Minecraft, the Metaverse, and 3D printing

Over at our sponsor Intel's My Life Scoop site, I wrote about Minecraft, the Metaverse, and 3D printing:

When I started playing Minecraft with my kids last year, I immediately thought of the Metaverse — the shared virtual reality system in Neal Stephenson’s now-classic 1992 science fiction novel, Snow Crash. The Metaverse was a simulated universe where people could buy or rent virtual real estate and set up a business or a home-away-from-home, furnishing it with virtual goods that cost real money. “Minecraft is the first big step towards they Metaverse,” I thought…

But, as is so often the case, reality is turning out to be stranger — and more interesting — than fiction.

"Is Minecraft the Metaverse?"

GIF by Rob Beschizza


  1. If you aren’t into mining stone and chopping wood, you can just build/print voxel objects directly with the iPad/iPhone app “Voxel”! Check it out.

    1.  Yea, Minecraft has creative mode, which is basically pure sandbox.  That’s how the companion cube and the Enterprise were made.

      Making them in survival mode would require OCD or a lot of meth.

    1. Because it is implemented in Java, minecraft is more portable. I run a server on netbsd and clients on linux, macos and windows. The server is for my son and his close friends but I have had to whitelist it. It became insanely popular in the space of a few weeks. One kid started griefing and the other users go upset. Now it is more like the walled city in Idoru. You access it by invitation only. The interesting thing for me is that the kids who still use it, each built their own houses, and return to them when they log out.

  2. Pff – Minecraft is hardly the first big step towards the Metaverse. It’s not even a tiny shuffle towards it. I’m not a fan, but Second Life was around long before Minecraft, and I’d say that was a hugely more important step.

    As for converting Minecraft objects into real objects – that’s a piece of cake because Minecraft is based on voxels. I guess it’s interesting as a simple tool for modelling things from voxels?

    1. Mark’s point is that modeling in Minecraft is way easier than just about anything else out there. The problem with Second Life is that only a few people knew how to make objects. In Minecraft every single player is an architect and builder, at the start.

      It’s not *so* easy to convert Minecraft models, by the way. The basic Mineways program took me awhile to write. The huge profusion of block types in Minecraft, the special cases and textures, and consistency checking and repair all took a bit. Most blocks are unaffected by gravity, for example, so something that looks solid can fall into pieces if you don’t carefully examine the model and place additional supports (as hidden as possible) so this doesn’t happen.

      1. I would actually like to point out as a long time Second Lifer that building in Second Life is relatively easy to get the hang of, and allows far more interesting designs. Most people I’ve met learned the basics of building in a few hours. That with the included ability to Model in Sculpt or Mesh formats opens up far greater possibilities. It also allows the importing of custom textures and a built in system to sell those said creations.

        1. This is interesting to me, and I’d love to be wrong. I am under the, hopefully mistaken, impression that less than 1% of people in Second Life have created say more than one object. Part of that 99% population is no doubt there for other things (gambling, cybersex, etc.). Still, I don’t get a sense that making things is an easy occupation in Second Life, and is not where most people spend their time. The interfaces I see at http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Building_Tools look a bit daunting. I love hearing that they’re improving these and also allowing other tools to import into the world, that’s great. Email me sometime, Will, I’d love to chat more.

  3. Minecraft, the Metaverse, and 3D printing sure is an archetypal boing boing headline. If only it were more boing boing: 3D PRINT STEAMPUNK ARTIFACTS FROM THE MINECRAFT METAVERSE. WITH UNICORNS.

  4. I certainly agree with this post (though not the spelling of my last name – no worries, it happens all the time). In particular, I also was struck by how easy it is to create using voxels. It’s a skill we all learned before we were toddlers: put block A on top of block B. I work for Autodesk, a CAD software company, and in giving an internal talk about my Mineways program I noted that the 35+ million players http://www.minecraft.net/stats are all architects, since everyone builds.
    What’s compelling about this voxel building method is that it maps to reality so easily for us: we all understand a solid block, and that there’s only one solid block per spot. We don’t have any weird disconnects. With surface modelers there’s, “I’m making just a surface, not a solid”, and with solid modelers there’s, “I’m taking objects and shoving them through each other”, making it feel less real.
    Some fun little voxel-based modelers are out there, such as 3DTin, and the “Voxel” app on the iPad. I’m looking forward to a friend’s entry in the field, Endlyss http://endlyss.net/ I think what we’ll see in a good voxel modeler is an onion-layer approach. You can always put down single blocks, but soon you’ll want a wall tool and so learn that method, a “change all these to those” tool, a “let me paint on this surface” tool, and so on.

  5. My son is a Minecraft enthusiast. Minecraft is a “your server – your rules”  game. If you are willing to put up a server and host the game, you also get to dictate your local policies.  In particular, you determine which ‘mods’ will be running on (or tolerated running on clients of) your server.  In this way, each admin shapes the experience on their server.  Some servers a pastoral and calm.  Cooperation is encouraged.   Scarce resources are comp’ed to players by the admins.   On other servers, factions of players are encouraged, along with inter-faction raids, murder, etc.   On still other servers, “hunger games” style competitions are the format.

    More than once I’ve heard howls when my son logs back into a server and finds no trace of whatever he’d spent the weekend assembling.   This is because, for whatever reason, the admin of the server decided to reboot the entire map or just his locale.

  6. That picture is indeed a step in the right direction. An important ingredient in cyberspace is a sky the color of a television tuned to a dead channel.

    1.  Agreed.  Although these days, the color of a television tuned to a dead channel is more likely to be a cheery blue with bouncing “No Signal” text in white.  And that just isn’t nearly as poetic.

    1. I just finished “Reamde” last night (3 stars – way too long, not enough virtual reality). T’Rain just seemed like World of Warcraft taken to an extreme, plus legalizing gold mining & real-world sales. Nothing interesting in it about people actually changing the world or making stuff – honestly, Ultima Online seemed more creative for players than T’Rain (though the Reamde virus itself was cute).

  7. Sorry, Rob, I’ve got to ding you for your 196kb animated gif. Sure, Flash is supposedly the devil incarnate, but this is some serious animation abuse.

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