We’re aware that Minecraft was intelligently designed, by the Mojang hero team and has its roots very firmly in Sweden. However, today saw the release of Minecraft for the Xbox 360, created by the team at 4J Studios’ development office in East Linton (for our readers in Dundee – that’s NOT where you live…)
If you’re not a gamer, or if you only read news sources which totally ignore digital media and the interactive industries (the Scottish media for example) you may not be familiar with Minecraft (yes, that is Edinburgh Castle. No, Dundee readers, that’s not in Dundee).
It’s a cross between LEGO and The Walking Dead. You have to mine resources and build things, in some modes, without getting killed by scary blocky monsters. It’s a wonderful example of sandbox gaming, in which that player is encouraged to build and create and experiment. It has over 25,000,000 registered users. It’s sold over 5,000,000 copies on PC/Mac and some people, as happens on the Internets, have taken it too far. Famous buildings and locations or fairground rides are one thing, working processor units, insanity and life size starships are quite another:
It exemplifies the emergent ‘indie’ spirit in the games world and proves that the lowest common casual denominator is not always the most popular creative decision.
4J Studios are no strangers to the Xbox market. The company is responsible for the critically acclaimed Xbox 360 versions of titles including Perfect Dark, Banjo Kazooie, Banjo Tooie and PS3 conversions including Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
Minecraft for Xbox 360 is already receiving a lot of love from the media and critics worldwide. It gets the perfect 100% from the UK’s Official Xbox Magazine and Gaming Age. It scores 83 out of 100 on the influential Metacritic, while the game gets 4/5 from The Guardian, which also says:
It is strangely profound and meditative experience, aided by the wilting piano score and the soft, simple sound effects, which lend each action a naturalism that works within this universe even when resembling nothing in our own. And don’t be fooled by the chunky docile appearance of the monsters – Minecraft manages to create a creepy, jumpy atmosphere during its night-time hours, with the green, staring Creepers peering through your door and zombies reaching in through the windows. This is a game that replicates every element of solitude and the human imagination – it scares as well as intrigues.
When the subject of translating Minecraft to console came up, Microsoft put forward 4J for the project. “I visited Mojang at the end of April 2011,” says chief technology officer, Paddy Burns. “I questioned Notch in detail about the software architecture of all the different parts of the game– I wanted to get a high level understanding of what it would take to convert to the Xbox 360. At the end of the grilling, Notch said: ‘That was great! No one’s ever asked me questions like that!’ I then put a proposal together showing what we would do, how we would do it, and a project timetable.”