It came as quite a surprise at Oculus’ developer conference back in September that Minecraft would come to support the Oculus Rift CV1 and Gear VR. And while that gives players something to look forward to as the Rift approaches its launch, the path that it took to get it there was full of twists and turns.

Road to VR guest reporter Nate Kozak summarizes the tale.

“Minecraft was my quest,” Oculus CTO John Carmack, said on stage at the company’s last developer conference, Connect, where the Minecraft VR announcement was made. It was a quest that start a year and a half earlier.

Like so many now in the early VR community, Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson was “100% impressed” upon contact with Oculus’ first, now rather primitive, 2013 VR headset, the Rift DK1.

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Markus “Notch” Persson and Jens “Jeb” Bergensten pose with the Oculus Rift DK1 in 2013

Having supported Oculus’ Kickstarter to the tune of $10,000, Notch would shortly thereafter go on to pledge compatibility for Mojang’s insanely ambitious vaporware 0x10c, openly speculate about porting Minecraft to VR, and even kicked off the ‘Oculust’ VR O-face selfie trend, embargoes be damned.

When Oculus invited Notch to their headquarters prior to the 2014 Facebook acquisition, Carmack said he “talked with him about geeky programmer stuff for a long time.” The two got along well and some private prototyping of a VR version of Minecraft seemed likely.

By 2014 however, nothing had materialized. Hopes were sufficiently dashed not long after; as Carmack said, “When Facebook acquired Oculus, Notch kinda famously blew up over it”, entirely pulling out of negotiations and saying on Twitter that, “Facebook creeps me out,” and took to his blog to detail exactly why he disapproved of the deal. Some in the VR community fostered lingering anger at Notch for depriving them of a VR game with such deep replayability. Carmack, it seems, was among the most heartbroken.

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He spoke at length on stage at Oculus Connect about how “Minecraft was something that I was desperate to get into virtual reality, because I thought it would be critically important.” He said Minecraft already embodies “so many things people think about the Metaverse” while enabling exploration of the sorts of “magical vistas” that create lasting memories.

Surprisingly, Carmack estimates that he has spent more time in Minecraft VR than in all other VR games combined. He went so far as to say Minecraft was possibly “the single most important application we can do for VR;” his “grail,” he called it.

Curiously, while Notch pulled away from Oculus after the Facebook acquisition, he would end up playing a key role in bringing Minecraft to VR after all, but ironically only after he had sold his own company to Microsoft. As Carmack recalls:

[Notch] eventually got over [the Facebook acquisition], and things calmed down a bit. Then there was the Microsoft acquisition [of Minecraft and parent studio Mojang]. So at that point I had asked Notch, ‘Well, who should I talk to about this now? I still really, really want to make this happen.’ And he put me in touch with Tommaso [Checchi] and Jonas [Mårtensson] at Mojang, and I started pestering them about it. I would just drive home this case: ‘Look, we don’t want to ask anything from you, just let us try, let me try to build this, and if you think it’s cool, we’ll figure out what we want to do from there. I am so confident that it’ll be cool that I’ll agree to just about anything here.

From there, some contracts were drawn up governing Carmack’s work on Minecraft VR. Oculus lawyers protested that “John, you’re basically working for Microsoft”, but—Carmack being Carmack—work proceeded.

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Oculus founder Palmer Luckey celebrates the Minecraft VR announcement by hurling swag into the audience at | Photo courtesy Oculus

It took a great deal of his effort to create a functional prototype running on Gear VR after leaning that the game didn’t run quite as efficiently as he had suspected. But when the notoriously sim sickness-prone Oculus CEO, Brendan Iribe, played Minecraft VR for 20 minutes with no ill effects, wheels really started turning, and didn’t stop until hours before the announcement at Oculus Connect. Carmack intimated that the ink on the agreement was literally barely dry, recalling on stage that, “I got the email at 12:35AM this morning that the deal was signed.” This was a victory for VR, but also a personal one for Carmack; at one point, he says he told Mojang, “If this doesn’t happen, I’m going to cry.”

It did, thanks primarily to Carmack’s dogged persistence and extensive optimizing, Brendan Iribe and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s ability to work out a deal good for everyone, and Notch’s eventual willingness to open doors he easily could have leaned against. Now, there will be a tremendously compelling core experience for the launch of the consumer Rift and Gear VR, and millions of established Minecraft fans driving adoption of the hardware. Carmack said it, but it feels true for lots of people: “This was a huge, huge win for me.”

Notch’s opinion of the announcement? “Neato!

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  • user

    unimaginative. the game looks horrible. it should have died by now. but the gaming industry clearly lacks enough ambitious and creative people.

    • jacobpederson

      It’s not the gaming industries fault, it’s those pesky 70 million users :P

      • user

        yes and no. the users dont have enough alternatives. they want sandbox building games and games that give them the tools to be creative. but where are the games which offer this? it’s a hand full and they are made by some indie devs. only soe tried to build something noteworthy but they dont have enough money.

        • jacobpederson

          You have an excellent point there, IF there were other competent games in the genre, folks would be flocking to them in droves. Space Engineers and Kerbal Space program come to mind. The “triple A” folks aren’t exactly known for turning on a dime though. This is exactly what indies are for! Eventually everyone else comes around. The first FPS was an indie too ;)

          • user

            Or soe’s landmark. They wanted to make tools with which the users could make their own mmo. And they used the voxel farm engine which is the reason why i say there shouldnt be a reason to play minecraft in 2016. Except on mobile platforms.

        • JoeD

          “but where are the games which offer this? it’s a hand full..” – then clearly you haven’t been on Steam.

    • Kijutsu

      To quote a certain user:
      “oh please. just because you dont care about it doesnt mean it’s not important to others.”

      • user

        Not sure why you would think that i dont care. I clearly do when i write a comment.

    • crim3

      Relax. No need to save us, Minecraft players, from ourselves.

    • Raphael

      Must not he talking about the Minecraft I’ve played. It has shading and lighting that makes the graphics strangely appealing. I am someone who generally prefers photorealism but even I get Minecraft’s visual appeal.

  • dashmaul

    It’s not about the looks. (especially in VR)
    You’ve missed the point.

    • user

      oh please. just because you dont care about it doesnt mean it’s not important to others.

  • Stephen Marshall

    I’ve been playing minecraft in the DK2 dev kit for about a year…it’s called minecrift.

    I know this would be an official release (and I’m sure more refined)….but I would love to know why they just didn’t take the work that was already done and just improve it.

    Btw, minecraft in VR is awesome and makes night time in survival mode scary!

    • Tomasz Dowgielewicz

      I assume Mincraft should work on GearVR, so it was c++ port

  • Kijutsu

    Can’t wait to go into the world I created!

  • Raphael

    I hope his quest to bring Minecraft to VR is more successful than his quest to bring Doom to oculus Dk2 launch.

  • CodeJingle

    Minecraft has infinite replayability and infinite modability. If you think Minecraft isn’t beautiful then obviously you are missing some key information. Pretty much anything you could want in Minecraft there is a mod for that. Including for beauty.