When it comes to augmented reality gaming applications, Pokémon Go seems to have paved the way for other studios to explore the possibilities in that field. And now, Microsoft is rolling out Minecraft Earth. Could this be the next big thing in the world of AR gaming?
Since its first release in July 2016, Pokémon Go has popularized the use of augmented reality technology for location-based mobile gaming. It received so much interest all over the world, that by the end of 2016, it had gotten over 500 million downloads worldwide, and it was one of the most profitable mobile games that year.
Using AR technology, the game has virtual objects appear in a user’s real-world location, making players move about their location to hunt those virtual monsters. The game was heralded for having health benefits, as it forces players to move about, thereby engaging in physical activities. However, something that was more captivating about it was the fact that it involved the location of players. So it basically happens everywhere the user goes.
But that’s the amazing thing about augmented reality: it overlays virtual objects on a user’s real-world, right in their current location. Having seen the fascinating potential of AR for gaming and entertainment, we make welcome Minecraft Earth.
Minecraft Earth is a new augmented reality game developed by Microsoft as a spin-off from the popular video game, Minecraft. In May 2019, Microsoft announced the beta release of the game. It is scheduled for this summer and is a closed beta, restricted to London and Seattle for all we know now.
The game “brings the Minecraft world into our universe,” and can be played using mobile devices.
How it works
Minecraft Earth employs location-based AR technology, and the core idea behind the game is to grant players the creative freedom to explore and build digital structures in their own neighborhood.
The game provides you with blocks of resources, including custom fittings and animals, to build with; they are called “tapables.” You can collect and use them by tapping on them. Collecting them builds up your inventory. When you have enough of the resources you need, you can then start to build any structure of your choice, be it a castle or an entire city, and see how it fits into your environment. The structures you create are called “builds.” You also get templates which you can manipulate to create your builds.
There is also room for collaboration with friends to create these structures. This is a very exciting feature of the game, and it’s something to look out for when it’s fully released. You can get your friends to work with you on your building project, using their own devices.
Another interesting thing about Minecraft Earth is that you can move whatever you’ve built from one place to another. The game also allows you to resize your build, and you can make them big enough to allow you to step inside it and explore what you’ve built. In the virtual world, of course.
Now, this gets even more interesting. Minecraft Earth aims to allow players in the same environment to see what others have built.
Saxs Persson, partner studio manager for Minecraft, explains it thus: “With Minecraft Earth, we’re going to put real Minecraft experiences anchored right in your local neighborhood, so when you and your friends play, they get a chance to see what you’ve built, exactly where you place it.”
What that means is that if you build a structure and place it somewhere in your neighborhood, another Minecraft Earth player closeby can see what you’ve built if they scan that part of your environment with their phone. In other words, Minecraft Earth wants us to work together to build the community of our dreams, or at least it would give us the feeling that we can actually create the kind of space we want and transform our environment, even if just virtually.
Minecraft Earth is designed to work on iOS and Andriod devices running iOS 10 and Android 7 or newer, and it will be free to play. A Microsoft or Xbox Live account is required to play the game, and that would also allow you to track your progress and save both builds and inventory to your profile so you can always pick up wherever you left off.
As mentioned earlier, Minecraft Earth is a spin-off from Minecraft, a sandbox video game created first released in 2011. It was created by Swedish game developer Markus Persson and released by Mojang. The game provides a 3D world wherein players can acquire resources and build the world they like. So, basically, Minecraft Earth is an augmented reality version of the game. It employs the technology to make the game come alive to players by bringing it to their real world, instead of a virtual world.
The closed beta is open to a limited number of participants who were picked through a sign-up process on the Minecraft official website and will run just for this summer.
Well, if you are not living around the selected cities, all you can do is wait for it to be rolled out fully so you can explore with your friends and see what you can turn your neighborhood into.