Blame The Controller interview: the adventure map maestro on the future of Minecraft
Minecraft isn’t just Minecraft any more: it’s as multifarious as the things people build with it, constantly repurposed by custom map makers to become a variety of different games - total conversions of a kind you now rarely see in other modding communities.
Blame The Controller, as he likes to be known, is one of the leading lights in the scene, with as many as 300,000 downloads for his creative efforts. His best-regarded adventure map series, Kingdom of the Sky, is heading towards its third episode, a 12-15 hour epic with hundred of items, quests, minibosses, multi-part bosses. He says he’s going for "Skyrim in Minecraft", and judging by the trailer’s epic panoramas of vast fantasy architecture, he’s not far off. Check the video after the jump, and hear what he has to say about the modding scene and its future.
PCG: What’s your reaction to the announcements made at Minecon? What was the most exciting thing to emerge from the conference for you?
BTC: I'm really glad to hear about some of the new things to be added. I'm very glad that they're going to be fixing some of the Redstone bugs and updating it. However, as a map maker, it scared me quite a bit that Block Update Detector switches are going to be effectively broken.
Can you explain what BUD switches are?
BUD switches use a glitch with pistons, so that when something near the piston updates it causes the piston to fire off, which you can use to send a redstone pulse, which you can then use to power other things. Block updates are things like placing a block, removing a block, placing torches - when grass grows that's considered a block update. For example, in [one of BTC’s other adventure maps] Alucard, the entire map takes place at night and the player takes the role of a vampire. When the sun comes up, the light triggers grass to grow on dirt blocks which are connected to BUD switches. That update then triggers and fires off to a couple of command blocks that then teleport the player to the end of the map: you have 'died' because the sun burns you up.
So if BUD switches are out the window, is there be a suitable workaround that you could employ to keep your previous maps working?
Unfortunately no. It would mean that Alucard and a large part of my second map, Kingdom of the Sky 2, would be completely broken. Without the addition of a new type of BUD switch they would simply not work and they would never work again, which is really unfortunate. I'm sure someone in the mod community would recreate BUD switches but I don't like to require my players to use mods, I like to make maps that are strictly vanilla. So that way makes it much easier to actually play the map and enjoy it. The simpler it is for them to just load it up and play the better I find.
Now I know that [Mojang employees] Dinnerbone and Jeb are working on making a block that actually functions as a BUD swtich but those things – particularly in my maps – are crucial for puzzle and other elements that make the map more immersive. So I'm glad that they're moving the game forward and they're going to be adding new features and stuff but it's really important that something like BUD switches continue to be included in the game.
How dependant are your maps on Redstone in general?
Early maps had very little Redstone in them but nowadays it's absolutely mandatory that map-makers who want to do adventure maps specifically have a moderate-to-expert knowledge of Redstone. If you want to have interactive puzzles, if you want to have cool three-by-three and four-by-four door systems you really do have to know how to use redstone. Because it's one thing to put a wooden door there, it's another thing to have an entire wall that shifts and moves out of place.
So rescuing BUD switches aside, are there any other things that you'd liked to have seen announced?
Oh absolutely. There are a bunch of things myself and other mapmakers would like to see included in the game. One of the best things that was added was Adventure Mode, which allows the use of game rules. I actually spoke to Dinnerbone and Jeb and I requested that they add a few things. Now they obviously have a lot on their plate so it may or may not ever get added, but one of the things that we as mapmakers would like to see is the ability to disable crafting. Because in a lot of the adventure maps we don't want the players to make their own tools or make a lever or a button because then that kind of bypasses the whole sequence of events. Other things we would love to see are the ability to play custom sound files via command blocks. Currently a lot of us use either MP3 files that get sent with the download or we use YouTube videos. Fun fact: I was the first person in the world to use YouTube videos as narration for custom adventure maps! But if we were able to use command blocks to just play the sound files that would make things so much easier.
Do you see yourself still being involved in Minecraft in many years time? Do you think it's got that long a tail?
I think that so long as the guys at Mojang keep updating, they'll retain a lot of people for a very long time. At least an additional five years I can see it running strong. And I think they'll continue to get new people as well. Every time there's a major update, all everybody wants to do is go and try and all the stuff and they'll spend the next couple of months playing with these things, and then the next update comes. And the game is simple enough that no matter how many updates they put in new people will never be completely lost. Again because the community is so strong, you'll never have a really hard time getting into the game because there'll always be other people ready to assist you.
Mojang say that they're looking at a distant future in which they're almost completely hands-off with the game and it’s left to modders and inbuilt aggregation systems. Do you think that will suffice?
I think that as soon as Mojang has a really good mod interface, which they are currently working on, then at that point the mod community could for the most part take over. As long as someone who knows nothing about mods can go into Minecraft and just say I want flavour A, flavour B and flavour C and install and they're good to go, I think that would make it so that modders could actually take over that role.
Should there be a way to make money from custom maps?
It would be awesome if I could get like a small amount like an iPhone app, but really, with the custom maps it's almost impossible to do something like that. As soon as someone downloads it they can post it somewhere else and everyone can download it. It would be a never-ending fight tracking down these other downloads and getting them to stop and it just really wouldn't be worth it. What would be awesome is if Mojang had a way of including custom maps in the actual Minecraft interface. So not only could you download mods through the Minecraft interface but you could get texture packs or custom maps and stuff like that. I think they would probably be reluctant to let you charge for them, but at least it would be a better way of getting your map out there if you could sell it straight through the Minecraft interface.
Seeing as you're here, would be so good as to list your favourite custom maps?
BTC: Sure. Well my favourite, which is the map that actually got me into map making is called the Redmurk Mystery. It's a much older map but it's still very good. It doesn't have any of the new features or anything but I thought it was incredibly well done and definitely worth a look. Another map that I recommend would be Eronev Mansion by Jigarbov. He actually has part one and part two out. And pretty much anything made by RSMalec is also very good. Chronotide is good - by Vladimyr. Actually for everybody that wants to find maps they can go to the Minecraft forums and find a thread that is managed by myself and it's a listing of tons and tons of different custom maps and they're broken up by map types: adventure, puzzle, survivor, parkour - all those sorts of things.