Minecraft Announces Licenses for Mod Developers

Yesterday started as a normal day for Notch. Going about his usual routine he posted on his blog, The Word of Notch, the results of the latest meeting. Within a few minutes that update had turned into a veritable storm of PR issues and gamer complaints. It became a very busy day in the world of Minecraft. Notch had this to say about the meeting:

After some internal discussion and general anxiety, we’ve arrived at a plan for supporting mods. It’s still a bit vague and the details might change after we’ve run it by our lawyers

I keep focusing on the phrase internal discussion and general anxiety. Clearly this wasn’t a unanimous decision and caused some contention. Obviously not everyone was in support of what Notch was about to announce. And neither were the players.

Let players sign up as mod developers. This will cost money, and will require you agreeing to a license deal (you only need one per mod team).

Mod developers can download the source code from our SVN repository. As soon as we commit a change, it will be available to all mod developers, unobfuscated and uncensored.

These two drew the most fire. Countless angry tweets, messages, and e-mails went flying Notch’s way. Players vehemently opposed to having to pay to mod the game. Something they have been able to do for free. Now being Nickel and Dimed to continue working on their projects was unacceptable. Also this brought into question the status of many multiplayer servers. Not every mod developer is going to pay for that license. Does that mean that all unofficial mods will no longer work and cause servers and functionality that people liked to shut down?

The other cry that went out was how Notch appeared to be putting the work of completing coding the game onto the developers who would have to pay to do it for him. People who payed for the license would be given access to the unobfuscated source code. The following only added to that sentiment.

You can’t sell your mods or make money off them unless you’ve got a separate license deal with us…. We retain the right to use your mod idea and implement it ourselves in Minecraft. This is to prevent the situation where we have to avoid adding a feature just because there’s a mod out there that does something similar. It’s also great for dealing with bug fixes provided by the community.

This also upset small time developers who liked to tinker with the game since the licenses come with …a unique certificate for signing their mods. … The cost of signing up makes sure only serious developers have access to this certificate Notch didn’t state what the monetary threshold was that separates the serious developers for free from the no so serious developers for free.

However not all of this was bad, and I feel that many people missed the overall message.

In the long term, we hope this means people will do awesome new things with the Minecraft engine and play around with it. We want to buy and/or license good mods and/or total conversions and sell them ourselves. It’s possible we might have a mod marketplace for selling and buying mods that fans have written, or we might purchase and integrate nice mods that fit the main theme of Minecraft. The access cost won’t be prohibitively expensive, and if you make a good mod or something else based on the source code, it’s highly likely we will want to license it.

This is a huge and wonderful idea! If they like your mod they may license it from the developers for money. Or even set up a marketplace where trusted developers can sell their mods. Micro transactions would only benefit the developers and encourage future development. That license doesn’t sound so bad now does it? But that wasn’t enough for players. Less than two hours after his initial post, Notch released another statement.

Because of overwhelming feedback, the cost of the mod api access will be 0 dollars. Our intention wasn’t to make money off selling the access, only to ensure some level of quality. Obviously that wasn’t the most popular idea in the world. 😉 Can I go back to working on the maps now?

At the end of the day, Notch is only looking to serve the players and give them what they want. It isn’t about lining his pockets or getting others to do his work for him. He wants Minecraft to be the best it possibly can, and is giving others an opportunity to be instrumental while earning money for developing good mods.