Adam Sawkins, the mind behind voxel block-builder FortressCraft, explains why he thinks no one, including Notch, should say he copied Minecraft.
Unless you've been living under a giant grey voxelated rock for the past few years, you've probably heard about indie-gone-rocket ship Minecraft. Without going into the details of the game's various successes for the umpteenth time, let's just say that developer Mojang has made millions upon millions of dollars, and that a hefty percentage of people across the planet are currently too busy building doom castles to even read this post. Up until now, Minecraft has survived primarily as a PC affair, so as the game and its hordes of fans finally prepare an immigration to console-land this Spring, accusatory pointed fingers are starting to land squarely on the platform's current "craft-king," FortressCraft, a voxel building game that's currently the most successful title on XBLIG to date. The game's creator, Adam Sawkins, has been accused of doing little more than crafting a copy-cat cash-in by gamers, critics, and even Mojang, and so has finally decided to speak up to explain why FortressCraft should be judged by its own merits.
"Minecraft is a game about digging out resources, crafting weapons and armor, travelling into the Nether, and killing a dragon," Sawkins said in a recent interview with Eurogamer. "Whilst it lets you be creative, that's never been its main focus. You can spend ages creating amazing things in it, but Minecraft's never been about the creative aspect, any more than GTA is about making sculptures out of buses. Sure, you can do it, but the game doesn't lend itself to that, nor does it help you out."
"FortressCraft, on the other hand," he continues, "has focused almost entirely on the creative aspect." What Sawkins is mainly referring to by the "creative aspect" are the game's exclusive features. Unlike Minecraft, FortressCraft allows players to customize the design of each block, hire minions to help with the grind, and adds what he calls "an elegant copy-and-paste system" that speeds up creation. "Also, c'mon," he adds. "We've got laser guns, factories, and trampolines. What more do you need, a gun that fires shurikens and lighting?"
Still, creating a voxel-style building game with a very similar title just after the sharp incline hit Minecraft's success graph has caused many to dismiss it as a "clone". But truly understanding that term, Sawkins claims, makes all the difference. "A clone, in gaming terms, is a game in the same genre, that shares one or more major features," he explains. "It's not an insult, it's a handy way of describing the basic premise of a game."
"However, it seems that the common-or-garden gamer these days takes the term 'clone' to mean 'carbon-copy'."
But it's not just gamers who call FortressCraft a clone. Even Notch went on record claiming that the game is merely "an obvious attempt to just take something popular and clone it as closely as possible."
"If I was attempting to copy Minecraft," retorts Sawkins, "I wouldn't have wasted my time on the creative aspect, on the shiny new graphics, on forming my own little niche in the game market. I would have just copied the crafting, the shitty melee combat, added in a teleporter to another dimension, stuck in creepers and sheep and, er, cats. But I didn't. I took it in its own direction.
"Mojang needs to realize that they are now the 800lb gorilla of the VoxGame genre; to arrive onto the Xbox and to bad mouth and lie about their competitors puts them firmly into the realms of EA or Activision. Whilst I might complain heavily about Minecraft's horrible combat or broken minecarts, I would never acknowledge it as being anything less than the Indie game that made Indie games cool again."
There seems to be quite a bit of bitterness in the air of late over the idea of "cloning" popular videogames. What do you think, Escapists? Was Sawkins just cashing in on the Minecraft craze, or did he make something legitimately worth being judged by its own merits?