Next to Super Mario Bros., Minecraft is now perhaps the most “repurposed” game in the market, owing to how easily it can be ported to different platforms and new uses cases. So it isn’t exactly surprising to have seen it make its way to virtual reality or, in this case, augmented reality. It is, however, almost ironic that “Minecraft AR”, which Microsoft owns, would be available first on Apple’s soon to be released ARKit platform. It’s unofficial, of course, but it already shows how it has the potential to be more accessible this way.
To be clear, this isn’t Minecraft’s first brush with augmented reality. Of course Microsoft had to show off something like that using its HoloLens. There are, however, very big differences between the two implementations. Besides running on different platforms and different hardware, of course.
Minecraft on the HoloLens felt more like an AR diorama version of the game. Sure, you can place blocks on top of real world furniture and the virtual objects would respect the real-world object’s volume and position. It feels more like playing a virtual board game, with you towering over the world like an omnipotent god.
In contrast, this experimental Minecraft ARKit implementation dumps you right in the middle of the action, in the same point of view as your character would have in the normal version of the game. The difference is that the real-world becomes your in-game map, which isn’t as limitless nor as danger-free.
Of course, this is all unofficial and will hardly be. But it does show the potential that ARKit has in making AR more accessible. Definitely a missed chance for Microsoft.