Notch mega-interview: 0x10c, micropayments, Kickstarter and quantum computing
Elite: Dangerous is on Kickstarter now and other games which key into that nostalgic age of space gaming seem to be thriving thanks to crowdfunding. Are you ever tempted by Kickstarter or similar?
I think we don't really need it.
That doesn't usually stop people, though.
No. This is going to get into game politics. But, say, [Peter Molyneux-fronted start-up] 22 Cans - people got a bit upset with them for Kickstarting Godus, but they don't have a lot of money. I don't know if Peter Molyneux has a lot of money, I have no idea. They're established developers, sure, but they don't have a lot of money in the company and they need to fund it somehow. If Peter was to fund it privately, I don't know if it's the best way to do it. But Mojang have so much money just in the company we don't need to raise money before making a game. And we don't really develop games in ways where it's a big risk, anyway. Right now 0x10c has two people working on it, so it's not a huge investment compared to Minecraft sales. So no, I wasn't tempted for that reason.
Which projects have you backed, which ones are you most excited about?
What are you going to do with your dev kit?
Definitely going to make it work in 0x10c no matter what. If I have to write custom Java drivers I will do that because I was so blown away by it. Then I might try to mention it to the Minecraft devs see if they want to do it, but it might be more difficult in an existing engine. So that's not a promise at all - but definitely 0x10c.
What was so good about it?
I've been kind of fascinated by the VR thing for a long time but it's always been crap. It doesn't feel like you're there. But this one was actually the first one. There is some latency but it's just short enough, and the resolution is just good enough. They soften the optics which makes it so it really doesn't strain your eyes. It feels like you're focusing on a natural distance rather than focusing up close. Within seconds I felt immersed and I looked down and I was playing the BFG Edition of DOOM 3 and I was like, "Wow! I'm really short!" You could really tell that the player was like 1.4 meters - it turned out they did actually lower the height of the player for some reason. It was very very cool. It didn't do any any sideways tracking - though that's a software issue - so whenever I moved my head sideways I got really nauseous.
Do you think the Oculus Rift will be a success or is it kind of an interim technology for something much better coming shortly thereafter?
I think either someone else is going to be able to market it better or if no-one does that I think the Oculus Rift has the potential to be a huge success. I hope they're the ones to do it.
What's next then? Are there any other big technological leaps coming that you think will change the way we play games or even just change the way we exist?
Yes. I think once quantum computing takes off a lot of interesting things are probably going to happen.
It's a Pandora's Box. We don't know yet. But first of all, all internet security is going to fail.
Because passwords will be brute-forced instantly?
Because you can factorise numbers in polynomial time, basically. All of encryption is built on that so everything on the internet will fail instantly. So as soon as we get a quantum computer with enough cubits to do that it's going to happen. There's probably one already somewhere. That's going to be very interesting. There are other potential ways to do encryption but the one we're using is broken by quantum computers.
Bringing it back to the near future, what do you think of this coming generation of hardware? How will the PC do alongside the new consoles?
It's very interesting to try and think about that. The console manufacturers need to focus on things that are just entertainment. Because if you want to watch Netflix and play games then you can do that more efficiently on a PC, especially if you hook it up to a TV. Now we have the Steam Big Picture stuff, we can actually get the TV experience in an easy way. Before it was all special cable and weird nonsense but now it's definitely doable. And so I think [console manufacturers] need to focus... I mean the 3DS for example has custom hardware and it's built to be in your pocket. Instead of just being this is a way to play games on your TV, it has to be more than that somehow.
What do you think of the idea of the Linux box that's been mooted?
Well the goal there is presumably to make it one standard configuration so you can make games for it and know how it's going to work. Which is one of the benefits of consoles. So I think it's a clever way to do it and obviously the software updates will be free and open source which is very cool. [Linux] is wonderful. I think we need to have it, and it's a shame that more people, including myself, don't use it. It's gotten easier and friendlier.
How about the fate of Microsoft?
I use their OS - Windows 7 is an amazing operating system in my opinion and of course there’s the Xbox, which I love. I'm sure Bing is going to take off and save them. [Editor’s note: Notch is smiling mischievously as he says this.]