XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS -

We re­turn to OXM Land to ex­plore Minecraft’s past and fu­ture

if this chimeri­cal, charm­ing world-builder is de­fined by any­thing, it’s the abil­ity to move with the times//

Is Mi­crosoft’s $2.5 bil­lion Minecraft ac­qui­si­tion a case of far too much, far too late? Screw your eyes up to Creeper-style sock­ets, and it can seem that way. The game hit PC over five years ago, mi­grat­ing to Xbox 360 in 2012, and con­ven­tional wis­dom would dic­tate that the salad days are well and truly over. But if this chimeri­cal, charm­ing world-builder is de­fined by any­thing, it’s the abil­ity to move with the times. After 54 mil­lion sales across con­soles, PC and mo­bile, Minecraft has grown from a ter­rain gen­er­a­tor bun­dled with ro­bust edit­ing tools to a sprawl­ing em­pire of modes, mods and memes – and it’s still evolv­ing, as Mo­jang and con­sole de­vel­oper 4J Stu­dios add new fea­tures (some plat­form-spe­cific) via down­load­able up­date.

Minecraft’s worlds have grown with it. When the Xbox 360 ver­sion was re­leased, OXM staff writ­ers Matt Lees and Jon Blyth cre­ated ‘OXM Land’, an al­ways-on save game, which vis­i­tors could shape (or break) as they pleased. Not be­ing equipped to run the world for­ever, we even­tu­ally handed the keys to two of the world’s most ded­i­cated cre­ators – Jack ‘iMy LiiL PwNy x’ Ad­sett and Robin ‘sei­ibutsu’ Smith, who now pa­trol its maze of slides, ro­bot stat­ues and float­ing is­lands like sa­fari rangers. The pair have looked on as fresh gen­er­a­tions of cre­ators have toiled and tin­kered, tak­ing ad­van­tage of new fea­tures to gouge ever more in­cred­i­ble ed­i­fices out of the ter­rain. Who bet­ter, we thought, to help us ex­plore both Minecraft’s on­go­ing ap­peal and where Mi­crosoft might take the fran­chise in the fu­ture?

Chip off the old block

A common crit­i­cism of Minecraft is that it’s ‘a game for kids’ – the lo-fi voxel aes­thetic couldn’t be fur­ther from the blood­ied, cover-strewn cor­ri­dors of so-called ‘ma­ture’ gaming. Smith ad­mits to a few mis­giv­ings on first en­coun­ter­ing the PC ver­sion. “I didn’t come to Minecraft via the way most play­ers did,” he re­calls. “I sup­pose I had no real in­ter­est in it to be­gin with – when things get too big, too fast I kind of avoid them for a while. Also, be­ing in my late twen­ties when the PC orig­i­nal started get­ting talked about, I felt a lit­tle odd about play­ing some­thing that os­ten­si­bly was be­ing played by younger users.”

If Minecraft has a firm fol­low­ing among the young, that’s per­haps be­cause it doesn’t set any real ob­jec­tives. It’s an ex­er­cise in pure play. There’s now an endgame in Ad­ven­ture mode – a bat­tle with a cu­ri­ously boxy dragon who lurks in

a sep­a­rate di­men­sion – but whether you reach it is up to you. “Minecraft has unique stay­ing power be­cause it doesn’t re­ally have a story el­e­ment to it,” ob­serves Ad­sett. “I guess you have the abil­ity to cre­ate your own story and char­ac­ters, but it’s not forced onto you like in most games that have sto­ry­lines. I think it comes down to your cre­ative side – if you think of a great idea, you’ll al­ways go back to Minecraft to build it.”

Art and crafts fair

On first set­ting foot in OXM Land, Smith set out to weave a lit­tle nar­ra­tive of his own. “I came up with a plan to craft four dif­fer­ent icons around the map. I wanted them to be out of the way, to be strik­ing and to give a sense of time and life to the world. An un­told story for vis­i­tors to seek out, lead­ing to an even big­ger hid­den mys­tery some­where in the world.” It’s a sign of some­thing else Minecraft does well: fos­ter­ing a spirit of mu­tual ap­pre­ci­a­tion and shar­ing, which ex­plains the game’s pop­u­lar­ity on YouTube in the early days of the ‘let’s play’ phe­nom­e­non.

Bring­ing ideas to life in OXM Land be­came eas­ier with the ad­di­tion of Cre­ative mode, which en­dows play­ers with near-in­vin­ci­bil­ity and the power of flight, plus an in­fi­nite sup­ply of ev­ery build­ing block. Avail­able from the be­gin­ning on PC, it was only added to the Xbox 360 ver­sion in Oc­to­ber 2012. It’s had an in­ter­est­ing ef­fect on the Xbox 360 com­mu­nity; ac­cus­tomed to slav­ing away for days in or­der to gather and place the raw ma­te­ri­als, play­ers were more ap­pre­cia­tive of the pos­si­bil­i­ties af­forded by Cre­ative.

Some of OXM Land’s most leg­endary struc­tures were, how­ever, built prior to the re­lease of Cre­ative mode. “The most im­pres­sive thing I’ve ever built is Green Grow town in OXM Land,” says Ad­sett. “That place took weeks of work due to the Cre­ative up­date not be­ing out at the time, although I had help along the way from two of the hosts at the time, sei­ibutsu and Pyro1099.” The realm’s iconic gi­ant ro­bot statue also dates back to this era. “It may not im­press ev­ery­one [to­day], but it cer­tainly im­presses me be­cause of the amount of work that went into it.”

If Cre­ative mode has helped to save time, Smith wor­ries it has taught

play­ers to be im­pa­tient: “The ad­di­tion of Cre­ative mode and new fea­tures slowly af­fected how peo­ple wanted to play the game, with very few will­ing to stick to [the de­fault mode’s] more lim­it­ing but re­ward­ing style of play.” Vis­i­tors to OXM Land be­came pushier in the wake of the Cre­ative up­date, with some turn­ing up sim­ply to clam­our for free di­a­mond tools and other items. “This sat poorly with me,” says Smith. “To an ex­tent, gone was the sense of ad­ven­ture, dis­cov­ery and cre­ative play, where vis­i­tors in­vested time.”

It’s some­thing a fu­ture up­date might ad­dress, per­haps by in­tro­duc­ing fea­tures to Ad­ven­ture mode that re­in­force its at­trac­tion. Ad­sett’s hope is that the rate of up­dates will in­crease now that Mi­crosoft is in charge of the IP. “I do have one big re­quest and that’s pri­vate chests,”

// i have one big re­quest: I want to be able to set my chests to pri­vate so no one can steal any­thing from me ever again//

he says. “I want to be able to set my chests to pri­vate so no one can steal any­thing from me ever again.” Smith, mean­while, would like to see more Xbox-spe­cific fea­tures, and the op­tion to ex­pand Xbox 360 world sizes after im­port­ing those worlds to Xbox One. “One in­ter­est­ing side ef­fect from the move to Xbox One, though, has been see­ing the saves start to di­verge along new lines of build­ing,” he adds. “Like al­ter­nate re­al­i­ties co-ex­ist­ing.”

Will OXM Land still be around a few years from now? Will worlds that were cre­ated for the Xbox 360 game en­dure till the launch of Xbox One’s suc­ces­sor, what­ever that proves to be? Smith and Ad­sett seem ea­ger to go the dis­tance. “Peo­ple gave their time to cre­ate some won­der­ful and some­times laugh­able things in this place, and it could eas­ily just van­ish,” Smith muses. “Time is quite im­por­tant, I think, so th­ese things that peo­ple gave time to make are pre­cious, if only to them.” ed­win evans-thirl­well

This is the mag­i­cal Bath House from Stu­dio Ghi­bli flick Spir­ited Away. Be­ware evil spir­its.

Per­haps one day, an up­date will bring this ro­bot to life.

Ev­ery­thing the light touches is yours, Simba. Ev­ery­thing ex­cept the aerial firepit.

The UK un­for­tu­nately doesn’t of­fer any de­cent wa­ter­slides, so we’ve made this mag­nif­i­cent spec­i­men.

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