The Minecraft phenomena is still going strong many years after the game’s initial release, and now that it’s under Microsoft’s banner, the possibilities are endless. One of the game’s new features coming out this Fall though will further promote the game’s ability to teach people of all ages basic coding skills thanks to its reliance on JSON file editing.
There’s already a Minecraft: Education experience, but the new configurable add-ons will provide a raw look at how to influence a game world through easy to edit JSON files, which to me is a brilliant way to make game coding an easy to understand affair. These files (see below for example) will be editable and will have basic structures setup with easy to follow english to allow changes to be made. What’s even better is that if you completely screw up one of these JSON files the game will simply revert it back to its default state, so you can’t crash the experience with bad code. This feature alone makes someone’s first foray into game coding a stress free affair thanks to the fact that you can experiment with a coding language you have no experience without the fear of borking the entire game with some bad syntax.
At E3 I got to see the new add-on feature in action, and it works flawlessly on the Windows 10 and Pocket Editions of the game (feature will be coming to Xbox One version at a later date). In one example the Minecraft developer altered a JSON file for Creepers to make them behave like rabbits. All he did was take a bit of code from the rabbit JSON file and add it into the creepers JSON, and then saved the changes and reloaded the game. Upon reload creepers no longer wanted to eat the main character, rather they behaved liked pacifist bunnies with no intention of being evil. A more impressive showcase of the add-on editing feature sported a chain reaction of chickens who upon birth would spawn more chickens with a chance to ignite and explode. Within a few seconds of implementing the changes to the required JSON file the game world was flooded with exploding chickens until there were so many that the game began to choke.
These are just simple edits that you will be able to make. Those with a bit of programming knowledge and understanding of Minecraft will be able to create some amazing code edits of their own. The Minecraft reps said that creating a Boss who has various stages won’t be an issue, so as long as you can understand the flow of a JSON file and the required Minecraft classes, coding your own Minecraft experience and character behaviors will only be limited by your imagination and the code structure.
Editing these JSON files only requires a basic text editor, so all gamers will have access to the tools needed to make changes. The editing process is no different than changing the text in a Word file, except for a few JSON syntax tricks to be aware of. Since these JSON files will already have core Minecraft code in them you will only have to alter values to the attributes you want changed. For example, if you want to make rabbits move at the speed of light you can do so by changing its speed value. The edit takes seconds, and then the change is ready to witness in game.
Minecraft’s upcoming add-on feature is a very cool take on basic coding skills, and I truly believe it will motivate young and old gamers to take up the hobby and potentially one day make games of their own. Minecraft may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but its ability to teach difficult coding concepts in an easy to understand manner will surely unlock the creative potential of the next generation of game developers, and I find that to be a very awesome byproduct of one’s gaming hobby.
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