A few months ago Microsoft announced the arrival of ‘Minecraft Earth’. The mythical game acquired from Mojang years ago now has a new spin-off as mobile augmented reality game . The game has not yet been officially released, but it has arrived exclusively and early in Iceland and New Zealand. These last days we have tested it to see what the experience is like.
Capture, build, play
As we already saw in the trailer of the game presentation, ‘Minecraft Earth’ uses geolocation and augmented reality for the user to interact with the game itself and its surroundings . As soon as you open the game and after creating a player profile you will see a map on which the player moves. This map is the real world itself and the player moves around as we move through the streets.
The map of a street in Auckland (New Zealand) in Minecraft Earth and Apple Maps.
The idea is to capture everything around us that is of interest to us. In an area of a few meters (real) the player can take whatever he finds. This can be blocks, trees, animals and all kinds of ‘Minecraft’ objects. When they are picked up, they are added to the player’s inventory, i.e. his trunk. There are also a few points further away from the map that radiate a spotlight into the sky, and when you get closer to them you gain extra experience points and rubies.
The second part of the game is the construction plates, which are basically small pre-built map pieces (about 20×20 blocks) that we place on a real surface. This is where ARKit comes into play and allows us to place for example a tree with a small river and a chicken on the desk in the room. The building blocks are unlocked as we play and you can also buy extra ones.
An example of a construction plate placed in a real environment.
Buy? Yes, the game has a shop from which we can buy different items. But this doesn’t mean that we are going to spend money, the game is completely free and there are no purchases in-app . Items are bought with the rubies we get and there is no option to pay with real money and get more rubies. There are also no reward boxes in the game. Point in favor for Microsoft with this.
Map screens, building plates, mapping and shop on ‘Minecraft Earth’.
Going back to the Augmented Reality construction mode, once we place the construction plate in a real area we can interact with it. It is like any other object in augmented reality , on the screen of the iPhone or iPad we will see the virtual object and as we move or rotate the device we will see other views of it. We can touch the blocks to pick them up or place others, i.e. build in ‘Minecraft’.
Apart from this we also have a section to “craftear” the products that we capture , next to an oven with the same purpose. Finally, it is possible to invite friends to build common worlds and play in them. There is another section that is blocked for the moment, it is the adventures and in some future version they will be launched officially. In the adventures you have to pass different tests with the risk of losing the items if you fail in them.
Minecraft and augmented reality, a combination that works
The idea was popularized by ‘Pokémon Go’ and I can’t think of a better game to take advantage of augmented reality and geolocation than in ‘Minecraft’. The Microsoft game has the perfect ingredients to be played in augmented reality and interacting with real life: it imitates real life, it’s an open world with automatically generated maps, it allows construction and develops creativity, it can be done to scale, it allows multiplayer mode… Placing ‘Minecraft’ blocks in real life makes all the sense in the world.
In Xataka ‘Minecraft Earth’, we have tested it: a faithful adaptation of ‘Minecraft’ to augmented reality that brings some new features
ARKit does its job very well in the game (in fact we had a demo in the last WWDC), is accurate and gives no problems when interacting with three dimensional objects inside the juice. The tests have been done with an iPhone XS Max. Where we are going to notice the game is in the battery, which as is evident in this type of video game in augmented reality, runs out sooner. The device consumes a lot of resources due to the camera, the image processing and the map if we are moving. In any case, at the level of other games like that.
Two different places on the map in ‘Minecraft Earth’.
Minecraft Earth’ at the moment is only available in iOS on the Icelandic and New Zealand App Store . It is an ‘early access’ version and you have to be located in one of these two countries for it to work, as it requires the location to generate the virtual map based on the real map. If ‘Pokémon Go’ has not yet burned out this game mode, ‘Minecraft Earth’ may be very well received. Especially considering that it is completely free and the history of ‘Minecraft’ as a game to boost creativity.