Microsoft today announced "Minecraft Earth," a new game coming to iOS and Android in beta this summer that uses augmented reality to place virtual Minecraft blocks and characters into the real world. Similar to Pokémon Go, Minecraft World requires players to venture outside to collect resources for building and to see what their friends have created around the neighborhood.
Game director Torfi Olafsson described the mobile game as an adaptation of Minecraft, and not a direct translation. Minecraft Earth will feature well-known items like redstone and typical Minecraft water physics, but the controls have been revamped for the new AR experience.
According to Olafsson, the development team "covered the entire planet in Minecraft," meaning that places like lakes are locations you can fish and parks are great for chopping down trees for wood. Players will find "tapables" randomly placed around the world, which dispense building rewards and more, similar to Pokéstops in Pokémon Go.
Microsoft used maps based on OpenStreeMap data to place randomly generated "adventures" in the world. These can be peaceful interludes or dangerous risk-taking quests where you have the chance to lose your gear to Minecraft's many monsters.
Adventures are built for multiple people to play at once, and all players experience the same game on the exact same spot simultaneously, so they can fight the same monsters, break down the same structures, "and even stand in front of a friend to block them from physically killing a virtual sheep," reported The Verge.
I sat for around 10 minutes creating a Minecraft build where I could see blocks flying onto the structure from someone next to me. They could also see everything I was doing in real time, and we could build together block by block. I could, if I wanted to, also steal my friend’s blocks here to create my own mega building. That introduces an interesting social dynamic because, unlike most games, you’ll be physically next to the person you’re stealing from in the virtual world.
“In order to steal, you would have to look up and go, ‘Hmm, I’m going to take your blocks,’” says Saxs Persson, creative director of Minecraft. “Shenanigans will come from when people have different opinions about what needs to happen, or they band together and do something meaningful.”
Microsoft says that Minecraft Earth will launch in a closed beta this summer, but it's not clear how many players will gain access at that launch. Monetization also hasn't been finalized yet, but Xbox Game Studios head Matt Booty said, "I have total confidence that the team will figure out what the right monetization is for the game." In the demo seen by reporters, a marketplace section was spotted where players will likely be able to buy various building items and avatar gear.
The Verge predicted that we might see more of Minecraft Earth at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in June. Demos for the game were showcased on the iPhone XS, and the site called Minecraft Earth "the best demonstration of augmented reality on an iPhone" it's ever seen. Apple usually showcases ARKit-related apps and software at WWDC, last year demonstrating ARKit 2 through the LEGO Playgrounds game.