Spacecraftcraft: Notch Starting An Elitey Firefly-ey Game

With apologies to Notch, NASA, and Photoshop.
I think I’ve found serenity: Minecraft creator Notch is slowly thumbing through the Big Book Of Awesome Space Things while he comes up with his next game. He told the handsome devils over at PC Gamer that he’s pondering a sandbox style Elite game, “except done right”. To clarify, he’s not saying Elite is rubbish and broken, but that no-one’s ever done it as well since. Something I’d agree with, although these guys are working on that. While he’s pondering if this is a game he wants to be the Next Thing after the monolithic Minecraft, he’s pointed out his other influence is the magnificent Firefly. How would this work?

Think of it as a more personal experience where you’re not the ship, but the character. “I want the space game that’s more like Firefly. I want to run around on my ship and have to put out a fire. Like, oh crap, the cooling system failed, I have to put out the fire here.” Which has notes of the upcoming and brilliant FTL, and X: Rebirth.

While it’s not guaranteed that he’ll push the game into full production yet, he’s already came up with a tentative name. And to toot our space horn, John previously heard a bit about it years ago, and I’ve had it at the back of my mind ever since.

So does this.

Plus this.

Equal this?



  1. wccrawford says:

    How did this get out of hand so quickly? He said he’s *PONDERING* a game like that, not that he’s already working on it. Or that it will definitely be his next game. Or anything else. Just pondering.

    He probably ponders a lot of game concepts, just like every other game dev out there.

    • Prime says:

      All of which means that it’s time to tell the lovely, approachable Mr Notch that HELL YES PLEASE we would very much like to see this as your next game, thank you very much sir please sir.

      All we need to do now is make the reverse of Kickstarter – a place where fans outline their ideas, other fans support these ideas (or not) and pledge monies to it, then we wait for developers to smell the cash and come running to do our bidding! Games For the people, paid for by the people, built by professionals. The PC at the forefront of making Gaming more democratic! w00t!

      • Ross Angus says:

        That, Sir, is an excellent idea.

      • roryok says:

        Actually I don’t know if that is a good idea. With no single game dev behind a project, we could end up with say, three different game devs deciding to take on a suggested project and then fighting over the pledged money. that could be a disaster. We’d need a very clever system of figuring out who should do what.

        But I DO love the idea of the hivemind contributing / up-voting / down-voting suggestions to build a design document for a game. Very intriguing

        • Prime says:

          The way I saw it only one developer/team could ‘win’ the pot of cash, either by some sort of process whereby they bid for the rights to make the game (show us their credentials, explain the expected timeline, how much of our concept brief they could reasonably hope to pull off given current tech, etc) and the community votes for their favourite, or…something else. There’d also have to be some fairly tight legal controls around who controls the money/where it lies, in case someone tries to run off with it! But yeah, assuming someone could sit and hash all this out I reckon it’s got a good chance of working for at least a few projects that otherwise might never be made.

      • Strangerator says:

        It seems like you are suggesting mob-rule in game design, where the most popular ideas are all amalgamated to form a game concept..

        I think that would produce similar results to what we see in the mainstream currently. You are basically saving publishers the cost of doing focus-groups. As we have seen, AAA titles can easily be produced with focus-grouped games, but I prefer games that come from the mind of a single person.

        Maybe I am misreading your suggestion.

        • Prime says:

          Not necessarily mob rule, no. Perhaps people could contribute ideas in whole then see which floats to the top of the popularity lists? You’d probably get people refining ideas to bring in other popular concepts or adding stuff suggested after their first submissions but I think I’d prefer keeping the community-led, focus-group side of things out of the way as much as possible. I watched the Noctis community take two years arguing over which engine/coding language they wanted to use for the sequel they were desperate to make until the original author stepped back in and said he’d do it all himself. Groups have their place but I don’t have tremendous faith in them to produce worthwhile results. I could see a totally community-driven feature list either expanding exponentially or simply going nowhere fast, or both!

          The development of Pioneer is interesting to watch in that there’s a core group of developers who hold the vision for the game but they are very open to suggestions for new features or on how to make things work. If we’re talking about opening up ideas to attract developers I think keeping a small core of main proponents – perhaps even just one person – who ensure the overall vision for the project is adhered to and maintained, while still retaining some of that community-fed openness and richness of idea, might be the best way to go.

      • eks says:

        This is a seriously terrible idea. It’s bad enough that people think that putting money in a kickstarter means the dev has to listen to their stupid ideas about game design. It’s even worse when people with no experience creating games start hobbling together game design docs.

        What’s the goal you had in mind? That we have communities like Minecraft? Or perhaps like the Wasteland 2 forums? I would rather pretend these things didn’t exist, not encourage them.

        • Prime says:

          The goal? That games get made that we otherwise might never see. Communities are what they are, there’s little to no way of preventing atrocities like the Minecraft forums other than by limiting interaction between developers and players. I’m not proposing we foster that kind of self-entitlement scrum, nor am I entirely sure how you see that as the natural/most likely outcome of my idea. It is entirely possible that we might gets communities of lovely, passionate people eager to help build a game.

          In my view, if a design proposal is deemed unworkable or too fantastic then it would automatically be rejected by any developer looking at it. I also hinted above at the possibility of a developer coming back saying how much of an idea they believe is truly workable, perhaps in terms of a percentage. They might even feed back a few ideas of their own into the proposal as part of their bid.

          I would also suggest a small fee for proposing an idea in the first place, say for example $50-$100. That would stop any random trash ideas like “Mass Effect 3, only MOAR bettererLOLOL” and would mean that only (or a majority of) submissions with a good deal of thought behind them would be entered into the arena. There would also be criteria in place for the submission itself; submitters would be asked to submit the idea in a specific format, for instance.

          But hey, I’m only throwing ideas up on a comments thread. If you can do better, be my guest by all means.

          • eks says:

            The barrier to entry to creating a PC game is extremely low. You don’t even need to know the first thing about programming these days. So a “game idea” with absolutely no attempt at some kind of basic prototype or coming from someone who has never even attempted to create a game before is worthless. Sometimes it is even damaging.

            Approach any developer and they will probably tell you about how they have been approached by “idea men”. The last thing this industry needs is to give these people more acknowledgment.

            link to
            link to

          • Prime says:

            You’ve not really argued against my idea, though. In the language of your linked article, my idea tries to put ideas – popular ideas, not just any old random thoughts – into the hands of the people who can execute them, with the added bonus of having finance in place.

            I’d also argue that Mr Atwood’s article seems to focus too heavily on execution, ignoring several other factors that might contribute to the success, or otherwise, of a project: Timing. Finance. Good old fashioned Luck.

            “The barrier to entry to creating a PC game is extremely low. You don’t even need to know the first thing about programming these days. So a “game idea” with absolutely no attempt at some kind of basic prototype or coming from someone who has never even attempted to create a game before is worthless”

            Forgive me but that’s a slightly elitist view of things. It may seem low to you but then I assume you have a passing familiarity with some of the tools and even how to use a computer. You cannot say that about everyone. To expect everyone to at least get a rough prototype off the ground might be asking a bit much. Hell, I’d struggle to know how to start building a game and I’ve been using computers for over 30 years. If you can show me a program that allows me to build a prototype of what Notch is suggesting without any programming knowledge required then I’d dearly love to see it.

    • avarisclari says:

      He already stated on his twitter that he has begun programming it.

    • Craig Pearson says:

      The word ‘ponder’ is right there in the story. As is “it’s not guaranteed that he’ll push the game into full production yet”, but he is working on it.

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      The funny thing is, I remember an interview, I think it was one of the first podcasts, where he stated that exact thing. That was some two years ago. I realised that it would be some time before he could actually start working on it, and the first news of Scrolls left me a bit disappointed, but I’m happy he’s still thinking of it. Barely news, though ^^

      edit: god, I also didn’t fully read this article…

  2. RedViv says:

    That is an appropriate equation.

  3. Crimsoneer says:

    My god, I would pay so much fucking money for this.

    God, this just makes me realise how much indie gaming has added to PC gaming. 5-10 years ago, concepts like Minecraft or FTL would never have got of the ground, but now, we’re getting all of it at once :)

    • Prime says:

      PC Gamers like myself have been saying for a while that there’s a vast untapped market in smaller, niche titles that don’t have to cost 100 million to make and don’t have to sell three times that to break even. Kickstarter and things like Minecraft are finally helping us prove how blinkered, slow, stupid and completely out of touch the big-boy AAA publishers really are. This is starting to look like a lot like a golden age of PC gaming.

      • Rinox says:

        The biggest difference is getting rid of the bloated profit requirements for the shareholders. That’s why AAA games need to make a bazillion profit instead of going past breaking even by a decent margin.

        • RedViv says:

          That is indeed the single reason. The big guys have to watch their shareholders and juggle their demands with those of the player base. Small teams can just approach the players directly, much closer to the olden days. That’s the one thing most really miss, not the clunky inventories or overloaded character systems, but the people.

        • jezcentral says:

          @Rinox I’d say the opposite. The need to at least break even means that games are made generically. The big companies would prefer to make a game costing $50 million that they knew would make $51 million, than make a game that costs $50 million, and had a 50%/50% chance of making $26 million or $76 million. They don’t want to takes risks and potentially be called to account.

          • Rinox says:

            That’s true, but a guaranteed 2% return on a 50 million investment is still a lot of money, a lot more money than 2% return on the small investment required to fund a game like Wasteland 2. So none of the publishers are interested because the profits are negligible, absolutely speaking.

  4. El_MUERkO says:

    So having finished fighting Zenimax’s lawyers he’s going to pick a fight with Activision-Blizzard’s lawyers :D

    • RedViv says:

      Will they fight for Blizzard’s rights to rip off other franchises? Who can tell.

    • Mordsung says:

      Didn’t you know? Anytime that Activision-Blizzard even thinks about suing someone for copyright infrngement, a GamesWorkshop lawyer appears in the room and raises his pimp hand and Blizzard go slinking back into the darkness.

      Blizzard suing for copyright infringement would be like Keith Richards telling people not to drink or do drugs.

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      Starcraft sounds like a good name for minecraft in space! Is that taken?

  5. AmateurScience says:

    Wing Commander Saga, X-Rebirth, FTL, Pioneer, Evochron…

    Is it time for the new dawn of of the space game?

    • Prime says:

      Long past time for a new dawn, I would say.

      • AmateurScience says:


        I have a design document several pages long for my ultimate space game that I’ve been working on since I was a teenager.

        Just need to learn how to code and model and compose etc then we’re a go…damn.

    • Zenicetus says:

      It’s long past time to do better than those games you listed (although I should wait to see X-Rebirth, I’m not expecting much based on their history). We need better space games, not just re-hashing the same tired concepts.

      If we have to rely on existing work, then license (or steal) the flight model from I-War 2, put that in an open/procedural Elite universe, give me a ship I can walk around inside like Silent Hunter 5’s sub, then give me some incentive to go places, and I’ll throw a large pile of money in that game’s direction. I don’t ask for much… heh.

      I don’t think the game needs Firefly-type writing and crew interaction, because it would likely mean a scripted game like Mass Effect, instead of a procedurally-generated open universe where anything can happen. You can’t have it both ways.

  6. PredOborG says:

    Sounds like he wants to create something between Freelancer and Silent Hunter. Or not ?

  7. SanguineAngel says:

    Dear Mr Notch

    Please take all of my money and make this game.

    • Elmar Bijlsma says:

      “Notch Starting An Elitey Firefly-ey Game”

      I’ll be in my bunk.

  8. eraserhead says:

    Watching the Elite video I wonder why I wasted hundreds of childhood hours on these flickering polygons… I think I quit after I finally found the invisible spaceship, lost the fight and then couldn’t find it again. Ha ha, searching an invisible ship in space, how dumb was I?
    So what was the special attraction of Elite? I really don’t get it anymore.

    • Chris D says:

      The thing you have to remember is that the other big games of that era were Space Invaders, Pac Man and Frogger.

  9. Falfa says:

    Firefly was okey so Elite combined with Elite = wanna.wanna

  10. JackShandy says:

    No mention of Star Control in there?

    • pkdawson says:

      Which part of SC2 – the exploration and fleet management/upgrades, or the characters and story? I expect Notch is still primarily interested in very sandboxy games, so the best bits of Star Control II would be difficult to fit in, or at least not a priority.

    • Reapy says:

      Starfarer ftw ;)

  11. Oof says:

    Notch looks so much like a young Father Christmas. And I suppose for a lot of gamers he is exactly that.

  12. celozzip says:

    i’ve wanted to get into eve online for a long time but i hate these games where you are basically just the ship and not a character in a ship, this sounds more like the kind of game i want, a bit of bioware-style walking around the ship stuff in there to go with the trading and spacefighting.

  13. Windscar says:

    This: link to
    This game has so much potential but I don’t see it done in the near future, at least not without help from outside (Notch, Kickstarter).

    • Prime says:

      After the eleventeen years this thing has been “in development” I’ve basically written it off as Vapourware. Their twitter feed indicates there are still a couple of guys plugging away at it but, as you say, without some extra resource I strongly doubt this thing will ever see the light of day. Damned shame if it goes nowhere because that engine really is something special to look at and just screams to be used for an Elite style game.

    • AmateurScience says:

      That tech demo is absolutely breathtaking.

  14. Revisor says:

    I have an idea: Notch, work together with the Firefly authors to bring a first class story to the game.

    • Prime says:

      Better idea: Notch, bring back Firefly then make your game based on that.

      • Chaz says:

        Even better idea: Notch, bring back Blakes 7 then make your game based on that.

  15. deke913 says:

    Aaahh C64 Elite sad how low you have fallen. Looks more like “Attack of the Periods”. Crazy how the mind can make the things from your past all be awesome …until you see them again…like my ex.

  16. bill says:

    This would be awesome.

    I always wanted a Millennium Falcon game where you had to run to the turrets or try and put out fires and fix the hyperdrive. Well, before all the fun was sucked out of star wars and I totally lost interest.

    One thing most space sims are missing is character. Character and atmosphere. Two things most space sims are missing are character and atmosphere… and a unique setting.
    Making something like firefly would address all those… and it’d be more interesting to be flying around in a space cowboy world than a simple steel space world.

    While we’re at it, can we have a Farscape game?

  17. CaLe says:

    I really do hope he can pull it off. I’m glad he’s going with the same model as Minecraft where we can buy in early.

  18. Lobotomist says:

    And thus was made the best game ever that we waited for since the original ELITE appeared on BBC Micro.

    I can only say that i am impressed with Notch. And glad that gaming community has such personality !

  19. JackDandy says:

    This sounds amazing.

    However, Notch really let me (and many other folk) down as a developer, so I don’t believe he can bring this idea to fruition.

  20. bit.bat says:

    Dear Notch,

    all I have ever wanted out of space-flight-thing games has been to manually take-off, land and fly in and out of the hangars of huge motherships like they do in starwars. If you just make that I will buy it. If you want to add a bit around that idea im ok with that too.


  21. Neo says:

    Notch should work some sort of Cosmic Horror themes in there and call it Elder. I think that would go down well.

  22. Fanbuoy says:

    Wait.. The image.. Is Notch’s hat invisible!? It’s amazing what money can buy!

  23. StevoIRL says:

    I remember when RPS posted about real gaming news not pointless gossip of non existent games .

    • Skabooga says:

      The optometrist called: your glasses with thick, black, plastic rims are ready for pickup.

    • Prime says:

      Get with the program, dude. Your Gaming Landscape has Changed. Through such things as Kickstarter and ever-closer interaction with developers like Notch, Tim Schafer et al, we gamers are now helping to create the news as much as consume it. This right here represents a chance for us to tell Notch that we support his idea which might help him decide to make the game proper.

      By reporting Notch’s comments RPS are shrewdly pointing the way for others to follow…

    • bill says:

      Really? I don’t remember that.

      I do remember when RPS wrote interesting or funny long-form articles vaguely connected to games, rather than just (re)posting lots of news that you can read on any game site. (though this isn’t that)

      I miss those days. We need another diary.

    • Antsy says:

      I suggest you return to your strange, bland parallel universe.

  24. Tyrone Slothrop. says:

    Isn’t this something that should be reserved for the Sunday Paper section? Seems like we’re definitely jumping the gun and overstating this quite a bit (not that I hope we are, make this game Notch!).

  25. kael13 says:

    So like… Escape Velocity: Nova but with a main character you can actually see? I would buy it. I would buy the shit out of it.

    Nova had pretty good writing but it was lacking the personal touch as you never could relate names to faces.

    That and how I sunk so many hours into it; a spiritual successor would make my decade.

  26. wodin says:

    Sundog. Thats what he should be checking out. That game had everything and more. FTL is just a very very cut down version.

    link to

    Bruce Webster even asked if anyone wanted a modern remake. go to his site and tell him to go to Kickstarter!

    link to

    If Notch can make something like Sundog I’d be very very happy!

    • Harlander says:

      FTL is just a very very cut down version [of Sundog].

      They’re not even the same sort of game.

      • wodin says:

        Fair enough. but the artwork is very.very similar add to the FTL company name and surely that goes beyond coincidence.

        However I agree, Sundog had more to it planets.

  27. mckertis says:

    Well, cliffski is finishing his first game, maybe its about time for notch to also make his first game.

  28. jalf says:

    So, will it require Java and look like shit? Or has things changed since Minecraft?

    • StevoIRL says:

      It will require many years of development and will ultimately not be a game at all but indeed a tool. That and gaming websites will gather each day to circle jerk around Notchs PC in praise of what a wonderful developer he is.

      • jalf says:

        A bit harsher than what I had in mind, but a valid point. :)

        Minecraft doesn’t exactly display either great game design skills or technical programming expertise. So why are we blindly assuming that Notch would pull this off? Sure, he’s sitting on a mountain of cash, which can buy a lot of clever people, but other than that?

        • FriendlyFire says:

          That was exactly my first reaction to this. I love Minecraft and we need more space sims, but I have serious doubts that Notch is the man to do it. All we’ve seen of his work is Minecraft (which, let’s be honest, has quite a few broken bits which are only tolerated because Minecraft’s style lets it be quirky) and a bunch of short, simplistic games for things like Ludum. I haven’t seen anything to make me think he can do a space sim, much less a good one.

          I don’t want low-res, cuboid space ships and planets, nor do I want weapon fire that lags out half the time. And please, no more Java!

          • Consumatopia says:

            I’d raise an even larger doubt (a larger doubt because I’ve seen other projects it applies to).

            I don’t think algorithimic or player generated content adds as much to an outer-space sci fi game as it does to a terrestrial game. So the game can generate its own spaceships. So I can customize my own space station. Who cares? Everything you build in space is going to look like a bunch of technology glued together into an abstract shape. Minecraft lets you build recognizable human structures, but imaginary Spacecraft game lets you build abstract shapes with a techy theme.

  29. Jams O'Donnell says:

    “Except done right” == GTFO, Notch!

    Elite is the most bestest game there is. Possibly. I don’t know. Maybe it was flawed.

  30. Prime says:

    All this talk of giving space games the human touch makes me sad that Kerberos’ project Northstar may now never see the light of day thanks to the hideously damaging launch of Sword of the Stars 2. God damn but why did they decide to plough ahead with the sequel when they already had a perfectly good 4X game under their belts and a fresh, exciting concept just begging to be made!

  31. plugmonkey says:

    These games always start out sounding really promising, and then you hear the dreaded phrase that has blighted the genre to death: Newtonian Flight Model.

    Then the whole thing is irrevocably ruined.

    Please, Notch, please if you do this, keep the god damned realistic physics out of it. I don’t want a realistic handling spaceship any more than I want the lasers to makes no noise.

    • wodin says:

      I tend to agree, IWAR2 I could sort of handle, The Evechron series I found a nightmare.

      Just not fun, realistic maybe but dogfighting isn’t fun at all.

  32. diebroken says:

    Couldn’t stand watching Firefly (except for Summer Glau). Basing a game on Space: Above and Beyond on the other hand would be better…

    /remembers: SAAB E01E12 – Who Monitors The Birds?

  33. Gyro says:

    I have long awaited a game that would let me run around a ship, talk to my friends who are also on said ship, and decorate/customize the interior.

    If Notch pulls that off, I will be forever in his thrall.

    • Harlander says:

      The technique on that page of creating “action” shots of webpage elements, like the Google Payments button, in the news posts is…

      well, it’s weird.

  34. Vinraith says:

    Well, I’m confident Notch can create a quality sandbox, but there’s nothing in his background to indicate he’s capable of then building a good game in that sandbox. I wish him luck, and hope I’m wrong, but I anticipate Minecraft in space.

  35. Crius says:

    Acctually i feel Notch a little too “chatty” and not enough “facty”.

    Less talk. More fact.

    Minecraft? Great idea, huge success but… a lot of expectation. Unmet.
    Scrolls? A lot of legal arguing with bethseda but nothing interesting except some artwork.

    Now? “Another” great ideas that will disappear into the oblivion?

  36. says:

    But will it be Freespace, Chargespace or Pay2space?

    Barterspace could be neat.

  37. Hoaxfish says:

    Remember when Notch said he’d fund Psychonauts 2? And then said he’d changed his mind?

    Remember when all that stuff he said he’d add to Minecraft, which still isn’t in?

    Yea… I’ll believe it when I see it.

    I’m a bit weirded out by this being covered as anything more than “Notch seeks attention again”.

    • Arkh says:

      “Notch seeks attention again”

      Couldn’t say it better myself.

  38. Iskariot says:

    If this is going to be a single player space trading game then I am all for it.
    If it is going to be an MMO, then I am not interested at all.

    I would love to finally play a true character in a space trading/shooter game like privateer/elite etc..
    Seeing my ship docked in some hangar.
    Being able to actually walk on board, dong my thing, upgrading the engine, replacing some damaged parts. Talking to actual AI characters on a space station, perhaps getting arrested, shooting my way out of there and fleeing in my ship.

    I have dreamed of a game like that for decades now.
    Sadly I do not believe Notch can pull this off.
    And I bet if someone does create it it will be another one of those MMO thingies.

    • wodin says:

      I’m sick to the teeth of MMO games. Please god of games make them stop!

  39. Dances to Podcasts says:

    CTRL-F ‘Cowboy Bebop’… Bah. :(

  40. Beelzebud says:

    Notch got lucky with Minecraft, and was able to pay people to “finish” it. I’m not counting on much else from him, TBH. I don’t consider him that great of a developer.

  41. Ironclad says:

    This game could be pretty interesting… [/Wash]

  42. Arkh says:

    “I want the space game that’s more like Firefly. I want to run around on my ship and have to put out a fire. Like, oh crap, the cooling system failed, I have to put out the fire here.”

    Notch, stealing ideas since… well, forever.
    FTL, you should hide your game features.

    • Prime says:

      Oh come on. Those are hardly original ideas in themselves.

      • The Tupper says:

        Yeah – Gene Roddenberry stole the concept from them too. In 1966.

  43. necromental says:

    May I mention that B17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th did accomplish some very similer things by making you captain of a flight crew or commander of a larger group. You’d have to take care of your crew members, maybe take over for the AI for a bit of bomb aim tweaking and then slip into the position of the tail gunner to protect your beast of an airtank from bf-109’s. It even let you put out fires. I’d rather control a crew than a single person. or at least be in a position of command that isn’t dogged down by a first person perspective.

    link to

  44. TechnicalBen says:

    (Get Out Of My Head Notch).
    After seeing FTL demos I’d love to see Dawf Fortress in space. As long as you can control and customise the ship… What am I saying, if it does not have 100% realistic spaceship customisation I’m gonna be disappointed.

    Then when I’m running around refilling coolant or plugging in hull leaks I’m going to kick myself for putting that extra long corridor in. :D

  45. wodin says:

    My first game addiction was Elite on the BBC, I tried Pioneer awhile ago. Looked bad and couldn’t even take off. SO uninstalled quickly. Has it come on at all?

    • Prime says:

      Looks-wise, a little but not much. Couldn’t take off – was that the game’s problem? Stability-wise – very much so.

  46. lynn_kraken says:

    There is a saying in my part of the ‘verse which goes like “Promises make fools merry”.
    So cut the shenanigans and start doing it already!
    Pleaseeeee. Please, anyone?

  47. MythArcana says:

    Space Rangers 2 Reboot was “done right”…and they actually created an ending for it and everything.

  48. Ethyls says:

    God, that news… just when I’m in a space exploration gaming phase AND just when I finished watching Firefly for the umpteenth time…