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Minecraft's composer discusses Mojang's unreleased game, Notch's departure

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

On Monday, Microsoft announced it would acquire the Swedish studio Mojang and their game, Minecraft,  for a cool $2.5 billion.

Minecraft's creator, Markus "Notch" Persson, has over these last six years grown from complete obscurity to become a major figure in the gaming industry. After the announcement of his company's sale he said he was leaving his work behind for very personal reasons

The spotlight, it seems, had simply grown too bright.

But there were others that orbited at the edge of Persson's universe, contributors and collaborators who were, for better or for worse, brought along for the ride.

One of them was Daniel Rosenfeld, better known as C418. He's the composer and sound designer for Minecraft. And on Monday he had an announcement of his own to make.


There was no blog post. No press release. Just a single, mournful tweet about a collaboration he had shared with Persson. A project they had worked on more than a year ago that, until Monday, had been left to lay fallow.

0x10c (pronounced ten to the c) was to be the next big thing after Minecraft, an ambitious first-person space exploration game. But Persson chose to walk away from the game in August of last year.

Rosenfeld's soundtrack may be the only tangible thing the public ever sees from the project.

Polygon reached out to Rosenfeld, who lives in Berlin, to find out about his feelings surrounding the scant four-minutes of music and what they meant to him.

"I honestly had no other better alternative as to when to release them," Rosenfeld said over Skype chat. "This seemed like the best time.

"I actually don't remember when I started working on it. Must have been sometime in autumn [when the game was freshly announced. I remember being frustrated with the experience, taking long walks thinking about what it means to make space music."

Rosenfeld said that he likes to bring the element of the unexpected to the games he works on. Take his most famous work, Minecraft: Volume Alpha. The soundtrack features lyrical, soaring melodies. It's not bound by the retro aesthetic of Minecraft's graphics. It transcends them. The album is an attempt to uplift the combined game/music experience into the sublime.

"I find the usual and obvious quite boring," he says. "Which is why I totally wanted to do a little minimalistic ballad, in space, for 0x10c. Coming up with the right notations took me two weeks though. It was just a pure struggle until I felt it was right."

It was a struggle that the games' developer, Persson, eventually abandoned.

"I'm not bitter," Rosenfeld said. "I still had fun thinking about the concept."

The exposure, and the income, that working with Persson over the past few years has allowed Rosenfeld to focus on his music full time. He says that he ended up quitting his "generic job" around the time Penny Arcade featured the game in their comic strip nearly four years ago.

"I realized then," Rosenfeld said. "That I might not actually need to work two jobs anymore."


But along with that fame has come an army of Twitter followers, from just a few hundred while Minecraft was in its early form to now close to 200,000. Rosenfeld says that as a result he has a taste of the kind of burden so much attention must have been for Persson, who answers now to nearly 2 million followers.

"At some point," Rosenfeld said, "social networks do not see you as a person anymore. ... They just tweet at you as if they're basically publicly stating their opinion. It's the oddest thing, and we're still not sure how to handle it."

Rosenfeld says that having so many people in his life now can feel like an intrusion.

"Do you know that feeling that you have had a great day, but then some guy on twitter that you don't even know tells you you're the worst thing that ever happened to this planet? And then you spend most of that day thinking about this one guy. Maybe he was right. Maybe you're actually terrible and didn't know yet. That feeling also happens with Markus, except it's amplified times two million.

"Persson might have been emotionally bankrupt after hundreds of thousands of people told him he's garbage."

"I can absolutely understand that [Persson] might have been emotionally bankrupt after hundreds of thousands of people told him he's garbage."

Rosenfeld says that he'll keep working on Minecraft "as long as we're still happy with the product." But in addition to that he has a personal album coming out soon, as well as several unannounced game projects in the works.

For his part, Rosenfeld says that his time spent working with Persson has been personally and professionally rewarding. He respects Persson's decision to move on, while treasuring the opportunities that the designer showed him. In the end, Rosenfeld says the experience has brought him closer to realizing his passion for music.

"Stephen King said there's two tiers of creators. One write for the audience, and the other write for themselves. I always saw myself in the latter. So seeing people appreciate what I love to do, that's awesome."

The two tracks that would have made up the bulk of the soundtrack for 0x10x are now available, for free or for sale, here.

Edit: The photo above this article was improperly attributed to Daniel  "C418" Rosenfeld. The actual photographer is Robert Zetzsche. You can find his work via the link below.