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Minecraft 1.9 snapshot 15w31a ushers in off-hand items and levitation


Mojang have begun public testing for Minecraft 1.9, which they’ve dubbed The Combat Update.

“As you can expect from the name,” said Dinnerbone, “the update is mostly about cuddling and farming plants.”

Har har. But it’s true the changes introduced so far aren’t strictly related to combat. They’re about using both hands for the first time – and flying high into the air against your will.

In what’s fast becoming snapshot tradition, Mojang have refused to tell us exactly what’s in this alpha build of the update. Thankfully, the community have been more forthcoming.

15w31a has introduced the potentially game-changing ability to carry an item in each hand. You can only wield one weapon at a time, so there’s no chance of dual-sword set-ups. But you might have a pickaxe in your main hand a torch in the other – right-clicking to stick lights in the walls as you dig deep into the earth.

Some magical attributes and enchantments will apply to both items you’re holding, while others won’t – that’s for players to explore. But bows can be used even when your off-hand is filled with, I don’t know, flowers.

Items can be swapped between hands with a dab of the F key – and for lefties, there’ll be an option to switch the dominant hand on your player model.

“Right now it doesn’t entirely work as expected,” noted Dinnerbone. “We have to go through every interaction and decide what should happen each time.”

Then there’s the levitation. It’s listed as a negative effect, since it’s applied by projectiles fired from Shulkers – a crustacean mob destined for 1.9. And a little upward drift can lead to fatal fall damage. But there’s also potential for clever exploitation: a higher dose of levitation will see you rise faster, while a lower one might see you level out or even drop slowly, as if in low gravity.

Finally, there’s a glowing status effect tied to spectral arrows, which should revolutionise competitive maps. And beyond all this, 1.9 promises tweaks to melee, shields, new potions and enchantments, and “some surprises”.

You can jump in early by naming a new launcher profile ‘snapshots’ and ticking the box to enable them – but it’s best to back up your world beforehand. What would you like Minecraft combat to look like? A tad less hoppy?