Archive for March 12, 2012
I’ve got to restrain myself here, lest I pop a blood vessel, but Minefold.com is about as amazing a construct as Minecraft itself.
Pete of Dragonchasers fame uncovered this and posted it to G+. I host a small server in my home for my daughter and her friends to play on, and it works well because we can re-build or trash the world as we see fit. We’re running Bukkit, and I’ve tried some mods but for the most part they’re content to just build their own little world. But the machine is ancient, and doesn’t run all that well. Plus keeping up with Bukkit updates when the client updates results in a flurry of “is the server updated yet” pestering. I looked into hosting, but the cost was either astronomical, or the procedures were very convoluted for hosting on something like Amazon’s EC platform.
So enter Minefold, the best idea I never thought of. It uses Amazon’s system, and has a fully functional world management front end. You sign up (using your Minecraft username so it recognizes you as the account holder) and can create a new world or upload your own (MCEdit fans). You can run it peaceful or with enemies, on survival or creative. Once it’s live, you can invite friends and play on a nice, hosted Minecraft world.
“Hold the phone!” you say, if people actually still said that. “How can this be? And why I am talking to a blog?” Well, here’s the catch(s).
- All accounts have one world, so make it count.
- A free account can play for 10 hours per month. So make those count.
- You can be a “pro” member for $5 per month, billed in three different, three month increments (three, six, or twelve months).
- Pro members can play for unlimited time, and can be members of unlimited worlds.
- Each pro member pays only for himself. You don’t need to collect money from leeches to pay for your hosting.
Once you’re a member of any stripe, you can petition a world to become a member. How do you find worlds? With their handy-dandy MF’n ass-kickin’ world browser, that’s how! If you’re in a creative funk, you can even find a super sweet world (might I suggest…) and clone it to your account. Aquila is just begging for iConomy…
…but the downside is that they’re using the Notchian server – so there’s no plugins at this time. They claim that they will be supporting Bukkit, and with the Bukkit development going over to Mojang, I would expect this to open up a lot of possibilities in the future. The only other downside (although it’s like complaining that your caviar is too…caviar-y) is that I’ll need to pay $30 for my account, and for my daughter. But that’s $10 per month, technically…I spend more on a single MMO, so my bitching is purely academic.
I stopped working with Minecraft a while ago, but having this opportunity to create a world and to have other people in it for a low, low fee is really a no-brainer. Even for the ultra-casual, a free account can mean that someone can jump in and test out the service and any worlds of friends to see if they want to commit to a full subscription. I think this is a great deal, and I hope things pan out for Minefold.
I’m trying something new: In Brief. I realize that most of my posts are tl;dr, so I’m going to limit posts in this series to a link (if the post is inspired by an external source), and three paragraphs: an opening, a point, and the conclusion. It may not be what your 7th grade English teacher wanted in your essays, but who the hell cares? I do…about you.
* For Creators of Games, a Faint Line on Cloning (nytimes.com)
Mobile development started off like the 1800’s gold rush, with seemingly everyone dropping their responsibilities to head to the Promised Land of “easy money”. The mobile gaming space was an open frontier, a vacuum, and there was no shortage of opportunity for both large and small (even a single person) developers. They quickly filled that vacuum, and now it seems we’re into the “…and then some” phase where the benefits of mobile development – small teams, little-to-no money down, rapid concept-to-market turnarounds – is catching up, and the result is apparently quite dire for developers and this segment of the industry.
I’m not under any illusions about the amount of time it takes to develop a game for mobile like, say, Tiny Tower, which is quite a feet for the tiny NimbleBit team, but I do think that it’s not quite as herculean a task for a company the size of Zynga to release Dream Heights so soon after Tiny Tower hit it big. The same benefits that smaller teams or individuals enjoy in mobile development are also their worst enemies when wielded by larger companies with deep pockets and teams of developers who have the luxury of skipping the design, prototype, and trial-and-error phases of software development. There’s nothing to stop a company from making a “me too” game; it’s practically a given in a risk-adverse industry like this one. However in other creative industries, an artist may have copyright laws at their backs to defend against blatant clones; software does not since it’s only the products themselves that can be protected, not the ideas behind them. With AAA game development for consoles and PC, the best defense against blatant rip-offs showing up on your doorstep is time. No one can make a Mass Effect clone and release it within days, weeks, or even months after the release of the official Mass Effect. When time is eroded as an effective barrier, all kinds of things are possible, and we’re just now waking up to the reveal that not all of them are beneficial.
This isn’t going to cause the death of mobile development, but it could easily winnow the developer pool and chill the atmosphere for smaller developers. Up to this point most of the stories and anecdotes we’ve been subjected to have been about the rosy picture of mobile development as the “future of game development” and happy stories about bedroom developers who have struck oil in this (once) wide open field. Now it seems that we’re finally getting stories about the underbelly of the mobile world, populated by the scammers and underhanded dealings of people who do what they do because it’s easy, and because there’s nothing to stop them. This is really an eye-opening opportunity for current and future indies who think mobile is the path of least resistance towards a big break into the industry, and will hopefully force starry-eyed “mobile as the future of gaming” boosters to return to reality of what they’ve wrought.