Explore, collect items and find monsters in an AR world on your phone. Sounds like Pokemon Go from Niantic, right? It is not. It's Minecraft Earth, Microsoft's new augmented-reality app for iOS and Android phones.
For ten years we have been playing the blocked game on desktop and mobile devices, on consoles and VR headsets, and we even got excited about a promised Minecraft movie. But Minecraft Earth could represent the next big phase for Minecraft, remove the crazy popular lo-fi sandbox game from your computer screen and put it in the real world, where you gather resources, meet crowds, build structures and have adventures with friends and strangers , everything on your phone.
Minecraft Earth is the latest attempt to transform games on mobile phones through AR. Mobile gaming will generate $ 68.5 billion by the end of 2019, accounting for 45% of the global gaming market, according to Newzoo. The augmented reality and virtual reality are tied to the future of engrossing games, and although they haven't taken off yet, a growing audience of players are taking to the streets to play not only Pokemon Go andbut also . (Consequently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg .)
Minecraft Earth is available right now in select regions for Android and iOS players who signed up for a pre-release version of game. Microsoft said it intends to launch the game public country by country through the fall. I've been playing beta since I got access this week, and here's my experience so far with Microsoft's new AR game.
What is Minecraft Earth?
Minecraft Earth takes the popular open sandbox game and makes it an AR environment on your phone, much like Pokemon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite did for those franchise services.
As you go around the game map you will find "table tops" – trees, treasures, chests, chickens and other well-known Minecraft items – that you tap to collect items to keep in your inventory. You can also build models of structures and then place them in the real world at full scale to explore yourself or with friends. Each full-scale block is 1 meter high, and structures you use can be 64 blocks high, so for large projects you need some open space.
And of course, since it's Minecraft, you'll encounter adventures on your map that include surviving a skeleton attack, for example, or avoiding a lava pool to reveal the treasure.
When will Minecraft Earth come out?
From this month, Microsoft plans to launch early access to gaming to individual regions until it is available worldwide by the end of the fall. When it hits your area, you can start playing.
Register to be part of the Minecraft Earth early access program. Android users can also pre-register for the game and get a notification when available.
Can I play on any Android phone or iPhone?
To play Minecraft Earth, you need an iPhone running iOS 10 or later or an Android phone running Android 7 or later. You also need to have your Microsoft or Xbox Live account info handy as you use it to set up your Minecraft Earth account after downloading the game from the iOS or Android app.
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Screenshot Clifford Colby / CNET
Screenshot Clifford Colby / CNET
Like Pokemon Go, you mainly play Minecraft Earth outside and use the game's map to find things to collect and places to explore.
As you walk around, trees, pigs, chests and other Minecraft items will appear on the map. When you are within range of a vintage item, your phone gives you some vibration and you can tap the item to add it to your store.
Collecting items gives you experience points, or XP, against leveling out. Unlike some other AR games, the storage space is unlimited, so you can collect as many stacks of oak logs or cobblestones as you want.
At least in beta, the game blocks you from collecting objects as you drive at speeds faster than 15 km / h – so go ahead and try to play as a passenger, but don't even think about building structures behind
Can you play Minecraft Earth also inside?
Sure, to some extent. If you want to build, you start with what the game calls building slabs, which are prefabricated structures in the world that you can use to create your own design. Basically, they save you time.
Building boards are easier to work with indoors, where you can place the small scale on a table and walk away.
The game comes with five of these ready-made templates for free, and the game's store offers a dozen more you can buy with rubies, the game's currency.
The building boards themselves run 75 to 375 rubies each. You can earn rubies when you collect items on the map and you can buy them in bulk through the real-money store, from 40 for $ 1.99 to 950 for $ 39.99. See "How to Build?" section for more information on building.
Although beta does not do it now, a gray tab promises that you can melt ore and craft items. Microsoft said these features – plus new mobs – are on the way. Like Adventures (see below).
How do you build?
With "Construction mode" you work on small versions of model model structures. When you are happy with your creation, place a full-size version on the game's map.
This full-size "Play mode" version will disappear when you finish it, and everything you do for this full-scale version will not be saved back to the Build mode version of your structure.
And you can invite friends to help you build and explore structures. Even the smallest full size structures are large, so make sure you have enough space to set up and explore your structure.
What is adventure?
As it is Minecraft, you embark on adventures that include exploring caves and fighting skeletons. These adventures are highlighted on the map, and when you are within range, press to enter.
Going on an adventure may require you to dig or chop or fight hostile crowds, and you will be rewarded if you succeed in completing it. And if you complete an adventure with a friend, everything you collect will be shared. While the current beta does not include adventure, Microsoft said they will be available in later builds.
I will continue to play the game as Microsoft prepares it for release worldwide, and I will keep this guide updated with what's new. In the meantime, you can also follow GameSpot's experience with Minecraft Earth.
Originally published earlier this week.