Minecraft, one of the most popular games in the world, is getting the AR treatment from Microsoft and it seems to have high potential. The official trailer for Minecraft: Earth was released on May 17, which marked the 10-year anniversary of the game.
Minecraft: Earth will allow players to project their creations into the world through their smartphones. Microsoft had released a teaser video on their official YouTube channel on 6 May, showing a pig from the game walking on grass. The official reveal is grander, showing the potential of the game and urging people to "Minecraft your world".
The trailer gives viewers a glimpse of the vast potential for creativity that Minecraft: Earth will bring. It shows people placing virtual treehouses in their garden, grand castles being built at a park, a giant blue octopus enveloping houses in its tentacles, a village on a table-top, and chickens.
Thus, people will have the ability to create an environment on a small surface, say, the table in a restaurant, and then take their creation out in the world and showcase it on a larger scale. Players will be able to interact with virtual wildlife and the various mobs in the game. It will also give players the ability to collaborate on projects and create something together.
Microsoft hasn't revealed how the game will be monetised, but it has been reported by Windows Central that it will be a free-to-play game without any loot boxes. The report mentions that the game will have 'Build Plates' on which players will build their creations, and then be able to scale the build plates to size. To create, players will have to collect blocks and go for an "Adventure" for rarer materials, such as diamonds. These personal Build Plates will also ensure that a player's creations don't get destroyed by others.
Players are being offered a free, Earth-themed skin for their avatar in Minecraft if they register now for the Minecraft: Earth. It is available for devices running iOS 10 (or greater)and Android 7 (or greater), and registrations are available through this link.
Augmented Reality (AR)
The prospect of AR technology took the world by storm when Pokémon GO released back in July of 2016. An age-old franchise with a massive following had come to life on people's phones. Fans could catch their favourite Pokémon and get rewarded just for walking. People could not stop playing the game, even on the road. It got some criticism when people met with accidents while crossing roads or driving.
Minecraft: Earth will have a slightly different take on AR with its fixed anchors. This technology allows multiple people to see the same thing, say a tower at a park, at the same place. By permanently anchoring objects' positions and logging that on the cloud, players' creations will stay at one location until moved.
Creator Markus Persson shared his story of looking for the technology at a time when none of the tech companies in Forbes 500 were working on it. "Name a Fortune 500 tech company," he told Wired in an interview, "I probably asked them, 'Hey, are you working on this?'" Nobody was.
That was until he met the developers of HoloLens in 2017, who were working on the exact technology he had been looking for. They decided to collaborate on the project and Minecraft became a big part of HoloLens demos. Now, Microsoft wants to let players make their own world and experience it through the lens of their phone.
The development of this game is certainly something to look forward to, as it will also mark a new way to play games. The beta for Minecraft: Earth will commence in Summer this year. The full release has been rumoured to be sometime before 2020.