I do not pay much attention to E3, primarily because it tends not to focus very much on my genre of choice and what it does generally focus on is consoles and console titles from a few large companies. Not really my thing.
So I let the news from E3 flow by. I watch is stream past on Twitter and glance through the headlines in Feedly, but do not it much mind except when somebody does something silly. I think I posted about Sony’s PlayStation 4 demo and how they tore into Microsoft’s Xbox One demo the day before on topics like price and used games. But used games were a burning issue back then, until the industry admitted aloud that being able to trade in used games at GameStop was likely inflating new games sales and so benefiting from the arrangement despite all their bluster about used games being morally equivalent to theft.
This year a tidbit of info actually caught my attention. Microsoft actually had something to say about Minecraft.
Microsoft has owned Minecraft for a while now, having paid creator Notch $2.5 billion back in late 2014. This got them the two branches of Minecraft, the Java version, the original, which runs on PCs and which allows you to host your own server and has mods from here to the moon and back, and the console, pocket, Win10 version, which only got shared server hosting relatively recently and which makes money via a cash shop for special skins and such.
Basically, there is the “would have been amazing and lucrative if they had just stopped there” Java version and the “OMG! The cash shop train has no brakes!” money machine console branch.
Microsoft seems to have pledged to unify these two branches into a single product line.
This has me a bit concerned.
I would have been more concerned a year or two ago, when the console version was nowhere close to feature parity with the Java version. Microsoft seemed to be heading towards “we’ll just cripple all the hosting and flexibility and mods you love” path a while back with its Windows 10 version of Minecraft.
The two branches have grown a bit closer since then, but it is still an open ecosystem of mods and server types versus a controlled cash shop ecosystem, so Microsoft’s. So when Microsoft says that the basis for this unification plan is the XBox Live service it is tough not to cringe.
I wouldn’t mind some improvements to the PC version of Minecraft. Being written in Java gives it flexibility, but also hinders it on the performance front. And optimized version written in C++ with better file handling would be a good thing. But if the price is giving up all mods and the ability to host your own server and create things like Wynncraft and such, I would probably stick with the Java version and its stone age file structures.
Fortunately, despite that splash screen from their presentation, the single unified Minecraft platform seems to be well off in future, if it is actually planned at all. The early reporting I saw from sites at the presentation said Microsoft would be pulling “all versions of the game” together. I don’t know if that was bad reporting, a bad presentation from Microsoft, or sloppy terminology somewhere along the line, but the statement on the official Minecraft site seems less dramatic.
Over there the line is that they are unifying all of the versions sharing the C++ code base, shedding all of their various names (e.g. Pocket Edition, Win10 Editions, Xbox) and renaming them all as just Minecraft, while the original, open version on PCs will now be called Minecraft: Java Edition.
The official site also indicates that the coming graphics upgrade will also skip the Minecraft: Java Edition, leaving us to our classic look, though there are enough graphical mods out there that you’re pretty much covered if you want fancier views. (The PlayStation versions seem to be in limbo on where they will end up though.)
Of course, that tilts worry the other direction. Is Microsoft putting the Java platform version of the game out to pasture? Is it better to be on the neglected track or to have Microsoft unifying the Java platform?
Either way, nothing is likely to happen any time soon. We just got the 1.12 update for the Java version, so we’re still in that waiting period where all the mods and special servers have to work to catch up. (Even though our server doesn’t have any mods, I am waiting for Minecraft Overviewer to catch up so I can render updated maps.) I am more likely to get my Mineserver delivered before anything drastic happens, and once I that happens I need never upgrade versions again.
Still, for a little while I was intrigued with the idea of being able to use the iOS Minecraft Pocket Edition on the iPad to log into our server.