New World Gaming: MineCraft, the Insanely Popular Indie Sandbox World Game, Echoes Philip Rosedale's Original Vision of Second Life
MineCraft, an indie game from Markus Persson, recently became a runaway cult hit, even though it's still in Alpha. It remarkably and eerily echoes Philip Rosedale's original vision of Second Life, a decade ago: A sandbox world with flora and fauna, which you can explore and remake, converting natural resources into tools and items. For my book, here's what Philip told me about his initial idea of Second Life, which he wanted to be a simulation of the natural world:
"[Y]ou would wander around it as an avatar, and you'd come across animals -- maybe they'd try to eat you or something -- that no one had ever seen."
In MineCraft, there's sheep and cows and other identifiable animals, which you can convert into meat after punching them enough times (oh yes), and scary monsters that hit back. Especially the zombies, which come out at night. Because you see, you're not just crafting the world for the fun of it, you want to build a fort to keep yourself safe from the fricking zombies.
Second Life/real life rockstar Keiko Takamura recently became a MineCraft fan: "MineCraft was a reluctant experiment on my part," she tells me, "because I was watching my husband play it, and I saw that he was building his own little stone fortress. I knew that if I got into this game, I wouldn't stop until I made a zombie-proof fortress, too. And prettier than his."
And you can make it pretty indeed. Via Rock Paper Shotgun, here's a level of MineCraft that some clever dude transformed to resemble Rapture, from BioShock:
(Hmm, Keiko has a great BioShock tribute song, wonder if she'll do one for MineCraft.)
There's an online version of MineCraft which enables you to upload your own levels and share them with others. At the moment, however, the game has become so popular, those servers have been taken down. Follow the creator's Twitter feed for updates, and read more on the Shotgun blog, which is covering the game like crazy. And if you haven't seen it, here's a must-watch video of Linden World, the 2001 progenitor of Second Life:
Shortly after this demo, the early Linden Lab developers and investors realized that dynamic, collaborative creation was the most unique thing about the world they were building, and moved their focus to human avatars, and the social experience. But for those of who sorta like the idea of creating a new world with hand grenades, MineCraft is for you.