Like seemingly everybody else on the internet, Markus “Notch” Persson, best known for the building game/creativity engine Minecraft, decided to have a little fun on April Fools Day. The gaming guru announced that his next project would be a space based resource trading game in the fashion of Elite. The title of this game, wait for it, Mars Effect. Notch even went so far as to make up a fake website for his homage to BioWare’s Mass Effect.
But behind the joke lay a real game.
PC Gamer broke the news on Notch’s new project back in March. Back then, the Swedish game designer hinted at “…a game that’s more like Firefly. I want to run around on my ship and have to put out a fire. Like, oh crap, the cooling system failed, I have to put out the fire here.”
Now, in the wake of the Mars Effect prank, the true name and nature of Notch’s summer project has emerged. It’s called 0x10C. Here’s the back story straight from the project’s website.
In a parallel universe where the space race never ended, space travel was gaining popularity amongst corporations and rich individuals.
In 1988, a brand new deep sleep cell was released, compatible with all popular 16 bit computers. Unfortunately, it used big endian, whereas the DCPU-16 specifications called for little endian. This led to a severe bug in the included drivers, causing a requested sleep of 0x0000 0000 0000 0001 years to last for 0x0001 0000 0000 0000 years.
It’s now the year 281 474 976 712 644 AD, and the first lost people are starting to wake up to a universe on the brink of extinction, with all remote galaxies forever lost to red shift, star formation long since ended, and massive black holes dominating the galaxy.
As you may have guessed from the presence of big and little endians in the game description, Notch is going for a hard sci-fi theme with this project. Although he’s already admitted to some level of hand waving being necessary with respect to the game’s FTL travel mechanic. Notwithstanding that one aspect, 0x10C’s is promising a game whose science has a “plausible theoretical basis”. Anybody for Newtonian physics based starship combat?
Although the title is in the early development stages, some of its features seem quite promising. In addition to all the usual tropes of space adventure games (mining, piracy, salvaging, combat), starships within 0x10C are going to include actual computers.
The computer in the game is a fully functioning emulated 16 bit CPU that can be used to control your entire ship, or just to play games on while waiting for a large mining operation to finish.
And here I thought setting up a delay circuit that would make the glass centre of my Minecraft TARDIS go up and down was complicated. Now Notch is going to let people code games within a game? This may give cause for a greater interest in coding. Or it might alienate potential buyers who don’t want to be tricked into learning.
Speaking of alienating people, Notch hasn’t ruled out launching this game with a monthly subscription. While single player action would be free, access to 0X10C’s persistent metaverse would come at a cost.
All of a sudden I have a vision of the future. There’s a headline that reads “Notch launches potential EVE Online killer.”
Notch has stated that he will likely opt for a gradual release of 0x10C, just as he did with Minecraft. If this is the case, then it might not be long before gamers get a chance to dirty their hands with an Alpha release. Head over to 0x10C’s website for additional details and production updates.
UPDATE: Notch just tweeted the following on 0x10C’s nature as hard science fiction.
I’m starting to regret the decision to go with hard science fiction. A lot of interesting gameplay elements are hard to explain well..