Notch, the author of the bestselling Minecraft game, officially announced his next creation: a space MMO called 0x10c. No, that's not scientific notation for zero times 10 to the power of the speed of light; rather, it's the hexadecimal code for 16 raised to the power of 12. This is 248, or a really really big number that presents the backstory for the game: people go into stasis in sleeper ships from the 1980s and wake up a trillion years in the future due to a computer glitch. The universe is in the final days of entropy, so there are black holes everywhere and little else. Energy is at a premium, since almost all the stars have burned out, but your spaceships are governed by 16-bit computers designed when the Super Nintendo was popular.
What remains to be seen is whether the game will appeal to the masses. Sure, Minecraft had its share of computer engineering fanatics who designed and built computing devices ranging from simple arithmetic calculators to neon sign controllers and even basic full-fledged computers with registers, branches, and more, using nothing but the in-game redstone circuits, switches, and repeaters. But Minecraft also has appealed to millions of other players because of its open-ended nature of exploration and construction and its endless customization possibilities. Some people even run Minecraft servers for profit, or have dedicated full-time work to plugins and mods.
There is very, very little information about 0x10c so far, but right now there isn't really anything to indicate that it will be anything more than EVE Online with programmable spaceships. Then again, EVE Online is still going strong and many people consider it too repetitive to have mass appeal - calling it "Spreadsheets in Space" - yet there it is. And Notch certainly hit a home run with Minecraft. So it could go either way.
But, in my opinion, people are far too eager to drool over the programmable aspect of the game's promise when it is still so early. I'm a geek myself, and I know how easy it is to overlook the forest for the trees when you get excited about new technology. I have confidence that Notch is well-versed in staying focused on the big picture; I just hope he isn't seduced away from providing the mass appeal the game will need to be a superstar like Minecraft by the people who are so enthralled by the promise of writing code to give them a technical and tactical advantage in a video game. I wonder: is the fact that geeks are jumping onto the 0x10c bandwagon so rapidly just a nod to Notch's previous success as a game developer, or is it evidence of some market desire for games with even more customizability than we've already seen?