Minecraft Developer Mojang's Latest Game Now In Beta... But All I Can Think About Is Linden Lab
Speaking of Minecraft, the publishers of one of the most successful sandbox games of all time launched a buy-in beta period for their next game, Scrolls, yesterday. If the game's name sounds a bit familiar it's because Mojang was engaged in a bit of a legal tangle with Bethesda, makers of The Elder Scrolls games, over use of the name Scrolls. That tussle ended with Mojang essentially licensing use of the name "Scrolls", though they won't be able to use it for any sequels. That means no Scrolls 5: Skyedge... But that's probably for the best.
Scrolls is a card-based strategy game, so if you're looking for another platform to flex your creative muscles you'll need to look elsewhere. Scrolls is a considerably more traditional (albeit prettier) product than Minecraft.
In some ways this new title and some of the reactions to it have made me think about how similar Mojang's position is to Linden Lab's. Here's what I mean:
Do you keep working on your current project hoping it will support you indefinitely, or do you branch out?
You branch out, of course, because nothing lasts forever. Mojang's first branch is a more traditional game, pretty different from Minecraft but also pretty safe as there are no doubt as many people interested in a game like Scrolls outside of the Minecraft community as there are inside of it. Their next branch will likely be Notch's 0x10c (provided he can overcome his recent creative block). 0x10c features a fully-programmable in-game computer system (so meta!) which should foster the same kind of user-driven content surge as Minecraft without directly competing with it. Even if these projects aren't as phenomenally successful as Minecraft, as far as "branching out" goes Mojang seems to be doing it right.
Linden Lab's branches still don't feel quite as sound to me, especially since they're all coming off of the same limb. I love user-generated content and creative tools, and there are obvious benefits to sticking with what you know, but maybe Linden Lab isn't branching out quite wide enough... Especially given how products like dio and Versu don't interact with each other at all yet have the potential to compete and divide their audience (something I've noted and lamented in the past.)
All navel-gazing aside, if you're curious about Scrolls the buy-in beta pricetag of $20 will get you immediate access to the game's beta for both Mac and PC, as well as a release copy when the game officially launches. I'm not sure if this game is my cup of tea personally, but if it appeals to you it's certainly worth a look.
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.