Minecraft@10: Crafting castles on the web
It’s been a decade since gamers first began grappling with Minecraft, the digital world where everything is made of blocks, hostile zombies come out at night, and you need the red-and-white cow-like mooshrooms and black squid for their life-sustaining milk.
The game still has more than 90 million active users a month, with a reach so wide that it registered four downloads in Antarctica. On online forums and messaging boards dating all the way back to the beginning, players continue to exchange notes, tips and strategies. YouTube alone has over 5 million user-generated Minecraft videos (most of them of gamers playing the game); Gamepedia (a sort of Wiki for games) has over 4,000 articles.
And that’s because Minecraft is a sandbox game. Players roam freely and modify their virtual world at will. There are no set objectives, no levels to complete or missions to accomplish, and most curiously, no instructions. Your only objective as a player is to create, explore and survive.
The world-building game is the brainchild of Markus ‘Notch’ Persson, a Swede who grew up playing with Legos. He developed the game while working at a software company in Stockholm, and released it to a small group of players in his indie gaming circle, with no instructions because he couldn’t afford to make it any more complex.
In 2015, six years and $15 million in revenue later, Microsoft bought Mojang, Persson’s game development company, for $2.5 billion. With each new update, the blocks became more complex. In addition to the original two animals, for instance, pigs, cats and horses were added to offer sources of sustenance, defence, and transport. Some blocks can be used to make machinery, or explosives. And as in real life you learn as you go, from others in your community.
To mark the decade, Mojang is taking crafters on a past-through-present journey with special free-to-download releases.
On May 17, it made available on its website the Minecraft Classic version, with all the original bugs and just 32 building blocks. For long-time crafters, it will be like returning to the Dark Ages.
Mojang also released a large hexagonal anniversary map to help gamers celebrate all things Minecraft. The map lets you tour a decade’s worth of updates, and unlock secrets to access a Minecraft museum at the end.
But the most awaited announcement has been the new game alert: the Minecraft Earth mobile game, due out later this year.
It’s virtual Lego meets Pokemon Go, and promises to turn your environment into an augmented reality (AR) playground.
As in the computer game, players will have to gather resources, build structures and fight off hostile creatures. The resources will have to be foraged for out in the world and the builds will have to be made on flat surfaces like tables.
They can then be scaled up to life-size, their insides explored. A live demo of the game by two Mojang programmers showed off how gameplay works by exploring the insides of a huge tower on the stage.
Crafters can also take part in short outdoor adventures and join other players in the area. Expect to find animals as well — pixel-made Minecraft pigs, cats and horses, grazing in gardens near you.