Molyneux: Minecraft broke traditional game design rules and that's why it's so great

"Some people can't see beyond the rather crude graphics, but those are its strongest point," Peter Molneux says.

In a new Rolling Stone feature story about Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson, outspoken industry veteran Peter Molyneux (Fable, Dungeon Keeper, Populous) explains why he thinks the open-ended sandbox game has become such a massive hit.

"There are game-design rules that are carved in stone--about teaching people to play, having objectives, a character, an adversary," Molyneux said. "Minecraft threw all that away."

"Some people can't see beyond the rather crude graphics," Molyneux added. "But those are its strongest point. The fact that you quickly get the idea that you can put a block on top of another block means anybody can build anything."

Blazing its own trail has proven tremendously successful for Notch and his team at Mojang in Sweden. In 2013 alone, Mojang made over $300 million in revenue, and $128 million in profit. Rolling Stone estimates that Mojang is worth around $2 billion.

On the topic of money, the feature points out that Mojang often throws huge parties at industry events with A-list DJ talent like Avicii, Deadmau5, and Skrillex. Persson even took his entire staff (with their plus-ones) on a trip to Monaco last year. They flew there in private jets, drove around in Ferraris, rode in helicopters, and partied on a yacht, the report states.

"It's a very stupid way to spend money," Persson said. "But why not? People say, 'You should invest it.' So I can get more money to put in a pile? At least if you spend it, it goes back and does something, maybe."

The Rolling Stone story on Persson contains a host of other noteworthy facts about Persson. We've collected the most interesting bits below.

  • He taught himself to program on a Commodore 128 computer.
  • He never finished high school.
  • He wrote the original version of Minecraft in his Stockholm apartment in 2009 in about a week.
  • His father killed himself two weeks before Christmas in 2011.
  • He got married in 2011 but the relationship did not last, and they later divorced.
  • He doesn't have a girlfriend now, but he is seeing someone. "I wouldn't call it a girlfriend, but to paraphrase a comedian, 'There's a woman who would be upset if I said I didn't have a girlfriend.'"
  • His current apartment in Östermalm ("where the rich people live") has an elevator and a walk-in wine cellar.
  • He's moving to a new penthouse. When it's finished, it will be the most expensive, per square meter, in all of Stockholm.
  • Every Friday, Persson lets Mojang employees play video games and/or work on personal projects.
  • He has a 10-year plan for Mojang: "Hopefully, we are going to keep making money at Mojang, but if we don't, that's fine. We just have 10 fun years, and then, the last year, we'd say to our employees, 'If we don't make any money this year, Mojang is going to be dead. So you might want to look for new jobs.'"
Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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Discussion

59 comments
jerusaelem
jerusaelem

I heard from my uncle when I was but a small boy that if you turn off all of the lights after midnight and whisper Peter Molyneux's name 5 times in a bathroom mirror, Peter Molyneux himself will magically apparate behind you and LITERALLY bore you to DEATH with outdated and meaningless opinions on the video game industry. I've never made it past 4 "Peter Molyneuxs" myself. The only known contingency is to then summon Bloody Mary, Biggie Smalls, AND the Candyman in the hopes that ONE of those horrific ghouls will mercifully hook murder you before Peter Molyneux's ghastly visage is allowed to speak. 

Nepti
Nepti

I'm glad to see indie publishers gaining strength and momentum in the industry and happier still to see crowd-funding grow as much as it has. I absolutely LOVE how Star Citizen flies in the face of all the marketers and publishers who told Chris Roberts that Space Sims are dead - LOVE THAT. Most marketers out there don't know what they're talking about - they don't even know what to do with a proven brand they've seen be successful 100 times before. There are tons of gaming genres out there that have nearly withered away due to the self-proclaimed 'brilliance' of mainstream publishers, marketers and others with control over purse strings.

aphextwin777
aphextwin777

The EGO speaks, yawn.

Peter, I used to admire you in your Populous (Amiga) days but since then lost all respect for you with your duff games and pretentious verbal diarrhoea.

tightwad34
tightwad34

I thought there really was only one rule when it comes to making games. And that is no plagerizing at all, period. As long as you can come up with your own material, or I guess if you want to use someone's idea you need permission, everything should be fine. Then all you gotta worry about is if your game will sell or not.

liquidbutter
liquidbutter

His ex wife must be making a killing in alimony payments.

Mega_Skrull
Mega_Skrull

The graphics are obviously it's weakest point, the rest of Minecraft is just great fun with total freedom. But what does this guy know?

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Molyneu's bitter that he can't make anything as good as Minecraft.

Xenro4
Xenro4

I know everyone hates Peter Molyneux, but he's said some pretty wise things lately.
As far as minecraft goes, it's always good to put the power to create into the user's hands. Once a game does that, the game creates itself. I played warcraft 3 for years and kept coming back because of what the community created. A truly innovative game does let the user create their own content, and with the way everyone is obsessed with Lego games lately, Minecraft was the perfect idea.

DrKill09
DrKill09

Peter Molyneux is a senile old fart.


Every time I see him open his mouth, it sounds like the insane ramblings of my Grandpa.

catsimboy
catsimboy

The funny thing is that this was an article about Notch but it's turned into an article about two short quotes within the overall article on Notch because Molyneux is such a blowhard it's clickbait to mention him instead.

StonerDemon
StonerDemon

Molyneux, shut up please. You're not cool.

hitomo
hitomo

Molineus is planning a minecraft rip off with pqay to win Options ranging from 5 to 50.000 $, he calls it an experiment ... got shafted on Kickstarter, cause nobody wanted to fund someone who could easyly pay all development cots from the porto.account


on Mincraft, devs,

if stupid people would through their Money at my stupid, simplistic game ... I would Party all day!

BuBsay
BuBsay

What's with all the "Molyneux says that...." articles over the past couple months Gamespot?


The man's comments about his own games are usually asinine lies, let alone his views on the outside game world.

repetitious
repetitious

Notch I think may be a one hit wonder, and if he keeps partying crazy like that he'll be broke not long after minecraft becomes irrelevant. I'm not trolling, but you see these type ppl go broke all the time, so he better invest in the future of his company, Instead of cruising through his 10 yr plan then dumping everyone.

I just can't take his opinion seriously (same for the day z creator) until they contribute more to the industry instead of resting on their high horse

misternathan
misternathan

Look at Molyneux, still pretending he knows anything about what constitutes good game design.

gajbutler
gajbutler

Wow they got divorced quickly.

404FredNotFound
404FredNotFound

Peter Molyneux saying something that's not self-centered or right down hypocritical, now that's news (Still think his a brilliant man tho), his right, but this change is still on going, and the industry  is still trying to self regulate it self on this new method of creating/selling games and you have some good examples and some bad ones but we are going the right direction....

DarkSaber2k
DarkSaber2k

Yes, people saw the potential in Minecraft and it paid off, but Godus is and will always be Microtransactional bollocks.

ACMC85
ACMC85

I don't see the hook of Minecraft, but Notch sounds like an awesome guy. Didn't know some of these facts, but I am extremely happy that a good person like this does well. And isn't greedy either.

Kunakai
Kunakai

Why're people so obsessed with Notch? He's made a good game granted but he's sure as hell not Todd Howard (who made three epically successful RPG's back to back and doesn't come across as a complete tool).

veryDERPY
veryDERPY

now he's gonna tell you how his next game would break design rules, SUCKS, then say "but it was ambitious, so the next one would be even better"



liquidbutter
liquidbutter

It may not have a trading card game, countless toys and merchandise, or a syndicated television show, but what Pokemon did for the kids of the 90s is what Minecraft is now doing for today's young people. The hearts and minds of our youth have been captivated by Minecraft, and that will stay with them for the rest of their lives, and undoubtedly change history in some way through the way it is influencing children right now and teaching them all kinds of skills and mind bending tricks. There's no doubt that Minecraft will go down in the history books of video games. So many programmers, designers, and artists will be shaped by Minecraft in the future as these kids grow up and show us what gaming can really do.

SkytheWiz1
SkytheWiz1

Why are there still articles written solely over his quotations?
Molyneux hasn't been a credible source since the release of Fable 2.

Don't get me wrong - Minecraft was INCREDIBLY influential to today's gaming; but if it's taken him this long to realize it, that's just goes to show how behind he is with everything.

liquidbutter
liquidbutter

Easily one of the most influential games of the 21st century. It's a joke that Gamespot gave it an 8.5

kerrman
kerrman

I haven't touched Minecraft in about 6 months now, but without a doubt it is one of the greatest games ever made.

Very excited for the Xbox One version!

kujel
kujel

You gotta love Notch he's an awesome guy and Molyneux nailed it.

EliOli
EliOli

Yup...  I can't see beyond the crude graphics myself.  It's just never had any appeal to me.  If you enjoy it, then more power to you.  I prefer open world type games that look great myself.

Cybertron713
Cybertron713

@TehUndeadHorror  Give money to the people selling the jets to buy the jets. Money then goes from the people selling the jets to the employees of that company which then gets to others because the employees are going to buy things with the money they get and it just keeps going. It's always best to keep the ball rolling.

tightwad34
tightwad34

@catsimboy Don't forget about the top-notch journalism that constantly happens on Gamespot. Especially one I won't mention.

Blood_Angel
Blood_Angel

@repetitious  Mojang might close, but I'm sure he's made enough to last him for the rest of his life and then some.

hystavito
hystavito

@repetitious  I too think he's probably a one hit wonder but I don't think he will go broke.  He's also pretty straightforward and honest it seems, like that "10 years" thing.

404FredNotFound
404FredNotFound

@ACMC85  I personally don't play Minecraft but embrace the change it brought to the gaming industry and even tho I don't play it I'm very thankful for its existence.                

hystavito
hystavito

@liquidbutter  I agree on most, but I don't see Pokemon as having done the same types of things as Minecraft.

BamaGoatt
BamaGoatt

@SkytheWiz1  just so you know he has a game in early release on steam and is trying to keep his name out there for sales. It's smart and singing the praises to a game like mine craft is also a smart move. We will see if his game works out this time or becomes the next version of the movies.

SillySkeleton
SillySkeleton

@liquidbutter It's easy to judge in retrospect, but few would have realised the lasting impact Minecraft would have on it's initial release. And it's not like it's the perfect game for everyone. You can't argue how big it is, but someone saying "I hate it" isn't any less valid than someone else saying they love it.

justinka777
justinka777

@EliOli I just have a hard time getting past all the cubes...... I want to build something round! or at least maybe triangular.

hystavito
hystavito

@justinka777 @EliOli  There are games coming out now that are Minecraft-like but are going for more realistic graphics and smoothed shapes.  A lot are early access.

BamaGoatt
BamaGoatt

@justinka777 @EliOli  I built a ufo round is possible currently building a four chamber pyramid which is taking forever lol.

liquidbutter
liquidbutter

@justinka777 @EliOli You can... You know everything on your computer screen is composed of square pixels right? The only reason you see curves on your monitor is because the pixels are small enough that you don't notice. That's the key to making round shapes in Minecraft. Your structure just needs to be big enough.

Kunakai
Kunakai

@veryDERPY @liquidbutter @justinka777 @EliOli  What he said makes perfect sense, if you make the object big enough and move far enough away to have one pixel per square you will get a smooth shape. 

I can see what Justinka means though, it'd be nice to build objects you could get close to and use in a decent level of detail. Minecraft is still the best at what it does either ways.