Author Archive

How Has Microsoft Changed Minecraft?

Stepping into the main hall at Minecon, the huge annual get-together for Minecraft fans all over the world, you wouldn’t know that Microsoft existed – much less that it paid $2.5 billion dollars to acquire Mojang less than a year ago. The only sign of the multinational software giant’s presence is a monochrome rendition of its logo on the shoulders of its staffers. A logo which, coincidentally, is four flat blocks. Most people probably aren’t even aware the company is there at all.

Since the Mojang acquisition, Microsoft has very carefully stayed in the shadows to avoid spooking the game’s tens of millions of enthusiastic players. At this year’s Minecon I spoke to Mojang staff and Minecraft fans to find out how the acquisition has affected one of the world’s most popular games.

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Impressions: Anno 2205 Takes City-building To The Moon

“We choose to go to the Moon” says Dirk Riegert, the creative director of Ubisoft Blue Byte. Except he doesn’t – he actually says something like “we will go to the Moon”, which is nowhere near as good a quote, and the reason he’ll probably never be elected as President of the United States.

Fabricated quotes aside, I’m in a German town called Mainz – home of the printing press and the Gutenberg bible – to see something a little more futuristic. It’s Anno 2205 – the newest entry in the strategic city-building series where the numbers always add up to nine, and Riegert’s explaining how this entry differs from the previous ones. “We are leaving Earth for the first time,” he says. “2205? It’s time for the space elevator to go up through the stratosphere.”

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Building A Self-Sufficient City In Cities: Skylines – Part Two

Welcome to the second instalment of my attempt to recreate an arcology in Cities: Skylines. As those of you who read the first part will know, I’m not talking about the bubble-topped utopia palaces of SimCity 2000 – I’m talking about a real arcology in the real world. Like Masdar City.

Masdar City is a sustainable, self-contained settlement under construction in the desert south-west of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. It was originally supposed to have been completed by 2014, but the global financial crisis has meant that right now it just consists of a handful of office blocks. I’ve recreated the detailed plans for the city in Cities: Skylines, and I’m about to see if anyone actually wants to live in the paradise that I’ve created.

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Building A Self-Sufficient City In Cities: Skylines – Part One

Cities: Skylines [official site] is our RPS Game Of The Month for April. As part of our month of coverage, we asked Duncan Geere to build an arcology in the game. This is his attempt.

Arcologies are pretty awesome, as town planning concepts go. The towering, fishbowl-topped edifices that seasoned gamers will recognise from SimCity 2000 were one of that game’s most beloved features, but they bear only a passing resemblance to the real thing. In reality (and I use that word loosely because no-one’s ever successfully finished one) an arcology is merely a sustainable, self-contained settlement that can supply most of the needs of a large population that dwells within.

Cities: Skylines doesn’t include the arcologies of SimCity 2000, and at the time of writing there’s only one in the Steam workshop. So I thought it might be a fun experiment to try and build one myself – one a little closer to the true meaning of the term. I wanted to build a city that relies as little as possible on the outside world, with minimal impact on natural resources. As many planners in the real world have discovered, that is far harder than it appears.

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Interview: Humble Bundles Raise $50 Million For Charity

Humble Bundles have helped raise $50 million for charity since the service’s launch in 2010. That’s a staggering amount of money, raised by people who love games, through a system that let’s people pay what they want. The money has gone to over 25 different charities, to help fund healthcare, bring food and water to those in need, and to help those with disabilities play games – among many, many others.

To mark the occasion, we asked Duncan Geere to have a chat with co-founder John Graham about the charity efforts, what he thinks of Steam curators, and why the future of digital distribution is colosseum deathmatches.

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Diary: Surviving A Minecraft Modpack Crash Landing

Crash Landing is a Minecraft modpack where you play the sole survivor of a shuttle accident, stranded on a dry, dusty planet with just a small amount of water and food and no real supplies. We sent Duncan Geere to cope with its blazing heat, barren landscape and hostile denizens.

I don’t go to the city any more. As my shuttle careened through the atmosphere of this godforsaken planet, I spotted some ruins and enjoyed a flicker of hope that there might be something left of the civilisation that built it.

There is something left, but it’s terrifying.

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The Lost Cartographer: Surviving The Long Dark

It’s grim up north. The northern parts of Canada portrayed in early-access survival adventure The Long Dark, that is. We sent Duncan Geere to explore its icy landscapes for Survival Week, and he came back with a tale of a single day in the life of a lost cartographer, trying to map the wilderness as it slowly kills him.

The first sensation is one of bone-chilling cold. I open my eyes, and I’m blinded by bright light from all directions. What is this place? Am I dead? If I’d known that heaven would have been this chilly, I’d have brought a thicker jumper. But no, after a few seconds the whiteness fades into shapes. Shapes of trees and mountains. Slowly, the memories come back.

I was on a plane – a plane flying into the far north of Canada to study an odd geomagnetic anomaly that had appeared close to the magnetic pole. My skills were needed to map the affected area – I’ve been a cartographer for fifteen years. But while in flight, the anomaly grew larger and the plane’s navigation systems failed. In vain, the pilot hunted for a safe landing site, but when the fuel ran low we were forced out of the door with a few basic survival supplies and a parachute. Now I’m somewhere in the Canadian wildernerness in the worst possible state for a cartographer to be. Lost.

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Minecraft In 2014: Community And YouTube

Minecraft gets more popular every day, but we don’t talk about it much anymore. To find out what the game is like in 2014, we asked Duncan Geere to impart his wisdom. The result is a three-part series. Part one looked at Minecraft mods, part two at servers, and part three is below…

It’s a great time to be a Minecraft fan. The enormous community has built incredible things, created amazing mods and runs brilliant multiplayer servers. But in mid-2014, it was all overshadowed by a bitter, brutal war about an end-user license agreement – the repercussions of which will shape the future of the game for a long time to come.

Nonetheless, Minecraft’s community still seems to be growing exponentially, despite only occasional coverage from gaming sites and the mainstream press. Almost all discussion of the game takes place on YouTube, where people share their exploits and a parallel world of Minecraft celebrities has emerged. I’ve hunted down the best channels you should follow.

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Minecraft In 2014: Your Guide To Servers

Minecraft gets more popular every day, but we don’t talk about it much anymore. To find out what the game is like in 2014, we asked Duncan Geere to impart his wisdom. The result is a three-part series which will run across this week. Part one looked at Minecraft mods, part two is below…

Multiplayer has been a cornerstone of Minecraft ever since it was first added to the game in June 2009. Mining, farming and building a house on your own is great, but exploring the game’s procedurally-generated landscapes as a group is far more fun. Building a massive penis out of gold blocks on the roof of your friend’s mansion is pretty fun too.

A sizeable chunk of the Minecraft community in 2014 are players who spend the majority of their in-game time on public or private multiplayer servers. These range wildly in theme and tone – some are centred around survival, some around arcade-style minigames, others around building epic structures and yet more about roleplaying a complex society. From CivCraft to Spleef, Minecraft’s multiplayer servers show that when you put millions of people together into a blocky world, the result is an explosion of emergent creativity.

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Minecraft In 2014: Your Guide To Mods and Modpacks

Minecraft gets more popular every day, but we don’t talk about it much anymore. To find out what the game is like in 2014, we asked Duncan Geere to impart his wisdom. The result is a three-part series which will run across this week. To start, a look at the game’s modding scene.

It’s been an eventful few years for Markus Persson, the Swedish programmer known to the world as Notch. After building a game in his bedroom, he watched as it slowly took over the world, rising to become the third best-selling videogame of all time – behind only Wii Sports and Tetris.

But Minecraft in 2014 bears only a superficial resemblance to the Minecraft of just a few years ago. The PC version of the game today is less about building a dirt shed to cower in overnight, and more about space exploration, magical dueling or building enormous factories controlled by banks of computers and powered by nuclear reactors. Minecraft’s ongoing popularity is largely thanks to its mods, and more recently, modpacks – collections of several mods together.

It can be overwhelming, but chances are there’s more to do in Minecraft than you realised.

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