Minecraft has signed a deal with UK supercomputing startup Hadean to use its powerful spatial simulation engine to massively expand how many people can play together in Minecraft at once.
Hadean announced the partnership on Tuesday, which was sealed after a Minecraft developer was able to up the game’s usual maximum player limit from 99 to 1,024 using Hadean’s Aether Engine.
“Hadean’s Aether Engine is a game-changer that opens up a range of new design possibilities — not just for games like Minecraft, but for streaming platforms, developer communities, and even enterprise applications. We are pleased to be partnering and using Hadean’s next-generation technology to help us create new opportunities for our customers,” Michael Weilbacher, CTO at Minecraft’s developer Mojang Studios, said in a statement.
Hadean simultaneously announced it’s making the Aether Engine publicly available for any and all game studios who might want to follow in Mojang’s footsteps.
Hadean is not a big company, with 50 or so employees and $16.3 million raised to date. The company plays in similar territory to another British startup, SoftBank-backed simulation tech company Improbable.
Speaking exclusively to Business Insider, Hadean CEO Craig Beddis expressed pride at the company punching above its weight. “The biggest game on the planet is customer number one, which is something to be very proud of,” he said.
A screenshot from the 1,024-player lobby that was made possible by the Aether Engine.
Spatial simulation engines like Aether are used in games to generate the virtual world players inhabit when moving through a game.
“Hadean effectively makes a giant supercomputer out of the internet, so anything you build on top of Hadean is distributed by default,” Hadean’s CEO Craig Beddis told Business Insider.
“It allows you to access power as and when you need it, and what Hadean does is it allocates that power to the part of the game where you need it, and de-allocates the boundaries where you don’t,” said Beddis.
Simply put, the Aether engine is able to dynamically decide whether a part of the game should or shouldn’t exist depending on whether there’s a player in it for the time being.
Beddis said the future of gaming will increasingly need services like the Aether Engine to facilitate huge, multiplayer games, driven by the success of battle royale-style games.
“Everyone’s kind of got ‘Fortnite’ envy,” Beddis said. “You look at the number of players and the money that’s going through that — what if you could get a game with 10,000 players or 50,000 players in it with those kinds of economics.”
Similarly, Beddis thinks Hadean slots neatly into a future where cloud gaming becomes more and more common, although he thinks the industry is still a few years away from making this a reality.
The gaming world isn’t the only industry Hadean is involved in either.
Beddis told Business Insider its platform is currently being used by medical research body the Francis Crick Institute to model COVID-19’s spread — both in the population and inside the lungs of patients. Hadean is also working with Imperial College London and the University of Oxford.
Beddis also mentioned Hadean is looking at moving into virtual events, financial services, and even defense — although he did not give details on what deals the company may be pursuing.