The maker of Minecraft has a new project in the works, and the first details appear pretty tantalising: space-themed, set 281 billion years in the future, and rooted in "hard science fiction." Markus "Notch" Persson and his development company Mojang plan to allow the game to grow much the way Minecraft did, letting users have a heavy hand in its maturation.
MInecraft, for the uninitiated, allows users to reshape and rebuild the world's in which their characters live, and though it had no big backing from a third-party publisher it moved 5.5 million copies through strong world of mouth (the fact that users describe it as "addictive" didn't hurt either). But the key was letting the game out of the bag early and allowing users a role in shaping it as it grew.
Persson reportedly plans a similar approach to his new game, tentatively titled 0x10c. The storyline involves a group of humans put into a state of suspended animation in 1988 and accidentally allowed to sleep for 281 billion years. Inside the dying universe in which they awaken, users must battle, trade, loot, and mine planets. But the minecraft-ey catch: Users will be able to program their own simulated 16-bit computer CPU that will power their spaceships. That means they can program their own operating systems for their spaceships, and once enough user-gen software has been created they can even use their self-styled CPUs to run other games or perform other tasks.
Computers inside computers - pretty cool stuff. But like Minecraft, it leaves a lot of room to wonder how the game will develop over time with so much user-generated input. That, of course, is both the peril and the appeal. Persson has already said via Twitter that "I won't stop viruses, the players will have to do that themselves."
Persson has also said he will do his best to keep the science within the game within as much of a plausible theoretical framework as possible. The BBC quotes him as promising "as few hand-wavey things as possible, with the rest rigorously explained. If you're an expert on a field that I've made a mistake in, PLEASE let me know!" Paging Neil Tyson.