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Minecraft Earth Goes a Step Beyond Pokemon Go To Cover the World In Blocks

Saturday May 18, 2019. 12:50 AM , from Slashdot/Apple
Microsoft is working on an ambitious new Minecraft game with an augmented-reality spin that hopes to one up Niantic's wildly popular Pokemon Go mobile game. The Verge's Tom Warren sat down with Microsoft's HoloLens and Kinect creator, Alex Kipman, to take a look Minecraft Earth, a new free-to-play game for iOS and Android that lets players create and share whatever they've made in the game with friends in the real world, away from TV screens and monitors.

'We have covered the entire planet in Minecraft,' explains Torfi Ilafsson, game director of Minecraft Earth. 'Every lake is a place you can fish, every park is a place you can chop down trees. We've actually taken maps of the entire world and converted them to Minecraft.' Warren writes: These maps, based on OpenStreetMap, have allowed Microsoft to start working out where to place Minecraft adventures into the world. These adventures spawn dynamically on the Minecraft Earth map and are designed for multiple people to get involved in. This is really where Minecraft Earth starts to get interesting and beyond anything I've played in other AR games like Pokemon Go. I tried a variety of adventures during my brief Minecraft Earth gameplay demo, and they range from peaceful and friendly to a little more risky, knowing you enter them and might lose all your treasure if you die to a monster. The fascinating part of adventures is that you can be side-by-side with friends, all experiencing the same game on the exact same spot of a sidewalk or in a park at the same time. Microsoft is doing some impressive behind-the-scenes computational magic (more on that later) so that when you play an adventure, it's in a precise location, beyond regular GPS coordinates, so that everyone is experiencing the same thing. You can fight monsters, break down structures for resources together, and even stand in front of a friend to block them from physically killing a virtual sheep.

All of the blocks that are collected during an adventure are shared with fellow players, so there are no player-versus-player battles here to kill each other and steal materials. You'll even see the tools that fellow players have in their hands on your phone's screen, alongside their username. The idea is that you essentially become your phone in Minecraft Earth, and your camera is a lens into this virtual world. Once you've gathered lots of resources, you can then start building. Every player will have a library of build plates, with some that are as big as 200 x 200 feet. You can use build plates to sit a Minecraft build down on a table and build something with friends. Every piece of material that a friend uses on your own plate will then be part of your build, so it's a collaborative effort to create giant structures; playing solo will mean a lot of searching around for materials. Once you've completed a build, you can then share a link to it for friends or followers to then play with your creation on a table or in giant scale in an open space. The game will be available in beta on iOS and Android this summer.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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