Just over two years ago, Minecraft developer Mojang announced that Minecraft will receive a great, incredible and amazing graphics update. The new Super Duper graphics package (we didn't name it) had to unveil a number of new graphics features, including 4K textures, exciting water, cleaner lines, a different illuminator, dynamic shadows, highlight highlights, and directional lighting. The video showing the enhancements was a hit back in E3 2017 and since then questions have been raised about when the Minecraft update will be released.
Today, Mojang announced that the update to the Super Duper Graphics Pack is being canceled permanently. According to the company, "Super Duper was an ambitious initiative that brought a new look to Minecraft, but unfortunately the package proved too technically demanding to perform as planned."
The only explanation the company gave us why it would not introduce the update is that "we are not happy with how the device package came about. For this reason, we are stopping the development of the packaging and looking for other ways to try out Minecraft with a new look. "
That's a pretty slim explanation. First, we would expect this kind of work – in particular, the work of deciding which devices will be targets for Minecraft's SDGP – will be described before this project started. Minecraft works on a huge number of devices, but you don't usually develop such an extension without considering goals, because you (probably) will test updates to different systems as you work through them. Finding out after two years that you can't justify the update because some products can't launch it, if true, speaks to some pretty weird development priorities. Why not complete the system upgrade or upgrade that you can?
SDGP requires a complete rewrite of the Minecraft graphics engine. Such efforts are not insignificant and it is not crazy to complete the repair over two years. But at the same time, what's the point scrap rewriting after two full years in development?
It doesn't make much sense. The Super Duper Graphics Pack should not compromise Minecraft's ability to run older hardware; had to provide better image quality for machines capable of performing it. The upcoming launch of the next-generation console and the inevitable mobile upgrade upgrade should provide a healthier gaming hardware platform than 2017. Mojang and Microsoft have jointly declared that Minecraft has sold 176 million copies by May 2019. The original PC version is 30 million copies sold. Microsoft continues to invest in and improve Minecraft with spins, such as AR, focused Minecraft Earth. If any game could justify the investment of a new graphics engine a decade after launch, it would be a title like Minecraft.
The most logical point here is that Mojang could not find a way to build an engine that would provide the right capabilities at the top and yet offer an acceptable level of performance for lower-end hardware. There may also be concerns about the impact of splitting players based on multiple versions of the game and keeping updates on both engines going forward. Busting an engine update after more than two years is a pretty extreme step. Hopefully, there will still be a way to integrate some of these optimizations and enhancements into the mainstream version. Otherwise, Mojang's graphics team has just spent two years working on a major engine rewrite, only to see their efforts be reduced in principle.
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