From day one, the outright simplicity of Minecraft's core design has been at the heart of its success. 4J's senior technology officer Paddy Burns spoke to us about the order of priority for this kind of project.
The look and feel of the game is essentially identical to what you've seen before, with the procedural generation of the world, its smooth lighting and the physics engine all entirely intact. Generating these massive worlds can put great demands on the console, with new chunks of terrain streaming across the horizon with every few steps. Such restrictions have meant that worlds generated on 360 are currently limited to 1024x1024 blocks, with an estimated overall vertical axis of 128 (the previous standard for PC). Many updates are planned, of course, and they're set to evolve the game in a number of ways, with the eventual goal being parity with the PC's current build. For those solely interested in playing the role of architect rather than a resource scavenger, this news comes as something of a relief. Mod support and texture packs are also two major areas that are heavily discussed in regards to the 360 Edition. The ability to fly around in Creative mode and get a full sense of the scale of the world is only possible on PC at this point, but is promised to be console-bound.
On the subject of mods, Burns paints an uncertain picture of whether we'll see this represented at quite the same level. When it comes to the frequency of these updates, the reality of working on a closed platform with Microsoft's certification processes clearly has an influence - certainly compared to the gradual, iterative popular on PC. All the upcoming extra features and optimisations are welcome, but they build on a sturdy day-one foundation as far as engine performance goes.
Come rain or shine, Minecraft 360 Edition runs at 60FPS without any trouble in single-player.
Regarding image quality, 4J Studios' decision to solely adopt the 720p standard with no AA does leave the image looking a bit rough at points. For a game which takes pride in a simple, stark and pixellated aesthetic, it's possible that lower-quality implementations of FXAA could have blurred over the image over too aggressively - particularly on elements such as textures - but the omission of hardware MSAA is a little mystifying (perhaps down to RAM considerations). Clearly, the focus for the 360 Edition was instead set squarely on maintaining the graphical bells and whistles of the PC version.
The option to add extra players on the fly gives Minecraft 360 Edition an exclusive edge over PC. With all things in the renderer being close to equal, the 360 Edition does happen to distinguish itself from other versions with one major feature: drop-in four-player split-screen. Without the breadth of community features available on PC, factoring this feature early on in development in order to match the playing habits of console users makes sense.
Regarding multiplayer performance, we see the 360 can be challenged when it comes to rendering several different points of view. Regardless of these hiccups, the addition of split-screen is a huge coup for the 360 version, offering Minecrafters everywhere a convenient way to turn the game into a social experience. The absence of game mechanics introduced later on, such as the XP and food meters, makes the game feel a bit too bare bones, but it does at least tread its own path when it comes to creative play.
Looking forward, we hope to see the 1024x1024 block limitation expanded upon, if not eradicated, and for some level of mod support to worm its way in. Follow the games you're interested in and we'll send you an email the instant we publish new articles about them.

Freelance games reviewer, 32-bit era nostalgic and gadget enthusiast, Tom has been docked at Eurogamer's welcome harbours since 2011. Eight years after its release, there remains a group of secret seekers looking to unearth Team Ico's final mystery. But, in a rare twist, the two entities are mandatorily combining in the educational system.
Now being digital it incorporates less space and is a cheaper alternative for creative teaching. Whether you're a modder or a budding block architect, the underlying engine is very upfront with its mechanics, making it easy for just about anyone to understand, to pick apart, and ultimately to make their own. On task to find out whether this was actually the case was Dundee-based 4J Studios, the team that went the extra mile for the feature-rich conversion of Perfect Dark on XBLA, and which is now dead-focused on updating Minecraft 360 Edition to match the features available on PC. It's a game which can expand outwards in a number of ways, but the base technology used on console is sound.
On threading this reworked engine to work more efficiently with the 360's tri-core CPU, Paddy Burns notes that a balance had to be struck between these rendering processes and Minecraft's crucial networking features.
In this case it's not the 360's CPU that proves to be the limiting factor, but rather the console's relatively meagre 512MB pool of unified RAM. Draw distances are also roughly equivalent to the normal setting, with pop-in of terrain chunks being more noticeable when especially high up. I think the addition of the Creative mode is going to make a lot of people happy," Burns says on the upcoming 360 upgrades.
The latter is upcoming at no extra cost alongside extra player skins, but to what extent any mods will be accessible (or truly fan-made) without constant regulation from Microsoft remains to be seen. The same goes for newer features such as towns and NPCs, though there's still a question mark over how mods will be leveraged. Some can turn the game into an elaborate ecology sim, with extensions like "Nature Overhaul" allowing trees and plants to spread seeds and reproduce dynamically over fertile soil blocks. Cherry-picking the weirder and more wonderful mods for general consumption on 360 could be a more feasible approach - even if it doesn't allow 360 players to participate in development directly, it would at least allow players to enjoy the fruits of the mod community's labour.
The setup is fairly straightforward: Minecraft 360 Edition runs with a 1280x720 framebuffer, allowing it to deliver an unfaltering 60FPS in single-player alongside some respectable draw distances. Even spinning around from a high vantage point gives us the same perfectly smooth feedback as underground caverns. In this case, it's surprising to find that a native 1920x1080 resolution mode is not supported for those that use the setting in the 360 dashboard - perhaps a concession made in order to optimise performance or keep as much RAM as possible available for the game. When asked whether post-processing methods such as Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing (FXAA) were considered to prevent jaggies cropping up, Burns' justification for leaving it aside is two-pronged. Draw distances are respectably far-flung, with the blue hue on the horizon being only slightly more apparent than it is on PC. It works well; here we see that pop-in occurs when passing the two points on the bridge (marked here by flowers) - and this stays the same for split-screen play. This is only available when HD resolutions are set on the console, and allows up to four players to play off one box, with the ability to also link up with a further four players online.
In particular, the frame-rate dips from its target v-synced 60FPS whenever players are nearby each other and overlooking the world from a high point.
Adding more players impacts FPS readings, but even with four players sculpting away at the landscape it tends to hold 60FPS.

Throughout our tests, we also notice that using this feature doesn't result in any degradation to visual quality (besides the smaller window). Even without the multitude of engine updates and features etched in for future patches, Minecraft 360 Edition delivers the same compelling core experience which continues to transfix PC gamers.
Specifically, the addition of split-screen multiplayer is near-flawlessly integrated into the engine, with only a few frame-rate hiccups at the extremes. With the recent news that Minecraft 360 Edition has broken first-day sales records for Xbox Live Arcade, it has clearly generated enough interest to warrant extra time being put into increasing its scope and feature-set. At Viktor Rydberg secondary school in Stockholm, Sweden, students around the age of 13 are utilizing Minecraft in their daily routines. We've got all the info you'll need on your favorite teen celebrities, TV shows and new movie releases like Selena Gomez, One Direction, Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, The Hunger Games and Divergent, plus fun games and polls. As it stands right now, the 360 code weighs in with a 156MB download, and much like the Pocket Edition available for Android, the Java code of the PC version has been eschewed in favour of C++.
By comparison to the PC version's infinite stretches of land rolling out in any horizontal direction, this cuts into the sense of adventure slightly, though creative minds still have vast volumes of sand in their box to play with for now.
Otherwise, experimenting with the game's code has been integral to the evolution of the game itself, with mods such as Hippoplatimus' Piston block proving such a game-changer that it found its way into the official release.
Similar to the vanilla PC version though, this is rendered with no anti-aliasing in effect at all, making for some edges that can stick out for their sharpness. All videos on this page are encoded at 60FPS - use the full-screen button for improved playback.
Whether we take to the darkened caves with torches to hand, or travel up the mountains for a panoramic view of the world, we're hard-pressed to bring the frame-rate down in single-player. Also to its credit is the fact that the "Smooth Lighting" option is enabled for console, making for less obtrusive gradients in the lighting across surfaces when the sun edges past overhead. This results in a stuttering transition to a locked 30FPS, which can be a little jarring, but once the switch has passed performance holds at that lower target. Here we see the two-player split-screen mode is cut down to 30FPS at times when both players are looking in opposite directions.
Its simplicity meant that it could have manifested on console in several ways, but 4J Studios' decision to prioritise long draw distances and optimise for 60FPS strikes us as one which services overall playability - in other words, the correct one. We hope it does receive the lasting commitment from both 4J Studios and Microsoft it needs to blossom - if not into what the PC version has become, then into something instead tailored to the strengths of the 360 hardware. What we need now is a full chemistry set simulator for kids to play with and learn the way things mix and react without the dangers of practical lab work.
If you're a teen girl in middle school, high school, college or beyond, get everything you'll need to know about celebs, red carpet style, popular movies, TV shows, and funny vids right here! Also included in the lighting engine is a pass of ambient occlusion, allowing pockets of darkness to spread to corners and edges in torch-lit caves. This is really only an issue in specific circumstances, as even with four players running around their own corner of the map 60FPS is an achievable figure.

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