Minecraft Earth Early Access Is Now Available for Players Around the World [Interview]

Monday, December 16th, 2019 7:19 am

We spoke with the developer of Minecraft Earth about how families can play together and what we can expect from the game going forward.

Earlier this year, Minecraft Earth launched on iOS and Android devices in the U.S. as part of a slow rollout to countries around the world. Now, the game is available worldwide.

Minecraft Earth is a free-to-play take on the super popular Minecraft building game. Minecraft Earth uses your real-world location to present you with an in-game map, and encourages you to explore the real world in order to find interactive items, such as Tappables (things like blocks, mobs, and more) and Adventures.

The game uses augmented reality (AR) technology to allow you to interact with build plates that appear as though they’re in the real-world in front of you. You can use the items you collect to edit build plates, and then “explore” them by walking around in the real world, with the game making it look like you’re really there on your device’s screen.

We recently had a chance to chat with Torfi Olafsson, game director of Minecraft Earth, about the game, how families can enjoy it together, and what players can expect to be added to the game in the future.

SuperParent: What has the response been from early Minecraft Earth players, not only in the U.S., but in other territories where the game is available?

Torfi Olafsson: We’ve been very happy with the reviews and feedback from our players. They find it magical to be able to be immersed in real life, in the game that many of them have already played for years. We watch app reviews and social media closely, and get a lot of great suggestions. We’re really grateful for the patience our players have shown, they realize that it’s in development, and have been very supportive.

SP: What was the thought process behind making the game free-to-play (with optional microtransactions), rather than a paid download?

TO: We created Minecraft Earth in the same spirit as the Minecraft that people know and love today. There are optional purchases for players but the ultimate goal was to create a game that was fun and engaging for players over a long period of time, without having to spend money. There are consumables and special items available for purchase through earned or in-game currency, but we are avoiding pain points such as ads, loot boxes or pay-to-win mechanics to safeguard fairness. In fact, many of our own developers have never paid for in-game features and they have an amazing gameplay experience.

SP: Minecraft is popular with players of all ages, including kids. How can parents best stay engaged with their kids while playing a game like Minecraft Earth?

TO: We always recommend that parents should maintain an open line of communication with their kids on what games they’re playing and how everyone can play together. Minecraft Earth is a very collaborative game. We designed it so that people of all ages should enjoy playing it together. Even if someone is an advanced player and has all the nice tools and the other is just a beginner. The players work together mining and building the environment. For anyone to be in the same play session together, you need to be in the same location, and the game has no chat functions or way to communicate with distant people on the internet. It’s similar to a board game in that sense. We encourage parents to play it with their children to see what it’s about.

SP: How can families play Minecraft Earth together? What are your best tips?

TO: Everyone can install Minecraft Earth for free. Once you’re in, families can go on walks together to collect small clusters of blocks, chests or mobs called Tappables, or find adventures – which are small slices of Minecraft worlds that you play in AR in life size – in public parks and similar areas. Adventures are much easier to play together, so if you join the same one, and make sure that everyone has tools and weapons, you can finish them quickly. The best thing about them is that rewards are shared, so even if a parent does all the mining and finds all the gold, the kids get the rewards as well! Once home, you can build together. Anyone in Build mode can invite another member of the family to build with them by showing them a QR code that the family member scans. That way you can contribute your blocks together into the same build and watch the animals you collected run around your builds. Just make sure no one starts playing with TNT!

SP: Can you give us any hints or details about the changes or updates we can expect to see in Minecraft Earth as the game moves from “Early Access” to full global availability?

TO: We look forward to sharing more on future content soon! Long term, we want to expand the social experience of build plates with things like sharing and lasting placement in the real world. In the shorter term, players will also continue to see new mob variants, adventures, build plates and more! Every two weeks we publish updates to the game, sometimes small, sometimes large. For the past few weeks we’ve been focusing on performance, making it run faster and longer, start up quicker and be more stable. We’re looking at ways to make the fun in the game more accessible quicker, and expect to see some exciting new features roll out in the new year.

SP: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

TO: We’re super grateful for players to be with us on the journey through Early Access, providing us with great ideas and helpful feedback! We, the people that make it, play it a lot ourselves with our friends and families, kids (and pets!). We believe that through constructive play, having fun, creative experiences together, spending time outdoors together and working together as a team, it enriches our lives. And we’re continually amazed by the cool builds we see our players share with us and other players. It’s really an honor to work on something that allows people [to] be creative and to be surprised every day, by the imagination of your players.

Brandy Berthelson

Brandy Berthelson has been writing about video games and technology since 2006, with her work appearing on sites including AOL Games, Digital Spy, and Adweek. When she’s not gaming, Brandy enjoys crafting, baking, and traveling with her husband.

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