Now on Marketplace: ANNIE

Blockception explain their time travelling tale

Marketplace is new to Pocket and Windows 10 - for the first time it offers a way to browse, buy, download and play community content from within the game itself. Over the next few weeks we’ll be showcasing some of the cool stuff people have made for the launch! You can go check it out right now by clicking here!

For Alex Bellavita, there wasn’t a choice about what Blockception had to make for the launch of Marketplace. “It had to be an adventure map,” he says. By the sounds of it, it’s been a long time obsession - the desire to transform Minecraft and to transport players from their desk-chairs or couches and into another world of rich, involving stories.

“I’ve always tried to make the game more interactive,” says Alex. “I don’t want anyone to think that they are still in Minecraft, I want them to be completely immersed, in the same way you are when you read a book or watch a movie – like a seamless experience.”

For Alex and the handful of collaborators that make up the Blockception build team, this resulted in ANNIE: The Rise of Londinium, a complex adventure map which whisks players through multiple time periods, by way of a holographic simulation.

Alex explains the backstory further: “A conglomerate in the year 2129 AD begins work on an advanced project in their newly appointed headquarters; the Gherkin tower in an alternate London, England. You are a test subject, having signed up and been accepted to help aid in recovering data after ‘The Event’. The project uses an advanced AI that analyses the surrounding area to create an artificial simulation. Within the simulation, as a test subject, you are flung into the trials and tribulations faced by common folk of the relative era. Along the way you will discover the humble beginnings of a small village and aid in recovering the lost data.”

It’s a pretty high-concept pitch, but at its heart is a love of architecture and an understanding of how cities get built around the natural landscape - things that Minecraft is singularly well-suited to show.

Alex himself has long been involved in ambitious building projects - Blockception helped us launch the 1.11 update in style with a Machu Picchu-inspired build, Lost Civilisation. Before that, Alex was part of the famed FyreUK build team, working alongside YouTubers and the UN, to create spectacular structures, often showcasing their construction in timelapse. He later joined Team Vareide, responsible for the Survival Games series, “mixing spectacular builds with functionality, around the time the first minigame servers started coming out.” Later still, his interests continued to move towards highly interactive experiences, working on the narrative based A Christmas Adventure.

Since finishing a computer science degree, Alex took a drama course, working for a period of time as a casting director - experiences that have all fed into his particular brand of Minecraft mapmaking: “I got to read a lot of scripts for unreleased movies and unreleased TV shows, which is incredibly helpful for storytelling and creating something more immersive.”

Made in just three weeks by a small crew of six or seven people, ANNIE represents the culmination of these fascinations - but not the conclusion of them.

“We’re hoping to turn this into a three map series that will be released over the next year maybe,” he says. Although the time-travelling theme will remain, the team are still scouting out possible settings in Asia and the Americas.

But when? The dangerous past? The terrifying future? On the basis of ANNIE, only time will tell.