Felix Jones

First of all: All my opinions expressed here are my own, they are not representative of Mojang Studios, nor the Minecraft team. It’s just a small sliver of my thoughts (my colleagues certainly hear the meat of what I have to say).

To prove this isn’t representative of the Minecraft team, I (Xilefian) will type the F-word: Fuck. Mojang Studios would never write that in any official statement, so you’d better believe it’s just Felix’s conversational ramblings.

My colleagues have suffered through the full wrath of my feedback, this post is just a small taste of what they get to hear from me.

For purposes of full transparency: I do not have any direct involvement in Minecraft Live, nor the mob votes, so I am likely talking out of ignorance regarding how things work and my opinions are probably going to be garbage as a result of that ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The Minecraft Sniffer won the vote.

Every year for Minecraft Live there is the Mob Vote, where the community votes for a mob to be added to the next Minecraft update from three candidate mobs.

Minecraft Live 2020

The mob vote for Minecraft Live 2020 was between three mobs: Iceologer, Moobloom, and Glow Squid.

The favourite amongst the technical Minecraft community was the Iceologer, and quite frankly I expected the Iceologer to win because the technical Minecraft agreed that it was the obvious choice, and their audience agreed and carried this wisdom onwards when campaigning for their mob vote favourite.

Meanwhile, a rather famous Minecraft content creator made a joke tweet stating that they will follow (on twitter) everyone who can prove they voted for the Glow Squid - providing some incentive for their many, many fans to vote for their favourite mob. They did retract this offer, but many see this as the damage being already done. The Glow Squid won.

The Minecraft Glow Squid won the vote.

Was the vote really rigged?

The Glow Squid win was a real bloody surprise to myself, as well as the technical Minecraft community. The sentiment within my circles was that it was a meme vote, and undeserving of its victory.

Immediately I will say: I do not believe that any single creator swung the 2020 mob vote. I had this opinion at the time, and I still hold that opinion.

The first thing I did was ask my younger niece and nephew which mob did they vote for. They both said “The Glow Squid, of course” (as if it was the obvious choice). These are young Minecraft fans who had no idea who the content creator that “rigged the vote” was. I then started looking at what parents were saying about which mob their child picked, and again I was seeing a lot of support for the Glow Squid.

So I am convinced that what happened was our familiar Minecraft content communities created a conversation bubble where they put forward some indepth thought and discussion regarding why the Iceologer was a good idea, their audience heard these good thoughts and discussions, agreed, and then spread the converstaion as far as the familiar Minecraft content communities could reach.

But these communities probably don’t have the reach that we imagine. They probably aren’t in the school playgrounds where many Minecraft discussions are taking place.

But Minecraft isn’t just played by kids

Yes, Minecraft is played by everyone, including adults. Adults who may not have the time to keep up with Minecraft news, who may not be able to take time out of their day to vote for a Minecraft mob, or time to read up about any of the Minecraft Live news.

After every Minecraft Live I check the conversation on Reddit, and I see the same pattern: A discussion about an announced feature, with many people in the comments saying “what is this?” and “was there some kind of announcement?”. I imagine that’s the normal Minecraft player: They have no idea a mob vote is even happening.

Why the Glow Squid?

This is very anecdotal, but when I looked into why indiviudals wanted the Glow Squid I did indeed see comments about how the submarine in the video was cool (the submarine was not added to Minecraft, and was never a planned idea), and also comments about how the Glow Squid will hypnotise players like in the video (the Glow Squid does not hypnotise players, and I have personally never seen plans to make the Glow Squid hypnotise players).

I didn’t see many comments expecting the Glow Squid to act as a dynamic light, and I imagine this is because dynamic lighting isn’t a concept well understood by the kids who were so interested in the Glow Squid. Of note, I noticed the frustrations from the community were pivoted around “it doesn’t even glow!” - a sentence which has stuck with me.

I passed this feedback to the team as a lesson to learn: There is a balance to be had between the media team exercising their creativity (which I 200% believe is something we should promote), and presenting good, correct information to the community.

Minecraft Live 2021

To me, 2021 felt far less chaotic and drama-filled than 2020 (or perhaps I hang out in the wrong places?). The Allay won the vote, beat the Glare and the Copper Golem.

The Minecraft Allay won the vote.

I had wanted the Copper Golem to win, I personally find Minecraft builds most charming when there’s a bit of life and activity to them (I tend to construct useless piston and light contraptions behind the windows of my building façades, so it would look like someone was at home in them).

The mob presentations were unbalanced

When watching the mob videos, the utility of the mobs was boiled down to:

The Minecraft Allay vote video.

I’m probably being a bit harsh, but to me you can tell that the Allay was a mob that had already been quite fleshed out and developed versus the other two.

Anyhow, the technical Minecraft community saw the utility in the Allay, so the discussion around the Allay winning was mostly positive.

I remember sarcastically presenting the 3 options to my colleagues in the office after the vote, where I went into grand detail about all the possibilities of the Allay versus the other two. I think there was a lesson to be learned, but I was too upset about the Copper Golem losing to communicate it properly at the time.

Briefly: Why I liked the Copper Golem

I remember when I was testing the performance of the Fabulous graphics shaders on Java Edition I downloaded some futuristic city maps, and these amazing cities all felt like some kind of 28 Days Later apocolypse had occurred because they were so spookily empty. That was still fresh in my mind when I decided the Copper Golem was my choice.

It’s a shame that we communicated the Copper Golem’s primary function as being a button-pushing drone. In my imagination I foresaw us one day expanding the Copper Golem functions to further promote the feeling of a base being alive.

Minecraft Live 2022

This year the mob vote was done differently, and Minecraft Live was prefaced with a blog post that this year the team will only show off things that are “ready to take the stage”, this meant that the team would only reveal features that are ready for players themselves to try out.

The mob vote, by its nature, can’t follow that rule. If the mobs were developed to a stage where players could try them out, then there wouldn’t be a mob vote and all three mobs would be in the game (and we’d be missing two other features that otherwise would have been in the update).

The mob presentations were unbalanced again

I would have originally said the lesson to learn from 2021 was not make one mob clearly more awesome than the other, but after this year I’d revise it to: don’t pack one mob with more information than any other.

The Minecraft Sniffer vote video.

Again, I’m probably being a bit harsh (because I wanted the Rascal to win), but I was already bracing for a Sniffer victory once all three videos were released because it felt like another case of one obvious mob.

The sniffer received more than half of your votes! 🤯

Mob Vote 2022 results:
Sniffer - 55.1%
Rascal - 27.7%
Tuff golem - 17.2%#MinecraftLive

— Minecraft (@Minecraft) October 15, 2022

It was all in the details!

One frustration I saw repeated was that details for the Tuff Golem and Rascal were hidden on the blog posts on the websites, which are an extra click away from the easy-to-consume videos, and many Tuff Golem voters specifically wrote to me saying “I wasn’t going to vote Tuff Golem until I read the blog post”.

Why have mob votes to begin with?

When I first joined Mojang back in 2020 this question was raised before Minecraft Live, and the answer I heard was quite wonderful. I can’t quote it exactly, but the gist was: It is a way for us to have all Minecraft players have a say in the game’s development, not just the players who we interact with every day in the community.

I really like that, it plays into my discovery about the Glow Squid being a favourite amongst the Minecraft community we don’t have much visibility over (the Minecraft communities that occur in a school playground), and I definitely believe the mob votes give us more than it does take us away (for one, it’s an anticipated part of Minecraft Live itself, and thus draws a big crowd).

Why not add all three mobs?

I was surprised by this idea being repeated in the community, because I had thought (from my priviledged position) that the answer would have been obvious.

Ignoring the fact that this removes the mob vote itself (which would be a shame), adding all three mobs is in effect adding none of the mobs, because they would be folded into the regular update features and would disappear from the community. It would probably no longer even be a mob, it would just be another slot for another feature, be it a block, biome, item, mob, whatever. And given that time isn’t infinite, the three mobs would be cut back down to one mob anyway.

If we had the bandwidth to add all three mobs, that bandwidth is already being used for other parts of the update.

But seeing the other two mobs lose makes me upset

I did see an interesting comment on this, where a player was specifically upset because we have shown them mobs that they want in the game, but they won’t be in the game. This was the elusive “Mojang promised us XYZ” sentiment that I had been looking for, finally found it in 2022: this was a player who sees any Minecraft content at all to be a promise, and the mob vote to them was a vote for which two promises will we break. Very interesting, and I’m not sure how to navigate that one.

The first thing that came to my mind was “wow buddy, you’d hate to spend a day at Mojang”. We discuss ideas constantly, just walking through the hallway, whilst grabbing a coffee, when trying to put out fires that we accidentally caused in the microwave, during all these normal office moments we talk about ideas. Sometimes it’s mob ideas that we experimented with years ago, sometimes it’s new ideas, sometimes it’s ideas that were cut, sometimes it’s future ideas that we aren’t sure will make it.

If all of those ideas were promises being broken, then this individual would have a horrible time just watching their favourite game be developed. To me, the mob vote is voting for one of those ideas to not be trapped as a lost echo in the hallways of Mojang Studios.

I’m probably not communicating my point here very well, probably because I need more time to think on it.

But modders can add these mobs real fast

I almost forgot to address this, but I really should.

Modders have a few benefits on their side:

The mobs have already been designed

A lot of the work done is in the design phase, once that’s done developers then start picking up tasks that are needed in terms of priority.

Modders can skip the design phase (because we already did it), don’t need to worry about the current work priority (because they don’t work at Mojang) and can get on with it on their own time.

Modders only work in Java Edition

I’m not sure the community can really understand how much working on two different games with the goal of feature parity slows things down. A Java technique almost never translates into something usable in Bedrock.

Quite frequently we hit into problems where we’ve ran ahead with a solution in Java Edition (where we pretend we have infinite memory), only to be hit by the realities of needing to get the idea working on platforms without infinite memory for Bedrock.

Modders are incredibly lucky that they just need to worry about Java Edition.

Modders probably aren’t working in an organisational structure

It’s not just working on the game, it’s working on the franchise. Minecraft has a LOT going on outside of just features in the game, and employees at Mojang Studios are uniquely responsible for quite a lot of stuff that would shock and surprise anyone expecting a typical software/game company setup.

Part of that structure includes communication through code. There are a LOT of people touching the code at the same time, modders tend to be working on a codebase that’s set at a particular level of Minecraft (almost never a latest snapshot) and probably don’t have a pull-request workflow that has 20+ people staring at it.

Mods don’t need to get it right the first time

I have noticed that many mods showcased for impressive speed of development versus Mojang have the label “beta” on them. A modder can release a mod, and then work on the bugs and fixes for post-release patches.

Of course, we fix bugs post-release, but these slow down development of other features that need priority, so it’s better to get it right the first time, and that takes time.

Modders have an incentive to make the mob vote mods first

Adding them as fast as possible before anyone else (including Mojang) is a good way to get downloads of your mod (or get players to join your server where you host these mods).

This is why the modding community is so great, it drives itself to innovate at a pace that cannot be matched by a slow organisation. Incentives like “we did it before Mojang” promotes modding and is fantastic.

Around the time of the mob votes, I see so much community activity around player created content, including mods.

How to fix the mob vote: By Felix

Again, this is my personal opinion, and when I presented this to some of my colleagues they were quite shocked, confused, and frightened, because this idea is a little crazy.

My crazy idea would be to say practically nothing about the mobs. We show off their design, we show off the environment it is in, and we say if it is a passive mob or a hostile mob, and that’s it. The players then vote on the mob that gives them the best vibes.

We then go into round 2 of voting: What should this mob do? Does it drop a rare item? Does it give a new block? Can you ride it?

And then we go into the final round of voting: What should the mob be called?

It’s an extreme, complex, and cumbersome approach, but I think this would end any kind of appearance of imbalance where one mob is an obvious vote versus the others.

My favourite part of this is that it moves the design ambiguity back towards our game designers, who would now be given far more room to flesh out the mob after the fact of the vote (instead of revealing all our cards at the beginning).

I will flesh out this idea a bit more to try and find the flaws in it - and more importantly figure out if it is solving anything worth while, because another thing I realised:

The Mob vote is fine

Yeah after Minecraft Live 2022, I kind of felt like I didn’t need to write this huge post. The mob vote is actually fine, it’s harmless, it’s just a game, and it’s a game that will go on for a long time, any mistakes made can be fixed in an update.

So perhaps we don’t need to fix or change anything.

Photo of me trying to play Minecraft on the eggs-box.

That’s 2% of my thoughts on mob votes. If you want the other 98%, then you need to join Mojang, get your NDA signed, and ask me in person.

If you disagree with me: then @ me on twitter. Opinions are welcome and I tend to forward interesting points to the rest of the Minecraft team.