Video games usually come in one of two dimensions: You have your 2D side scrollers, or, more commonly, your typical 3D adventures. Rarely do you see a game that pushes beyond these dimensions, since, you know, we live in the third dimension. Why, then, does a Minecraft clone exist in 4D?
At first glance, 4D Miner seems just like Minecraft. You’re dropped in an infinite, procedurally generated world, tasked with mining the land to survive as long as possible. So far, so Minecraft. That is, until you move the scroll wheel on your mouse, and shit starts appearing out of thin air.
Whenever you scroll in 4D Miner, your world changes dramatically. Elements that are right in front of you disappear, while other reveal themselves. Land you thought was solid opens up to uncover hills and holes, while cave walls separate into deep chasms. The thing is, none of these things are really changing. From a 4D perspective, everything you see while scrolling is actually there at all times. We just can’t see it, because we’re limited to our 3D world view.
Imagine a two-dimensional being, such as Mario in the original Super Mario Bros. They can see left, right, up, and down, but are limited to that 2D world view. If you place them in 3D, they won’t be able to see the extra dimension of space. Instead, they’d see a 2D cross section of our 3D space, which would only reveal a portion of the world we see in full. Move that cross section, and they see a different view of the space, while some of the elements from their original perspective “disappear.” All the while, we see everything they see, and the world as it is.
If that explanation makes no sense to you, I completely understand. This stuff is complicated, and it’s much easier to explain visually. Take a look at 4D Miner’s demo video, which effectively shows off this concept:
A 4D game, like 4D Miner, takes this concept and turns it around on us. Now, we’re the 2D being, except we’re experiencing a 3D cross section of a 4D world. To a 4D observer, the world looks totally normal, with all trees, caves, lava flows and bodies of water visible at all times. We, however, can only see what our current cross section allows: When you scroll, you move that cross section, and reveal a different slice of the 4D world.
This mechanic adds another dimension to the Minecraft exploration we all know so well. Rather than simply forage for supplies, you need to dive through different planes of the fourth dimension. You might think no items dropped when you mined a tree, but scroll through 4D space, and you might find a tree branch that was previously hidden out of view.
Similarly, you’ll find cave-diving to be much more intricate than in Minecraft. In order to find cave entrances at all, you’ll likely need to scroll through the fourth dimension, and keep scrolling once inside. Otherwise, you’ll miss elements, paths, lava, and enemies.
Oh, yes: the enemies. In this game, your enemies are 4D beings, which means you might not even see them if you aren’t in their right perspective. You also can never see their entire form: You can scroll through planes to see different sides of enemies, but their full figure will always be hidden in 4D space you cannot see. The first enemy you seem to encounter is a 4D arachnid called a hyperspider. If the concept of a spider that hides inside another dimension triggers your arachnophobia, I wouldn’t blame you.
As you play, you’ll be able to build tools that help you navigate this 4D world. 4D glasses, for example, reveal outlines of items and enemies that you wouldn’t have seen from your current perspective. Suddenly, those spiders aren’t so scary. You can also build a 4D compass to help you keep track of your current whereabouts, and to better visualize your 3D cross section of the 4D world.
You’ll need those tools, because doing anything in 4D Miner is much more complicated than it is in 3D Minecraft. Even something as simple as building shelter becomes a challenge, as you quickly realize your 3D crafting skills don’t account for all the 4D walls you need to put up. Your first shelter will be full of gaping 4D holes if you aren’t careful. Suddenly, the spiders are scary again.
4D Miner is currently available for free as a demo on Steam, with an official release planned for November. It won’t be the first 4D game to hit the market, but, according to this Wikipedia list, it is the first 4D game of 2022, and only the third released since 2020. As limited as these types of games are, they’re still fascinating to play. Another interesting concept is 4D Toys, which lets you play with different shapes in 4D space. Like 4D Miner, you’re limited to your 3D cross section, so you’ll watch these toys change shape and disappear as you move them.