Games developer Markus Persson has announced his first commercial release since Minecraft - a tongue-in-cheek spoof seemingly designed to make fun of the big studios. Furthermore, he is accepting optional payment in dogecoin.
The PC-only game, dubbed 'Cliffhorse', is as simple and outlandish as it gets. The user controls a galloping horse through a 3D environment, chasing a ball, neatly textured in what appears to be animal hide.
Persson has admitted he made the game in just two hours, building it using the prolific Unity engine and largely using resources included in the engine by default. To complete the game, Persson simply added a 3D model of a horse and the textured sphere.
After announcing the game on twitter, he said:
(I can't believe this somehow ended up being my first commercial game after Minecraft)
-- Markus Persson (@notch) June 8, 2014
Mocking the industry
The game has been released to coincide with the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, the biggest tradeshow in the video games industry.
The event will be dominated by big names such as Microsoft, Ubisoft, EA, Sony and Nintendo, showcasing numerous AAA games, including the latest instalments of the Battlefield, Batman and Far Cry franchises.
Cliffhorse seems to be Persson's way of poking fun at the big developers and publishers with their apparently endless budgets, and perhaps gaining some publicity in the process.
Over the past decade, game development budgets have skyrocketed as a result of strong demand and the introduction of HD graphics, backed by powerful graphics processors capable of delivering near photorealistic quality.
To attain the current level of realism, developers have to invest heavily in various technologies and highly accurate 3D models, textures and other resources needed to deliver a lot of HD eye candy.
As a result, no less than seven games released since the start of the decade have had a combined budget of $100m or more, with Activision's Destiny topping the list with an estimated cost of $140m, backed by up to $360m in marketing.
Early access controversy
Persson is providing the game for free, but allowing well-wishers to opt to 'buy' early access to the game using dogecoin. This seems to be another swipe at other games developers, which, due to skyrocketing development costs, have started accepting pre-orders for their products.
Generally, fans paying early are rewarded with various extras, usually in the form of exclusive or free additional content. The practice allows publishers and developers to raise extra funds before the game is ready to launch and it some cases it can help in the beta development phase of the title.
However, the practice has received criticism in the gaming community, with many arguing that it is merely bloating development costs and that, in some instances, gamers who choose to opt for early access do not necessarily get a good deal: some early releases have proven to be virtually unplayable and even full releases have sometimes disappointed early backers.
Persson said that, even though payment is not required, he managed to raise about $100-worth of dogecoins (280,000 doge) in the hours after the game was announced.
Reviews for Cliffhorse have been less than complimentary, reflecting the speedy build and throwaway nature of the game, which doesn't even include sound:
"The [...] future [...] of gaming" - PC Gamer | "Not even a game" - Ed Key | "Awful. 9.2/10" - IGN pic.twitter.com/VleDjp6RYw
-- Markus Persson (@notch) June 7, 2014