commandment 8. Take that, McGonigal!

And what then? Here’s the current chain, which includes a few more charity auctions and – goodness me! – a promised slot for Will Wright a little bit down the line if first inheritor Jia Ji’s chain is stuck to. Which it may not be. There’s been some controversy about the use of bidding systems in the chain (see below) but I would imagine ever-new methods of selecting a successor will be devised throughout the project’s life – and often they’ll be secret ones.

If anyone wants to send it to RPS at some point, consider our interest very definitely expressed. We promise to be benevolent gods and definitely won’t just fill it with giant stone genitalia and statues of our cats*. Or blog about what we saw or did, which is the main thing.

At some point in the future, the theory goes, Chain World will have been shaped and reshaped by countless players, none of whom ever get to see what’s done with what they made. The concept is supposed to be analagous to a religion – something handed down from generation to generation, based on immutable values but forever changing as new minds get a chance to shape it.

What will ultimately happen, whether it’s a continuing success or not, I don’t know. What a wonderful experiment, though. I feel desperately sad that I will almost certainly never see it, but overjoyed that it’s out there, somewhere, evolving in secret. There is an extra sadness (expressed at length with varying degrees of rage here and here) that the first recipient of the game immediately dictated its near-future to such an absolute degree – charity auctions and guaranteed game-celebrity involvement.

Even Roher himself has recommended the winner of the auction shouldn’t give it to McGonigal, going on to argue that the eBay winner should break the “new rules.” Jia Ji can’t force anyone to follow them. However, Rohrer can’t force anyone to follow his unruling either. Which only makes it all the more exciting. The choice will lie with player 3, and player 3 only, and the choice as to whether to then auction it again will lie with player 4. Who might be Jane McGonigal. If she does get it, expect something pretty fascinating/divisive in itself to devise its next move.

Of course, what this so-called (by some) perversion definitely does achieve is that Chain World has very visibly become a sensation rather than just a quietly exciting GDC project. It’s on course to be a fast spread of belief and excitement, rather than quietly disappearing by being passed endlessly around a circle of friends – which could very feasibly have happened too. Is that more or less like a religion? In the co-opting of money and pomp, and in its controversial diversion from The One True Way into a new set of beliefs and principles, it’s certainly not a million miles away from being one… The rules are going to be ever-changing, ever-updated and ever argued about. There will be purists and there will be reformists. There will be religious flame war. Surely this is the real point.

Here’s how it all began, in a GDC game design challenge. Rohrer’s bit starts about 5 minutes in, and in its talk of how the act of creation figures into game world design is enormously fascinating in its own regard, whether or not you’re charmed by the project.

* I would definitely break the promise about cats.

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144 Comments »

  1. Zaboomafoozarg says:

    You will probably never comment on this story. It is very, very special.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      I’d just upload both the game mod and the savegame to my server, for the next one to play.
      I’d hack the “played died” indicator.
      I’d make a copy before and after playing.
      I’d ask everyone playing to give me a copy.
      I’d make a mod of Minecraft with a 2nd time dimension, allowing you to shift through the saves like a dimension hopper.
      I’d make a movie about it.
      I’d back everything up.

      Why? Because I understand the laws of information physics.
      It’s just a structure on your hard disk that is interpreted as a list of commands by your CPU, using another structure on the USB stick. Copies are free. You control the CPU, and hence what it does with that list and those structures.

      Why are humans so primitive?

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      Their ability to maintain the artifice of rules despite the points you make suggests a complexity and sophistication which you seem unable to muster.

      Sure, you could raid the bank in Monopoly; you could nick my queen while I nip off to the toilet…

    • nimnio says:

      @BAReFOOt: Whoosh.

    • Dhatz says:

      barefoot, go do it! Is is a biplane? Is it a meteor? it’s the cronoworld!

    • Lilliput King says:

      “Where did my Queen go?”

      “SHE FELL FOUL OF THE LAWS OF INFORMATION PHYSICS”

    • dadioflex says:

      Seems to me BAReFOOt is the only what that does understand.
      I need a greasemonkey script to keep this arty crap out of the RPS feed. I got about halfway before I was too pissed of to continue by the twee elitism.
      And Jane McGonigal WILL get it. She’s a pushy cow.

    • sebmojo says:

      BAReFOOt says:March 15, 2011 at 6:02 pmI’d just upload both the game mod and the savegame to my server, for the next one to play.
      I’d hack the “played died” indicator.
      I’d make a copy before and after playing.
      I’d ask everyone playing to give me a copy.
      I’d make a mod of Minecraft with a 2nd time dimension, allowing you to shift through the saves like a dimension hopper.
      I’d make a movie about it.
      I’d back everything up

      I’m sure you would. Because you are a cock.

    • Premium User Badge Mo says:

      @barefoot:
      Indeed, why are humans so primitive? Turns out you are too primitive to grasp the concept of “just because you can doesn’t mean you should”, nor have you grasped the concept of an honour code.

      I’m pretty sure we all understand the “laws of information physics” (lol) a.k.a. “a file system on a computer.”

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      boring troll is boring and predictable

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      and an elite hacker. I forgot that one. If only there were some manner of edit button. Gee I wish I knew the laws of information physics.

    • Tei says:

      BAReFOOt comment is very Ok, and I think I see from where is posting that. What I don’t really understand is why he got all the attacks. Yes, he is attacking the bases of reality in a information context, but none of you are made of bits, all of you are made of atoms, so he is not attacking you guys.
      You can move the humans out of the jungle, but you cant remove the jungle from the animal human.

    • Jhoosier says:

      To be honest, I’d probably make a copy too. Some rules were made to be broken, and ones that support a special club are a perfect example of that.

    • nimnio says:

      I might make a copy too, but by definition that copy would no longer be a part of the “chain world”. The only rules are the ones you choose to follow. It’s not as-if this “elite club” has implemented DRM and hired the RIA to enforce them.

      The hate directed at this idea is comical, but I guess I can relate: that bastard Alec Meer has never invited me over for Thanksgiving dinner, or introduced me to his sister. What an elitist jackass.

    • Premium User Badge Arathain says:

      “The hate directed at this idea is comical, but I guess I can relate: that bastard Alec Meer has never invited me over for Thanksgiving dinner, or introduced me to his sister. What an elitist jackass.”

      If it helps, nimnio, there’s a pretty good chance Alec has never eaten a Thanksgiving dinner, and I can’t say for certain whether or not he has any sisters.

    • golden_worm says:

      Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      You’re only cheating yourself, etc.

    • Adventurous Putty says:

      I hereby propose that the RPS Hivemind officially adopt “the laws of information physics” as a meme.

    • The Colonel says:

      The was clearly just a joke, no? Humour certainly ain’t elitist.

    • gamma says:

      BAReFOOt pretenciously as the original sinner is applying for Satan’s equivalent. Unfortunately all of that talk may not ever be the walk unless he puts his hands on that USB.

      And in case you haven’t noticed… everyone, ALL of us, as observers, not users of the USB stick are also part of the game, therefore Players = US.

      It is not a requirement to witness 1st hand the miracle/mistery to be a follower/denier of so called religion. Or maybe it is, in which case the mistery is in yourself. The game is so well conceived that also bares resemblance in how religion as a passionate idea spreads in reality, it could only be man-made, a by-product of a functional brain.

      I say AWESOME!

      Having said that I know I am going straight to hell and do some company to barefoots…

  2. Premium User Badge James G says:

    It’s like a succession game, wrapped in a fight club reference, wrapped in an enigma. Would love to play it, but would almost certainly break the don’t blab about it rule.

  3. Pyrosity says:

    It’s a neat idea but if nobody gets to talk about it, what’s the point? It’ll just be some once-over experience for a very select few people and nothing will come of it, at all.

    Now if they BREAK the chain later on and ask everyone to please do share their thoughts and experiences with each other and the world, then that’s something. As it stands it sounds like some silly pointless stunt.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      A silly pointless stunt for charity.

    • Alec Meer says:

      What’s the point in having a great meal if you don’t tell someone else all the details? What’s the point in sex if you can’t describe everything that happened to a third party? What’s the point of keeping a diary? What’s the point of being involved in something you enjoy for the sake of enjoying it?

    • Josh04 says:

      That’s the thing – I don’t care if Will Wright keeps a diary or has sex. It’s an experience which only has meaning for Will Wright, so long as it’s kept private, which is what the rules here mandate.

    • EthZee says:

      What’s the point of making a secret diary, then telling people “NER NER NER I’VE GOT A SECRET DIARY NONE OF YOU CAN LOOK OF IT SO THERE”.

    • Lack_26 says:

      Perhaps the USB stick should come with an email-address printed on it, so they can send an account of their experience. This would be kept secret until no new submissions came in for a certain period of time (a year, perhaps?) and it can be assumed the project is dead.

      This could be turned into a book or some-such thing that can be used to raise money for charity and serve as a testament of a marvellous idea long after the event.

    • son_of_montfort says:

      Yes Alec, but I also don’t tell the entire gaming world when I’m going to have sex, eat dinner or write in my journal. There is a strange mix of publicity and secrecy here that strikes me as either being a stunt (albeit for charity) or impossible. My feeling is that Rohrer et al are waiting to see when and who begins to break down the commandments. This feels like an experiment on following rules to me.

    • nhx says:

      Just putting it out there, but I think I’d still have sex if I couldn’t tell my friends about it. In fact I usually don’t.

    • somedude says:

      I wholeheartedly agree with this point. I also think the comparison with religion is rather ridiculous – the whole point of handing down stories or beliefs from generation to generation is that the knowledge is spread among entire communities. If, for example, one of the great religious figures had simply stated that they had awesome, inspiring teachings but would never relate those teachings to anyone else, they, and their religion, would long be forgotten. Given that this project will never be related, it has relevance for about one news cycle for anyone but the handful of people playing it, while I still occasionally think about and revisit (and occasionally attempt to recreate) another Minecraft project, Towards Dawn, simply because it is such and interesting and well-told story about exploration. While the concept of Chain World is somewhat interesting, the secrecy unfortunately takes this down to the level of a pretentious stunt.

      Of course, that being said, there’s absolutely nothing stopping someone from doing their own version of this with whatever rules they like…

    • Noc says:

      The point of *telling* everybody about it, I’d imagine, would be to provoke exactly this sort of discussion. This is one of those Idea Things, where the actual playing of the game is almost secondary to all the nattering that inevitably surrounds it.

      We’ve got people asserting that it’s pointless, people asserting that it isn’t, people thinking up ways to subvert the system and people responding with reasons not to, and people proposing to start their own imitations. We have people saying that there’s no reason for them to care, since they’re never going to get to see the thing, and others saying that that’s exactly the point.

      We have people like Yanko (below) arguing that the purpose of the exercise is the world that’s produced, and thinking it’s silly that the product isn’t being shared, while we’ve got Alec Meer arguing that the point is the experience of receiving and experiencing the world on such a mysterious and ritualized basis. We’ve got any number of proposed alternatives, to the controversial 8th Commandment, since that is the one that seems most uncomfortable, along with any number of proposed alternative systems for better distributing the world.

      . . .

      Also, the thing about experiments is that you aren’t trying to create something, you’re trying to see what will happen if you do something. It won’t have “failed” if someone leaks Chain World to the internet, nor will it have failed if someone turns it into a lava-filled Death World — especially in the latter case, because recipients would be faced with a choice between quietly passing it on as per The Rules, or publicly announcing how the world has turned into a deathtrap and there’s no point in passing it on anymore. It especially won’t be a failure if some number of people say “this is stupid!” and just start up their own, ‘better’ versions, of which the original Chain World is a much more secretive, exclusive version. Or if people start “counterfeiting” Chain Worlds, taking advantage of the original dropping off the radar to distribute their own, leading to much confusion and so on.

      This is why Roher is advocating breaking the order and subverting the rules, rather than begging people to play along and keep it going plx — because while Chain World itself isn’t a huge or important or even terribly new idea (as it’s arguably the bastard child of Boatmurdered), a little publicity can easily turn it into a THING and make it properly interesting. The failure state of this experiment doesn’t involve Chain World going off the rails and spiraling out of control; rather, it’ll succeed if it does, and fail if it simply drops off the radar and doesn’t provoke anything entertaining.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Lack: Really good idea.

    • sebmojo says:

      It’s the Anonymous of succession games.

    • Yanko says:

      Oh wai, i totally forgot to add that i was talking about Jia’s approach to it, not Jason’s original idea. His experiment is already successful, hence the 2 pages of discussion on RPS and all the controversy, and me adding wot i think =P

  4. Bhazor says:

    Ultimate grief.
    Fill whole world with lava.

    Die instantly and no one will ever be able to warn anyone else.

    • mantel says:

      Ultimate grief

      Install rootkit/malware to usb key
      Pass it on
      Infect all that play it after you
      Gather information
      Sell CC details for profit

    • EthZee says:

      Mantel gets mega points for sheer destructiveness, but Bhazor wins for sticking to the rules of the game.

    • steviesteveo says:

      That’s particularly good if the players down the line are all spending money with this charity auction thing.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Better, and easier, to just mine out a massive hole under the spawn point – leaving just the spawn tile with death from falling in all directions.

      Then jump into some lava.

    • realityflaw says:

      Betterer, and Easierer
      Step 1 switch to peaceful and keep it forever.
      Step 2 LOL at all the lame quazi celebs who pretend to have participated.

  5. Groove says:

    So……who wants to start our own one? I have a USB stick, a permanent marker and a fistfull of dreams.

    • Mike says:

      Hell yes. Maybe at the RPS meet this weekend.

    • Groove says:

      MUST YOU RUB IT IN YOU SOCIALITE

      Also, yes, do that. I want on the list.

    • McDan says:

      There should definetely be an RPS version of this that can be sent around. Obviously the same rules will have to stay in place, so someone will have to make them. Probably not hard though. PLEASE do it someone. This would be amazing.

    • Fumarole says:

      Four shall be made, with each member of the hivemind necessarily being the 100th and final player of each world, after which they’ll post about it here for our amusement.

    • stahlwerk says:

      …and seven for the dwarf-lords in their halls of ascii…

    • McDan says:

      @Fumarole: that would be a brilliant idea.
      But also if there was some way of getting everyone who wants in from RPS on a list then going through that and seeing what the final product is. That would be pretty good, maybe.

  6. Niche93 says:

    EDIT: MCForum edition of the chain: http://www.minecraftforum.net/viewtopic.php?f=1034&t=226026&p=3235853#p3235853

    IMO a pretty mindblowing experiment. To see if people are actually not going to spill anything, and if Will Wright will build a copy of a SimCity city.
    (Also, any reason to do “A silly pointless stunt for charity” is a good reason)

  7. Mike says:

    He’s not released the source code so others can do this?

    Hmph.

    • oxymelum says:

      Correction: he’s not released the source code for charity .

    • Mike says:

      I mean the scripts that moderate the use of the game world. It’s just a script, I mean you’re bidding on being part of *that particular chain*, not playing that software.

    • Premium User Badge shoptroll says:

      It probably wouldn’t be hard for someone else to put up a similar script file.

      I’m not totally sure what I think about the rules, but this seems like an interesting analogue to communal Let’s Play of things like Dwarf Fortress. I think it’s cool that something like this exists and I hope other people try doing a similar thing.

      Would be interesting to see a drive travel around all “Where’s George” style with each player being able to alter the world and pass it off to the next person. Possibly with a regular check in to a website with the current world state so people can see how it’s evolving?

      It’s an interesting experiment.

    • Premium User Badge Oozo says:

      The whole charity thing wasn’t Rohrer’s idea. His idea was just the “Game that could be a religion”, as the Game Design challenge demanded. (And it’s a pretty great idea at that.)

      Doing copies of it is not the point, or rather: You can’t make copies of it without going meta, because doing so, it could be argued that you’re doing a comment on religion. (You know, those constructs thinking that they are right, and the others aren’t, which won’t stop people from imitating it.)

      You’re chain would basically be a sect. Which, again, just goes to show that the idea was pretty darn clever to begin with.

  8. mbp says:

    Rule 8 makes the whole thing pointless. If no one is ever going to see how this develops then who cares.

    • Pani says:

      /Agree

      This is silly. Now if someone were to give me the memory stick with instructions and without it being publized all over the internet, then it might just be fascinating. But it’s lost all it’s magic before it’s even begun.

      I might as well ask a random someone to send me their world, play it for a bit, then delete it. What’s the point?

  9. EthZee says:

    Wow. This makes Ubisoft’s DRM system sound like a piece of paper with “DO NOT STEAL” written on it.

    I do hope that someone shares it. Otherwise I will be forced to construct a huge parabolic dish to concentrate my feelings of envy and sour grapes into a coherent beam which I will then use to melt whomsoever carries this exclusive USB stick.

  10. deanbmmv says:

    So they’re not releasing this mod at all?
    That’d kind of a bummer, it could really help speed up succession games of minecraft.
    Or am I missing something and this kind of mod already exists in the wild (which would be awesome to know) I’d love to do a succession game, but it’s kind of fiddly to set up and get going. Recent tweaks to MC save system does help a bit though.

    • Mike says:

      It’s not really a ‘mod’, it’s just a script that auto-deletes the world when you’re done with it and stores it on the USB stick. We could whip up something similar, although it seems a shame that it’s not been released.

    • deanbmmv says:

      Mod was kind of the word that was easiest to use. I wasn’t sure exactly what it’s using since the article suggests it’s a tweaked launcher.
      Either way I hope at some point the creator releases it.

    • HeavyStorm says:

      Mod… Haven’t seen anyone spin this up but, Notch could do it himself. Or Majong could do it themselves. Just create a server that had “guest play” or something, create a queue of players, store all information server side so no one clones the world, and ta-da, that’s actually Chain Of World implemented right.

      The only thing that couldn’t be enforced would be rule #8, and, in my opinion, it’s the rule that sucks. Because, well, what’s is my motivation to queuing up to be a part of this chain thing if I don’t know what’s been built?

      Online versions could also have “versioned” worlds, so if someone tried the “Ultimate Grief” above, a GM could roll it back to the latest, integral world.

    • Premium User Badge shoptroll says:

      @Heavy…

      That’s a really good idea actually… Rather than spread around a single USB, you pass along the server URL. Much more efficient and easier to enforce the rules.

    • steviesteveo says:

      That also illustrates the computer enforced rules in games and human generated rules in games. A server running a set of rules is just gong to keep doing them but people making their own rules lets a game evolve.

  11. Mike says:

    Okay, we have the RPS meet this coming Saturday. If I turn up, I will bring a USB stick and someone can take it off me and start an RPS Social Chain.

  12. Oneironaut says:

    I think something like this built in to the game could be great. A server could be set up with the game, with some sort of signup list. Player 3 would be notified that they could join after player 2 died. Variations could be made, like letting more people play at one time. This could create some really interesting experiences.

  13. evilbobthebob says:

    So erecting wooden signs with text is forbidden, but there is no rule about writing stuff in the mountainside? You’re not allowed to talk about it, but how is any of this really enforced? Once the stick is passed on to player 3, the place could be filled with signs and no one could say anything about it due to the rules, but nowhere do the rules mention if you can report such a breach of the rules and what happens thereafter.

    • Mike says:

      I think that’s part of the ‘experiment’, if you will. But certainly, to ‘express interest’ in the project would probably imply that you aren’t the kind of person that would do that.

    • ArcaneSaint says:

      So, instead of building a small signpost with some words of advice, you have to construct like, 200-foot-tall flaming letters or something, saying “I LEFT MY TOOLS IN THE SHELTER TO THE RIGHT (OH, AND THERE ARE CREEPERS TO THE LEFT, YOU DON’T WANT TO GO THERE). HAVE FUN!” right?

      But you can’t share a screenshot of them since that’d break rule nr. 8, so what’s the point of doing that? :(

  14. Ricc says:

    Jane McGonigal seems to have got a lot of (negative?) attention at this year’s GDC. Personally I hadn’t heard of her before. Is it because she wrote a book, that people disagree with?

    • Alphabet says:

      I don’t think many people have a problem with people writing books they don’t agree with – it’s more the incredible superficiality and obvious implausibility of what she has to say. There’s probably an element of jealousy, too, as she is skilled at self-publicity, in a talks at conferences / gets involved in things like this Minecraft Chain World / enthusiastically employs social media sort of way.

    • tomeoftom says:

      Alphabet’s spot-on here. I hold a resentment – mostly for wasting the hours of my time spent reading “Reality Is Broken” on wafflewafflewaffle. Hours that I will never get back. GRR!

    • Dozer says:

      I was trying to work out if I’d heard of her before.

      Then I realised I was thinking of Professor McGonagall from the cruddy world of Harry Potter.

    • steviesteveo says:

      Her website bio, which she may have written herself, has two things, a picture of her speaking at TED and the words “Jane McGonigal is a world-renowned game designer I have a new secret headquarters! Please come and find me there.” ”

      I have never heard of her so going straight for “world-renowned” doesn’t help the first impression personally. She may well have designed games which are world renowned but that doesn’t make you world renowned.

  15. One Million Monkeys says:

    Commandment #10: You do not talk about Chain World

  16. nullward says:

    I think this experiment would be much more interesting if there were a number of “tagged” (i.e. serial number) Chain Worlds that were then let out into the wild of the net. Later, they could be “captured” (perhaps after a specific number of iterations) and studied, with the results published online.

    I don’t think locking this into an isolated chain is very helpful for the development community, or very interesting for Minecraft/game enthusiasts in general. As a few have commented, it does seem focused on exclusivity with an intent to generate funds, which is great for the charity, but throws out a lot of the potential this has for an enlightening look at both game design and creative human behavior in a semi-social digital environment.

  17. Kato says:

    Very much wanting this to be released so that it can be done locally. I’m sure some lucky/immoral soul will do it.

    • Emperor_Jimmu says:

      I absolutely agree. The inevitability of the replication of this project could be interpreted as yet another parallel to religion.

      Having something like this circulate the already Minecraft obsessed Aberystwyth Uni campus would be incredibly exciting.

  18. Robin says:

    Alec – it might be an idea to make it clearer that ‘chainworld.org’ is not an official website for the game, and Jia Ja’s rather presumptious plans have met with significant criticism, not least from Rohrer himself.

    Edit: ah, I see you kind of cover this, toward the end.

  19. cummerbund jackson says:

    An interesting variation would be a permadeath server. Set up a whitelist for all interested players, like a typical server. Upon a player’s first death, they’re removed from the server’s whitelist.

    Perhaps the dead players would be allowed to revisit their world as non-speaking, non-building ghosts so that they could see how everything progressed after they died, or maybe better to just keep them in the dark since death does mean you don’t find out how the story ends.

    Could be fun. Would be interesting to see how this virtual society would cope with murder, since homicide would be inevitable.

  20. RadioactiveMan says:

    I feel that this is silly. As others mentioned above, making a fantastic chain world crafted by game-industry fancy folk and a few lucky others is pointless if you don’t share it with other minecraft fans. Its as if these luminaries are saying to the general public, “No, you don’t get to see how awesome are special world is”, while also saying, “Here, pay attention to this special world we are making, isn’t it awesome!”. This project reminds me of religion in many ways, none of which are favorable.

    Anyone who is interested in a better version of this sort of thing should check out the Minecraft forums. There are numerous threads where people pass worlds around and share the results with the community. Players pass the world on after a set period of time, ususally. Pictures and discussion get posted to the forum thread. It is a shared experience, and much more rewarding because of it.

    • Temple to Tei says:

      IT’S SUPPOSED TO REMIND YOU OF RELIGION!

    • sebmojo says:

      Who says it’s going to be a fantastic world? Its quality, good or bad, almost certainly exists only in your head.

  21. Yanko says:

    I have to agree a wee tiny bit with people who are looking down on the project. Although it is cool to raise money for charity and all, i can’t help but think that it’s more of a “neener neener!” thing than anything else.

    What would be way cooler is:

    a) you open a site for registrations. People register and enter this line. As soon as one person dies, the world gets uploaded, and the next one in line gets to download it. Repeat. People can have posts about what they did in a blog, with screenshots and all, and the best posts get first-paged.

    b) same thing, but you empower people to create their own chains, therefore they don’t have to face a big line with thousands of people, the person who created the world handpicks the next world carrier, and gets to set their own set of rules.

    In both cases you can include this little mod in which when you press “P”, it automatically creates a phallus – that would probably speed up the passing (no jason-pun-intended).

    • Soon says:

      Do you not think it’s possible the rules are supposed to be broken, with the project ending up with different chains going in their own direction because of a difference in opinion. Like, say, a religion?

    • steviesteveo says:

      @Soon,

      I can’t be sure, it’s not as if someone stood up at a major gaming convention and made a speech about it.

    • Yanko says:

      Yes, and I’m talking creating means to that end!

  22. Tei says:

    Heee!.. Capitalist is a **EXCELLENT** religion. Is only people don’t really understand it. Capitalist needs something like a Jesus, that save it from his sins.
    The most important thing about capitalist is that money is fun, and that being rich is awesome.

    Lets see where this thing is going. Maybe it will stay as a in-joke between game devs for some years, who know. Good luck, players!.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Actually it could be argued that the exchange of values (money->product->money->…) in capitalism already contains the absolution of all sins involved in production of the goods, since the money doesn’t value morality at all, but is its own moral.

  23. Rugged Malone says:

    An interesting variant of this would be a game mode that just disallows you to continue playing in a world upon death, until someone else plays in that world (and then dies).

    Forget all the rules about not being able to talk about it, etc. — just make it so that when you die, that world must be played by someone else before you can play it again. Maybe even n other people.

    It’s an intriguing way of introducing multiplayer influence into a single player experience.

    *For me the fatal flaw of the rules listed above is never being able to learn what happened to the world after you left it. Never being able to know what happened next, ever, would drive me mad. Which, come to think of it, is one of the problems I have with the whole death thing in real life…

  24. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Sounds like it’s interesting. But the article is very much overhyping its importance.

  25. Synchrony says:

    I’d be way too tempted to turn the respawn point into a inescapable (in one life) trap, such as a room with walls floor and roof of tnt, or a tiny island in a lava lake if I got hold of this. let the next player have ‘fun’ dwarf fortress style with their one life

  26. somedude says:

    Hmm, apparently RPS’ somewhat new comment system has an insatiable appetite for my replies, that’s the third one it’s eaten this week…

    On point, though, it seems to me that if you have an issue with this project, it really shouldn’t be that hard to create as many variations on this idea as you want, perhaps something that is a bit more meaningful than a secretive, pretentious stunt (for charity, but a pretentious stunt nonetheless).

  27. Hoaxfish says:

    1. surround spawn point with creepers
    2. suicide
    3. pass it on

  28. jymkata says:

    So much of what Jason Rohrer puts out is douchey and pretentious.
    Like his anti-broadband stance.
    Ridiculous.

  29. Duke of Chutney says:

    folk have been doing this in dwarf fortress for years (or atleast something similar in sucession game)

    *i DEMAND RPS Dwarf Fortress sucession game*

    also “Chain World” reminds me of Larry Nivens Ring World, if only there was a game about ring worlds

    • Dozer says:

      Right, that’s it, I’m building a wall around your workshop.

    • Dracko says:

      There is a game about ring worlds. It’s called Halo.

    • Premium User Badge Harlander says:

      Not to mention Ringworld: Revenge of the Patriarch and Return to Ringworld

  30. BunnyPuncher says:

    Rule #10 – do not depict the arse-end of Horace The Endless Bear.

  31. Dozer says:

    He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus, but he talks like a gentleman, like you imagined when you were young…

  32. Consumatopia says:

    This would be an order of magnitude cooler if it had been going on secretly for a year and we only now just heard about it.

    Planning out online who gets the usb drive is also lame–if you’re going to do it online, just email a file around. Perhaps Rohrer understands that and that’s why he says 3 shouldn’t send it to 4?

    I would like to play a “secret” game like this where the objective is to spread the secret as far as possible without the secret (edit: or the existence of the secret) becoming “public”. I hope that people are already playing this game without my knowledge.

  33. Premium User Badge Oozo says:

    All right, I’ll try to defend Mr Rohrer against some of what people here said. Sorry for that in advance.
    I think most people don’t look properly at the context this was created in. (And Alec does only cover it at the very end, which arguably might be one of the reasons for this.)

    The game was created for a Game Design challenge. The aim was: “Create a game that could also be a religion.”

    So, yeah, pretentiousness ho, but that’s GDC’s fault, not Rohrers. (When you agree to enter the competition, you don’t know what the subject is yet.)
    So, with that in mind, asking Rohrer to release the Source Code or to share the results with the world is completely off the mark. The secrecy and the exclusivity of it is one of the most important points to it. If you’re sticking with the metaphor (and in this case, you very well should/could), it makes the players some sort of priester caste, the chosen few, and us commoners, well – commoners. I’m not saying that this is the point to every religion, but having an exlusive circle of people who know things that others don’t (but would want to participate in) certainly is not unknown to some of them.

    And as I have written above: Yes you can make your own versions of it, and you should, because it’s an intriguing idea, and I for one would like to participate in a chain very much myself. But you can’t escape going meta by doing so. You’re becoming a sect, in the grander scheme of things. (And again, you don’t have to care about it, but it’s one interesting perspective, IMHO.)

    (Btw, the fact that Dwarf Fortress-players did this years before doesn’t really matter either, because, you know, context.)

    So, people saying that its a publicity stunt are not quite right, IMHO. Heck, it debuted on the GDC, it can’t help being public. I trust Mr Rohrer, who’s certainly proven his esoteric side more than once, that he would have happily let his Chain World live on in obscurity from here on on.

    After all, the whole charity things wasn’t Rohrer’s idea – he might or might not be happy with what player two did with it. (I guess he’s not, considering his tweets, but it certainly puts an interesting spin on the whole thing.)

    What I’m trying to say is this: Don’t be so harsh on the project. Put into context, it’s a pretty damn marvelous thing. (Maybe Rohrer’s best game design yet.)

    • RadioactiveMan says:

      Thanks Oozo. its much more interesting in that context- as a clever solution to a design challenge.

    • Consumatopia says:

      Good post, even if “going meta” is a ridiculous concept. By replying or not replying, you are hereby going meta on my reply.

      Seriously, good post.

  34. RagingLion says:

    I watched that GDC presentation last week and found it to be really interesting. Rohrer definitely had the best suggestion for answering the game design challenge and I was fascinated by the prospect that it genuinely could end up achieving what he intended it to rather than just being merely a fanciful suggestion in a talk that never went beyond that.

    Hence it’s really interesting that this might actually go somewhere now. The guy he gave it to was just some random person in the crowd as well so this could have been kept much more underground than it has been, though might have still accomplished the same ‘religion’ effect even if it had started off small and maybe stayed in obscurity for years and then gradually became known about years later by more people.

    Also I loved the content of Rohrer’s tweet – the reference made me smile: “im in ur temple flippin ur tables. Whoever wins Chain World auction should NOT mail USB stick on to @avantgame”

  35. nimnio says:

    Anyone could make their own chain world. Just because Gabe blogs about playing Dungeons and Dragons with his friends doesn’t mean he’s an elitist jerk.

    I whooshed BAReFOOt, but I guess I’ll have to redirect that whoosh toward a good chunk of RPS commenters.

    I’m glad Rohrer shared this idea. It sounds like fun.

  36. Redcoat-Mic says:

    “So far, bidding to become Player 3 of this unique world is up to $510, but I’m willing to bet that’ll hit triple figures at the very least before the auction ends on Friday.”

    Can I get in on this bet seeing as how $510 is already triple figures?

  37. Gravy says:

    Says nothing about writing “I WOZ ERE” in giant letters near the spawn out of blocks covered in torches with your email included. Weak…

  38. Temple to Tei says:

    The most interesting thing about this is -well I have no idea.
    An interesting thing about this is -well I have no idea.
    Something I find interesting is: from a Game Developer’s Conference a thought experiment has spawned a lot of people coming up with different rules for the same thought experiment.

    It is almost like, say for example, you were designing a game and there was more than way to do it…

  39. bastronaut says:

    Oh, the elitism.

  40. Headwired says:

    Personally i hope this project sees the revival of Worldwide Jill Sandwich

    http://www.consolevania.com/lavvy/jillsandwich.htm

  41. Shagittarius says:

    This is fuckin stupid and makes me want to barf.

  42. passingstranger says:

    I’m not sure if I really agree with the “No signs with text” commandment. My first reaction to this was “how cool would it be to read things left by players before you?”

    Being chased one evening after making a mistake and having your house destroyed. Fall into a hole, place a torch and see “I think this is where I will die. Remember me.”

  43. ts061282 says:

    Minecraft is so last year.

  44. Jake says:

    Is the USB stick tracked on that website forever? If not I am going to invest in some similar looking blank USB sticks to sell on Ebay in a few months.

    I too think this would be more worthwhile if player experiences were collated via email for a book, or after a few years the stick was collected and it’s contents made public.

  45. Keep says:

    Anybody else facepalming at some of the comments above?

    Something relevant I coincidentally read today, about the Dogon tribe in Mali (they of the ‘mysterious knowledge of Sirius’ fame):

    Sigui: the most important ceremony of the Dogon. It takes place every 60 years and can take several years. The last one started in 1967 and ended in 1973, the next one will start in 2027. The Sigui ceremony symbolises the death of the first ancestor till the moment that humanity acquired the use of the spoken word.
    The Sigui is a long procession that goes from one village to the other during several months or years. All men wear masks and dance in long processions. The Sigui has a secret language, Sigui So, that women are not allowed to learn.
    The secret Society of Sigui plays a central role in the ceremony. They prepare the ceremonies a long time in advance, and they live for three months hidden outside of the villages while nobody is allowed to see them.
    The most important mask that plays a major role in the Sigui rituals is the Great Mask or the Mother of Masks. It is several meters long and is just held up by hand and not used to hide a face. This mask is newly created every 60 years.

    (Lifted right off wikipedia :P.)

    • wu wei says:

      Anybody else facepalming at some of the comments above?

      Yes, but probably not over the same comments you are.

      I have no problem with the concept as a whole, but comparing it in any way to ‘religion’ is probably what’s drawing most allegations of elitism here. Self-appointed “holy men” tend to draw this reaction.

      Social experiment, sure. Charity stunt, awesome. New religious artefact? Good grief.

    • Keep says:

      Well yes, religious artifact proper – face palm. But the similarities between a usb drive passed on in secrecy, and a tabernacle or a religious fetish is interesting.

      What I’m groaning at are the people who unwittingly want to strip the idea of all its potentially interesting parallels with religion in order to play a straight game of Minecraft.

      It should be uncontrollable but placed in hands that wish to control it. It should be secret and exclusive. It should be invested with an overblown totemic importance. But above all, it should be essentially absurd in its meaninglessness.

      What’s thought-provoking about passing on an open save-game of Minecraft? What’s the significance about the personal experience of those who play it?

      As best I can tell, the mysteries that get revealed to those who reach the 33rd degree in Freemasonry are not particularly profound or worth such secrecy. But what is profound is being outside it, as an anthropologist, and watching the evolution and structure and form of Freemasonry as a system to be observed.

      Folks: stop thinking about what Freemasonry’s secrets are. That’s not what’s fascinating really.

    • wu wei says:

      I guess I just don’t see the parallels to religion as being anything particularly deep or meaningful. It may have the same kind of hollow resonance the Evangelion series does, but overloading pre-existing terms doesn’t necessarily contribute anything of value to the understanding of either.

      What’s the significance about the personal experience of those who play it?

      Now this I can agree with. But at this point we’re far closer to discussing existentialism than religion.

      My understanding of the secrets of Freemasonry (and I freely admit I was probably way too heavily influenced by RAW in my formative years) is that they’re meaningless to anyone who hasn’t gone through the process. The ceremonies and rituals are preparatory, providing the context and background you need for the ‘ultimate secret’ to make sense. Osiris is a Black God, after all.

      This isn’t – to me – religious ceremony leading to a potential point of enlightenment. It’s an experiment that grapples with impermanence & singularity in a medium that by its very nature provides their opposition. It’s a rejection of endless re-playability for a ‘just one life to live’ model as an examination of the disparity between our gaming lives and our physical ones.

      About the only cult aspect to it is the one of personality…

    • Keep says:

      Now this I can agree with. But at this point we’re far closer to discussing existentialism than religion.
      Oh yes, definitely. Very much so.

      This isn’t – to me – religious ceremony leading to a potential point of enlightenment.
      And I’d agree on this point as well. It’s not.

      I think it’s more (so Rohrer seems to say anyway) religious in that it’s concerned with the mythological aspect of religion – the “The clouds are Valkyries”/ “Lightning is Zeus’ rage” aspect; what Berkeley sees in nature that he calls it the ‘language’ of God.

      The player in Minecraft believes what is before him has a purpose and a meaning.

      And that sensation of curiosity/awe is being used to make what is otherwise meaningless seem meaningful.

      But it isn’t, and so it’s interesting to see how that gets interpreted, especially because of the idea of secrecy and exclusivity. How do the initiated pass on their knowledge? How do they treat this *valuable* tabernacle? Even already there’s a LOT of dogma, of an attempt to leave behind a legacy of “This is how things ought to be done” (or more strongly, to force a legacy: “this is how things HAVE to be done”).

      But the really interesting thing is: it’s all blatantly meaningless. The original commandments aren’t special. But they’re treated as such. The contents of the gameworld aren’t special. But they’re (or, will be) treated as such. The usb stick above all isn’t special. But it’s treated as such.

      So why are the players acting that way?! (Or really, to go kind of meta-, why are the commenters and observers acting that way?)

    • wu wei says:

      Or really, to go kind of meta-, why are the commenters and observers acting that way?

      For me, it’s because whatever meaning and value might arise within it is once again restricted to a self-appointed priesthood who pick and choose whom to pass down their sacred revelation too. Posting that you’re doing this on the internet is the real tension here :)

  46. TsunamiWombat says:

    I find this an interesting social experiment. Nothing enrages humans more then telling them they cannot do something. Now that the bag is out to the greater internet, I wonder how long until subterfuge, hacking, and other chicanery goes down.

  47. Haplo says:

    I find this to be genius.

    Seriously. Using games as a form of social or artistic expression- using them to mimic or recreate something in real life, even if it wasn’t intended to do so… That’s awesome.

  48. Jakkar says:

    Can we have something a bit more interesting to play with than Minecraft now? ._. Starting to feel like this ugly little world, cruder even than my grandiose duplo skyscrapers as a child, is really holding back all the little projects and social games starting to make use of it. We need a higher block resolution, more interesting features. Notch will burn in hell for wasting this opportunity >.>

  49. Jia Ji says:

    Hey all, I feel obligated to post here since this is the only gaming blog I continue to read after semi-retiring from the gaming industry. I usually post under the nickname of “Zoetrope” and believe I’ve only been mentioned here once before on a WoW-related post.

    Anyway, lots of great ideas on this thread. Sorry for the delayed response, took me a while to read all of them. While I would love to release Chain World into the RPS community since you seem much more civil than the other internet mobs I’m dealing with (no one here has sent me a death threat yet), it’s ultimately determined by the winner of the charity auction at http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=270718660844.

    I also appreciate Alec’s faith that we’ll raise at least $1500 for charity, which would be great. Anything in excess of $1000 we’ll probably donate to tsunami relief efforts since we only need $1000 to operate the children’s hospital fundraiser.

    You know, given the size of the RPS community and the 100+ comments here, if everyone donated $10 or better yet 10 pounds, you could easily win the auction and do whatever the community wanted with it, even open-sourcing it. Most of the top bidders are pooling together funds to promote their specific Chain World ideology. My favorite one so far is the guy who keeps messaging me as the devil, advocating that I destroy the flash drive (very tempting to toss it into the nearby active volcano, the burden of the drivebearer is heavy). But I like this community, so even I would toss down $10 into the communal pool to help you guys win. Hopefully, this suggestion won’t get me more hatemail and death threats :)

    Thoughts? I’ll try to respond here, but the main conversation about Chain World is at http://chainworld.swio.ws/?p=1.

  50. apa says:

    Just to bring another religious matter to the table:

    Is this piracy or breaking some EULA? Are they allowed to give Minecraft to each other and to whom is it registered? Is sharing the Minecraft account breaking the terms?

    Yes, I am trolling and I definitely think that one should be allowed to give or sell whatever one wants, whether it’s a car, a house or a Minecraft account. Let’s try not to go to whether giving out a copy is ok because that never leads to anything good.

    • steviesteveo says:

      Presumably, given that this is all going on in the US it’s covered by first sale fair use. You’re physically passing on a single copy on the USB stick and it doesn’t sound like there’s any unauthorised copies being made.