This past Saturday we watched this year's Minecon Live event on stream together and boy oh boy does it have me excited about the game again!!
Not only is the fundamental part of the game (mines) getting a big dollop of love but they're also seasoning different mechanics with quality of life changes.
I've had a few people asking what I thought to the show and information revealed, so let's go through it chronologically.
Props to the team for listening to feedback from viewers last year and not making us sit through upwards of an hour of content before getting to the information we're all really there for (the content is always super wholesome and to me personally really interesting but we know the internet has a short attention span). This approach of big reveal followed by juicy details as the show progressed was so much more rewarding and I imagine great for their retention.
So first up were the Lush Caves. I know we're supposed to be blown away by the concept of a new biome but this narrow cave isn't unlike things we've seen in adventure maps, mini game servers or mod packs from the past decade. The wow factor is hard to achieve when this caves update is so painfully overdue you know?
Don't get me wrong, it all looks lovely. I have no criticisms of the vegetation included or their mechanics like the Glowberries and the textures sit nicely in the Minecraft aesthetic BUT the demonstration piece was too cramped..
When it cut back to Agnes she began talking about the sense of scale and sourced John Bauer's artwork as a source of inspiration:
"We want it to be like, so.. You feel like very tiny inside like a big garden or big forest"
Comparatively, the first glimpse we were given of this new cave biome was nowhere near as massive. It was about 8 blocks tall, tops? They really could have wowed us by showing a huge cave generation with this lush green interior, but they didn't.
What's frustrating about this is that they later confirmed these new supermassive caves can come in a Lush varient, SO WHY NOT SHOW THAT?!
I wouldn't have minded a static screenshot of a huge one and then shifting over to the tiny one to get a closer more detailed look at the textures whilst explaining all the mechanics.
(my guess is the large lush aren't in a ready state yet but hey ho)
DRIP LEAF PLANTS
These seem like great fun and as they mentioned, they'll be an awesome tool for Parkour level designers. I'm hoping we see them implemented in a few different biomes, namely the swamps. Having these interspersed among lily pads could make for a more varied platform across the water surfaces.
I'm looking forward to seeing whether the reaction time of them can be accelerated by command blocks so you really can't linger on them for too long so you gotta go fast!
I don't know if it's been confirmed anywhere but is it safe to assume that the stems of the dripleaf plants are blocks we can pass through? That's an educated guess given that you're supposed to be able to fall from the leaf at the top.
NEW CAVE GENERATIONS
These new generations look fantastic! Better than I'd have ever hoped for honestly, I mean, did you see that Elytra gliding and threading the needle through enveloped sized gaps?!
It was reassuring to hear traditional cave generations will be sticking around and I hope this extends to the ravines too. I know ravines aren't the most majestic or varied in shapes but they're home. A staple of the underground in my opinion. Maybe we'll get some new ravine types in the future too?
One really interesting formation are the completely flooded caving systems that run on something Agnes called 'local water levels' and this raised one question in particular for us..
Will they be adding in a new water exploring method / precaution for players?
Potions can be quite a ways off for most players starting up their word as it's dependant on acquiring blaze rods to make the Brewing Stand and let's be honest, using wooden doors to create pockets of air is a means to an end. It's silly but it gets the job done.
There are two ways to approach this. We can either whisk the player through these water sections faster and they've just got to hold their breath OR we can make the exploration more sustainable.
Let's start with the former, Netty came up with the idea that the glow squids (and regular ones to be fair) could potentially be ridden with the use of a lead and allow a swift travel through underwater areas. I think this could be really fun! Imagine your character holding on for dear life, superhero pose, one arm outstretched to keep a grip 😂
Another suggestion that sprung up in the stream chat was from GooTheSplat and that stemmed from something in the mob voting animatics.. Vu Bui's submarine.
We all agreed this one was a bit of a stretch given that vehicles (or than Minecarts) have never been a part of the vanilla game and I'm not sure they ever will due to the wilderness / survival vibe they're going for.
On that same thought trail though, how about a scuba outfit? It's probably sacrilege to utter its name in this post but it seems as though the upcoming block game Hytale has this very piece of equipment:
I can just imagine whipping a helmet together with a glass pane, some leather and string. Then maybe the O2 pack with glass bottles, leather, string and... erm... what could be the tube? Bamboo? 😅
Or you know, we could go for the classic Sonic The Hedgehog approach of having large bubbles floating from the sea bed and bumping in to them grants air. 6 year old me would love that!
Regardless. Underwater exploration is still an area of Minecraft that I think is left unappreciated. They went through all that effort to create beautiful coral coves, sink mysterious ships, reveal flooded civilizations and we even have a world boss in Ocean Monuments but genuinely, ask yourself - do you ever go in the water?
My first WOW moment wasn't really until I saw this shot in the demo:
My brain immediately flashed back to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, you know the scene where Dumbledore has to drink the Potion Of Despair? Well, more so the moments just before that when he pops an orb of light out to reveal the cave's grandure.
Now you can tell from the hotbar that this footage has been brightened quite significantly in post and that's where my one and only worry lies. These huge new caves are impressive but will we even be able to see them to appreciate them without littering them with torches?
Here's a comparison between a regular screenshot from Minecraft and the colorings of the hotbar versus the brighter one in the demo footage
Using that difference to match and then reverse the effects (not so elegantly) in Photoshop, this is what it roughly looks like before any edits:
I reckon they'll have popped their brightness in game up to full (I doubt they'll have gone any further by altering the gamma in the game files) and although it's quite a stark difference, with a sigh of relief, it looks as though you will still be able to see the sprawling caverns that lay ahead of you, phew!
The team did mention that ores that are currently glowing will be placeholder for a new block type that will assist with vision in the caves and it would be cool to see them experiment with this. Maybe dependant on the biome that resides above the hue (colour) of the glow could change or the intensity of the light it gives off would differ too.
This style of cave looks mighty dangerous! Never knowing when a stalactite might suddenly fall on your head will raise tensions and having to watch your step whilst fleeing mobs as to not fall in a classic RPG spike pit is going to be tricky.
(by the way, a little trick for remembering the right name. If you were trying not to fall down, you're hold one TIGHT to a stalactite - thanks Agnes)
A nifty feature of the hanging rocks is the water that drips down from them can be collected in Cauldrons to become a renewable water source. I can't lie, I'm a little worried about our 2x2 holes in the floor providing infinite water being patched out... They wouldn't, right?
There were definitely a vocal bunch in my stream chat at the time that criticized the appearance of these new formations and even the team acknowledged it:
Adding these was pretty difficult. It's a very unique shape that Minecraft isn't really accustom to.
Personally, I think they've absolutely smashed it. It's an elegant way of using plains intersecting one another to create a fuller 3D appearance from most angles you look at it. Sure, there'll be some unflattering angles but we all have those, we've all caught our 3rd chin on our phone's camera when we accidentally open the app. Give 'em a break!!
Seriously though. I'm sure people think the alternative would be better, that being miniature blocks making up the entire structure but that would be more intensive for people's machines and not to mention the janky collision boxes they'd present. I'm more than happy with this iteration of them.
I only have 3 questions regarding these:
Does the damage a stalactite deals increase based on how far it falls?
Do you take damage from colliding with either from side on. Or is it the tip only?
Can you build on them? (could you stop an inevitable death when falling or build from the side to keep your sky bridge going)
Spike pits may have been added in to mods as far back as 2010 thanks to Adventurecraft (which by the way, continued development this year, even the Zelda map has been spruced up!!) but it'll be awesome seeing the newer gen popping these in their adventure maps moving forwards.
A final observation on these too is the collision box of the stalagmite when the zombie died seemed an entire block taller than its sprite. Huh?
I'm pretty sure I just heard Mumbo screaming in joy off in the distance 👂
These. Look. Unreal.
Simply put, this is wireless redstone that can be triggered by vibrations. Vibrations can range from a piston moving to a lever being pulled or even just your footsteps nearby. I can't even imagine what whacky contraptions people will create with this technology especially when you can send it onwards like a relay?!
I'm no kind of redstoner so I'm not going to try and pretend I understand its full potential and complexities but I do have a couple of notes..
Sculk Sensors are the half blocks that are primed and ready for vibrations to occur. The visual is obviously really cool with the plant like / trendily top BUT I can imagine most map makers would want a block that sits more flush with the walls of their structure to be better masked by changing its texture. I can imagine traps or puzzles being spoiled by this distinct shape being nearby. Maybe this is something a data pack could help alter? (I'd disable to sound too obviously)
Will these be craftable or only collectible? Best case, we can collect them without the need for Silk Touch and you can rework the more full sculk blocks in the crafting table to create additional sensors. Worst case, you can't craft them and have to cheery picky them from the Dark Depths.
THE DARK DEPTHS
This new underground biome looks haunting as heck and I bet MatPat is eagle eyeing this new content to build upon his Old Builders theories because the walls of this tunnel look more man made, like brick work, in addition to the candles and kegs in some kind of abandoned break room - people used to roam here..
Within the Dark Depths we'll be encountering this VERY powerful creature. 7 and a half hearts per hit to a Netherite Armour wearer?! NOPE NOPE NOPE ALL THE WAY HOME
They've absolutely smashes the style and tone of this mob. We saw from the concept art and Agnes' comments that they were trying to lighten the scariness with a hint of derpiness which I agree they achieved.
One thing I will say though is that its general movements and sweeping attack feel so much more sophisticated than any other Minecraft mob in terms of animation which almost makes it a little jarring to look at..
The only other vanilla mobs that come close are the Evoker (as well as its traps) and the Ender Dragon but even then, the Warden feels 'sped up'. It's the same sensation and discomfort I experienced when waaaay back when YouTubers started uploading in 60fps rather than 30, or the same feeling people had when they saw The Hobbit in 48fps. Maybe it'll just take some getting used to OR maybe every other mob in the game will get a spruce up in the Caves & Cliffs update?
Either way, it looks great and I can't wait to test the limitations of distracting its focus with snowballs and seeing what (hopefully) mind-blowing loot it has on offer.
It would never happen but the Warden in my mind would be the perfect candidate to play the gatekeeper role to a new dimension. You defeat it, use its loot to craft a new portal and away you go.
That idea isn't just plucked out of the air by the way. Notice anything slightly sculky about the decoration in this Minecraft Dungeons level?
Just thought for thought 😉
Speaking of which, the next gameplay section of the broadcast was about Minecraft Dungeons. I'm not going to linger on this too long as there wasn't a whole lot announced other than a quick flurry of clips for future biomes that we'll explore but...
I'm in a weird place with Dungeons. I felt very underwhelmed by the final boss in the Jungle Awakens DLC and the run up to it didn't feel too progressive. It felt like a few texture changes then more mindless slashing..
To give the game a fair shot though I dived in to the Creeping Winter DLC hoping for something with a little more oomph and it was marginally better. The Iceologer was initially frustrating but once you'd gotten its pattern down, you were groovy. Snowball projectiles from mobs that didn't previously have them was a nice curveball and as always, the environments were spot on with a mixture of vanilla blocks and Dungeons originals (I wish more would make the transfer to vanilla!).
Much like the first DLC though, the 'final boss' was incredibly easy. So much so that I hand on heart believed I had one more level to tackle but that greyed out icon was actually for the weekly challenges/trials. Here's how that unfolded:
Now granted I had a particularly fast bow but even watching other people's lets plays afterwards, people got through that battle practically untouched. I love the visual of this boss with that bullet hell fire style but the cone was too wide and the projectiles too slow. A minimal strafe ensured your safety. It really felt like a mid-dungeon boss.
Compare this fight to the Enderman / Arch Illager battle from the end of the core game, THAT, is a boss fight. A visual spectacle, hard hitting but fair patterns and a smidge of punishment. It really felt like something to overcome to 'see it through'.
Fair play not making the Jungle Awakens boss too difficult but the finale to your DLC Pack should leave us hungry for more.