Yesterday, Mojang posted an update on their blog answering some questions about what Minecraft server owners are allowed to charge money for. This upset some server owners even more, as it outlaws many of their current business models. It got players angry enough to start a Twitter campaign called #SaveMinecraft, with the goal of preventing Mojang from changing the way multiplayer games currently work in Minecraft.
If you aren't familiar with Minecraft servers, think of it like going to a theme park. Currently, most large Minecraft servers are designed so that you can enter for free, you're presented with options for rides, and you can pay for certain preferential treatment. As of August 1st, the choice for server operators will be to either charge entry for the whole park and all the rides are free, or build a separate theme park, parking lot, and ticket window for every single roller coaster. Server moderators say this would increase their costs too much to be able to implement at a reasonable price to players, so this may put them out of business.
Some people are taking this as the end of multiplayer in Minecraft, which is why #SaveMinecraft was trending on twitter yesterday:
Gregory Bylos, aka Sterling, is managing director of one of the largest Minecraft multiplayer server networks, Mineplex. He posted "An Open Letter To Notch" which explains in detail why server owners are so unhappy with the enforcement of the Minecraft EULA. The simplest reason relates to how Minecraft was originally released, with a very simple copyright page that states:
Any tools you write for the game from scratch belong to you. You're free to do whatever you want with screenshots and videos of the game, but don't just rip art resources and pass them around. Plugins for the game also belong to you and you can do whatever you want with them, including selling them for money.
Of course, as Minecraft exploded in popularity, they eventually needed to draft "a huge EULA" (as the old copyright page calls it). However, this new agreement was never strictly enforced, until it came up in a conversation with a developer a few weeks ago and caught the Minecraft community's attention.
The biggest issue Mojang is trying to address are the servers that charge hundreds of dollars for gameplay features like equipment or the ability to fly. As Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson said in his post on the topic, which he titled "Literally worse than EA," referencing some of the criticism from this decision:
I don't even know how many emails we've gotten from parents, asking for their hundred dollars back their kid spent on an item pack on a server we have no control over. This was never allowed, but we didn't crack down on it because we're constantly incredibly swamped in other work.
Disallowing this also has the side effect of disallowing servers that have developed mods and games that function on a League of Legends-style model, where you pay money for different classes, but each class is theoretically balanced so no one player can win by paying more.
Not allowing those type of games limits the types of mods that players can develop, but it doesn't affect multiplayer Minecraft servers with other types of games. The reason that everyone is afraid this will kill large multiplayer Minecraft servers, especially those with with user-made minigames, is that some of the clarifications don't allow for even the simplest monetization models, such as charging for access to specific areas that hold different games.
The Minecraft servers in question charge money because they're actually quite large operations. Matt Sundberg owns the Shotbow network, which employs three full-time and five part-time employees, and developed mods like MineZ and Light Bikes. He says:
Large server networks are incredibly expensive to run and are very time consuming. Most large networks run hundreds of Minecraft servers, along with enterprise DDOS protection, databases, dedicated proxies, and web infrastructure. In addition to that, many employ full time staff to manage the hundreds of hours of labor required for server maintenance and plugin development.
As for enforcing these rules, Mojang CEO Carl Manneh told me "I hope we can solve it through dialogue. If that doesn't work, we'd probably need to involve lawyers. That would be sad."
We'll see if anything changes before the August 1st deadline, but for the moment, it looks like the Minecraft multiplayer community will be changing drastically.