Originally, Minecraft is a 3D sandbox video game released by Mojang in 2011 with over 176 million copies sold on all platforms making it the bestselling video game at all times. It has no specific goals to accomplish, allowing players the freedom in choosing how to play the game in their own creative was.
In 2014 Microsoft bought Mojang and Minecraft for US$2.5 billion. By 2018 the game had already more than 91 million active players on monthly basis.
Another game with millions of users playing every day is Pokémon Go, an augmented reality (AR) mobile game developed by Niantic. Microsoft wants to take the AR concept of Pokémon Go a step further and unveiled a new augmented reality Minecraft game for smartphones aiming to advance this genre associated with high interactivity and multiplayer action.
“Minecraft Earth proposes to completely break the dogma that has lived with us in computing since the beginning: this idea of a single person that holds a single device to create a single experience,” says Kipman. “With Minecraft Earth, that’s no longer the case. The content is in the real world.”
As per the very exciting trailer video, Minecraft Earth has the intention to change the AR experience from single-person into a living virtual world shared by all players.
There is no exact release date, however a beta testing period in on the way in summer. The game will be released on both Android and iOS and will use public spaces for placing items and do different tasks. Instead of traditional pokestops, Minecraft Earth will have “tapables” placed randomly and designed to give you small rewards that will allow you to build. The goal will be to collect as many of these resources so you can build vast structures and “ have covered the entire planet in Minecraft,” explains Torfi Olafsson, the creative director and business manager of the game development. Like in Pokémon Go the real map of the entire world was converted into Minecraft Earth gameplay.
Another exciting feature is playing an adventure in a location beyond GPS coordinates so friends all around the world can join you to fight monster, break down structures together or to be in front of a players and blocking them physically to kill a virtual creature.
In a support for teamwork and there is no player-versus-player battles to kill each other for resources and all blocks collected during an adventure are shared. The more friends you will have the less time and effort to search for materials as every piece of material they use on your own plate will then be part of your build.
However, another side of the game is that you would be able to steal a friend’s blocks if you would want to as you will be physically next to a person building in the virtual world. “Shenanigans will come from when people have different opinions about what needs to happen, or they band together and do something meaningful,” said Saxs Persson, the creative director of Minecraft.
Similarly to other traditional role-playing games, there is a progression in Minecraft Earth with content that gets unlocked as you go up in levels. There is also an in-game currency that will allow you to buy different items.
The game is taking advantage of a few number of technologies like Azure Spatial Anchors, a program announced just few weeks ago, that will place everyone in the same place and ties the digital content of the game with the real world objects. The key ingredient is having multiple devices see and interact with the same virtual object in AR. “To do this, we had to take some of the HoloLens algorithms for capturing images on device and turn them into a point cloud that we can share,” says Jason Cahill, an engineering architect for Minecraft. Players will walk to the tapables and will be up to them to decide where exactly an adventure will get placed. The location of the adventures will be a sensitive matter as there are challenges blending private places with augmented reality.
The primary augmented reality function will run on ARCore and ARKit, which are the AR development tools for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android OS.
Another tech that will be used by Microsoft in Minecraft Earth is HoloLens, a pair of mixed reality smart glasses and is considering it a “third wave of computing”, however the game won’t be launched on it anytime soon.
The Minecraft team has been working on this ambitious project for about 16 months and we are all excited to take on this new adventure in the digital world.