How do you take a break from a project that seems like it will never be finished? It's a tough question that we newshounds ask ourselves every day and it appears Notch has been having similar thoughts. Now that Minecraft has been officially released, its creator is taking a step back, leaving co-developer Jens Bergensten to take the reins. As for Notch, he'll be resting, helping out with Minecraft and starting work on a new project. Released or not, Minecraft isn't finished, so read on for a quick look at the current state of play and then read further to find out about the loveliest Minecraft story I've seen all year.
I'd always imagined that NPCs would be one of the things that Mojang focused on before release, since there seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm for their inclusion, both internally and from players. It's also a feature that could change the feel of the game quite dramatically and it will be one of the areas to receive attention sooner rather than later according to Notch.
...we started working on the villagers and that didn’t really finish in time, so we’ve got to keep working on that, and we have lots of surrounding features for that.
There should also be better support for mods in the future, which makes sense given the strong community that has built up around the game. However, despite the Vegas launch, Notch seems to recognise that Minecraft remains as much an ongoing project as it ever was.
There [is] so much we could add. We’re going to keep working for as long as people keep buying, really.
We won't resort to phone tapping to find out what Notch's next project might be but I have already volunteered to root through bins and pursue him in high speed car chases because that is proper investigative journalism.
Now onto the best applications of Minecraft I've seen for a while, with thanks to IndieGameMagazine for making me aware of them. These are not giant computers, architectural majesty or fictional spaceships built with the world's blocks, but examples of the game being used to promote teamwork and learning in schools.
SpaceChem has been at it already and, as then, I'm happy to see the creative potential of another interactive playspace being recognised. There are two groups working to promote the use of Minecraft as a tool for learning, MinecraftEdu and Massively Minecraft. That's all well and good, but the best way to understand how all of this works is to read a blog with a teacher's experiences on it.
Here is such a thing! It isn't long and I find it genuinely cheering, filled as it is with quotes like this:
Suddenly, the library was filled with their voices asking each other for help, shouting out their discoveries (“I can swim!”), getting themselves into danger and figuring a way out.
There’s no in-game tutorial or training zone in Minecraft (yet) but my students (and I suspect many others) didn’t need one. Being the gamers and digital citizens they are, they came pre-loaded with the literacies needed to navigate this virtual space (wasd keys for moving, spacebar for jumping, etc.) And while they might not have shared in game (yet), they shared their knowledge out of game. They taught each other how to dig, swim, open your inventory and much more.
The man who wrote this and encouraged those kids to think, learn and tell stories together? He is a good teacher. You can hear him talking with other educators about using games in the classroom on this podcast. Interesting stuff that I'd very much like to hear more of.