Here at Shopify, we like to play just as hard as we work. The consoles in our games room are kept busy with games of Street Fighter and NHL hockey, we have Starcraft 2 tournaments and Counter-Strike LAN games after work some days, and it's pretty common for some of us to hook up online after hours and play some Team Fortress 2, Magicka, Call of Duty, or any number of other games.
For those times when we prefer to create things rather than blow each other up, we have our company Minecraft server.
Minecraft is a sandbox construction game that lets players create amazing three-dimensional structures and artwork out of blocks, using materials you harvest from the world around you. It can be played solo, or together with other people on a shared server.
Upon its launch late last September, the Shopify server saw a few weeks of furious activity. We dug tunnels, explored caverns, built castles and towers and dungeons, and even bored out an entire mountain down to the bedrock.
The initial activity eventually faded, in part because Minecraft multiplayer was still pretty incomplete at the time. The server was left in the hands of some dedicated players who continued to build, and now we're returning to find some pretty amazing stuff.
New players can now visit "Noob Town", a safe haven just off the starter island with supplies and access to other areas via a subway train network.
Other parts of the map are connected by a sky train system that takes a long time to fully traverse even at minecart speeds.
Some of our players prefer to work with rare or labour-intensive materials, creating obsidian houses connected by long bridges and underwater glass tunnels.
Others prefer more natural constructions using regular materials like cobblestone and wood, or melding them more seamlessly with the existing terrain, but their creations are usually no less impressive.
Navigation is much easier these days thanks to a web-based map interface powered by Google. It uses the standard Google Maps interface, but provides us with an isometric view of the terrain and our constructions.
We even have a roller coaster that starts from the tree in Noob Town, visits a few major landmarks, and then deposits you back in the town library. Here's a clip, courtesy of one of our developers:
With so many builders and so many different construction projects, our server has become a fascinating example of what a collaborative persistent world can become. But more importantly, it's also just a great way to relax and let out our creative sides – and relaxed, creative programmers means more great Shopify features for you.