An Ode to the Minecraft Community

Posted on Tue 10 July 2018 in Minecraft

I first got into Minecraft in the (Australian) Summer of late 2010, after being introduced to the game by a friend. I was 12 and heavily involved in The Powder Toy community. After spending over a year writing mods and contributions for the The Powder Toy, a few members of the community and myself decided to try something different and started a Minecraft server.

From a young age, I've been very interested in electronics, so the Redstone aspect of the game caught my eye. In the wake of the death of the modding platform hMod, I found a small plugin written by sk89q called CraftBook. CraftBook instantly appealed to me, however, all of what I considered to be the coolest features listed on the wiki didn't yet exist for Bukkit.

My Java experience had been quite limited at this point, mostly just making small-scale plugins for servers I ran, as well as writing proof of concept cheats as I have an interest in security research. After about a year of running a server and making Bukkit plugins, I decided to volunteer to port a few features of CraftBook to Bukkit.

On the 24th of April 2012, I joined #sk89q on irc.esper.net and greeted sk89q, wizjany, and Lymia. When I offered to assist, sk89q did something which surprised me... He gave me write access to the repository. A few years later I asked why he just straight up gave me write access, and he said that worst case he still had a backup and giving me write access was more likely to motivate me actually to continue the project. He was right. Due to this moment, and what has led on from here, I don't believe there is a single person who has influenced my professional life (And non-professional to an extent) more than sk89q.

What followed were four weeks of me adding every random idea that I'd ever had for the plugin into it without any sense of order or design. Realistically this didn't end there, with me rewriting sections of code every time I learnt about a new pattern or system. The mistakes made here have helped me learn how important prior design, and thinking about how changes will fit into a codebase before making them.

During this time, having the CraftBook project under my name landed me a few jobs at some of the larger Minecraft servers at the time. For these servers, I made custom plugins and helped start multiple large projects that shaped the way Minecraft as a community grew. I also became a part of a few development teams as well, such as the VoxelBox Plugineering Team. My place on that team was rather short lived however as I didn't have the time to commit, and the person who ran the team vanished. It was still an interesting experience however, meeting many YouTubers who I'd looked up to at that point, as well as working in a structured team setting.

In September 2014, things took a weird turn with the death of the Bukkit project. sk89q and a few other community leaders scheduled a community meeting to occur in an IRC channel called #nextstep. In this meeting, we decided that we'd start a new server platform which ended up turning into SpongePowered, or Sponge for short.

sk89q brought me onboard the Sponge project, which started what was in my eyes a much more professional position in the community. I was no longer working on these projects because I wanted to play with them, I was working on them as I wanted to benefit the community and keep my plugins alive. Working in a team this size also was a new experience for me, and I feel much improved my capabilities as a software engineer. I also got exposed to the IDE holy wars, which resulted in Grum successfully converting me to IntelliJ.

Sponge Team at MINECON in 2015

Sponge was also a much bigger project, and some large yet isolated members of the community were starting to catch wind of the projects I'd been a part of but uncredited. At this point, I was getting contracted to write plugins and mods for the largest Minecraft servers that have ever existed, some of the top 10 Minecraft YouTubers of all time, and even one of the Billboard top 20 artists of 2017.

I also had the opportunity to fly with the Sponge team to both London and Los Angeles for Minecon 2015 and 2016 respectively, events that have massively changed me as a person. I met so many cool people there, as well as meeting those I'd known for so long face to face.

Sponge Team at MINECON in 2016

I feel that the way the Minecraft community has changed me has helped me become who I am today, solidly grounded in the tech community in my city, as well as landing me real jobs as a software engineer. While I'm now considerably less active in the community, it'll always be something that I'm thankful I got to be a part of. It's great knowing that almost every player who has played on a public Minecraft multiplayer server has been exposed to code that I've written. Together, the Minecraft community has shaped the lives of many people.

Thanks: sk89q, Mojang, the Sponge team, and everyone else who's been with me along the way.