Broken blocks? Bare-handed tree punching? Steve? It can only be one game: Minecraft.
Last October, Microsoft snapped up Minecraft developer Mojang in a deal worth an estimated $2.5bn. This is now August, Windows 10 has just arrived and with it the Minecraft Windows 10 Edition Beta. The Minecraft franchise is undoubtedly an eye-turner for Microsoft, as well as a nice revenue earner. But why do we have a new Windows 10 Edition, and what sets it aside from vanilla Minecraft?
New operating system, new Minecraft version = new features. Minecraft has now shipped 20 million units on the PC, with a further 20 million through combined console sales. It doesn’t look like slowing either, with Microsoft and Mojang offering up a slew of new features for the Minecraft Windows 10 Beta.
Minecraft Windows 10 Edition is doing away with the traditional Java-based affair in favor of an extended Pocket Version build. The PC version of Minecraft switched to a self-contained version of Java back in March, so removing this continual irritant from your system won’t affect your chance of bumping into Herobrine. This edition doesn’t mean the PC version is dying, rather this will run alongside it with additional networking features.
The really big draw is cross-platform play, enabling you to play with your friends also running the Pocket Version, connecting via a Local Area Network, or through Xbox Live. However, this is currently limited to eight-player sessions – something I really enjoy, but others hate – and as yet there is no connecting to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone Pocket Editions. The latter is set to change in an Autumn update with the arrival of dedicated servers, but there is no definitive date announced.
In my couple of hours playing it was extremely nice being able to switch from keyboard and mouse to an Xbox controller, not least because the Minecraft/touchpad combination is awkward as heck. Simply plugging in was nice; no more lengthy work arounds using third-party software. Another big plus!
And The Not-So-Good?
Well, it is the Pocket Version. It’ll be great for connecting mobile mining worlds, but what of the multitude of mods most Minecraft players treasure? Similarly, what of Realms? These are both core issues for the Windows 10 Edition, issues that could very well instigate a slower than expected take-up of the Beta. That said, it is the Beta version, and we are only playing with version 0.12.20.
However, the switch from an isolated Java instance to a pure C++ architecture could hurt Microsoft and Minecraft in the short-term. Modders used to the comparatively easier to reverse engineer Java may take some time to rebuild the most popular mods, and in some cases may well decide the audience size and potential returns aren’t worth the effort. The Java desktop version isn’t going to be phased out either, at least until modding the new edition is finalized.
Up until the latest version update the Windows 10 Edition was only playing ball with x64 systems, leaving us lowly x86 users out in the cold. There are also problems with mouse sensitivities and irregularities stemming from the touch-based Pocket Device system translated to desktops and laptops, and in some ways, I agree. The user interface, while true to Minecraft, feels overly bulky with the feel of a port rather than designed for the platform.
How You Get It
The Minecraft Windows 10 Edition Beta is currently available on the Windows Store for $9.99.
Readers in ownership of the PC version can grab the Beta for free by logging into your Mojang account, and following the links. Note: this is the mitigated Mojang account, not your old Minecraft.net account. It’s good to see Microsoft honoring the original Minecraft purchase promise; I’m still getting each edition free after five years. Not bad for a 5 Euro investment!
There is also a 90-minute trial available which I must admit I used as I didn’t heed my own advice regarding mitigated Mojang accounts.
What’s It Like?
I’ve had a Minecraft account since the very early days, the very first few thousand users. Oh, how I played…and played…and played, until my eyes were red from smashing tiny cubes and building beautiful glass structures. And then, I was utterly burnt out and, along with a good proportion of my friends, stopped playing entirely.
Picking Minecraft up again wasn’t the relapse I’d imagined, and almost somewhat hoped for. Yes, the immediate urge to mine ore and build super-fortresses was there, but I wasn’t. However, the draw distance was truly impressive, and as I mentioned above, being able to plug my 360 controller in without issue was massively pleasing.
Further Xbox Live integration, the achievements, the block-counter, and a general sense of direction all purveyed a Beta heading in the right direction. For those new to Minecraft, this could be really fun. For those used to the PC version, or in any way jaded by previous blocky excursions through the biomes, this might not ignite your fire.
I mean, without being overly harsh this really feels like Pocket Version + Some Not Quite Ready Features + Universal App = profit.
Yes! Microsoft is working on a HoloLens version of Minecraft which quite frankly does look awesome. Take a look:
If Minecraft Windows 10 Edition is a nice addition to the roster, Minecraft HoloLens will be the #1 draft pick. Almost anyone lucky enough to try the Minecraft HoloLens demo at E3 reported wildly good things – though some did note the field of view limitations, and the very narrow window of operation causing the virtual to unexpectedly disappear from view.
As well as this, Minecraft is set to expand its offerings with a narrative-driven Story Mode, developed with Telltale Games. Telltale Games developed The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones episodic games so their input should deliver something engaging that’ll live up to the standards of the Minecraft hardcore.
I’m glad I have my free version of Minecraft, though for the current price of $9.99 the Beta isn’t a bad proposition. With more features to arrive, controller support, and the prospect of dedicated servers to come, it could be time to reignite your Minecraft addiction.
Have you played the Minecraft Windows 10 Beta? What did you think? Is it too limited? Let us know below!