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article imageYou can now play Minecraft in VR, but only on Windows 10

By James Walker     Aug 16, 2016 in Technology
Mojang and Microsoft have rolled out an update to Minecraft that adds support for playing the hit game in virtual reality on the Oculus Rift. Coming four months after Minecraft landed on Samsung's Gear VR, the new version includes Rift-specific features.
Mojang has created a "bespoke" experience for Rift users that showcases the best of Minecraft and VR gaming. The company has spent months tailoring the experience to be comfortable in virtual reality, optimising performance and graphics for immersive and smooth game play.
The game now sports advanced MSAA antialiasing for sharper visuals, improved render distances that let you see more distant objects and performance that has been extensively optimised for performance on Windows. Alongside these new abilities, a set of VR-specific settings have been introduced that let you ensure your experience suits you.
The VR settings can be adjusted independently of those used for the standard game. This means you don't need to constantly adjust settings when switching between VR and non-VR gaming. Mojang has added "granular customisation," enabling you to ensure your hardware can maintain the 90fps standard for virtual reality gaming. When the frame rate dips below 90fps, lag is perceived that can cause motion sickness and dizziness.
In a video, the development team revealed how they tackled some of the major challenges of rebuilding Minecraft for virtual reality. The game has been extensively tweaked and modified for VR headsets. The team has made often counterintuitive changes to optimise the experience, including changes to movement and the camera that initially sound strange.
There's a new in-game turning mode that changes how the camera moves when you turn in the world. Instead of spinning around smoothly, its motion is broken up into abrupt jumps, effectively inducing lag. While it sounds bizarre when described, and looks peculiar in videos, it greatly improves the sense of immersion when played with a headset.
Preventing the camera rapidly turning makes it easier for the player to keep track of their surroundings, lowering the risk of them succumbing to motion sickness. The result of the work is a complete virtual reality Minecraft experience that has been built from the ground-up for the technology.
"We’d like to welcome you to the game all over again, because it’s a fantastic new experience in VR, even if you’re a Minecraft veteran," said Mike McGrath, Minecraft AR and VR developer. "For new and experienced players, we hope the VR experience in Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta will illuminate just how powerful, evocative and utterly immersive VR can really be."
The new VR mode is only available in the Windows 10 edition of Minecraft, available from the Windows Store. It launched as a free update this week for people who already own the game. Neither Mojang or Microsoft has said whether it will make its way to the original Java-based version of the game.
Mods already exist for this version of the game that add VR support. At least one of these projects has closed down since Microsoft updated the Windows 10 edition yesterday. Now it has implemented an official VR feature, it has decided not to tolerate the popular Minecrift VR mod anymore.
It sent a letter to its creator threatening legal action if the project continues to use the Minecrift name or minecraft-vr.com domain. While Microsoft is only troubled by the similar name, the mod creator has said the project will be shut down completely.
A second mod for the desktop version of the game, Vivecraft, will continue to exist. It is compatible with both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, allowing players of the original Minecraft game to keep experiencing their worlds in virtual reality.
The widening split between the desktop Java game and the new Windows 10 edition is causing growing concern for fans, many of whom perceive Microsoft to only be interested in promoting the version built for Windows 10. As the Windows 10 Edition is updated with major new features like VR, the company is sending takedown notices to mod creators adding the same abilities to the open original. While the company insists this is not the case, incidents like today's are unlikely to convince people to think otherwise.
More about minecraft, Microsoft, Mojang, Windows, windows 10
 
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