Minecraft Earth’s closed beta has launched on Android in Seattle, London, Tokyo, Stockholm, and Mexico City, its developer Mojang announced today. If you’re lucky enough to have a beta invite and live in one of the launch cities, then you can start playing the augmented reality mobile game right now. You’ll need an AR-compatible device running Android 7 or above to play.
Today’s launch means that Minecraft Earth’s Android release is proceeding a little more slowly than it is on iOS since the beta launched on Apple’s operating system last month. However, Android users will get access to the game’s “Rubies” in-game currency before it launches on iOS. In a blog post announcing the start of the Android beta, the game’s developer says that the currency can either be earned through playing the game or bought directly, and any Rubies purchased will be attached to a user’s Xbox Live account and will carry through to the full release.
First announced back in MayMinecraft Earth is an augmented reality version of Mojang’s open-world crafting game. Mojang’s eventual aim with the game is to cover the entire planet in Minecraft blocks, allowing you to craft with them and then explore your structures with other players. Check out Mojang’s Minecraft Earth FAQ for more information, or sign up for access to the beta here.
Facebook Research and MIT researchers are now working on an AI assistant that can interact with players and then perform a bunch of tasks on request. The assistant can also learn from these interactions, and develop new skills. They chose to use the game Minecraft for the project because it has “infinite variety” but simple and predictable rules.
“The opportunities for an AI to learn are huge,” the blog post said. “Facebook is setting itself the task of designing the AI to self-improve … the researchers think the Minecraft environment is a perfect one to develop this kind of learning.”
MIT said it's a challenging process, because even a simple request like “build a tower 15 blocks tall” requires the AI assistant to understand what a tower is, how to build one, how to measure the height, and to know what 15 is.
An early version of the AI assistant is already available to download.
In the five years since Microsoft acquired Minecraft for an industry-shaking $2.5 billion, the company has given little away about its vision for the future of the biggest game on the planet. Under Microsoft's stewardship, Mojang has improved the cadence of game updates, and done its bit to break down industry walls through cross-platform play. But its future direction has remained vague. Minecraft Earth changes all that. It does for Mojang's game what Pokemon Go did for Game Freak's – bringing it to life, wherever you are in the world, through augmented reality.
Success – likely on a remarkable scale – seems inevitable; the appeal of being able to build anything, anywhere, then make it life-size with a tap of a smartphone screen, is irresistible. But the game’s creation has been nowhere near as straightforward. In Edge 337, arriving soon with subscribers and on sale Thursday, September 12, we go behind the scenes of Microsoft's bid to catapult an already phenomenal success to even greater heights.
“Earth is as much a Microsoft project as a Minecraft one”
Minecraft these days is about more than Mojang; there's also a dedicated internal studio at Microsoft HQ in Redmond, Washington, and while Mojang has played a big role in the game’s development, it's the latter that’s done the heavy lifting. That's perhaps for the best: Earth is as much a Microsoft project as a Minecraft one, leaning heavily on the Azure cloud platform, and particularly its mixed-reality spatial anchors – a bespoke Microsoft technology that enables multiple users to see, and therefore work together on, the same AR Minecraft building project. It's also required expertise that not only Mojang lacks, but Microsoft also did until Minecraft Earth came along. How do you ensure a player’s safety when your game works anywhere in the world? This is not just the story of a Microsoft executive seeing Pokemon Go and their eyes turning to dollar signs. It's a complex, fascinating thing, and Edge has exclusive access behind the scenes of a project that marks the next evolution of one of the hottest videogame properties around.
Edge 337 goes on sale Thursday, September 12, available in all major UK newsagents and through digital stores worldwide. It looks like this:
Subscriber copies will begin arriving in the coming days, and feature this exclusive, stripped-back take on the newsstand design.
Here's a taste of what else awaits inside.
An Audience With… Helen Chiang
Helen Chiang is head of Minecraft, which is perhaps the coolest job title in the game industry. But what does that role involve? How do you effectively steer a course for something that operates on such an enormous scale? And how do you balance the very different needs of a passionate player community, and the suits who want to see a return on a colossal $2.5 billion investment? We ask all that, and plenty more besides, in a rare interview with the holder of one of the most important roles in games.
Rise Of The Robot
Speedruns are everything we love about videogames: lofty feats of player skill, powered by the passion of communities. But they are not perfect – or at least they weren’t, until TASbot came along. This heavily modified version of the NES buddy peripheral R.O.B. can be programmed to play games perfectly, and can even perform glitches to run unsigned, and unexpected, code during speedruns (if you haven’t seen Portal running at 5fps on a Nintendo 64, you haven’t lived). We tell the story of the bot's creation; of how initial scepticism gave way to acceptance, then to love; and how the tech behind it all might just change the way we play games.
The Making Of… Dead Cells
How did a little-known French developer, that had only ever made smartphone games, turn out a thrilling, award-winning action Roguelike on PC and console? Appropriately enough given the genre, Dead Cells was born from a project that was killed off, then brought back from the dead – twice.
Minecraft: Education Edition has found plenty of use in classrooms, the latest allowing students to explore New Zealand's traditional Māori culture in voxel form.
Ngā Motu, which means The Islands, is a world made by game designer Whetu Paitai, of Coromandel-based Piki Studios, to teach children about Māori language and culture. It has kiwis and moa, and a traditional pā—a defensive settlement protected by palisades. There's a waka hourua double-hulled canoe in the harbor, and even the swords have been replaced by the short-handled clubs called patu.
“We're believers in learning being organic, being able to explore all the elements, because nothing in our lives exists in isolation. Our mission is for everyone to be able to play these games and see more than just what a waka is – they’ll be able to see how it fits into that whole world,” Paitai said.
Ngā Motu is being released to coincide with Māori Language Week in New Zealand. You can check it out for yourself at the official site.
Minecraft is celebrating its 10th anniversary since it was first released, back in 2009. To pay tribute to this milestone, Mojang teamed up with Blockworks to create a massive map covering the entire history of the popular game. And for those who dig deep, you might find a few secrets and Easter Eggs.
When I first spawned into the map I was greeted with a nice little entrance and a minecart ride. However, this ride is actually a wonderful ride through the history of Minecraft’s major updates. It feels like a dark ride from a place like Disneyland and features on-screen text to help tell you when an update was released and what it was called.
Once I finished that minecart ride down memory lane, I found myself surrounded by immense structures. This is the real meat of the map. It is huge. Each area is dedicated to different parts of Minecraft.
For example, you can find a large museum showcasing every block currently in the game and each one has a small piece of text you read. These provide background and history about the block, while also teaching players tricks and tips on how to use them.
Another section of the map contains every enemy and animal in the game but made larger. A few of these creatures are fairly new and I didn’t know what they were. Luckily, like the block museum, each creature and enemy has text that players can read to learn more.
There’s even a section of the map dedicated to the educational spin-off version of Minecraft. Like Epcot at Disneyworld, I basically ran through this and barely looked. But neat that it’s there.
Dotted around the entire map are huge structures, biome-domes, temples, paintings, statues and more. You could easily spend over a few hours in this map and not see or find everything.
The map also contains some puzzles and secrets. A player reported on the Minecraft subreddit that they had even found a book referencing the creepy meme character, Herobrine. Mojang teases in a blog post announcing the map that it contains multiple easter eggs. I haven’t found any, but other players are already digging into finding all the secrets this map contains.
If you are a huge fan of Minecraft you’ve probably already played this, but if you haven’t it’s worth checking out. Even if you only played a bit of the game a few years back, this map is so well made and chock full of information, I think most players will get a kick out of exploring it.
The map is available for free right now on all Bedrock versions of the game, which includes Xbox One, Switch, PC and mobile devices. It is also avaiable for the original Java version and Realms. Some players on Switch are reporting performance issues in some of the more complex areas of the map, so just a heads up.
Minecraft turns 10 this weekend and fans of the popular-blocky-game are celebrating this big milestone in various ways, like baking cakes in real life or sharing old stories and screenshots.
Last weekend, Minecraft developer Mojang released a new and free map to celebrate the big milestone. However, while that map was cool, it was also a bit early. This weekend (specifcally May 16th) is actually the official 10 year anniversary of the first release of Minecraft.
Beyond this small cake topping, fans across Reddit and Twitter have been sharing tons of videos, photos, builds and more in honor of a decade of Minecraft.
One fan shared a handwritten letter they received from Jeb, a lead developer on the game, from nearly 10 years ago. When he sent his letter and received a response, he was 9 years old and in 5th grade.
A few players across Reddit and elsewhere shared images of some of their first builds or even their very first homes. Like Ryan-1- on the Minecraft subreddit, who shared a screenshot of their first dirt house.
This screenshot reminded me of my first dirt home.
I downloaded Minecraft and watched a short tutorial on how to play the game and jumped in. This was right near the release of the game and I scared of the night. The moment the sun started to slide down the sky, I panicked and dug out some dirt and made a small crappy home like this. After a few days of playing that first world, my small home was a castle. But in the middle of it all, was still my first home and chest.
What memories of Minecraft do you have? Do you remember the first time you built a home? The first time you joined a random server? The first skin you used? Share your memories and stories in the comments.