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'Sup, Notch: Why Guncraft got a booth next to Minecraft's at PAX


Exato Games co-founder John Getty makes no apologies about the inspiration behind Guncraft. Yes, it's based on Minecraft. Problem?

Getty can afford to be flippant about Guncraft's origins because his game, while it resembles Minecraft, utilizes entirely different mechanics and goals, and it simply isn't a rip-off, he says. Guncraft spawned while Getty and his partner Alex Schlee were working on another game, Progenitor.

"Our artist and former programmer were having a talk about how Minecraft isn't objective-oriented enough," Getty recalls. "They thought that it would be awesome if it was like an FPS, which is an objective-driven genre, where you could also make use of the levels you intricately design. They also thought it would be awesome to be able to blow the crap out of said level, without getting banned from a server for trolling someone's masterpiece.

"I overheard the conversation and thought it was an awesome idea. After a week of drawing up some preliminary game-design documents, I pitched it to my partner, we both decided it was too good to pass up, and we postponed Progenitor in favor of Guncraft."

Guncraft is now a Kickstarter success story, raising more than $16,000 in March to continue development, and it's heading to PAX Prime in Seattle this week – in fact, it's heading to a very specific place on PAX's show floor. Guncraft has a booth right next to Minecraft's.

Getty and Schlee engineered this placement on purpose. They've tried to contact Minecraft creator Notch and the team at his development studio, Mojang, but they've largely been ignored. Guncraft's strategic placement is partly an attempt to get Notch's attention, and maybe even his feedback.

Mostly, Guncraft will be next to Minecraft to show players the differences between the two games, rather than to highlight the similarities.

"Our main purpose of getting a booth next to Mojang is to provide an open forum for comparison."

- John Getty, Exato Games

"Our main purpose of getting a booth next to Mojang is to provide an open forum for comparison," Getty says. "We want to show the people exactly how different we are from Minecraft. We've always wanted an avenue to voice our opinions about 'rip-offs' and how we aren't one. Just as Notch borrowed from Infiniminer, we borrowed some of the construction and aesthetic elements of Minecraft and put our own unique spin on them."

Placing Guncraft next to Minecraft – Exato didn't try to differentiate the name, even – is a risky move. Getty hopes it's exactly this that will get Mojang talking to him.

"We do also want to talk with Mojang, so that's another reason we are neighbors. I really hope nobody thinks our primary purpose is to mooch off Minecraft, but I'm sure there will be some that do," Getty says. "We do have one TV that will be pointing directly toward their booth. I'm half tempted to play our Minecraft parody trailer on repeat, so they can see Crafty, our signature character, blow up Steve's head over and over again."

Guncraft is also commonly compared to Ace of Spades, which bills itself as a cross between Minecraft and Team Fortress 2. Getty responds to criticism as politely as possible, even when he disagrees fundamentally with the comments.

"I just find it ironic that people complain about our graphics but play Minecraft religiously, or tell us we are a rip-off of Minecraft when our core gameplay principles are polar opposites of each other," Getty says. "We share the same tech, that's it. Even our comparison to Ace of Spades is vague, at best. It's like comparing Halo to Call of Duty."

Whether Exato's efforts at PAX earn it a pat on the back from Mojang or angry backlash from thousands of potential fans, Getty has one peace offering that is practically guaranteed to work.

"Notch, come have a beer with us," Getty says.

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