Microsoft’s Minecraft Earth AR Experience Is Straight-Up Black Magic
New gameplay shown at WWDC teases an incredible augmented adventure on the way.
Last month, Microsoft celebrated the 10th anniversary of Minecraft with the reveal of Minecraft Earth, an upcoming Pokemon Go-like AR mobile game that brings all the crafting, exploration, and adventure of the original PC game to the real world.
The company promised fans of the historic franchise the opportunity to discover a variety of resources hidden throughout real environments, such as rare blocks, unique animal variants, and various other useful collectibles, as well as the ability to team-up with friends and take on difficult “Adventures”—Minecraft-themed minigames tied to specific real-world locations.
Yesterday, during Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference in San Jose, California, we got our first look at actual gameplay from the highly-anticipated experience, and what we’ve seen so far is nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Powered by Apple’s ARKit 3 (also announced during yesterdays conference), Minecraft Earth takes advantage of a host of new improvements to deliver what appears to be a highly-polished immersive experience. As previously stated, Minecraft Earth allows friends to team up on joint adventures and interact with one another within the same experience in real-time.
Thanks to ‘Motion Capture’ technology, while in table-top mode, players can turn their camera at another player to see their name floating above their device, as well as whatever items they’re currently holding onto. By placing your personal in-game characters into the world, you can also trigger several specific animations by performing the motion in real-life; when the demonstrator on-stage physically waves her hands, so does her Minecraft avatar.
While in life-size mode—a format in which players can physically walk around and explore the Minecraft world as they would in the original game—Minecraft Earth can employ ARKit 3’s new ‘People Occlusion’ feature to transport players directly into the game.
When activated, accompanying players that aim their camera in your direction won’t see a standard Minecraft avatar, but instead a real-time digital projection of your entire body; and thanks—once again—to People Occlusion, all in-game elements react to your presence as they would an in-game avatar, allowing you to realistically walk in front of and behind objects and environments.
Based on the incredible tracking demonstrated and the amount of content offered, it appears as though Microsoft is swinging for the fences with Minecraft Earth. While Pokemon Go still maintains a tight stranglehold on location services-based AR mobile games, the insane amount of detail and technology showcased during yesterdays demonstration will no doubt have Niantic on-edge this summer as Microsoft kicks off Minecraft Earth’s closed beta.
With Harry Potter: Wizards Unite launching at some point within the next couple of months, 2020 is shaping up to be a highly competitive year for mobile AR gaming.