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.

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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.'"

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