Microsoft Bought Minecraft

After a lot of rumors, it finally happened… Microsoft bought the company that made Minecraft, Mojang, for $2.5 billion. I am overall sad by the purchase, but my general feeling is that it was a good deal for Notch and I don’t blame him at all for pulling the trigger. I mean.. It’s 2.5 billion dollars, would you turn your back on that?

I think the problem with Minecraft is it’s age. Minecraft was released to the public on May 17, 2009 and after a couple of years of public alpha and beta tests, the public version was released on November 18, 2011. Now sitting at over 5 years old, there is a bit of age in the game. Yes profits of the game were up, what 30% last year? That’s an amazing number after 5 years, and I think the 360 sales finally passed the PC sales as well. I am sure this next year will see another rise in profits as well with releases to the PS3 and Xbox One. 1 2015 may be a decent year as well with expected releases on the PS4 and the PSP Vita, though who knows if both of those will follow through with this recent purchase. I wouldn’t be surprised if the PSP Vita one in particular was canned even though Microsoft doesn’t have a portable competitor to put it on. The point is, there might be maybe one more year of good profits before the game starts dropping off, and at that point the Mojang crew really needs to start considering a follow up somehow.

Mojang has tried to make follow up games to Minecraft since it launched. There have been several mini-game/tech demos made during mojams, there is 0x10c, and Cobalt and Scrolls. I feel like there has also been a couple other games but I can’t recall them. The point is none of these games have really worked out. Scrolls in particular started development in 2011 and after 3 years of development is most known for a lawsuit with Bethesda because Mojang tried to trademark the word Scrolls and Bethesda didn’t like that with Elder Scrolls being out there.

This means at some point in time over the next couple of years, Mojang’s next best shot is to make Minecraft 2, in order to get more income out of Minecraft and get all the initial purchases again. The problem with this plan is can Mojang repeat the magic they struck with Minecraft? The thing with Minecraft is that it seems to be one of those games that everyone who tries it loves. The other examples in gaming history that are similar to this that I can think of are Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros. It didn’t matter what kind of gamer you are, whether you were male or female, these are games you love. And Minecraft was in the same boat really. I have a few friends who play the game who I don’t really have in common any other genre. I know a lot of FPS players get into Minecraft even though it isn’t a game that I would generally consider FPS gamer friendly. I have also heard the Minecrackers talk about how the only game that they all have in common is Minecraft and they have a hard time playing other games because there isn’t a shared interest almost anywhere else. About the only people I have heard who dislike the game, really have never played it. Minecraft was special and I don’t think Mojang was going to really be able to repeat it. In fact, trying to make a sequel would have the potential of killing the original player base due to factioning the player base and may even had the ability of lowering the number. 2

So yeah, sell it to Microsoft. Mojang was near the end of the road with their magical horse, might as well sell it while it is still hot and make the most out of what you have. What does Microsoft get? Not entirely sure. They will face the same problem Mojang would have with a sequel but will probably try to do it anyway. I do see potential in offering officially licensed servers, but would have a difficult job making it so no one else could sell Minecraft servers without alienating the existing base. I don’t see Microsoft making back 2.5 billion off this though. Even if they sell servers and continue merchandising push, and Minecraft 2 is a moderate success… i don’t see 2.5 billion. I don’t get it. I mean think about it on this side… let’s assume Minecraft 2 comes out and is a success and sells 2 million units on name recognition alone and let’s say that the cost to make Minecraft 2 is free and they don’t advertise it and don’t sell it in retail… well they just made $100 million… they are still short by $2.4 billion… where do they see the money? To put it into perspective, Disney bought Lucas for $4 billion which included Industrial Light & Magic, Lucas Arts, the Star Wars franchise AND the Indiana Jones Franchise (plus some other stuff like Skywalker Sound). Marvel likewise cost Disney $4 billion. I feel Lucas got ripped off here. But there was serious money in the franchises Disney bought… all Microsoft gets here is Minecraft and from the sounds of it, Notch walks free and doesn’t even have to work at Microsoft.

On Mojang’s side, it’s kind of sad. I mean even though I get it, Mojang was really the company that proved that you didn’t need a big publisher to do it. They were an early indie victor when indies were coming back and they were also a big reason that PC made a come back. And then they went and did their best to support the indie community wherever they could. So to see them sell out to Microsoft seems to fly in the face of what indie is all about, though I don’t blame them. It’s just too bad…

Rogue Legacy Review

During the winter sale on Steam, I decided to pick up Rogue Legacy which I had my eye on for quite some time. Even though I had my eye on it, i wasn’t entirely sure what I would think of it. The game was largely billed as an homage to Rogue and Castlevania. Well I can deal with Rogue, but it’s easy to do wrong. And I’m not the biggest Castlevania fan in the world. I also haven’t been as big into platformers as my youthful self would have liked. So I was a bit dubious of this game.

After a month of play, I must say that I not only love the game, it has completely sucked me in. I will say that its stay got lengthened by me going to a new hard drive and losing my progress. But it still interests me. Part of the reason is that its progression seems non-ending and the difficulty isn’t really low.

The game is a level based game. You start out at level 1, you go through the castle and collect money, then once you die, you go and buy skills. Each skill raises your level by 1. There are a ton of skills to choose from, and most skills let you level them up which also increase your level. I say skills broadly, but some of the skills also unlock new classes for you to play and advance current classes that you already have.

When you die, you get a choice of your successor, and that is when the class comes in. You get a selection of 3 (which you can reroll later if you take the right skill) randomly generated successors to your previous character. The name of the character, the class, deformities and enhancements are all randomly generated. One generation of character you might have an uber powerful guy, the next time you might have an uber gimp guy and this adds a lot of variety to the game. You never know what you are going to get even from your character.

Once you have your skills bought, you go into the castle. The castle is also randomly generated and you have to pay a toll to death in order to enter. This toll is anywhere from 100% of your coin to 50% of your coin depending on your skills. Once you enter, there are 4 main areas, each with its own boss. You kill all 4 bosses and you unlock the end boss sequence. Each area has its own difficulty from easy to hard, and in fact the hard can be so difficult at times that even when I can fight the first end boss, I still have a hard time in the hardest area. The castle contains various traps, and events and the game itself feels a bit like Duck Tales crossed with Ghouls & Goblins. There are a lot of platforms to jump on to get through the castle and the Scrooge pogo stick thing is in full force (this seems to be increasingly popular these days).

There are also skills that unlock a couple of “vendors” in the game. A blacksmith, a magic shop, and an architect. The architect allows you to go into the same dungeon so that it doesn’t regnerate, however you only get a fraction of the gold from it. I don’t use this function often, but is nice if you run through it with a spelunker (who gets a bonus to gold and can see where treasure is) and then follow through with a tougher fighter to kill the bosses afterwards. The blacksmith allows you to find recipes in the castle which unlock better weapons and armor. The magic shop allows you to put enchantments on the armor. You can put one enchantment on each equipped item and these enchantments have handy bonuses to them like gaining health with each kill or more gold on each kill or double jumping. It is a good compliment to your already growing skills, however they don’t level up with you quite as well as normal skills do.

Overall the gameplay is really fun. I find myself getting drawn into the game to unlock just one more level of a skill or to try to beat a boss that has been dogging me. It accomplishes this trick really well and almost gets to the level of Civilization which might be the biggest culprit to this trick. I definitely would recommend at least trying the game out. You can generally find it on sale at various times of the year. The cheapest I have found it has been around the $5 mark which is definitely worth it for this gem!

SimCity: Nearly a year later

I don’t know why, but I was feeling the mood to give SimCity another shot so I bought the expansion which deals with futuristic stuff and decided to sit down and play SimCity again. As you may or may not remember from my previous post, my main gripes about it were that you couldn’t play offline, its reliance on having multiple cities, small city areas, and unrealistic population numbers.

Continue reading “SimCity: Nearly a year later”

An Open Letter to Valve

It has been a big week for you Valve. You have announced the new Steam Operating System, the long rumored steambox and even a controller meant for Steam. You are quickly finding yourself on your way to the home console market. But l want to put out a few requests…

First, don’t compete with the X-box, Playstation or Wii consoles. Instead, compete with Boxee, XBMC, Apple TV, and the Google Box. Make an HTPC, a good one. The HTPC market has long struggled to do games correctly, and though Microsoft and Sony continue to try to give you a home entertainment solution, to say they have much to be desired is an understatement. You already have the games down and you have more potential than most to get the movies and internet down too because you come from a PC environment.

Second, do a better job with letting the user customize the User Interface. Right now the interface of Steam is ok. But for television it is god awful. Sorry to say. I mean you made a good attempt with the Big Picture stuff, but all I got out of that experiment was not to use Steam on the Big Screen and instead download games separately and then go ahead and create my own screens with a real HTPC setup. Right now you can make categories, change the small banner, and change the faded background images in an indirect route. I want to change the layout more, I want to change the description, the links, I want to be able to add slideshows if I want. I want more customization with the visuals. I want to make subcategories!!!!

Third, get good partnerships. We all know that you are going to partner with Netflix, Hulu and probably Pandora. Everyone does. But get Twitch, Google (Youtube), and Spotify on board too just to name a few. The more like a real HTPC you can get the more successful you will be.

Lastly, Do better with the controller. It looks like ass. You indicate that games that work better with keyboards, like turn-based strategy games, should be great for this. I for the life of me don’t see how. I looked at it and thought that would be terrible for Civ. The only real nice thing about it is the touchpad that allows you to customize areas in it to be buttons. I thought that was a nice touch. Now I’m willing to give it a try, but I’m not overly optimistic. I was really hopeful you’d do better than that.

Now overall, I am quite excited by the Steambox. For the simple reason that I’ve been looking for a way to stream games to my television well and thus far I haven’t really found any good solutions. Steambox is promising to do just that and it is free software at that which is really cool. I also like the concept of the new sharing deal, though I’ll be interested to see just how many companies sign on to allow people to share. I assume at the very least Portal will be sharable, but I imagine no games that just get launched will have them. I am also curious as to what hardware requirements all this is going to take because I probably will build my own box and am curious at the cost of it. But I do think just on the base Valve has a very good start. They just need to correct some things from past iterations of Steam Big Picture.

Good Luck Guys.

Civ 5: Brave New World Review

When Civ 5 was first released, it was likely a success sales-wise, but to fans it left much to be desired. While I liked limited resources and one unit per tile, other fans of the series didn’t. But the biggest problem was a slew of bugs, a weak AI, a simplified game, and a lack of a true cultural victory. Now 3 years, and 2 expansions later, I think not only have the issues with the game been resolved, I feel it is in a much better place than Civ 4 was after all expansions were released.

This latest expansion adds to the game, a more true to Civ culture victory, archeologists & tourism, and several new civilizations and units to the game. Obviously the biggest of these enhancements is the return of the cultural victory. This actually comes along with the archeologists & tourism, and also includes other enhancements such as spies being used as diplomats and a world congress which votes on global resolutions. Continue reading “Civ 5: Brave New World Review”

Return to Minecraft

I haven’t really touched minecraft for probably a year. Recently though, I found a new mod pack called Feed the Beast, quite by accident, and thought I would give it a try. Then I found a mod called Mo Creatures which I added into Feed the Beast and now I feel that Minecraft is a completely new game and one worth playing again. Continue reading “Return to Minecraft”