If you want to make Minecraft a bigger part of your social life, good news: Microsoft is making it easier for players to join multiplayer worlds.
You already can play with thousands of other Minecraft gamers on customized multiplayer areas called servers, but it's kind of a pain. Microsoft's aspirin will come this summer, though, when Minecraft will get a built-in server browser that makes servers easier to discover and use, said Minecraft marketing leader Emily Orrson. Microsoft announced the move Sunday in conjunction with the massive E3 videogame conference.
“The amount of different ways to play is going to exponentially expand,” Orrson said. Think of it as adding a little more escapism to your escapism.
The server browser is good news if you're looking for a fresh way to play the game. And with more than 100 million copies of Minecraft sold, it's a good bet plenty of people will try the servers. Already today millions of people play on servers — more than with some high-end triple-A gaming titles.
Four servers will be available to start: Lifeboat, InPvP, Mineplex and CubeCraft. But more will come later. As with Microsoft's addition recently of Microsoft's marketplace to buy assets like character skins and downloadable minigames, though, Microsoft plans to expand beyond the limited number of launch-time partners, Orrson said.
In the blocky virtual world of Minecraft, you survive by digging and harvesting raw materials, “crafting” those ingredients into tools, weapons, and more refined materials, then using all that to survive the nightly onslaught of bad guys called mobs. You can also play in a no-threat creative mode that lets you build everything from fanciful floating castles to working electronic devices powered by Minecraft's “redstone” circuitry.
Xbox, Switch join Minecraft ‘Bedrock'
The changes come with the “Better Together” update to Minecraft, so named because Microsoft is bringing some relatively isolated versions of the game into the fold. The company builds its “Bedrock” version of Minecraft for Windows 10 PCs, Apple TV, Oculus Rift and Gear VR headsets, and mobile devices powered by Apple's iOS and Google's Android.
With the summer update, Minecraft for Xbox One and Nintendo Switch gaming consoles also will become bedrock versions. That means anyone playing with those versions will have access to the same marketplace and server options as the other versions, and that any purchases made on one system will be available to you on the other — as long as you log in with an Xbox account.
That convergence also means playing multiplayer games on a variety of hardware is easier. Any of the Bedrock versions can work together, said Jesse Merriam, Minecraft's executive producer.
The Xbox 360 and Wii U editions still remain separate for now. So, too, are the original versions for Mac and Windows, built with the Java programming language. All the Bedrock versions now are simply being called “Minecraft,” while the Java-based versions will be called Minecraft Java Edition.
Microsoft's desire for convergence has its limits, though. Its Mojang studio continues to develop Minecraft Java Edition even as it brings its more advanced features to the Bedrock versions.
“We have no intention to push people one way or other,” said Minecraft communications manager Aubrey Norris.