Minecraft has been big business for Mojang and Microsoft, but they aren't the only ones making money off a game that's almost 10 years old. There are others who have grown up with the game, learned its strengths and weaknesses, and now found opportunities to make a living doing what they love.
Twenty-year-old Florian Funke is one of those people. He's the Managing Director of Spark Squared, an outfit that describe themselves as a "Minecraft production company" and who offer their services - for a fee, of course - to anyone who wants them to build, develop, mod or render anything within the game.
Build worlds, basically.
This was made for the fifth instalment of the video series "How to Minecraft"
"'Building' means that we create different landscapes, buildings, recreations and more", Funke tells Kotaku. "We design gaming environments for Minecraft players, educational environments for students, or work on recreations for our enjoyment."
"During 'Development' we code custom tools and plugins for Minecraft servers, YouTube series and other. Additionally, we create Minecraft 'Mechanics' and 'Mods' for minigames and adventure maps, including '3D Models' of monsters, machines and more. And lastly, we render images of all the work in 3D rendering software."
This is Roman Empire, a map that includes a range of mini-games such as gladiatorial combat, horse-racing and a garden maze.
Spark's client list is pretty varied. "We work with a lot of the most popular Java and mobile edition Minecraft servers and create various gaming and lobby environments for them," Funke says. "We have also worked with the mobile live-streaming service Mobcrush on creating products for Minecraft's official Marketplace."
"Furthermore, we are working on expanding more into the educational space and have already worked with 'English Highways', an official UK government company that is in charge of building and maintaining highways. We created a world with the goal to get young children more interested in engineering and trying to fill that skills gap."
While on paper that might sound like basic mod work of an existing game, something that can be handled by a couple of people in their spare time, in reality it's relatively big business.
Since its creation five years ago, Spark has grown from a couple of teenage schoolboys dabbling in a hobby into a company that now employs a range of staff full-time, from management to developers to artists, as well as calling upon a roster of around 40 freelancers.
NM Corporation, a map based on the work of Paul Chadeisson
I came across Spark's work the other day when an artist I'm a big fan of, Paul Chadeisson, tweeted out some images showing how Spark (as a fun personal piece) had turned one of his works into a massive 3D space in Minecraft.
You can see that creation above (Funke rates is as one of the company's favourite efforts), but I've also included other examples of their work as well, ranging from sci-fi worlds to medieval kingdoms to ancient Rome.
Ulu is a prison planet full of mines and ancient ruins.
You can see more of Spark Squared's projects at their company site.