Hands-on with Minecraft Earth at E3

A closer look at our demo of Minecraft AR!

At E3 this year, we talked a lot about a certain upcoming dungeon crawler, but we also invited Strawburry17 and Graser to play our new AR game, Minecraft Earth! In the video below, you can see them trying it out – take a peek:

Before those two showed up, I offered to stop crying if the developers let me try the game too. They kindly obliged! Thus my demo began, with me stood in a room, looking at a table. A completely normal, boring table. Didn't even have a cup of tea or a Nintendo Switch on it. Absolute rubbish. Bad table!

But when I’m handed the phone running Minecraft Earth, I look through the screen and the table is now the proud host of a beautifully blocky Minecraft build! After a few obligatory raise-my-phone lower-my-phone it's-like-the-build-is-actually-there AR noob hand-waves, I start walking around the table, moving my phone around to explore the build plate. It’s a whole new way to view and play the game!

And this isn't simply a delightful Minecraft diorama – a look-don't-touch-affair – no, this is just as interactive as the Minecraft you're used to. I can open doors, activate pressure plates, and, of course, mine and place blocks. After a few experimental taps, I was building with ease. If you've ever played Minecraft, particularly the pocket edition, then you've already played the tutorial for Minecraft Earth. You'll be ready to jump in and get crafting from day one.

Just like in standard Minecraft, the mobs respond when you get close to them. The difference in Earth, of course, is that you’re literally standing near them! Pigs look up at you when you lean in close, parrots flap around irritably when I stroll into their enclosure, and villagers look at me quizzically when I stroll into their home like I own the place. Well I'm pretty sure I do own the place, villager. Check the lease on this buildplate!

I'd like to know what the build feels like at scale, so we transition to fullsize. The build plate is taken off the table and moved to the end of the room, where suddenly it's huge! I step inside the build and enter Minecraft. I haven’t felt this much of a rush at E3 since I shouted “you’re breathtaking!” at Keanu Reeves during the show (citation needed).

Looking through the screen, I can see the build all around me, and the other person playing the demo too, with their gamertag above their head. Startled, they plant a rose bush and try hiding from me behind it. “We should drop the name Minecraft Earth and rename it to, Stealth Gardening!” I suggest. This idea is rightfully ignored.

Of course, being inside Minecraft isn't without its challenges. Challenge one: it's a death trap. Hostile mobs are swarming towards me! Luckily I just tap the bow and arrow in my hotbar to arm myself, line up the crosshairs by moving my phone over the mobs, and tap the screen to fire. It's as easy as that to fight back. Yet somehow, I still suck at it. Am I useless? Hey, let's talk about one of the new mobs!

PERFECT PIG SPOTTED: A CASE STUDY IN PINK

Minecraft pigs have always been cute. Baby pigs have always been even cuter. I warned the developers that creating another incarnation of the pig, one that was even cuter still, could cause a cuteness epidemic, causing players to collapse as they exhale “awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!” and fall into cute comas. Well, I'm delighted to report that the developers completely ignored my warnings and have given us the muddy pig.

I released the pigs from their pen and they celebrated their newfound freedom by immediately waddling towards, and rolling around in, a puddle of mud. I leaned in close with my phone, my heart skipping a truly worrying amount of beats, and that's when the muddy pig looked up at me, stopping my gasping heart completely. There was A FLOWER STICKING OUT OF THE MUD ON ITS LIDDLE HEAD.

In less wonderful news, being swarmed by a hissing green army of Creepers is even more traumatic when looking through your phone makes it look like they're coming right for your frightened little face.

Rapid tapping is a must to take them out. But once the coast is clear (hopefully...) the rewards are well worth it, as I'm now stood above a ton of gold ore blocks! I'm about to get mining when I'm kicked out of the demo, so more important people can try the game. To be fair, I did waste twenty minutes of my session explaining to a confused muddy pig that I'd die for him. No regrets.

In the video above, Skeleton Archers are attacking from below! Looks like a few elements of adventures (fullscale AR experiences where you can mine blocks and fight mobs) have been added to this demo. Arm yourself!

Want to try some of Minecraft Earth yourself? You could be one of the first in the world to play the closed beta later this summer! Sign up here for more info.

Written by
Tom Stone
Published

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