Minecraft developer Mojang Studios has announced it will partner with UK supercomputing startup Hadean on a project that will see the game reinvigorated by a series of new modes and experiences.
Mojang will use the firm’s spatial simulation engine, Aether Engine, to augment the existing Minecraft experience but also to facilitate new game modes with far larger player counts.
In an earlier trial, for example, a single developer was able to use the engine to expand the game’s standard 99-player lobby limit (in place for a decade now) to support more than 1,000 players.
In essence, the Aether Engine integration will allow Mojang to shatter through previous technical ceilings – in place as a result of the game’s legacy codebase – and open up a host of new design opportunities.
Minecraft gameplay itself will not be altered, but the change will afford developers the chance to create a wealth of new in-game features for players.
Minecraft system change
The demand for massive, multiplayer gaming experiences has expanded dramatically in recent years. This shift has also perhaps been accelerated further by the pandemic, with players turning to online games as their primary source of social contact.
However, supporting a multiplayer experience at scale is no simple task for development teams, who must navigate a gauntlet of technical bottlenecks, all the while preserving the quality of gameplay.
Historically, developers have been asked to trade off scale in exchange for performance gain. This ensured players enjoy a smooth experience, but also limited the potential scope of in-game interaction.
According to Hadean, however, Aether Engine dynamically provisions resources as and when required, bypassing excessive middleware and other forms of architectural complexity. In effect, this means developers no longer need to choose between scale and performance; they can have their cake and eat it.
“Hadean’s Aether Engine is a game-changer that opens up a range of new design possibilities – not just for games like Minecraft, but for streaming platforms, developer communities, and even enterprise applications,” explained Michael Weilbacher, Mojang CTO.
“Introducing Aether Engine to Minecraft opens up an array of exciting new experiences, events and game modes for our players. Aether Engine is adept at handling increased connections and computational complexity, which will allow us to create larger and more immersive experiences than ever before.”
Mojang has so far been tight-lipped on the precise changes and new game modes that will come to Minecraft as a result of the new partnership, but early signs suggest players have plenty to be excited about.