Minecraft In 2014: Community And YouTube

Minecraft gets more popular every day, but we don’t talk about it much anymore. To find out what the game is like in 2014, we asked Duncan Geere to impart his wisdom. The result is a three-part series. Part one looked at Minecraft mods, part two at servers, and part three is below…

It’s a great time to be a Minecraft fan. The enormous community has built incredible things, created amazing mods and runs brilliant multiplayer servers. But in mid-2014, it was all overshadowed by a bitter, brutal war about an end-user license agreement – the repercussions of which will shape the future of the game for a long time to come.

Nonetheless, Minecraft’s community still seems to be growing exponentially, despite only occasional coverage from gaming sites and the mainstream press. Almost all discussion of the game takes place on YouTube, where people share their exploits and a parallel world of Minecraft celebrities has emerged. I’ve hunted down the best channels you should follow.

The EULA fiasco
But let’s start with the murky affair that precipitated one of biggest gaming events of the year. If you missed most of it at the time, I don’t blame you – it was unpleasant for everyone involved. A brief rundown goes something like this: Mojang, like many other games companies, has long had an agreement that you have to click yes to before you can play the game. That agreement forbids people from making money from Minecraft without Mojang’s permission. Pretty reasonable, right? After all, it’s their game.

Out of respect for and trust in the community, Mojang hadn’t been enforcing that rule very strongly. But then servers started popping up that allowed you to ‘pay-to-win’, buying diamond swords and armour with real money. And suddenly, the company was getting emails from parents, asking it to refund the money that their kids had given anonymous server owners across the world. So the company ‘clarified‘ the rules – allowing people to take money for hosting servers, but not to charge for gameplay features.

The response was far bigger than Mojang anticipated. Server owners, some of whom had built up businesses on the status quo, rebelled en masse. Open letters were sent, hashtags were coined, and forums and messageboards exploded with bile – the community was torn between the creators of Minecraft and the owners of the servers they played on.

The repercussions
In the Mojang offices, attempts to reach out the community failed, and hate rolled in around the clock. Notch, exasperated, tweeted: “Anyone want to buy my share of Mojang so I can move on with my life? Getting hate for trying to do the right thing is not my gig.” The community didn’t take it seriously at the time, but Notch wasn’t kidding. He reached out to an old flame, a company that had expressed interest in the past in acquiring Mojang and which despite a few public fallings-out, he’d long had a positive working relationship with. That company was Microsoft.

The rest is history. The two companies struck a deal which would see Notch and Mojang’s other cofounders depart with billions of dollars in exchange for the game of a generation. In an emotional blog post, Notch wrote that it wasn’t about the money – it was about his sanity. “I make games because it’s fun, and because I love games and I love to program,” he said. “A lot of you were using me as a symbol of some perceived struggle. I’m not. I’m a person, and I’m right there struggling with you.”

No-one can see into Notch’s head except himself, and the EULA fiasco is unlikely to have been the sole reason for the Microsoft sale. But it’s hard to see it not being the trigger – the last straw for the programmer who already wanted to leave his fame behind him, and felt trapped by an increasingly hostile group of players that called themselves fans. Ultimately it was their actions that handed control of one of the best-loved gaming brands ever to the corporate behemoth that is Microsoft.

Aftermath
I have a suspicion, though, that not much is going to change around Minecraft in the near-to-medium term. One of the reasons Notch was happy selling Mojang to Microsoft is because he knows that the game now belongs to the players. He wrote as much in his blog post – “In one sense, it belongs to Microsoft now,” he said. “In a much bigger sense, it’s belonged to all of you for a long time, and that will never change.”

He’s right – there’s little Microsoft can do to screw the game up in the face of its enormous community. The company is doing a delicate dance of staying relevant in a future increasingly dictated by Google and Apple, and earning the undying enmity of a generation by screwing up their favourite game is too big a risk to take. The community that caused the sale of Minecraft to Microsoft is the same one that’ll now protect the game from significant change.

YouTubers to follow
So how do you delve a little deeper into the better parts of that community? Well, you should probably hang out on YouTube more for starters. The list of top gaming channels is dominated by Minecraft players, from StampyLonghead, iBallastic Squid and the Diamond Minecart to Vegetta777 (who updates entirely in Spanish) SkyDoesMinecraft and CaptainSparklez. It would be churlish not to mention some other highly influential channels too – the Yogscast family, SethBling, AntVenom, Direwolf20 and Disco are all worth keeping an eye on, and several have spawned their own modpacks.

But what lies at the top of the charts isn’t always the best – there are plenty of underrated Minecraft YouTubers. I love Bil Kulp‘s slow, meticulous exploration and constant apologies for traffic passing by his window. Ben Pracy‘s madcap adventures are always entertaining. Don’t miss Pahimar (who often records with Direwolf20) and his calming voice, RandomObsessor and her prairie adventures, Micmastodon‘s nailbiting ultrahardcore videos, Palindrome‘s smooth narration, Vaygrim‘s complex builds, PurpleMentat‘s no-nonsense efficiency, ZombieCleo‘s self-effacing sarcasm, or the frequent moments when Aureylian breaks into song, either.

That’s not an exhaustive list of course – just a few recommendations to start with. The community is huge enough that you’ll find plenty of YouTubers to love, no matter your tastes. If you’ve got a favourite, don’t be afraid to mention them in the comments below.

Minecraft in 2014 is in a great place, and that’s because it’s about creation. The creativity of millions of people around the world has been the very thing that drives its continued meteoric growth, and is why I don’t see it stopping any time soon. Any community large enough will have its share of bad apples, but somehow, in Notch’s blocky world, they only rarely rise to the top of the barrel.

How Microsoft is going to treat its new acquisition remains to be seen, but you can bet that it’s already learnt from Mojang’s experiences. “Minecraft is one of the most popular franchises of all time,” said Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, in the company’s press release announcing the acquisition. “We are going to maintain [the game] and its community in all the ways people love today, with a commitment to nurture and grow it long into the future.”

30 Comments

  1. Maou says:

    I´m the only one here who finds this game boring as hell?
    Anyway, I hope Micro$oft don´t screw things over.

    • Smashbox says:

      Truly, a masterclass in meta-commentary on boringness.

    • Cinek says:

      Nope, you’re not. I made like… 4 approaches to this game, each time friends trying to pull me in, but I always end up installing it within 24 hours.

    • noodlecake says:

      Probably not. I bounced off it the first few times. I only really enjoyed it once I started playing with my friend on a private server with a loads of mods. I can definitely see tons of people not enjoying it. I’m an artist and I like making things and Minecraft is really good for stimulating that part of me. I’d love to see a lot more games combine easy intuitive creation tools into it’s gameplay.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Yeah, this is the thing, it’s mainly fun when you can share with other people. Building your own stuff is fine, but eventually you give up because no-one else will see it. For a multiplayer server, you can build things together and show your stuff to others.

    • huldu says:

      Vanilla minecraft is extremely boring. Once you start pilling up well over 100 mods it’s actually pretty darn good. Many of the mods really put mojang to shame… The first thing I hope microsoft does is changing the engine to one that doesn’t suck balls, with “minecraft 2” which is bound to happen. Minecraft is badly coded on so many levels.

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        teije says:

        I have to agree – it’s a dogs breakfast in there. One thing Microsoft could actually help with is making modding more accessible – my 13 year old son loves to mod, but the core is finicky as hell and undocumented.

    • Flopper says:

      This late in the game you might as well just try Landmark when it comes out. F2P and does everything Minecraft does except more and better… lol

      It’s what happens when a real studio makes a game instead of some hipster dufus who thinks trash graphics are artsy fartsy.

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        Harlander says:

        How’s Landmark’s mod support?

        • _Joof_ says:

          Not just not allowed, but actually quite impossible unless a company does some serious dev work. The engine itself is a technical marvel and it would take another top-tier dev to get a moddable server going somehow.

          Landmark’s voxel engine has to be run on a server-farm to realistically work and makes some HUGE processing vs memory tradeoffs (I think the voxelfarm guy said his world is stored on ~30 terabytes or so).

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        As great as Landmark might be someday, it’s not at all the same as Minecraft. Better in some ways, perhaps.. but worse in others.

      • NukeWithG says:

        Do I have to say it? I’m gonna say it. Landmark’s graphics are utter shit, just another “cartoony” game in a pile of cartoony games. The graphics have nothing that’s unique to them, and while you can argue that Minecraft’s graphics are prettybad, at least they’re unique. Not other game has the same kind of look to it.

    • SomeDuder says:

      No, I certainly get the premise. I loved Terraria for example. I just don’t enjoy the retarded amount of exposure this game gets, especially from self-agrandising extrovert YouTube… “people”.

      • P.Funk says:

        Thats a very grumpy way to criticize a game. “Grr, its too popular!”

  2. LegendaryTeeth says:

    We should go back to Minecraft mods and talk more about some of the cool ones. I would definitely appreciate a “Minecraft monday” or something where there’s an article doing a bit of a WiT for or describing an adventure in a neat mod.

    • Smashbox says:

      I agree – there are a lot of fascinating and very deep systems in some Minecraft mods.

  3. LegendaryTeeth says:

    Also, my wife games a lot with me, but I can’t get her into Minecraft. Any suggestions for a good mod she might get into (ie, perhaps your favourite mod or modpack that isn’t just more advanced machines? Something that really impacts the start)? If anyone has done a good tower defense type one that would be right up her alley, I think, and once she gave it a chance I’m sure she’d be down for more adventures.

    It’s mostly the graphics she won’t give a chance, and that she had a boring time playing Terraria at a LAN party with a bunch of people who really knew what they were doing (so there wasn’t much exploration or discovery on her part)

  4. Bakuraptor says:

    I’m delighted to see ZombieCleo on this list; her particular brand of humour is really great, and it’s awesome to see her getting some recognition in this article; she really deserves it!

    Although her videos are all pretty enjoyable, I’d particularly recommend her Sims 3 let’s play (www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CbjWda2W2s) which has a delightful mix of sadism and sarcasm (culminating with an attempt at killing off her entire Sims family in the style of 13 ghosts); on the Minecraft front, she’s about to start a new series on the Hermitcraft server, which is a generally lovely bunch of guys and girls, but her recent modsauce series (www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9dWimQRxPc) is a very enjoyable introduction to a modded server (with the same people from Hermitcraft), so that’s another good one to check out!

    • GrannyGamer1 says:

      …and she breaks out in song! She can build the pants off just about anybody. And the other Hermits on the HermitCraft server have dubbed her Robin Hood for her archery skills! Big heart, sharp tongue.

  5. Moorkh says:

    I can see how some how-tos on Youtube may be useful as instruction on a particularly delicate mod setup or advanced redstone engineering, but this plethora of Youtubers remains a mystery to me.
    I’ve never understood the point of watching someone else play my game, especially not in Minecraft. Anyone able to explain the fascination and – yikes – popstar adulation?

    • danny_brown says:

      I mean I’ll give it a shot –

      1) They’re better than you, in either design or engineering. Tutorials are all very well and good, but watching a guy who knows what he’s doing means you can poach nifty ideas for your own builds, or simply admire the handiwork.

      2) They have some form of agreeable personality, or are fun to listen to. In this sense they’re like entertainers, but instead of regular entertainment its all specific to the game you love. Someone who loves Minecraft may prefer this sort of thing to, say, watching a movie about aliens.

      3)This is one i don’t personally subscribe to, but these 24 hour long playlists of people you like playing your favourite game can be a lot like hanging out with friends, which is of course something everybody needs. It may seem a little lonely on the face of it, but there’s clearly a huge market for this sort of thing. It doesn’t mean you don’t have friends – it is in fact possible to do more than one thing in a day.

      These 3 factors combine to produce a product that there’s clearly demand for. The level of that demand still sort of boggles my mind personally, but you can see that if you enjoy minecraft and some of the things on the list, then you might be the sort of guy who watches these videos.

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    Neurotic says:

    I’ve got two words for you: Stampy Longnose.

  7. Remalle says:

    Achievement Hunter?

  8. acker says:

    I`m glad to see Vaygrim linked in this post. He`s a great guy and helped me a few times in my Minecraft game through his livestream. And that voice, man, you forgot to comment on that.

    But, you just forgot BevoLJ. Not only he plays another game, he always have a great time playing the most difficult mods out there: Gregtech. I do not even play it, but I always listen to him when I`m playing.

    • jac99ultracool says:

      Bevo is my fave! He is amazing. His voice just always cheers me up, too. I am glad to see Palindrome and PurpleMentat listed here (as well as some of the larger channels like DW20), but there are people like AkoTheBuilder and Haighyorkiechilled who are missed out. Also, DaveFayram. He is also in the RR crew (and is kind of in the Yogscast), but he is really good. he also makes modpacks. And Biffa2001, and AMLUP and Chipped Gaming and Catdogpigduck and Mdiyo and Nemsun…

  9. ironman Tetsuo says:

    what! no mention of Ethoslabs or DocM77? I’ve been following both for years and they consistently put out great content, update your YouTube subs!
    :-)

    • P.Funk says:

      Yes I very much like Etho. He’s very understated, kind of the opposite of your standard successful Youtube personality.

  10. Adynod says:

    Shout out to TangoTek, famed for his Iron Farms. His single player let’s play was great and he consistently features interesting builds and ideas. Also the sadly no longer active Caliform who’s Expedition Minecraft series (4 years ago!) got me into Minecraft.