Recently, Microsoft announced an Education Edition of Minecraft. The announcement was made after Microsoft acquired MinecraftEDU, an educational variant of Minecraft, which is currently used in 7,000 classrooms in more than 40 countries. Immediately following the acquisition, the technology company stated plans to deploy its own Minecraft Education Edition as a means for educators to teach everything from STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects like computer programming, to arts and poetry.
The new version will be a way for educators, schools, parents, and students to use the incredibly popular game as an engaging learning tool with easier means to collaborate. A free trial of the new Minecraft Education Edition is slated to begin this summer, but other than this news, other details remained unknown.
Jack Schofield of ZDNet is reporting some new information about the Education Edition, specifically that it will be written in C++ instead of Java like the original version of Minecraft. Schofield notes that this will make the new Education Edition incompatible with all of the old Java mods that the vibrant Minecraft community has developed over the years. Schofield also stresses this transition to C++ from Java could potentially damage the devoted Minecraft community, which has been such a strength of the game’s success.
While these concerns are certainly worth paying attention to during any such transition, there also stands to be some significant benefits to using C++ both for the user and Microsoft’s strategy in general. Microsoft already released Minecraft Windows 10 Edition last year alongside the launch of Windows 10. This C++ version of the popular game does come with limitations such as lacking support for existing mods, and it is more akin to the Pocket Edition of the game than the traditional Java version.
However, by making a Windows 10 version of Minecraft in C++ there are new possibilities for cross-platform play as gamers can explore and build worlds together regardless if they are on Android, iOS, Windows Phone 8.1, or a Windows 10 PC, tablet or phone. The game is also available in the Windows Store as a Universal App, making deployment that much easier and secure. As a Universal Windows app, Minecraft Windows 10 Edition has been updated regularly with new features to match the fuller featured legacy Java version.
A Microsoft programmer told Schofield that the aim of the project is to support all the features of the Java version, if possible. There will also be new features to give teachers more control over multiplayer sessions, such as new Build Allow and Build Deny commands. Students and teachers will be able to log into Minecraft using the Office 365 credentials for their school or colleges.
The choice to write Minecraft Education Edition in C++ furthers the potential divide in Minecraft community that Microsoft began with its Windows 10 Edition. The mods are undoubtedly a great source of fun that keeps the game fresh and engaging. But creating new directions for the game outside of Java opens new cross-platform possibilities. The choice is also more in line with Microsoft’s transition to not just Universal Apps for Windows 10, but universal services which are as mobile as the users themselves.