Groan. Snapshot 14w10a is another pile of bug fixes and mapmaking tweaks without anything exciting for survival players. "Don’t worry, we have some cool survival plans soon!" promises Dinnerbone. Among the fixes are an inconsistent door texture and an improper cake texture, phantom floating mobs and a problem that caused baby cows to suffocate. Aww.
Work at Mojang continues apace on rewrites of Minecraft’s inventory, block state concepting and block model formatting systems, all in the name of a robust plugin API. The fruits of that haven’t emerged yet, but the dev team have found time to squeeze off a few bugfixes - chiefly for the new spectator mode - and to get the game shipshape for player name changes.
“Don’t worry, we have some cool survival plans soon!", wrote Dinnerbone.
No snapshot this week, instead we get a full patch! Minecraft 1.7.5 has been released. It's a pretty small change, mainly focused around Minecraft Realms which those outside Sweden or who haven't attended Minecon haven't previously had access to. Those who do will now get a selection of minigames, described in the following YouTube clip.
I was in Tesco the other day. There, opposite the cookbooks, not so far from the grapes, hemmed in by sticker books, was the Minecraft Beginner’s Handbook. And it’s far too late to be surprised.
Minecraft is a cross-medium phenomenon, like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Lego. Those aren’t simply names pulled out of the pop cultural rift - they’ll be Minecraft’s stablemates if Mojang’s talks with Warner Bros yield fruit.
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The snapshots over the last weeks have been a little dull, and today's is no exception. 14w08a has no survival features at all, beyond a slight tweak of the way health is displayed in the player list - it now displays as a row of hearts, and will only fall back to the textual display if there isn't enough room.
Mojang’s dedicated Minecraft squad continue to work away on overhauls to the game’s block models, menus and inventory system in line with a new API. But if Obama has time to swat bugs, so do they, and so here’s Minecraft snapshot 14w08a - the catchiest monikered Mojang project since 0x10c.
Minecraft Realms is the online service Mojang pitch at families not stubborn enough to work through the arcane process of setting up and running servers. For a monthly subscription, Realms players - mostly parents - get access to one of Mojang’s secure servers and can invite 20-odd friends to deface a new world.
That’s probably not for you texture pack-savvy, adventure map-happy lot. But some of Minecraft’s best-loved maps are likely to be opened up to a brand new audience with Realms’ new “mini game" option.
Dan ‘C418’ Rosenfeld can’t resist saying what remains unsaid.
During a livestreamed interview at GameCity 2013, he shared a couch with Gone Home’s Steve Gaynor. Gaynor had offered some insight into the creative bankruptcy of AAA development, and conversation had paused for a moment. Into this clearing of natural contemplation skipped C418.
“Looking at you, [well-known AAA studio]" he added, grinning to camera.
This is Minecraft music man C418 in a nutshell - a mischievous, adolescent force for indie, cast into a spotlight he’s still adjusting to.
Another technical snapshot this week. "We’ve still been working hard on rewriting internal stuff (such as how blocks are rendered, or how the entire inventory system works) in preparation for the Plugin API," explains Dinnerbone apologetically in the blog post announcing 14w07a.
Powering past almost all competition, Minecraft has become a unstoppable beast with its eye on the crowning achievement of ‘best-selling PC game ever’. It still needs to flog a few more million copies to get there, but it’s now eclipsed even the might of World of Warcraft.
Mojang’s Minecraft division - about a sixth of their overall headcount these days, by my maths - are hard at work rewriting internal things that don’t make for good headlines. The way blocks are rendered, the inventory system: that's the sort of stuff they’ve been fiddling with before they usher in a new Plugin API.
For the time being, we’ve a weekly snapshot update that fixes a bunch of bugs - and adds some potentially really cool options for map makers.
When we report on the state of games in Australia, it’s usually for steep pricing, or its Ratings Board’s relatively conservative rulings on dildos and alien narcotics. It’s the pointy corner of a frame rather than the full picture - so it’s nice to be able to show that Brisbanites also recognise a game that’s good for children when they see one.
Brisbane Council has commissioned and developed a Minecraft map of the city and made it available for download - in the hope that local children will see benefits in reading, writing, maths, geometry, collaboration and “general creativity".
It's a pretty technical snapshot this week. 14w06a and the subsequent bugfix has a cornucopia of bug fixes (like the UI turning weird colours when you hold certain items, and zombies hiding what they're carrying), but it also adds a few more tools for mapmakers.
These running games are all a bit too athletic for me, getting me all sweaty and hungry for a cigarette. And now someone’s only bloody gone and put Temple Run, or a facsimile of Temple Run, into Minecraft. When will the insidious pro-running lobby stop invading our games?
It is actually rather nifty, though, as you will undoubtedly see when you slap your eyes on the gif below.
I don’t know if you know about Minecraft Skin Studio - it’s less Buffalo Bill, more freeform character modelling. Designed by a small team based about a mile away from where I live and work, it’s an Android, iOS and Kindle app that allows players to design and upload multiplayer skins from anywhere, phone signal willing.
Last week’s update to Minecraft on PC and Mac broke it, temporarily - but Skin Studio is officially supported by Mojang, and they’ve since helped fix it.
Minecraft has now sold more than the Myst series. More than that, it's less than 350,000 copies away from riding into Red Dead Redemption’s town (on a 1.6.1 update horse, natch) and declaring the environs sufficiently cramped to merit a duel.
In terms of copies sold, it’s now about as valuable as Raving Rabbids is to Ubisoft, or Metroid is to Nintendo.
The ‘invisible blocks’ Mojang added to Minecraft last week sound like the ultimate “Forgot my snapshot" excuse. But they really are there - completely transparent, but tangibly in the way. On the one hand, they can conduct redstone currents, aesthetically neatening up circuitry no end. On the other, they’ve introduced adventure map makers to that most dangerous tool of ‘90s game design: the invisible wall.
All of this was academic, however, while these transparent blocks appeared “much darker" than the world around them - rendering them partially visible. That’s now been fixed, and a new multiplayer spectator mode introduced to boot.
As January drifts into February, the snow is falling in Sweden.
But one benefit of the cold, dark weather is that there's more time to play Minecraft and more time for Mojang to work on snapshots. This week, 14w05a was released - bringing with it invisible blocks, ejector seats in Minecarts and creeper-vision.