I don’t play video games like I used to, which is unfortunate. But it’s E3 season, which means I’m drooling over new trailers like Charlie Bucket smashing his face up in the window of the candy store. I want it all, but there’s no way I can afford it.
But in a weird crossover, one of my favorite YouTube channels, Night Mind, recently posted a very in depth breakdown of the ARG “Tender,” a promotional campaign for the new Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2.
It’s long, but worth a watch. They really breakdown the different elements of the game and how they fit together. It’s a good analysis of an ARG and a good case study to look at if you ever think of creating one of your own.
There’s also a really good interview with the writer at around the forty minute mark where they go into detail about the process of creating the ARG and what it was like working on it.
I like Minecraft. I don’t play the campaign mode, but the sandbox is my favorite thing ever. It’s one of the reasons why I got an enormous SD card for my phone. I have a lot of little world I open up and tinker with. Sometimes when you have a day, it’s satisfying to dump a lot of lava on things.
I always thought it would be cool to have an AR component to the Minecraft mobile app. It would really lean in to the whole Lego element of the sandbox part of the game.
There is an app called Assemblr, which is a little counter intuitive and hard to control, even on my Galaxy Note and using the S-Pen to place and manipulate elements. It is still updating, and for once in my life I was an early adopter with one of these things. But Assemblr, as slick and fun as it is, doesn’t have the same pick up and play as Minecraft, and I still struggle with it. It showed itself off as a Minecraft style creative tool, and just… was disappointing.
Why isn’t there just a really cool, block based mobile game that let’s be just play Lego with my phone?
I didn’t see that coming!
Let’s go through why I love this…
One! This isn’t a Niantic reskin of Ingress
When you’re good at what you do just keep doing it over… And over… And over….
When Pokemon GO first dropped, it didn’t play nice with my phone for a while. So I did a little digging in the Play Store and downloaded the other thing that Niantic put out.
Ingress is a cool little game where you are supposed to claim outposts for your team, connecting them in real time in order to control areas for your team. It’s still live, and you should download it and play. And when you do, you might notice something…
It uses the same location data as Pokemon GO. And Wizards Unite. It is possible, right now, to have three people go to the same location, performing pretty much the same actions, and each one of them is playing a different Niantic game.
I’m sure it’s a very good way to quickly produce and release these licensed mobile AR games, but unless you’re only ever going to play the one game, it’s pretty obvious what’s going on. Honestly, once I saw behind the curtain, it took the shine off all the Niantic games. I didn’t really play much after that.
Two! The Creative Mode!
It’s a AR-based Minecraft experience!
This opens up play in a way that Niantic games can’t by their nature. By having a purely creative element as well as challenges, it appeals to the different ways people already play Minecraft.
I appreciate this thoughtful approach to the gaming experience. They could’ve taken the Niantic approach to this, but they seem to have really looked at how people play the game on PC and tried to translate to mobile.
In my opinion, I think the biggest deal for this is going to be collaboration. Being able to share a build, work on it together, and then be able to play in that build in the real world is going to be an absolute game changer. Not only will this allow players to create bigger and more complex builds within the game, it will foster a sense of community among players that a mobile game like this needs.
Four! Free. To. Play.
While you need an Xbox account to save your progress, Xbox is very clear that this is going to be free to play on both iOS and Android. They’ve also stated that Minecraft Earth is going to be lootcrate free, which is a big breath of fresh air.
While I hesitate to see how they’re going to monetize this (ads? An in-game store?), seeing that they’re taking the younger demographic into account and abandoning the more predatory aspects of gaming.
This is what needs to happen in the mobile game world
This is a huge leap forward in utilizing mobile AR for games, and I am very excited. Taking these kinds of chances with such a recognizable franchise as Minecraft is going to change the game. It’s going to show developers that you don’t have to make a clone of a Niantic game to make it, and that we needs to start taking chances with this technology.
Hats off to the Minecraft team. I’m not going to think for a second that this is going to go off without a hitch. There are going to be bugs, I’m sure. But the point is that they’re taking a risk when established, successful companies in the field have very aggressively avoided risk when they’re making games like this.
While Pokemon GO and Wizards United might be on my phone collecting virtual dust, I can’t wait for this release.
Minecraft Earth goes into beta this summer, if you have an iOS device that’s AR compatible. Learn more here.
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