作者：Daniel Goldberg & Linus Larsson
也许有人会认为Markus Persson的游戏《Minecraft》剽窃了他人的IP。对于这一说话，Markus没有顾左右而言他，而是侃侃而谈自己如何找到游戏灵感 ，甚至还将《Minecraft》称为现成游戏的克隆版本。但要知道，不只是其他艺术家，游戏开发者也经常从现成的创意中寻找自己的立足点，通过更改和润色，使之成为自己的作品。——《Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus “Notch” Persson and the Game that Changed Everything》书摘
《Dwarf Fortress》要求玩家帮助一群侏儒战士建设一个城堡。玩家要为侏儒分配不同任务（游戏邦注：例如伐木、挖矿、煮饭、制作家具、捕鱼等）或者保护城堡以免受到吸血鬼、巨蜘蛛、食人妖和狼等怪物的侵袭。其基本的游戏机制类似于许多其他策略游戏，如要求玩家管理一个家庭的《模拟人生》，以及让玩家在农场耕种的Facebook游戏《FarmVille》。但《Dwarf Fortress》在许多方面却不同于其他游戏题材。
但这简单的图像并没有吓退最为投入的玩家。他们的存在令游戏开发者得以专注于其他元素。出色的玩法和有趣的机制总比好看的图像更重要，这让《Dwarf Fortress》开发者Tarn Adams坚持了下来。这也是他花了数年时间调整和更改游戏平衡性以及游戏中成百上千种不同对象、动物和事件的融合所能产生情况的一个原因。对于愿意花时间来探索游戏神秘之处的人来说，这款游戏几乎是拥有生命，自成一体的世界。在《纽约时报》的采访中，Adams表达了自己发现编写到游戏中的鲤鱼变成嗜食侏儒战士的危险怪物时的奇讶：
在Jalbum进行网络开发工作期间，Markus就已经向无法通过开发游戏而获得薪水的这一事实妥协了，但白天做点其他事情来补助自己在晚上和周末所开发的项目总是更有好处的。他实际上将Jalbum视为走出Midasplayer的饭票。现在两周时间过去了，他真的喜欢上这种生活。他与公司首席执行官Carl Manneh建立了熟人关系。Markus称自己对Manneh的第一印象是典型的商人，虽然Markus对商务的事情一点也不感兴趣，但Carl Manneh的热情确实令人印象深刻。他很年轻，思维敏捷，还不到30岁就开了3家公司。第一家公司出售某事，第二家是位于斯德哥尔摩的录音工作室，第三家就是Jalbum。
除了《Dwarf Fortress》之外，当时还有另外两款游戏颇为吸引Markus：《RollerCoaster Tycoon》以及《Dungeon Keeper》。《RollerCoaster Tycoon》是一款娱乐公园模拟游戏，要求玩家在其中建造过山车；《Dungeon Keeper》是一款策略游戏，玩家要挖通道，并在其中引进怪物以及独创的陷阱，以免遭到盗贼和探险者的破坏。
Markus喜欢《RollerCoaster Tycoon》支持玩家快速建设原创而令人印象深刻的建筑这一特点。他花了数个小时设计了复杂的过山车，并打算在自己的项目中植入相同的创意。《Dungeon Keeper》中的奇幻风格，点火把的地下墓穴，以及太空战斗和侏儒战士均是游戏领域中颇为常见的元素，但这仍然是Markus所喜爱的场景。在他看来，自1997年以来极少游戏能够像Bullfrgo经典策略游戏一样抓住那种探索黑暗、毛骨悚然的洞穴和地下城这种揪住神经的紧张感。他打算提取《Dwarf Fortress》中令人兴奋的深度和Tarn Adam游戏所擅长表达的生命力。他自己的游戏将是一个探索和求生的世界，而不是叙事型、分割为现成挑战的游戏。
这里当然还要提到《Wurm Online》这款Markus同Rolf Jansson数年前一起设计的游戏，它与《Minecraft》之间的相似之处很明显。两者的游戏玩家几乎都有根据自己的心情更改世界的完全自由。与《Minecraft》一样，这款游戏有一些建设任务和挑战。玩家要为游戏创造自己的目标，也可以选择同他人合作创造目标。
在《Infiniminer》发布不到一个月，这款游戏的源代码就被泄露到网络上。这意味着任何拥有足够编程技术的人都可以更改游戏，很快网络上就出现了无数《Infiniminer》的可下载拷贝以及变体版本。对Zachary Barth来说，问题不在于盈利性——他从来就没有指望通过这款游戏大发其财，而是他丧失了对该游戏开发的控制权。这款游戏的每个变体在网络流传，它们彼此间存在微小而无法兼容的差异。安装了不同版本的两名玩家根本不能玩到一起。Zachary Barth打算创建一个大型而富有生机的多人玩家社区的愿望彻底落空。这名美国程序员就干脆公开了源代码，寄希望于游戏粉丝能够继续开发游戏。
也许有些人会认为Markus此举无异于窃取他人知识产权。但他却直言不讳地承认自己是从哪获得游戏的灵感，甚至将《Minecraft》称为当前其他游戏的克隆版本。但游戏开发者，不仅仅是其他类型的艺术家，通常的立足点就是在现成理念的基础上进行修改和润色。所有大小工作室，都会密切关注竞争对手在做的项目，并频频借鉴他们的游戏理念。但游戏开发者很少起诉他人的剽窃行为。几乎所有的平台游戏都起源于任天堂首款《超级马里奥》（发布于1985年）游戏中的机制。所有角色扮演游戏或多或少都是创建在《The Bard’s Tale》的基础之上。这也正是Zachary Barth拒绝将Markus视为窃贼的原因。他甚至谈到了自己以《军团要塞2》以及独立游戏《Montherload》作为《Infiniminer》灵感来源的情况。实际上，他也厌倦了人们频频提到他是否认为收获成百上千万玩家及收益的《Minecraft》窃取了其游戏创意的问题。
Markus在与一些TIGSource论坛上的好友讨论此事之后，决定将游戏命名为《Minecraft》。这款游戏由mine（挖矿）以及craft（建设&创造）这两个单词组成。这个名字还巧妙对应了暴雪策略游戏《魔兽争霸》和《星际争霸》以及赫赫有名的角色扮演游戏《魔兽世界》。这款游戏原先的副题是《Order of the Stone》（对应的是在线系列游戏《Order of the Stick》，Markus是该游戏粉丝），但他在游戏发布时去掉了这个副题。
这听起来并没有多大争议，但事实上Markus的这一决定却与游戏和互联网世界的当前趋势背道而行。许多技术倡导者谈到自己的网络掘金之路时，都会提到你的产品一开始要尽量少收费，最好不收费。在多数知名互联网公司中，例如谷歌和Facebook，他们的收益主要来自广告。在游戏领域，开发公司的收益则主要来自微交易。Rovio所开发的《愤怒的小鸟》（在App Store售价1美元）也许是个最好的例子。另一个就是瑞典人开发的网游《Battlefield Heroes》。这是热门免费游戏的变体，但玩家可以花钱购买新装备和更好的武器。
Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus “Notch” Persson and the Game that Changed Everything
by Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson
Someone on the fringes might regard what Markus did as intellectual-property theft. Without beating around the bush, he revealed where he found his inspiration and even went as far as to call Minecraft a clone of an existing game. But game developers, more than other kinds of artists, often find their starting point in an existing idea that they then work on, change, and polish.
For most people, the colorful numbers and letters that filled the computer screen would be completely baffling, but Markus felt right at home. The game was called Dwarf Fortress and it had become a cult favorite in indie circles. Markus had downloaded it to try it out himself and watched, entranced by the simple text world drawn up in front of him.
A couple of weeks had passed since Markus started working at Jalbum and his thoughts were circling full speed around the game he’d promised himself he’d work on. Like when he was a child and would run home from school to his LEGOs, he now spent almost all his free time in front of his home computer. He combed the Internet in search of inspiration for his project; the heavy labor—the coding—could begin only after he figured out what kind of game he wanted to create. The idea for Minecraft began to take shape in his encounter with Dwarf Fortress.
In Dwarf Fortress the player is tasked with helping a group of dwarf warriors build a fortress in bedrock. The player controls a group of dwarves that can each be put to various tasks (chopping down trees, mining ore from the mountain, cooking, making furniture, fishing, for example) or made to protect the fortress from monsters such as evil vampires, giant spiders, trolls, and wolves. The basic game mechanics are similar to many other strategy games—The Sims, for example, where the player manages a household, or the Facebook game FarmVille, where the objective is to get a farm to flourish. But Dwarf Fortress is different from most other games of the genre in a couple of ways.
First of all, the graphics are highly stylized. The Dwarf Fortress game world is completely made up of letters, numbers, and other symbols that can be typed on a regular keyboard. In this game, a terrifying giant spider is not a detailed 3-D model but a simple gray letter S. Minerals to be mined from the rock are represented by the British pound sign, beds are pale-yellow crosses, grassy meadows and trees are green dots and triangles, and so on. Small, smiling faces of different colors represent the dwarves. Many Dwarf Fortress players maintain that the simple graphics make the game more immersive—for what giant spider could possibly be scarier than the one you imagine?—but for beginners it is, to say the least, a deterrent. Just interpreting the information that’s presented on the screen demands a lot of study, and it’s not a wild guess that most people who download Dwarf Fortress give up after only a couple of minutes.
But the simple graphics are not there just to scare off all but the most devoted players. They also give the game’s developer time to focus on other things. Great game play and interesting mechanics are always more important that good-looking graphics, maintains Dwarf Fortress‘s creator, Tarn Adams. It’s also the reason he has spent several years adjusting and tweaking the balance in Dwarf Fortress and the nearly infinite number of situations that can arise from the combinations of thousands of different objects, creatures, and occurrences. For the person who takes the time to understand the game’s mysteries, it becomes a world that’s almost got a life of its own. In an interview with the New York Times, Adams tells of his surprise when he discovered that the carp he programmed into the game also turned out to be dangerous monsters with an appetite for dwarf warriors:
“We’d written them as carnivorous and roughly the same size as dwarves, so that just happened, and it was great.”
Judging by the popularity of the game—Dwarf Fortress has been downloaded more than a million times—many agree.
Secondly, Dwarf Fortress is a game that is almost completely open ended. Or rather, the game ends when the player dies, which happens often in the cruel, underground world of dwarves. Other than that, the player decides what to build and how. The game puts a bunch of happy dwarves, tools, and opportunities on the table and waves good-bye with one simple request: have fun. The rest is up to the player.
Markus had quit his secure job at Midasplayer to do just that. Have fun. He loved the indie scene that had sprung up in the gaming world. While it was hard for him to put his finger on exactly what it was that attracted him, he felt at home there, much more so than as a developer with one of the industry’s large, established studios, that much he knew.
Markus had hated working at two of Sweden’s most successful game companies.
His favorite online hangout was the game forum TIGSource, a meeting place for indie developers, where Markus (known as Notch in that context) quickly found a group of friends and acquaintances to talk games with. He loved the burning creativity of the indie scene, its focus on new, interesting gaming concepts rather than on elaborate graphics and expensive manuscripts. He liked that each programmer controlled his own projects entirely.
An outside observer who saw his career at this time would probably shake their head. Markus, who had dreamt of being a game developer since childhood, had had the privilege of working at two of Sweden’s most successful game companies. Avalanche developed Hollywood-like productions, with nearly unlimited budgets. Midasplayer was in the forefront of development and experimented vigorously with the new potential of the web. Still, Markus had hated them both so much that he quit. What was it that rubbed him the wrong way?
Maybe it was more than just getting free of the boss who told him what to do day in and day out. “Indie” literally means independent, that an individual can develop a game without a large company doling out commissions. Markus’s own interpretation of the concept is slightly different. He feels that indie is a matter of self-image. It’s about creating games for their own sake, where the goal isn’t to make money but to make the best game possible.
In many ways, that is a more telling definition. Except for some incredible exceptions, the gaming industry differs from other creative businesses in that the foremost game designers are seldom recognized for their work in the way famous musicians or film directors are. In the gaming world, it’s the publishers or studios that are recognized after a well-received game release, seldom the individuals. That’s because game development is, in most cases, a collective achievement. In a project with several hundred programmers, it’s almost impossible to point out just one person as the brain or the visionary behind the whole thing. In the indie scene, on the other hand, a single programmer can put together a game of his or her own and stand behind everything from the basic vision to the implementation. You could say that the indie scene, being closer to artistry than it is to systems development, has, for the first time, given the individual game developer an identity to embrace. Markus has never thought of himself as a Java programmer, graphic artist, or musician. He sees himself as a game maker, plain and simple. The indie scene was the only place where he could be just that.
While working in web development at Jalbum, Markus resigned himself to the fact that his monthly paycheck wouldn’t be coming from developing games, but it was still better to work on something else during the day in order to be able to invest his evenings and weekends in his own projects. Initially, he had seen Jalbum mostly as his ticket out of Midasplayer. Now, a couple of weeks later, he was actually enjoying it. He had developed a friendly acquaintance with Carl Manneh, the CEO. Markus recalls that his first impression of Manneh was that of a typical businessman, and though Markus wasn’t the least bit interested in business, Carl Manneh’s enthusiasm was impressive. He was young, quick thinking, and had already, at barely thirty years old, run three companies. The first one sold shoelaces, the second was a recording studio in central Stockholm. The third was Jalbum.
And he ran the company really well, in Markus’s opinion. Carl was an entrepreneurial soul with a good head for the business logic of the Internet. Besides that, he understood Markus’s ambition to develop games. He was even interested, asking questions about projects and offering some of his own thoughts. Carl stood for something completely different from what the old bosses at Midasplayer had. He encouraged Markus and made sure that he had the time and the opportunity to balance his job with what he really wanted to do.
Besides Dwarf Fortress, there were two other games that fascinated Markus at that time: RollerCoaster Tycoon and Dungeon Keeper. RollerCoaster Tycoon is an amusement-park simulator, where the player builds roller coasters; Dungeon Keeper is a strategy game, where the player digs cave passages and populates them with monsters and ingenious traps as protection against attacking plunderers and adventurers.
In RollerCoaster Tycoon, Markus liked the ability to build, quickly and easily, original, impressive constructions. He could spend hours dreaming up complicated roller coasters, and he wanted to engender that same creativity in his own project. Dungeon Keeper‘s contribution had mainly to do with atmosphere. Fantasy-type, torch-lit catacombs are just as much a cliché in the game world as are space battles and dwarf warriors, but it was still an environment that Markus loved. Few games had captured the nerve-tingling sensation of exploring dark, spooky caves and dungeons as well as Bullfrog’s classic strategy game from 1997, in his opinion. From Dwarf Fortress, he wanted to bring the exciting feeling of depth and life that Tarn Adams’s cult game was so good at conveying. His own game would feel more like a world to explore and to try to survive in than a narrative, segmented into ready-made challenges.
Then there was Wurm Online of course. The similarities between Minecraft and the game Markus designed with Rolf Jansson a couple of years earlier are unmistakable. In both, the player has almost complete freedom to alter the world according to his or her own whim. Like Minecraft, there are few built-in tasks or challenges to undertake in Wurm Online. The player is expected to create his or her own goals for the game alone or, if so desired, in collaboration with others.
In the spring of 2007, Markus dropped out of Wurm Online. Rolf had moved from Stockholm to Motala a few years earlier, the two were seeing less of each other, and Markus knew that the big decisions about the game’s development were increasingly in Rolf’s hands. Besides, his Midasplayer job kept him busy.
Rolf was disappointed. Wurm Online had just begun to pull in enough money to give him a decent full-time salary. The sudden resignation of one of the game’s founders, the friend with whom he’d worked for more than three years, was a huge blow. Initially, Markus had a bad conscience about it—it was hard not to feel like he had left his old friend in the lurch. He retained a small part of his ownership in the shared company, but turned over the rest to Rolf. A Band-Aid on the sore if nothing else, he thought.
After Markus became familiar with Infiniminer, he immediately sat down and began recoding his own game.
But now, in front of the computer with Dwarf Fortress on the screen, Markus’s thoughts were fully focused on the next project—on amusement parks, medieval catacombs, and dwarf warriors, that is to say. All that remained was to put together something new and entertaining.
At first, Markus sketched a game world that was, like many other strategy games, viewed from above. In Markus’s game, the building and exploring would occur in a three-dimensional world a good deal more inviting and easy to understand than that of Dwarf Fortress. But the player would still control the action like an omnipotent god with a mouse, rather than seeing the world from the perspective of one’s avatar.
That changed a couple of days later. Like most evenings after work, Markus was on the computer when he stumbled upon an indie game he hadn’t tried before. It was called Infiniminer. Markus downloaded the game, installed and clicked it into motion, and then almost fell off his chair. “Oh my God,” he thought. “This is genius.”
Like Minecraft, Infiniminer involves digging and building. The game is enacted in square, blocky worlds automatically generated before each play. Every individual block can be picked loose from the environment and assembled into something new. Certain blocks, often the ones deep in the ground, contain rare minerals. Others are just dirt and rock to be dug through in the search for treasure.
Recognize it? No surprise there. For anyone who has played Minecraft, the first encounter with Infiniminer is eerily familiar. The game was developed by American programmer Zachary Barth, and was released in late April 2009, just weeks before Minecraft saw the light of day. The two games’ graphics are nearly identical. There are brown dirt blocks, gray stone, and orange, bubbling lava that runs slowly over the ground.
Infiniminer was originally intended as a multiplayer game, with different teams competing to collect the most precious minerals in the shortest time. Buildings were used as a way of sabotaging the competitors’ progress. But eventually players discovered that building was more fun than competing for points and they began to spend their time creating houses, castles, and other structures instead. Infiniminer quickly developed a devoted following, which included Markus, and in the spring of 2009, most signs pointed to Zachary Barth’s game being on its way to a breakthrough. But it didn’t get there, because of a particularly unhappy turn of events.
Barely a month after Infiniminer was released, the game’s source code was leaked onto the Internet. This meant that anyone with enough programming skills could make changes to the game, and soon, innumerable downloadable copies and variations of Infiniminer began cropping up. For Zachary Barth, the problem was not economic—he had never hoped to make a ton of money from Infiniminer—it was that he lost control of how his game developed. Each of the variations of Infiniminer circulating on the Internet had small, incompatible differences. Two players with different versions installed could never be sure that they would be able to play with each other. Zachary Barth’s plans of building a large and living multiplayer community around Infiniminer became impossible. The American programmer made the best of the situation and released Infiniminer as open source code, and gave his blessing to the game’s fans to continue developing it as they wished.
After Markus became familiar with Infiniminer, he immediately sat down and began recoding his own game. He changed the third-person perspective to a first-person point of view and redid the graphics to make them even more blockish. It was a step away from the traditional strategy game he’d picked from his models and toward a more adventure-oriented setup. After a couple of days of frantic coding, Markus leaned back in his chair, satisfied as he saw the puzzle pieces beginning to fall into place. Building, digging, and exploring took on a totally new dimension when players saw the world through the eyes of their avatars.
In early May 2009, Markus uploaded a video recording (above) of a very early version of Minecraft on YouTube. It didn’t look like much more than a half-finished system for generating worlds and Markus gleefully jumping around inside it, but still, the essence of it hinted at how the game might look when it was done.
“This is a very early test of an Infiniminer clone I’m working on. It will have more resource management and materials, if I ever get around to finishing it,” is Markus’s description of the clip.
Someone on the fringes might regard what Markus did as intellectual-property theft. Without beating around the bush, he revealed where he found his inspiration and even went as far as to call Minecraft a clone of an existing game. But game developers, more than other kinds of artists, often find their starting point in an existing idea that they then work on, change, and polish. All studios, large and small, keep tabs on what their competitors are doing and frequently borrow from their games. Still, game developers seldom accuse others of plagiarizing. Almost all platform games originate from the mechanics that Nintendo put in place in the first Super Mario Bros., released in 1985. And more or less all role-playing games build on the structure that was developed in games such as The Bard’s Tale. That’s why Zachary Barth refuses to single out Markus as a thief. He even speaks about how he himself used Team Fortress 2 and the indie game Motherload as inspiration for Infiniminer. Actually, he’s tired of the constant questions about if he feels ripped off considering the millions of players and dollars that Minecraft has pulled in.
“The act of borrowing ideas is integral to the creative process. There are games that came before Infiniminer and there are games that will come after Minecraft. That’s how it works,” says Barth.
About this time Markus, after discussing the matter with some friends at the TIGSource forum, decided to call his game Minecraft. The name was a combination of the words mine, for mining ore in shafts, and craft, as in building or creating something. The name is also a wink at Blizzard’s strategy games Warcraft and StarCraft, and the enormously successful online role-playing game World of Warcraft. Initially, the game had the subtitle Order of the Stone, a reference to the online series Order of the Stick, of which Markus was a fan, but that idea was scrapped before the game was released to the public.
Markus was convinced that he was onto something big, but convincing the world around him of the excellence of his game was not so easy. A bunch of different ideas merged into Minecraft, and explaining them without any kind of demonstration was complicated. Over coffee with his mom, Markus attempted to describe in sweeping gestures the new project he was working on. He told her about the building, the exploration, and the atmosphere, and then explained how the game would be both easily accessible and complicated at the same time. Maybe it could develop into something great, he thought aloud. Maybe he should give notice at work and focus entirely on Minecraft. Ritva smiled slightly. It sounded like a really good idea, she’d said to her son. But maybe he should start by working only part-time? It wasn’t entirely easy to support oneself on game development alone. He’d said that himself before.
In truth, Markus’s idea was all Greek to her. Plus she remembered the year after high school, when he didn’t look for work, didn’t study, and barely went outdoors for days at a time. What would happen if he became just as obsessed with another project, something that could be just as important to him as building with LEGOs had been when he was in elementary school but that earned him next to nothing? She was worried, and yet, she saw how his eyes lit up when he talked about the game. He became confident, self-assured.
Elin better understood what Markus was thinking. She was among the first in the world to try out a working version of Minecraft. As soon as it was ready, Markus sent it to Elin and asked her to play. When she logged in and started up the world, what she got was basically a tech demo—a world of blocks beneath a blue sky. But Markus’s intentions were immediately evident to her. A couple of minutes of digging and building and she was entrenched in the game.
“This is SO much fun!” she said to her boyfriend.
From that moment on, Elin was Markus’s game tester. Every time he added a new feature to Minecraft, he sent her the latest version. Markus often stood watching over Elin’s shoulder while she played, listening intently to her comments. If Elin liked something he’d done, he seemed to reason, the rest of the world would probably like it, too.
Even before Minecraft was shown to the public, Markus had made a couple of important decisions that would have a huge influence on the game’s continued development. First, he wanted to document the development openly and in continuous dialogue with players, both his semiprofessional colleagues at TIGSource and any others who might be interested. Markus updated his blog often with information about changes in Minecraft and his thoughts about the game’s future. He invited everyone who played the game to give him comments and suggestions for improvements. In addition to that, he released updates often, in accordance with the Swedish saying “hellre än bra” (meaning someone who prefers spontaneity over perfection). As soon as a new function or bug-fix was in place, he made it available via his site, asking players for help in testing and improving it.
Second, Markus knew from the beginning that he eventually wanted people to pay for Minecraft. In the back of his mind were his talks with Jakob at Midasplayer and their dream of starting their own game studio, so it seemed only natural to put a price on his game. And it was better to do it as soon as possible.
When the game was completed, the price would double.
It doesn’t sound very controversial, but the fact is that Markus’s decision went against most of the current trends in the gaming and Internet world. Many technology prophets talk about the road to riches on the web being through charging as little as possible for your products, preferably nothing at all. At most of the well-known Internet companies, for example Google and Facebook, the cash comes mainly from ads. In the gaming industry, the trend points to micropayments. Rovio-developed Angry Birds, which costs one dollar at App Store, is maybe the best-known example. Another is the Swedish-developed online game Battlefield Heroes. It’s a variation on the popular game that’s free to play, but players can buy new equipment and better weapons for a few dollars each.
Markus disregarded all such things. Minecraft was to cost around thirteen dollars during the alpha phase, the first period of development, mainly because it was a sum that he felt comfortable with. When the game was completed, the price would double.
“The reason that I released the game so early was that I would never have been able to finish it otherwise. Charging money was the same thing. I knew that I would never feel that it was good enough to put a price tag on. So I charged from the start,” says Markus today.
Anyone looking for more refined business logic behind what would become the most profitable gaming phenomenon of the last decade is on a fool’s errand. Markus is notoriously disinterested in business and economics. When someone asks him to reveal the secret behind Minecraft‘s unbelievable financial success, he just smiles and shrugs his shoulders. He just followed his gut, he says, did what felt right and what worked for him. To the question of what was the most important thing he learned from Minecraft‘s early sales, Markus answers:
“I understood that an orange splash where it says ‘half price’ works really well. That’s what I had on the site during the alpha phase.”
On May 17, 2009, Markus uploaded the first playable version of Minecraft onto the indie forum TIGSource. “It’s an alpha version, so it might crash sometimes,” he warned. Other forum writers immediately began exploring the blocky world that Markus presented to them. There was a lot of digging, building, and discussing. The game crashed at times, but even at that early stage, it’s clear that Minecraft was exerting an unusual magnetism on players.
It took just a couple of minutes for the first reactions to come. “Oh hell, that’s pretty cool,” someone wrote. “I hope you make something really good out of this, dude, I think it has a lot of potential,” another encouraged. Barely an hour after Markus uploaded the game, the first image of a Minecraft construction was posted in the forum thread. “This is way too much fun. I built a bridge,” wrote the person who uploaded the image. Others filled in, adding their own constructions. A castle, a fortress, a secret treasure chest. Someone wrote that he’d tried to make a boat, but the result was too ugly to make public. Someone else built a giant phallus, but never uploaded an image, just relied on a vivid description of the work: “It was such a thing of awe that Firefox decided to pack it in before I could snap a shot of that mofo.”
Markus followed the postings with great interest, listening to bug reports and discussing Minecraft‘s future with others on the forum. Friends and family remember how he told them enthusiastically about the warm welcome Minecraft had received. Many games are uploaded on TIGSource every day, but few struck a chord with the audience the way Markus’s game had. In his head, a ray of hope began to shine. Maybe he was on the right track this time.
In early June, Markus described his intended pricing model on his blog. Those who paid for the game were promised access to all future updates at no extra cost. A free edition of Minecraft would still be available, but only the current half-finished version of the game. For those who bought a copy of Minecraft immediately, there was a discount. When the game entered beta-development, the price would be raised to $20, and the finished version would cost $26. On June 12, Markus opened for orders. Twenty-four hours later, he clicked on the sales statistics and could hardly believe his eyes. Fifteen people had paid for the game. In just twenty-four hours, more than $150 had landed in his PayPal account.
Elin and Jakob were two people who really noticed the effect the early sales successes had on Markus. Elin remembers how he obsessively followed the growing numbers of games sold. She hesitates to describe him as nervous, but clearly Markus was very focused on the early reactions to the game. Seven games purchased per day felt unbelievable.
Initially, Markus dismissed these sales as a passing fad. But every day the number of discussion threads about Minecraft on the game developer forum grew larger, and increasing numbers of people visited them. All the while, the sales counter continued ticking upward, slowly at first, then faster. At home in Sollentuna, Markus did a quick calculation: If I can sell more than twenty games a day, that’s enough for something approaching a decent salary, he thought, and made up his mind. Then I’ll quit my day job. Then I’m really doing this.（source：wired）