Microsoft employees can use Minecraft to see how the company's upgraded campus will look

Microsoft's refreshed campus is scheduled to open in 2022, with 18 new buildings.

Designers are using the game Minecraft to give employees an early peek of how it will look.

Microsoft bought Minecraft parent Mojang in 2014 for $2.5 billion.

Four years ago Tuesday, Microsoft closed its $2.5 billion acquisition of Mojang, developer of the video game Minecraft. It was Satya Nadella's first multibillion-dollar deal since taking over as CEO in February 2014.

As it turns out, Minecraft had more to offer Microsoft than just a wildly popular game with 91 million monthly active users and 250 million downloads. The technology is now being used to help employees get acquainted with a refresh of Microsoft's sprawling campus in Redmond, Washington.

Earlier this year, Microsoft enlisted Blockworks, a company that uses Minecraft's digital building blocks for designing real-world projects, to create a miniature rendering of the campus facelift, which is scheduled for completion in 2022. They're using graphics that are far more immersive than two-dimensional photos and videos.

Microsoft's corporate headquarters occupies 500 acres of land and houses more than 100 buildings. Rather than setting up an entirely new campus (or two) like Amazon, or following Alphabet, Apple and Facebook in expanding into new areas, the software company is updating its existing one, tearing down old buildings and erecting new ones, while also adding cricket and soccer fields and room for retail businesses.

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It’s official, today we welcome Mojang to the Microsoft Studios family. We're excited for the possibilities ahead w/the Minecraft community.

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While Minecraft was designed for gamers, its immersive nature and the ability to quickly move around and construct edifices makes it easy to see how new buildings will look when inserted into an existing landscape. Microsoft recognized the potential of the game and introduced an education edition two years ago. It has racked up 35 million licensed users.

“When you build in Minecraft, you build everything in the perspective of the player, constantly being aware of the sense of scale,” said James Delaney, a managing director at Blockworks, which says on its website that it uses Minecraft “to create experiences, communities and learning environments.”

It's only natural that a kid was involved in the idea of using Minecraft to miniaturize the new campus.

Riku Pentikainen, who until recently was director of global workplace strategies inside Microsoft's real estate and facilities group, saw his son playing Minecraft earlier this year and was intrigued by how the game could help the company with its transition. Employees could learn and get excited about the remodeling long before they could check it out on foot, and in a more dynamic way than what was available through typical renderings.

Microsoft brought in architecture firm Gensler, along with Andrew Yang, a project manager, to work with internal staff, including Peter Zetterberg of Microsoft Studios, and Amy Stevenson, Microsoft's archives manager, who provided pieces of history about campus landmarks. They got approval from Phil Spencer, Microsoft's executive vice president for gaming, to use Minecraft for the project, Yang said.

From there, the group issued a request for proposals, ultimately deciding on Blockworks, which had done work for Disney, Warner Bros. and the Museum of London, as well as Microsoft. The mandate for Blockworks was to have a virtual campus set up within a few weeks, in time for a Microsoft hackathon on July 27.

Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp.
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Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp.
A half-dozen people at Blockworks began constructing buildings off drawings from Gensler. Delaney said Minecraft forces designers to sacrifice some accuracy because structures in real life don't always have the game's squared-off look, but the speed and ease of use more than made up for those deficiencies. It might take just 10 minutes to wrap up a single building, he said.

Minecraft also appeals to a broader audience of younger people, who might not know how to use computer-aided design, or CAD, programs, which require extensive training and aren't as collaborative.

“Traditional CAD tools don't allow for that sense of awareness,” said Delaney, who explored the use of Minecraft as a way to democratize architecture during his studies at the University of Cambridge.

Microsoft employees — and anyone else with the education edition of Minecraft — can now take a digital tour of the new campus and see how plans are developing. Outside of Microsoft, that access requires a subscription to Office 365 Education.

Yang said people are impressed with what they've seen, but improvements are coming. For example, he expects to add details like more realistic building interiors and additional people walking around the campus.

“We're trying to be very, very selective in how we're going to do updates,” Yang said. “We want to make sure the next update is going to be meaningful and isn't going to be updated too quickly.”

A.I. TEACHES MINECRAFT PLAYERS ABOUT ARCHITECTURE

Researchers have developed a Minecraft modification that uses artificial intelligence to help players improve their in-game architecture skills.

Minecraft is a popular 3D video game where players build and navigate their own digital environments. The modification will tell players whether their buildings fit into certain architectural styles and offer ideas for how the structures could be improved.

“One of the things that’s important to learn when you’re a kid and throughout life is creativity, abstraction—how to envision what you want and then create it,” says senior author Ross Knepper, assistant professor of computer science at Cornell University. “This is a tool that helps people not get discouraged, maybe if they’re beginning at Minecraft and don’t know how to use their imagination right off the bat.”

Minecraft temple
Erik Andersen created a model in Minecraft of a temple in Bangkok. (Credit: Cornell)
A.I. TEACHING PLAYERS
Based on buildings Minecraft players created and uploaded for others to use, the researchers created a deep neural network—a kind of machine learning trained to predict whether data belongs in a certain category. Through that network, players could learn whether their building is medieval, modern, Asian, or classical—four especially popular tags Minecraft players use. Once the building is classified, another algorithm can show the users similar buildings to inspire them to make improvements to their own.

“People are really interested in having more design spaces in Minecraft, and being able to build certain types of architecture, but there weren’t any design tools as far as we were aware that could teach them,” says first author Irene (Euisun) Yoon.

Yoon curated the data set to make sure the buildings were labeled correctly, since their algorithm was less accurate than they would have liked because it was trained with fewer than 1,000 player-created buildings. Ideally, they could train such an algorithm with tens or hundreds of thousands of pieces of data.

“If you ask an architect to tell you what a building’s style is, the architect will say, ‘OK, it’s one-and-a-half stories, it has dormers, it’s a Cape Cod.’ Deep learning is doing that but it’s doing it in a black box way (hidden from view). It learns patterns, but not necessarily the same patterns an architect would say are the key things,” Knepper says. For example, if all the modern-style houses in a data set have pools on the roof, the computer could assume that rooftop pools are a requirement for modern houses.

PLAYERS TEACHING A.I.
For Knepper, a roboticist by training, the Minecraft project helped answer questions about how a robot might follow a human’s instructions.

“If I say, ‘Build a house,’ today a robot is going to say, ‘I don’t know what that means.’ ‘Which brick should I put where?’ is the level at which robots need instruction,” Knepper says. “We’d like humans to be able to interface with robots more like we interface with each other. So if I tell it to build a medieval house or an ancient house and give some of the high-level details, it would know at that point how to turn it into a plausible thing that does everything you want. We’re not there yet, but this is the first step towards that goal.”

Coauthor Bharath Hariharan, assistant professor of computer science, approached the research from the perspective of his own work in computer vision. In trying to interpret an image, scientists can train a computer to pick up cues such as shape and solidity, but may have trouble processing perspective or scale. Using people’s intelligence through their Minecraft structures and tags can help computers learn to solve those problems.

“When you’re working with images, it’s really hard to actually get at the essence of what something is,” Hariharan says. “A machine observing how people build can actually learn quite a bit about what shape is, what structure is, what buildings are.”

The researchers will present a paper on their work at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment in Canada.

The paper is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation.

Source: Melanie Lefkowitz for Cornell University

Original Study

‘DC Universe Online' Takes a Trip To Aquaman's Atlantis With New Expansion

With Aquaman set to hit theaters next month, we figured it would only be a matter of time before we saw the powerful Justice League member’s world pop up in DC Universe Online. And just like clockwork, it has.

Today, Daybreak Games has announced the arrival of Atlantis, one of the company’s largest expansions for the popular online multiplayer game since its launch seven years ago. The expansion is available now across all platforms, including Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, with a “brand new underwater world to explore, iconic DC characters and swimming.”

With Corum Rath set to try and take over the Throne (and conspiring with Deluge parties to work alongside him), it’s up to Aquaman and the DC Universe characters to come together and fight back, in an effort to save the Crown from falling into the wrong hands.

The brief launch trailer above gives you an idea of what to expect from this immaculate world, which is jam-packed with space to explore and details from the forthcoming Aquaman film.

Here’s a rundown of the new content that you’ll find in this expansion:

Vast Underwater World – For the first time ever, players will be able to visit and explore the underwater Kingdom of Atlantis. Everything from swimming, combat, and lighting has been re-imagined for a fully submerged environment. Swim through the ocean and explore everything Atlantis has to offer.
New Missions – Travel throughout Atlantis including the Throne Room, the city streets and more to take on dangerous missions and fight deadly foes.
New Raids – Fight for the Crown of Thorns, challenge Corum Rath, or take on a massive sea monster in these new raids that are only available in Atlantis.

On top of that, Daybreak has also confirmed that players will be able to earn new feats, as well as discover new collections to add to their lineup. You’ll also be able to collect a variety of new gear, including items inspired by Aqualad, Corum Rath and more.

But keep in mind that in order to access the event portion of Atlantis, you’ll need to have a level of 10 or more. Fortunately, it shouldn’t take that long to get there if you haven’t already.

We’ll be talking with the team behind the expansion soon. But in the meantime, you can check out DC Universe Online now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Also, Aquaman opens in theaters on December 21.

‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4' Outselling ‘Black Ops III' 3-To-1, Says Activision

We already know that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is primed to be a holiday blockbuster, thanks to its massive opening weekend. But Activision has provided a little more detail as to how the multiplayer-packed sequel is performing on the market.

Call of Duty 2
The company posted details from its earnings report earlier today, and sales statistics show that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has already sold enough copies to lap Call of Duty: Black Ops III on a 3-to-1 basis. That’s quite a leap, considering that the game doesn’t have a single player campaign like Treyarch’s previous game did.

The game is particularly selling well on the PC front, which is good news since Activision put a primary focus into the performance of that version, although it gave just as much love to the console versions for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

As a result, Black Ops 4 has become one of the fastest-selling games in the series. And it helps that it had the inclusion of its take on Battle Royale, Blackout, included in the package right from the get-go. Call of Duty’s main competition, Battlefield V, won’t be introducing such a mode until at least March 2019.

In addition, Activision confirmed that engagement numbers are higher for Black Ops 4, with a 16 percent increase over Black Ops 3, along with a 20 percent increase in hours played.

Keep in mind that this is before release of additional content which will soon be offered through the company’s Black Ops Pass. Although a plan for said content hasn’t been revealed yet, it’s expected to arrive within the next few weeks, especially with the holiday season coming up. We’ll let you know as soon as the company reveals what’s coming our way.

For now, Black Ops 4 looks to be a leading factor for Activision’s big holiday push, although the company also has Destiny 2: Forsaken on the market; and Spyro Reignited Trilogy, which features a three-pack of classic Spyro the Dragon adventures, arrives this Tuesday after a lengthy delay.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is available now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC through Battle.net.

‘Super Mario Party’ Game/Joy-Con Bundle Releasing Next Week

If you’ve been waiting to pick up Super Mario Party until you have enough controllers, or just wanted to snag a couple of JoyCon peripherals in the same shot as the game, we’ve got some good news, fans.

Nintendo has announced that it’s finally releasing a Super Mario Party game and Joy-Con bundle for the U.S. market, after it previously became available in Japan, Europe and South Korea. The bundle will go for $99.99 and will include a copy of the game, as well as special neon green and neon yellow Joy-Con controllers.Nintendo confirmed the news earlier today, with the bundle dated to arrive in stores next week, starting November 16.

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Nintendo of America

@NintendoAmerica
Get the party started with the new #SuperMarioParty bundle for #NintendoSwitch, featuring the game and a pair of Neon Green/Neon Yellow Joy-Con! This bundle arrives 11/16 and will retail for $99.99.

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The bundle provides a very good value, since the game goes for $59.99 and the Joy-Con controllers can go as high as $64.99. That gives you an estimated savings of about $25 by getting both of these in one shot.

And the fact you can only play Super Mario Party with Joy-Cons makes it easier to have them on hand, since it doesn’t support either handheld play (with the Joy-Cons attached) or the Pro Controller.

This bundle is about the same color as the one that was offered in Japan. However, the European bundle came with a neon pink and neon green Joy-Con controller. It looks like Nintendo of America changed it up here so that it wouldn’t be confused with the Splatoon 2 Nintendo Switch console bundle, which comes with pink and green Joy-Cons.

So if you’ve been looking to get in a Party mood with your friends, or just want to pick up a copy of the game for that beloved member of your family or group for the holiday season, this bundle will likely be for you.

Super Mario Party is available now for Nintendo Switch.

‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’ Beats Out ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ In October PlayStation 4 Sales

While Red Dead Redemption 2 set some impressive sales records in its own right within just eight days, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is certainly no slouch. It saw a huge record weekend in its own right; and a new entry on the PlayStation Blog indicates that it’s performed well enough to beat out Redemption as the best-selling digital game for PlayStation 4 for the month.

Call of Duty
Based on the top ten listing for PS4 games, Black Ops 4 sat pretty in the first place slot, followed closely behind by Red Dead Redemption 2. Rounding out the top five were Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, FIFA 19 and Battlefield 1, which no doubt found a resurgence thanks to EA giving away free content for the game. The top ten list is as follows:

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
Red Dead Redemption 2
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
FIFA 19
Battlefield 1
Marvel’s Spider-Man
NBA 2K19
Soul Calibur VI
Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night + Rondo of Blood
WWE 2K19
From the looks of things, Soul Calibur VI and WWE 2K19 had solid debuts as well; and Castlevania Requiem was quite popular with the retro crowd.

As for PlayStation VR, the engaging platformer Astro Bot Rescue Mission topped the list, followed by Superhot VR and Job Simulator. No doubt the just-announced Beat Saber will be getting some attention later this month.

As for free-to-play games, nothing could beat Fortnite: Battle Royale, which took the number one slot. Close behind in second was Warface, followed by H1Z1’s new Battle Royale mode.

As far as PlayStation Classics go, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas continued to be a big hit with fans, but Rockstar Games also benefited from strong sales with Bully, which landed in the second place spot; and Metal Slug Anthology found a good spot in third place. Surprisingly enough, War of the Monsters found a fifth place position, finding good popularity with the Halloween crowd.

As far as how November’s numbers will shape up, it’s too soon to call. Battlefield V is on the way; and Spyro Reignited Trilogy is set to spark things up as well. We’ll see where the cards fall by this time next month.

‘Detective Pikachu' Trailer Will Reportedly Debut Soon

Considering that the movie just had a very positive screening, it looks like the Detective Pikachu film could very well have its time in the sun. And that means we won’t have to wait too much longer for the trailer.

Detective Pikachu
A report from Trailer Track suggests that a trailer will make its debut for the film as soon as next week, as Warner Bros. is reportedly getting it ready to run alongside the forthcoming film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

The movie, directed by Rob Letterman and featuring Deadpool himself, Ryan Reynolds, reportedly has a trailer that’s been rated by Alberta Film Ratings, suggesting that it’s good to go for distribution. That said, the site warns that it won’t be arriving online before the premiere of the Fantastic Beasts film. More than likely, we’ll see it debut as soon as next Friday, November 16.

The trailer has been given a rating of “PG,” and more than likely, Warner Bros. will seek a similar rating for the final film when it arrives next summer.

The positive reception for the early screening of Detective Pikachu should get fans hyped, and once the trailer premieres, we’ll have a better idea of what to expect from the live-action approach, even though we’ve already got a good idea of what the storyline is about. But for the time being, you can read the impressions over at Super Bro Movies, in which the site notes that the movie has “easter eggs, good performances, and a great script,”

The film features Reynolds as the voice of PIkachu, but also stars Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy, Suki Waterhouse and Rita Ora in live-action roles. It’s set to premiere on May 10 in both the U.S. and European markets.

As expected, we’ll let you know as soon as the trailer is making its premiere and share our thoughts on it. But it sounds like it’s going to be a lot more fun than some skeptics expected it to be. Besides, you have Reynolds voicing Pikachu. Isn’t that magic in itself?! (Yes, you can tell him we said that.)

‘Minecraft' Releases New Version 3 Textures

Minecraft’s newest textures are now available for some players with Version 3 released for Java platforms before coming soon to the Bedrock version of the game.

Mojang’s Tom Stone announced the release of textures Version 3 in a post on the Minecraft site that encouraged Java players to try out the new looks for the Minecraft world’s many blocks. The third downloadable pack of new textures comes 10 months after the second one released in January, Stone said, and as of November 3rd, the latest official texture pack from the Minecraft team is now available for Java players.

“Minecraft: Java Edition players can try Version Three today!” Stone said about the release. “This pack will also be coming to all versions of Minecraft that have the Minecraft Marketplace very soon as a free download and we'll update this story as soon as it's available.”

The tweet below from the official Minecraft account showed off some comparison images with the previous texture packs on the left and Version 3 shown to the right. For Java players who want to experience the new textures for themselves, Mojang provided a step-by-step list of instructions for copying the new files over to their game to replace the textures.

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Minecraft

@Minecraft
We spoke to @JasperBoerstra about the new Minecraft Textures! Java players can download Version 3 of the texture pack from http://Minecraft.net today, and it's coming VERY SOON to bedrock!https://minecraft.net/article/try-new-minecraft-textures …

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Players should start getting used to the new textures when possible because what’s found in Version 3 will eventually become the default textures. Stone asked Minecraft texture artist Jasper Boerstra what would happen to the old textures with the artist responding to say they’d be replaced before long, but not before more changes are potentially made.

“These new textures will eventually replace them all and become the default textures of Minecraft,” Boerstra said about the texture changes. “They're not yet final though, and still in development, that's why I'm taking in all the community feedback first. The original textures will be available for free later. This might be directly in the game or somewhere else. We haven't decided yet.”

Boerstra mentioned the main feedback he’d received was that blocks and other things looked blurry due to the use of anti-aliasing and Minecraft’s inherent low-resolution nature, so he cut back on the use of the art technique to give everything a crisper look.

Minecraft’s Version 3 textures are now available for Java players with the full releases for all platforms coming later.

Mojang is making some Minecraft libraries open source

Minecraft developer Mojang plans to make a handful of libraries from the Java build of the game open source, giving fellow game devs the ability to peruse, tweak, or use in their own projects (with credit).

The first two libraries getting the open-source treatment are Brigadier, or the command engine that Minecraft uses for its in-game developer console, and DataFixerUpper, a system that updates old in-game data into something that a current version of Minecraft can use.

As demonstrated in the blog post detailing the open-source plans, the Brigadier system deals with text commands keyed into Minecraft’s chat by suggesting possible commands as they’re being typed and translating the resulting command into an action in the game like giving a certain user an item or changing the game mode.

While Mojang says Brigadier is fairly straightforward and user-friendly, DataFixerUpper is more or less just the opposite.

“When we load up any world in Minecraft right now, you can have some data that has not been touched for six years, because that chunk was last played six years ago,” explains Minecraft Java dev Nathan Adams in the post. “So we need to know: ‘OK, this level actually looks really old. Now we’ve got to turn that old data into what it should look like now – in a way that the game can currently read.”

“We have one little unit which uses DataFixerUpper that just says to Minecraft: ‘this is how to turn anything into the data format that the game is going to use.' And so the game is now only saying ‘This is how the data looks, so this is how I’m going to read it,” he explains. ”Basically, before Minecraft actually loads the chunks, it goes through DataFixerUpper and that turns it into what it should currently be now.”

Both Brigadier and DataFixerUpper can be downloaded right now from the company’s Github page and Mojang notes that it plans to update that original blog post when more systems are made open source as well.

Minecraft competition could put your cat in the game

As a dog owner, I can't say I'm hugely excited by this competition – but I've heard some people like cats, so here I am.

Minecraft is looking for its next cat superstar, and it could be your very own pet. According to Mojang's blog post, entrants need to take a picture of their photographic feline and share it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #Minecraftcatcontest. The post has to be publicly viewable, and submissions have to be made by November 12th. So don't sleep on this one – make sure those cat snaps are up soon.

The winning cat will be chosen by Minecraft's community team, although the selection criteria remains mysterious. Is it the fluffiest? The roundest? No – probably the squarest.

Naturally, many people have already started to submit photos of their cats (as if the internet didn't have enough already). If you're having your lunch break, you can do worse than having a quick scroll through the hashtag – there are plenty of cute furballs there, even if I do say so myself. Some people are taking the competition a little more seriously than others. The last one is a particular stand-out for me. Seems legit.

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Jan Puzak
@JanPuzak
Venus the two faced cat should be added.#Minecraftcatcontest

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Spooky time 💀
@CalebDaBubble
Look at this wonderful boi #Minecraftcatcontest

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Rezuru
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my cat is a little weird looking but please put her in, it would be epic #Minecraftcatcontest

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Digging Deep into Geosciences with Minecraft

Building volcanoes, caves, and other features in an “open-world” computer game is an engaging way to teach the next generation about Earth.

Imagine yourself in a world where everything is made up of cubes. Colorful blocks represent rocks, trees, water, and animals. An erupting volcano produces blocks of flowing lava. A cave contains cubes of iron and gold ore.

Sound familiar? This is the world of Minecraft, a hugely popular “open-world” construction-based video game in which players can move around freely and build virtual creations by “mining” and placing textured blocks with different properties. You can build elaborate cities and ships—even the Eiffel Tower or Tolkien’s Minas Morgul. You can also build a working computer that can perform calculations.

But what if you could build your own Earth features and explore the real-life science behind them?
This is what we do at Science Hunters, an outreach program at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. In the blocky world of Minecraft, we task players with building dinosaurs, rockets, volcanoes, caves, and even whole planets. From seeds to space, they can explore and relate the processes they interact with in the game to the real world around them.

In workshops run by Science Hunters, children use Minecraft to gain skills in creative thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and communication, all while exploring complex scientific concepts through experiences that are simply not possible in everyday life. How else can you play with molten lava?

Hot Cubes
Each Science Hunters workshop involves a theme, such as volcanoes or oceans. First, away from computers, we introduce the topic with hands-on demonstrations of real-world examples.

In Minecraft, lava and water interact to help students learn about Earth and geoscience.
(top) In Minecraft’s creative mode, lava can be cast from a bucket onto the ground. (bottom) Pour a bucket of water in the vicinity of this lava, and the hottest parts will turn into obsidian, as seen here. Credit: Minecraft/Mojang, build by Mohi Kumar
For example, in the volcano theme, we show students real examples of obsidian, rhyolite, and pumice. We talk about their formation, along with hazards associated with them and how we might protect ourselves against these. Then we ask the students to enter the Minecraft world in creative mode and start building their own volcano.

Water, lava, and obsidian play a role in advancing objectives in Minecraft’s survival mode game play, so many students come to sessions with Minecraft-related knowledge of these block types. For example, water and lava blocks in Minecraft flow downward and spread out—just like they would under Earth’s gravity—and vegetation may be set alight by lava. We take that baseline knowledge and help the student go steps farther.

In real life, obsidian—volcanic glass—can form when lava comes in contact with water and cools instantly, so that crystals do not have time to develop. In Minecraft’s creative mode, obsidian can form when you take a bucket of lava from your inventory and cast it over the ground. The lava mounds into a tiny hill; the “source” and hottest part of the lava flow, from which the mound is “erupting,” is the very first lava block you placed down from your lava bucket. Cast a bucket of water—also found in your inventory—near that source of lava, and if the water hits it, that source block will turn into obsidian. Other blocks in the lava flow, moving outward from this source block, are coded to be not as hot; these blocks will solidify as the water runs over them, but they do not create obsidian. Instead, they turn into blocks that represent crystalline lava rocks.

These behaviors reflect real-world geologic processes, which gives us an opportunity to talk with the children about the differences between crystalline rocks and volcanic glass, crystal sizes and growth rates, subaerial and subaqueous cooling, and properties of dynamic flows and solid rocks. We also talk about the impact of the volcano they build on the ecosystem surrounding it and villages nearby.
We discuss all these things while the students dig, build, and play. Each session revolves around a Minecraft challenge. In the volcano theme, we encourage students to create volcanoes complete with plumbing, eruptions, lava-water interactions, and external structures that need protecting from hazards when they erupt.

The World in Blocks
We use a version of Minecraft specifically designed for educational use, which means that we can ensure that game play functionality is appropriate for the classroom. Operating the game in its creative mode is key: This mode gives players an unlimited number and very wide range of blocks to build with. It also means that players don’t have to keep themselves alive in the game, as they would in its survival mode. Another perk is that players can fly around in their virtual world.

This version and mode open a wealth of possibilities to explore science through virtual creation. Think of it like playing Legos, except that you have infinite blocks with dynamic properties in all the colors of the rainbow. Just imagine what you could build!
Through Science Hunters, we invite students to imagine with us. In addition to the class on volcanoes, we run a variety of other sessions, each focused on a different theme: dinosaurs, caves and minerals, rockets, planets, mining, ice and snow, and oceans, to name a few.

For example, we guide children through dinosaur and pterosaur classifications and use scientifically accurate toys as well as templates of real dinosaur footprints to show sizes and scales of dinosaur features. The students then use this information to build a model of a Mesozoic creature, either reconstructing a known example or designing their own.

In a different session, we show children a variety of mineral samples, discuss the differences between stalagmites and stalactites, and then set them to work to dig down and construct their own caves. Going extraterrestrial, we show students models of the structure of the solar system and of individual planets. Then, using a planet-themed Minecraft world and a resource pack that enable a virtual space environment, students can build their own planets from core to crust.

Bricklaying
Minecraft can be used as a teaching tool to construct more than just natural features. It can help teach students how the built environment—buildings, agriculture, transportation routes—influences nature.

For example, how are we going to produce enough healthful food in the future, as our population expands and builds on the very farmland we need to produce that extra food? Through one of our classes, children inspect raw, unprocessed real-world samples of foodstuffs represented in Minecraft. Then they design and build their space-saving solutions to this dilemma in the game, making use of the game’s crops, which respond to sources of light, water, and fertilizer as they grow.

In other sessions, we give students a tour of Lancaster University’s own wind turbine. We examine its energy production through statistics and the turbine’s online live data feed to demonstrate generation and use of renewable energy. Then we ask the children to design and build renewable energy production mechanisms. This can be a stand-alone task or an expansion of our exploration of town planning, in which children build their own cities, including power networks, onto grid systems.

A Minecraft wind turbine, modeled after a real instrument at Lancaster University.
A Minecraft wind turbine, modeled after a real instrument at Lancaster University. This virtual turbine was built at the Science Hunters’ regular Minecraft Club, aligned with the current wind direction at the time based on live data from the university’s turbine. The real turbine can be seen by all attendees as they travel to and from club sessions. Credit: Minecraft/Mojang, build by Science Hunters
Built environment lessons can also envision scenarios off our world. After leading students through a discussion on what they’d need if they were to live on another planet, we turn students loose in a premade barren Minecraft landscape, reminiscent of Mars or the Moon, to design their own space station.

Virtual Ecology
Minecraft contains a range of representative ecological biomes, so we created instructional packets containing booklets, posters, and stickers that we sent out across the United Kingdom (with the support of the British Ecological Society) to guide families through ecological explorations on their own time at home. We supply an introduction to biomes and their associated animals, plants, habitats, and foods, all clearly linked to the equivalent features in Minecraft, with building challenges to complete in Minecraft along the way.

We also provide a series of experiments and identification activities. For example, we give families seeds to grow cacti and food crops found in Minecraft, along with fertilizer to demonstrate how, just like in the game world, real plants can get a growth boost when fertilizer is added. We also provide some wood samples of tree species present in the game, linked to information about the biomes in which those trees are found.

Our workshops also investigate flora and fauna through Minecraft, delving into how organisms adapt to their environments. We first experiment, outside of the game, with analogies such as insulated versus noninsulated beakers of water to explore heat retention and loss, to which animals adapt through features such as fur coats and large ears. Then we ask students to use these concepts to build an animal that would flourish in the Minecraft biome they are playing in.
Cold biomes are particularly useful as a basis for discussing how snow and ice form, why igloos are not cold inside, and why every snowflake is unique. In our sessions, students can roam around snowy Minecraft plains building igloos and designing their own intricate models of radially symmetric snowflakes.

At other times, we dive into ocean environments, exploring the undersea world and learning about its inhabitants in our own seas before students build their own seascapes. This topic also offers a great opportunity to talk about pollution, plastics, and microplastics in the oceans, and from there students often turn to considering their own environmental impacts.

Geosciences Through Gaming
Science Hunters activities take place in schools, at public events such as community festivals, and at a regular on-campus club offered to local children with autism. We work with children of all ages, with a core audience of around 7–11 years, in several different areas of the United Kingdom. Our team encourages children to play in pairs to support their development of social communication and teamwork skills.

Sessions and content are highly adaptable to the ages and needs of the children taking part; we may be working with 4-year-olds who have been in school for only a few months, highly able students, or high school students with special educational needs.
We aim to embed the idea that science learning can be fun, engaging, and open to anyone. We also hope to inspire an interest in science beyond the confines of the classroom.

Minecraft is an ideal medium for science outreach and engagement, as it is generally very popular with children. Lane and Yi [2017] described it as one of the most widely used and important games of the current generation. Just a mention of the game draws children’s attention and interest.

Learning by Playing
A 7-year-old girl examines a slide using a research microscope at a Science Hunters public event.
Science Hunters aims to make science learning fun and accessible to everyone. Here a 7-year-old girl examines a slide using a research microscope at a Science Hunters public event. Credit: Steve Pendrill
Since the program’s inception in 2014, feedback collected from all areas of the project has been overwhelmingly positive. Children appreciate the opportunity to explore new topics, participate in hands-on demonstrations, and ask in-depth scientific questions to people with relevant scientific knowledge and expertise. They tell us that using Minecraft makes the session fun and different from their usual lessons and helps them to understand the topics. And when we ask them to tell us something that they’ve learned, every one of them can do it. We’ve even heard “This is the best day of my life!”

Parents and teachers often tell us that during Science Hunters sessions, children who often find it difficult to participate in standard lessons are engaged and absorbed in the session. We’ve seen enthusiastic teamwork from children whom we’ve been told have a history of interacting poorly with others. Some of these students even high-five their partners at the end of the lesson. In addition, we’ve found that through using Minecraft, children can both demonstrate what they’ve learned within the session and, by consolidating their learning through the game, remember it later.

Inspiring the Next Generation
The irony here doesn’t escape us: The virtual world of Minecraft allows us to bring the real world into the classroom.Our use of Minecraft presents a novel and inclusive way of inspiring interest in geosciences in a new generation. The irony here doesn’t escape us: The virtual world of Minecraft allows us to bring the real world into the classroom. It allows us to teach students about the outdoors from indoors in a way that wouldn’t be possible outside. And our program gives students the tools and support they need to build their understanding of the outdoor real world, block by virtual block.
For more information, access to our program, and ideas about how to structure Minecraft-based geoscience learning for your students, your children, or yourself, visit our website or contact us directly.

Minecraft fair brings thousands of video game fans to Charleston

A unicorn-clad daughter on her dad’s shoulders and a boy with a Pokemon Pikachu hat and green “Creeper” sweatshirt clapped their hands excitedly as they entered the doors to Minefaire, a world of wonder for kids and parents alike who enjoy Minecraft, the sensational Lego-style adventure video game that has more than 33 million users worldwide.

Created as a traveling fair for fans of the popular game in which players use pixelated cubes to build their own worlds, Minefaire draws thousands to each convention. The one at the North Charleston Convention Center was no different, transformed into every Minecrafter’s dream, from live lego stations to a virtual reality playing center to a puzzle-oriented escape room.

Even Charleston-based video game creators, like Travon Santerre who just released dungeon-crawling RPG game “Infinite Adventures,” were on site with stations for kids to take a crack at their games.

Gaming zones, battle stations, learning labs and crafting corners took over the floor, and kids, with their parents in tow, were wide-eyed and wandering from booth to booth.

Zurie Wood, a 6-year-old Minecraft fan whose online name is RainbowCat217, was most excited about meeting some of her favorite YouTube stars, like OMGChad, who were on site signing autographs, talking with gamers and leading workshops and build battles.

She made it up on stage for one build battle, in which she created a virtual volleyball court in five minutes for the “beach” theme, winning the challenge.

Her dad Thomas is also a Minecrafter, and the whole family had traveled down from Conway for the one-of-a-kind weekend. In fact, Thomas (CaptainMot) was going to be speaking at a YouTuber panel later in the afternoon. Both father and daughter are part of the 77th Combine, an online realm of gamers who were meeting up for the first time at the Charleston Minefaire. One of the members had even traveled from Vancouver.

Elsa Mullen, dressed as a shy Minecraft jungle creature called an ocelot, had traveled with her dad and brother from Charlotte for the occasion. The 8 year old had been playing Minecraft for about a year on PlayStation 4. Though her favorite animal in the game is a llama, she had decided to dress as an ocelot, making her costume from leftover felt pieces of her dog costume for Halloween. Her dad, Pete, had helped her make the boxy head to emulate the Minecraft character.

“When I was in college, back in ’92, ’93, I was the first person in my class to use Windows. My best friend’s laptop needed two floppy disks to even turn on, and I had the Sears version of an Atari,” said Pete, who is new to the Minecraft world. “Now, my kids don’t know how good they have it. They have a PS4. It’s a whole different world.”

He had promised to take his kids to Minefaire as part of their Christmas present as a follow-up to a Lego Fest in Raleigh. Face painting, Plinko, purchasing plushes and playing with pixelated swords were all on the agenda, along with participation in the afternoon’s costume contest.

Minefaire lasts through the weekend, open again from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are still available for $39-$69 at http://minefaire.com/charleston-schedule-lineup.

Commodore 64 Classic ‘Saboteur!’ Coming To Nintendo Switch This Week

Talk about a blast from the past — a long lost Commodore 64 classic is making its way to the Nintendo Switch for a great, low price. And with a few remastered features, no less.

Saboteur! originally released for the fan favorite system way back in 1985, bringing the kind of ninja action that you just don’t see in games anymore. But now you will again, as the game is set to debut on the Switch for just $8 with this Thursday’s forthcoming update.

The game has been remastered by its original creator, Clive Townsend, but as you can see from the trailer above, it retains its old-school goodness as you clean house with your badass ninja.

“Now after 33 years, SimFabric, in collaboration with Clive Townsend prepared (a) special remastered version of Saboteur! for Nintendo Switch. In the game you'll experience original mission from (the) 1985 version. Additionally the story will continue with new levels and enemies. Now you'll be able to know more about Saboteur and his dark and secret story,” the developer announced on its page, in loose translation.

As for the special features you can expect from the game, here’s the breakdown:

Original mission from 1985 in two versions ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64
New levels
New enemies
New story
New soundtrack and music
Over 10 hours of gameplay
5 times bigger than original version
9 retro consoles graphic modes
8 language versions
22 special achievements
Secrets and easter eggs to reveal

The official product page for Saboteur! can be found here, jam-packed with old-school action. It’s certainly something for Commodore fans to get excited about, as if the just released stand-alone plug and play system wasn’t enough.

Check out the trailer above and get into a retro frame of mind. NINJA!

Saboteur! releases on November 9, and, again, goes for just $8.00. If you're looking for more ninja excitement for the Nintendo Switch, make sure you check out The Messenger from Devolver Digital as well. It's pretty awesome, as you can find out in our full review.

Now then…how about some Ninja Gaiden love for Switch, Nintendo? We certainly could use more of it aside from NIntendo Switch Online…

‘Minecraft' Releases New Version 3 Textures

Minecraft’s newest textures are now available for some players with Version 3 released for Java platforms before coming soon to the Bedrock version of the game.

Mojang’s Tom Stone announced the release of textures Version 3 in a post on the Minecraft site that encouraged Java players to try out the new looks for the Minecraft world’s many blocks. The third downloadable pack of new textures comes 10 months after the second one released in January, Stone said, and as of November 3rd, the latest official texture pack from the Minecraft team is now available for Java players.

“Minecraft: Java Edition players can try Version Three today!” Stone said about the release. “This pack will also be coming to all versions of Minecraft that have the Minecraft Marketplace very soon as a free download and we'll update this story as soon as it's available.”

The tweet below from the official Minecraft account showed off some comparison images with the previous texture packs on the left and Version 3 shown to the right. For Java players who want to experience the new textures for themselves, Mojang provided a step-by-step list of instructions for copying the new files over to their game to replace the textures.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

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We spoke to @JasperBoerstra about the new Minecraft Textures! Java players can download Version 3 of the texture pack from http://Minecraft.net today, and it's coming VERY SOON to bedrock!https://minecraft.net/article/try-new-minecraft-textures …

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Players should start getting used to the new textures when possible because what’s found in Version 3 will eventually become the default textures. Stone asked Minecraft texture artist Jasper Boerstra what would happen to the old textures with the artist responding to say they’d be replaced before long, but not before more changes are potentially made.

“These new textures will eventually replace them all and become the default textures of Minecraft,” Boerstra said about the texture changes. “They're not yet final though, and still in development, that's why I'm taking in all the community feedback first. The original textures will be available for free later. This might be directly in the game or somewhere else. We haven't decided yet.”

Boerstra mentioned the main feedback he’d received was that blocks and other things looked blurry due to the use of anti-aliasing and Minecraft’s inherent low-resolution nature, so he cut back on the use of the art technique to give everything a crisper look.

Minecraft’s Version 3 textures are now available for Java players with the full releases for all platforms coming later.

September 2018’s top 10 Minecraft Marketplace creations: 1.35 million downloads

The Minecraft Marketplace had its biggest month since we began tracking it in September. Fans downloaded 1,351,438 marketplace creations throughout the month. Downloads were up from 373,361 in August and 669,795 in July. That applies to the unified version of Minecraft that runs across mobile, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows 10.

That huge growth was likely due to a combination of factors. Third-party content creators had some big new releases on the Marketplace, and the MineCon Earth fan event gave away some free downloads. The Minecraft Team will want to carry that momentum forward, and it should have a good chance of doing so with the gift-giving holidays coming up soon.

Microsoft and Mojang have also done a lot of work to engage Minecraft fans. During the MineCon Earth fan gatherings, the companies partnered with Target for local event and to sell new merchandise. This likely also reminded players that they can buy currency cards with cash to make digital Marketplace purchases. It’s impossible to say if that will lead to future months of more than a million downloads. For now, however, the people who make content for the platform are likely just happy to see those kinds of numbers are possible.

Let’s get to the charts.

Top 10 most downloaded

Here’s the list:

Grid Runners by Noxcrew
Abstraction: Minecon Earth by Jibarbov Productions
City Life by PixelHeads
Millionaire Mansions by Noxcrew
Mineville Highschool by InPVP
Zombie Apocalypse by PixelHeads
Mine Zoo by Cyclone Designs
City Mash-Up by Everbloom Studios
Oakridge High by Aurrora and Syclone Studios
Castle & Dragons by Noxcrew
Top 10 highest grossing

City Life by PixelHeads
Millionaire Mansions by Noxcrew
City Mash-Up by Everbloom Studios
Zombie Apocalypse by PixelHeads
Mine Zoo by Cyclone Designs
Zoo by Shapescape
Extreme Sky Block by Mineplex
Castles & Dragons by Noxcrew
Papercraft Adventure by Jigarbov Productions
Mineville Highschool by InPVP
That’s September. We’ll have the results from October soon.

Minecraft: Story Mode Comes to Netflix November 7

Now that Minecraft is on every computing device save for smart fridges, it’s not a big surprise to hear that it will soon be making its way to a streaming service in a fashion: Minecraft: Story Mode is debuting on Netflix on November 7, 2018.

This is usually the paragraph where I tell people about the game, but come on. It’s Minecraft. Minecraft: Story Mode was originally a point-and-click adventure made by Telltale Games. That spin-off has now been spun off yet again into a Netflix series.

While television shows and movies based on video games are pretty hit-or-miss, Netflix’s Minecraft: Story Mode will at least make an effort to stick to its gaming roots. It will be an interactive show that can make use of pretty much any television remote that has directional keys. Netflix has had a few ventures with interactivity in the past with classic properties like Stretch Armstrong. You likely won’t see anything too complex; the trailer on the show’s web page displays a few of them and they boil down to “Choose A or B” kinds of decisions.

Five episodes have been produced in total. The series will utilize the voice talents of Sean Astin, Patton Oswalt, and Catherine Taber.

Telltale Games was making a video game based on Stranger Things which was revealed last year; the developer had subsequently been fined after the game’s existence has been leaked. The streaming company indicated that they’ll be sticking to videos for the moment. Of course, they’ll still be perfectly happy to snap up licensed IP like Minecraft, The Witcher, and others for their own adaptations.

This interactive television show was the one core project that was being worked on by Telltale Games after most of their staff had been laid off, although odds are good that the rest of the final The Walking Dead game will see the light of day.

Minecraft: Story Mode will debut on Netflix on November 7, 2018. Be sure to pop over to the show’s web page and have a look at the trailer!

What do you think of Minecraft: Story Mode coming to Netflix? Are there any other game properties that you think would make for a good adaptation by the streaming service? Let us know in the comments below!

Remaking a children's hospital in Minecraft

When I first walked through the double doors of Great Ormond Street Hospital, it was a little before midnight. The cavernous reception stood before me, with people bustling back and forth. There was a bizarre ambiance: sombre yet fuelled with adrenaline. Parents and guardians shuffled from foot to foot outside, chain-smoking or making calls. My daughter had been rushed in after a car accident and standing within the famous hospital for kids was daunting for me at the age of 24. Even during the day, the hospital can look imposing: a blue-and-white NHS awning sandwiched between monumental architecture, ambulances coming and going, dropping off precious cargo.

My daughter never recovered, but we were there for five days before she died. I watched as kids came and went through inpatient and outpatient wards, being treated for everything from broken bones to life-threatening cancers. Beyond the reception, the wards are decorated with colourful murals to relax the children, and a trip to the roof reveals a wonderful 3D diorama of Pixar's Finding Nemo for kids to explore between treatments. For a child, the idea of going to hospital for any reason is scary, and companies across the world are doing all they can to help children in this situation.

Teams at GOSH are constantly attempting to break down the fear that can overcome children who will be receiving treatment on-site. After recently introducing an inflatable MRI scanner to help kids adjust to the cramped conditions of the real thing, they've gone a step further and built the entire hospital within Minecraft. Now children and parents can tour the hospital virtually, exploring the wards and the different departments they may have to attend. This sounds at first like another story of a vast DIY building project within the Mojang game, but in this case the hospital struck a partnership with Minecraft owner Microsoft to ensure high-quality work and parity with the building.

The walkway to the main entrance of Great Ormond Street Hospital, in Minecraft.
“The project took around two months to complete,” says Lee Stott, senior software engineer for Microsoft UK. “As you'd expect, lots of research went into building Great Ormond Street Hospital in Minecraft.” But it wasn't an easy project to manage. Minecraft blocks are one meter thick, which skews the dimensions of the hospital. “To work around this, each floor is separate and the buttons at the elevators simply teleport the player from the elevator on one floor to another.” Microsoft and a crew from professional Minecraft build team Shapescape were provided with hundreds of images and video clips – and, crucially, they were able to study floor plans which have been constantly updated since before the turn of the 20th century.

“Throughout the project, we worked with Shapescape, a company steeped in heritage amongst Minecraft Content Creators, who have previously recreated places such as Trafalgar Square, Chicago and Florence. We trusted them to build the most realistic experience possible using their team of more than 30 people from 11 different countries,” explains Stott. The project will allow children to explore the hospital on computers and soon also in VR. No section of the hospital is off limits, from Paediatric Intensive Care to the café or the golden chapel. The possibilities this generates are seemingly endless; community staff on-site could set challenges for the kids within the game, or use it as a tool for them to meet others their age in similar situations.

The hospital's main reception.
Academic studies are increasingly showing the benefits that video games and the supporting technology can bring to the healing process. Away from Minecraft, companies are using emerging technology in exciting ways. “Today, hospitals are using games to encourage socialising, create a distraction and even aid in therapy. We've seen cases where gaming or virtual reality have enabled patients to focus on those activities while nurses have swapped out bandages covering a severe burn or taken a blood sample,” explains Stott.

In fact, Hermes Pardini Labs in Brazil has been using VR to distract children while being vaccinated. The nurse will fit a VR headset onto the child and follow along with a story on a second monitor, ensuring that their movements and actions mirror those of the magical fairy the child can see. When the time comes to inject the vaccine, the child is being given a ‘powerful shield stone' which will protect them in life. The study accompanying this form of treatment has seen great success and a decrease in upset children.

The VR vaccination project from Brazil.

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Back in the UK, Microsoft is hoping that it will see a similar effect from its work at GOSH, thanks to the accessibility of Minecraft. “Kids at different levels of experience and ability can play together in the same world, and whole families can join each other on adventures or work on collaborative projects,” says Stott.

The possibilities don't end with recreating Great Ormond Street Hospital, as Naomi Owen, PR for the hospital's charity, explains: “We see this as a big project and one that can be explored with other hospitals across the world and bring new ways to interact.” Another way Microsoft is helping GOSH is with the Cystic Fibrosis team. Cystic Fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. A defective gene causes mucus to build up within the lungs and other organs, meaning the child has to engage in a ‘clearance exercise' for 40 minutes per day.

An exterior view of GOSH.
Stott talks about how the Microsoft team is helping to alleviate the boredom and mundanity of this daily routine with Minecraft. “In order to help with this aspect of the disease we have been working on a project that we call project Fizzyo, which gamifies the Cystic Fibrosis exercise through custom hardware that turns standard airway clearance devices into a game controller. To further boost participation, we have created a Minecraft mod with custom blocks that allows children to construct their own Fizzyo games inside of Minecraft itself. To do this we've introduced two new types of block to Minecraft. The Fizzyo block glows and emits red stone power as the participant carries out their airway clearance exercise.” There is also an ‘exercise tracker block' which provides an interface to configure and track the exercise's needs into the game.

“This is all about helping patients and their families at the most challenging time of their lives,” says Owen, “and we hope that this technology leads to more ground-breaking uses to be rolled out across the NHS.”

So how does it feel to walk through this version of Great Ormond Street Hospital? I decided I would walk the route that is burned into my brain from my time there. While many years have passed, and the hospital has evolved, I was able to begin from the entrance, next to the statue of Peter Pan, wander through the brightly lit foyer and ‘ride the elevator' up to the Seahorse ward. I walked the corridors to PICU, saw the beds lined up under the windows, passed the room where my daughter spent her final moments. And even in the blocky, pixelated view before me, my memories unravelled. I'm not a child who needs treatment, but I am a bereaved parent who finds comfort in those hallways and sees how special this project can be for those who need it.

Parking alert issued for Coliseum events Disney on Ice, Minecraft Fair, POPS!

With a variety of big events coming to the North Charleston Coliseum, Performing Arts Center and Convention Center on Saturday, the complex has issued a parking alert.

Attendees of “Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Enchantment,” the North Charleston POPS! “Country Legends” concert and “Minefaire: The Ultimate Minecraft Fan Experience” are encouraged to carpool and arrive early since capacity crowds are expected throughout the day.

All Coliseum, Performing Arts Center and Convention Area Center parking lots will open at 7:30 a.m.

The schedule for the day includes “Disney on Ice” shows at the Coliseum at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; the North Charleston POPS! concert at the Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. and the Minecraft Fair is open to the public at 10 a.m. and lasts until 5 p.m.

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Minecraft
The Minecraft Fair is expected to draw thousands of people from out of town.

Provided
The Minecraft Fair, surrounding the popular virtual game, is expected to draw crowds from out of town and will include an escape room, YouTuber Meet-and-Greets, a costume contest, build battles and challenges, live stage shows, a hands-on learning lab and more.

Doors open one hour prior to each event at the Coliseum and Performing Arts Center and at 10 a.m. for the Minecraft Fair.

Tickets for Disney on Ice and the North Charleston POPS! concert are available at the Coliseum Advance Ticket Office, charge-by-phone at 1-800-745-3000 or online at Ticketmaster.com. Tickets for Minefaire are available at online at Minefaire.com or at the door.

Nintendo Switch Getting A Minecraft Bundle In Japan Read more at http://www.siliconera.com/2018/10/31/nintendo-switch-getting-a-minecraft-bundle-in-japan/#wmCsvyoyWcjjs18o.99

Nintendo announced today that Japan is getting a Nintendo Switch Minecraft bundle with a digital copy of the game pre-installed.

image: http://www.siliconera.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/minecraftbundle2_thumb.png

minecraft bundle 2

The bundle comes out November 30, 2018, and will cost 33,000 yen. As an additional bonus, there will also be a set of Minecraft stickers included as well. The bundle has not been announced for the West so far.

image: http://www.siliconera.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/fortnite_thumb.png

fortnite

Additionally, the Fortnite Nintendo Switch bundle that is already available in the West was announced together with the Minecraft bundle. The Fortnite bundle comes out November 22, 2018 in Japan at the price of 29,980 yen. While Fortnite is a free-to-play game, the bundle comes with 1000 V-Bucks as well as some extra gear.

Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition is currently available for Nintendo Switch.

Read more stories about Minecraft & Nintendo Switch on Siliconera.

Read more at http://www.siliconera.com/2018/10/31/nintendo-switch-getting-a-minecraft-bundle-in-japan/#wmCsvyoyWcjjs18o.99

Digging Deep into Geosciences with Minecraft

Building volcanoes, caves, and other features in an “open-world” computer game is an engaging way to teach the next generation about Earth.

Lava flows in a Minecraft landscape.
Credit: Minecraft/Mojang, build by Mohi Kumar
By Laura Hobbs, Carly Stevens, and Jackie Hartley 29 October 2018

Imagine yourself in a world where everything is made up of cubes. Colorful blocks represent rocks, trees, water, and animals. An erupting volcano produces blocks of flowing lava. A cave contains cubes of iron and gold ore.

Sound familiar? This is the world of Minecraft, a hugely popular “open-world” construction-based video game in which players can move around freely and build virtual creations by “mining” and placing textured blocks with different properties. You can build elaborate cities and ships—even the Eiffel Tower or Tolkien’s Minas Morgul. You can also build a working computer that can perform calculations.

In the blocky world of Minecraft, we task players with building dinosaurs, rockets, volcanoes, caves, and even whole planets.But what if you could build your own Earth features and explore the real-life science behind them?
This is what we do at Science Hunters, an outreach program at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. In the blocky world of Minecraft, we task players with building dinosaurs, rockets, volcanoes, caves, and even whole planets. From seeds to space, they can explore and relate the processes they interact with in the game to the real world around them.

In workshops run by Science Hunters, children use Minecraft to gain skills in creative thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and communication, all while exploring complex scientific concepts through experiences that are simply not possible in everyday life. How else can you play with molten lava?

Hot Cubes
Each Science Hunters workshop involves a theme, such as volcanoes or oceans. First, away from computers, we introduce the topic with hands-on demonstrations of real-world examples.

In Minecraft, lava and water interact to help students learn about Earth and geoscience.
(top) In Minecraft’s creative mode, lava can be cast from a bucket onto the ground. (bottom) Pour a bucket of water in the vicinity of this lava, and the hottest parts will turn into obsidian, as seen here. Credit: Minecraft/Mojang, build by Mohi Kumar
For example, in the volcano theme, we show students real examples of obsidian, rhyolite, and pumice. We talk about their formation, along with hazards associated with them and how we might protect ourselves against these. Then we ask the students to enter the Minecraft world in creative mode and start building their own volcano.

Water, lava, and obsidian play a role in advancing objectives in Minecraft’s survival mode game play, so many students come to sessions with Minecraft-related knowledge of these block types. For example, water and lava blocks in Minecraft flow downward and spread out—just like they would under Earth’s gravity—and vegetation may be set alight by lava. We take that baseline knowledge and help the student go steps farther.

In real life, obsidian—volcanic glass—can form when lava comes in contact with water and cools instantly, so that crystals do not have time to develop. In Minecraft’s creative mode, obsidian can form when you take a bucket of lava from your inventory and cast it over the ground. The lava mounds into a tiny hill; the “source” and hottest part of the lava flow, from which the mound is “erupting,” is the very first lava block you placed down from your lava bucket. Cast a bucket of water—also found in your inventory—near that source of lava, and if the water hits it, that source block will turn into obsidian. Other blocks in the lava flow, moving outward from this source block, are coded to be not as hot; these blocks will solidify as the water runs over them, but they do not create obsidian. Instead, they turn into blocks that represent crystalline lava rocks.

We encourage students to create volcanoes complete with plumbing, eruptions, lava-water interactions, and external structures that need protecting from hazards when they erupt.These behaviors reflect real-world geologic processes, which gives us an opportunity to talk with the children about the differences between crystalline rocks and volcanic glass, crystal sizes and growth rates, subaerial and subaqueous cooling, and properties of dynamic flows and solid rocks. We also talk about the impact of the volcano they build on the ecosystem surrounding it and villages nearby.
We discuss all these things while the students dig, build, and play. Each session revolves around a Minecraft challenge. In the volcano theme, we encourage students to create volcanoes complete with plumbing, eruptions, lava-water interactions, and external structures that need protecting from hazards when they erupt.

The World in Blocks
We use a version of Minecraft specifically designed for educational use, which means that we can ensure that game play functionality is appropriate for the classroom. Operating the game in its creative mode is key: This mode gives players an unlimited number and very wide range of blocks to build with. It also means that players don’t have to keep themselves alive in the game, as they would in its survival mode. Another perk is that players can fly around in their virtual world.

Think of it like playing Legos, except that you have infinite blocks with dynamic properties in all the colors of the rainbow.This version and mode open a wealth of possibilities to explore science through virtual creation. Think of it like playing Legos, except that you have infinite blocks with dynamic properties in all the colors of the rainbow. Just imagine what you could build!
Through Science Hunters, we invite students to imagine with us. In addition to the class on volcanoes, we run a variety of other sessions, each focused on a different theme: dinosaurs, caves and minerals, rockets, planets, mining, ice and snow, and oceans, to name a few.

For example, we guide children through dinosaur and pterosaur classifications and use scientifically accurate toys as well as templates of real dinosaur footprints to show sizes and scales of dinosaur features. The students then use this information to build a model of a Mesozoic creature, either reconstructing a known example or designing their own.

A student-designed model of a pterosaur, created in a Science Hunters workshop.
A student-designed model of a pterosaur, created in a Science Hunters workshop. Credit: Minecraft/Mojang, build by Science Hunters
In a different session, we show children a variety of mineral samples, discuss the differences between stalagmites and stalactites, and then set them to work to dig down and construct their own caves. Going extraterrestrial, we show students models of the structure of the solar system and of individual planets. Then, using a planet-themed Minecraft world and a resource pack that enable a virtual space environment, students can build their own planets from core to crust.

Bricklaying
Minecraft can be used as a teaching tool to construct more than just natural features. It can help teach students how the built environment—buildings, agriculture, transportation routes—influences nature.

For example, how are we going to produce enough healthful food in the future, as our population expands and builds on the very farmland we need to produce that extra food? Through one of our classes, children inspect raw, unprocessed real-world samples of foodstuffs represented in Minecraft. Then they design and build their space-saving solutions to this dilemma in the game, making use of the game’s crops, which respond to sources of light, water, and fertilizer as they grow.

In other sessions, we give students a tour of Lancaster University’s own wind turbine. We examine its energy production through statistics and the turbine’s online live data feed to demonstrate generation and use of renewable energy. Then we ask the children to design and build renewable energy production mechanisms. This can be a stand-alone task or an expansion of our exploration of town planning, in which children build their own cities, including power networks, onto grid systems.

A Minecraft wind turbine, modeled after a real instrument at Lancaster University.
A Minecraft wind turbine, modeled after a real instrument at Lancaster University. This virtual turbine was built at the Science Hunters’ regular Minecraft Club, aligned with the current wind direction at the time based on live data from the university’s turbine. The real turbine can be seen by all attendees as they travel to and from club sessions. Credit: Minecraft/Mojang, build by Science Hunters
Built environment lessons can also envision scenarios off our world. After leading students through a discussion on what they’d need if they were to live on another planet, we turn students loose in a premade barren Minecraft landscape, reminiscent of Mars or the Moon, to design their own space station.

Virtual Ecology
Minecraft contains a range of representative ecological biomes, so we created instructional packets containing booklets, posters, and stickers that we sent out across the United Kingdom (with the support of the British Ecological Society) to guide families through ecological explorations on their own time at home. We supply an introduction to biomes and their associated animals, plants, habitats, and foods, all clearly linked to the equivalent features in Minecraft, with building challenges to complete in Minecraft along the way.

We also provide a series of experiments and identification activities. For example, we give families seeds to grow cacti and food crops found in Minecraft, along with fertilizer to demonstrate how, just like in the game world, real plants can get a growth boost when fertilizer is added. We also provide some wood samples of tree species present in the game, linked to information about the biomes in which those trees are found.

Students can roam around snowy Minecraft plains, designing their own intricate models of radially symmetric snowflakes.Our workshops also investigate flora and fauna through Minecraft, delving into how organisms adapt to their environments. We first experiment, outside of the game, with analogies such as insulated versus noninsulated beakers of water to explore heat retention and loss, to which animals adapt through features such as fur coats and large ears. Then we ask students to use these concepts to build an animal that would flourish in the Minecraft biome they are playing in.
Cold biomes are particularly useful as a basis for discussing how snow and ice form, why igloos are not cold inside, and why every snowflake is unique. In our sessions, students can roam around snowy Minecraft plains building igloos and designing their own intricate models of radially symmetric snowflakes.

A student-designed snowflake model, built in Minecraft using virtual blocks of snow
A student-designed snowflake model, built in Minecraft using virtual blocks of snow. Credit: Minecraft/Mojang, build by Science Hunters
At other times, we dive into ocean environments, exploring the undersea world and learning about its inhabitants in our own seas before students build their own seascapes. This topic also offers a great opportunity to talk about pollution, plastics, and microplastics in the oceans, and from there students often turn to considering their own environmental impacts.

Geosciences Through Gaming
Science Hunters activities take place in schools, at public events such as community festivals, and at a regular on-campus club offered to local children with autism. We work with children of all ages, with a core audience of around 7–11 years, in several different areas of the United Kingdom. Our team encourages children to play in pairs to support their development of social communication and teamwork skills.

We aim to embed the idea that science learning can be fun, engaging, and open to anyone.Sessions and content are highly adaptable to the ages and needs of the children taking part; we may be working with 4-year-olds who have been in school for only a few months, highly able students, or high school students with special educational needs.
We aim to embed the idea that science learning can be fun, engaging, and open to anyone. We also hope to inspire an interest in science beyond the confines of the classroom.

Minecraft is an ideal medium for science outreach and engagement, as it is generally very popular with children. Lane and Yi [2017] described it as one of the most widely used and important games of the current generation. Just a mention of the game draws children’s attention and interest.

Learning by Playing
A 7-year-old girl examines a slide using a research microscope at a Science Hunters public event.
Science Hunters aims to make science learning fun and accessible to everyone. Here a 7-year-old girl examines a slide using a research microscope at a Science Hunters public event. Credit: Steve Pendrill
Since the program’s inception in 2014, feedback collected from all areas of the project has been overwhelmingly positive. Children appreciate the opportunity to explore new topics, participate in hands-on demonstrations, and ask in-depth scientific questions to people with relevant scientific knowledge and expertise. They tell us that using Minecraft makes the session fun and different from their usual lessons and helps them to understand the topics. And when we ask them to tell us something that they’ve learned, every one of them can do it. We’ve even heard “This is the best day of my life!”

Parents and teachers often tell us that during Science Hunters sessions, children who often find it difficult to participate in standard lessons are engaged and absorbed in the session. We’ve seen enthusiastic teamwork from children whom we’ve been told have a history of interacting poorly with others. Some of these students even high-five their partners at the end of the lesson. In addition, we’ve found that through using Minecraft, children can both demonstrate what they’ve learned within the session and, by consolidating their learning through the game, remember it later.

Inspiring the Next Generation
The irony here doesn’t escape us: The virtual world of Minecraft allows us to bring the real world into the classroom.Our use of Minecraft presents a novel and inclusive way of inspiring interest in geosciences in a new generation. The irony here doesn’t escape us: The virtual world of Minecraft allows us to bring the real world into the classroom. It allows us to teach students about the outdoors from indoors in a way that wouldn’t be possible outside. And our program gives students the tools and support they need to build their understanding of the outdoor real world, block by virtual block.
For more information, access to our program, and ideas about how to structure Minecraft-based geoscience learning for your students, your children, or yourself, visit our website or contact us directly.