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Around the Block: Deep Dark

Sculk around in the depths of the Overworld

When exploring at the very bottom of the Overworld, where rock is compressed into deepslate by the weight of all that lies above, you’ll occasionally break into a cavern containing something unusual and unsettling.

The first clue that you’re approaching this ominous place will likely be the organic undulating sounds of sculk sensors detecting your movement, followed most likely by the roar of a warden emerging from the rock. If it were me, I'd take this opportunity to turn around, return from the direction that I came, and go back to my quiet life on the surface.

You, on the other hand, might be feeling brave or foolhardy enough to explore it. In which case don’t say we didn’t warn you. Welcome to the deep dark – our biome of the month.

The deep dark became an official part of Minecraft in the Wild Update in June 2022, though there was a different deep dark in the Extra Utilities mod for Java Edition, created by RWTema and released in 2013.

It’s an Overworld biome that generates far underground, below areas that have a low erosion value like mountain peaks and plateaus. There’s some light in there, but less than you’d find in most other underground biomes – limited to sculk catalysts, lava, soul fire, and soul lanterns.  

Those latter two are only found in ancient cities, which generate in this biome and add unexplained but intentional architecture to these hidden depths. It’s not clear whether they built their cities at the bottom of the world, or whether geological processes have buried them. However, we have a field expert that knows a thing or two about its visual design – Concept Artist Mariana Salimena.

Mystery, curiosity, and history: these were the main keywords I had in mind when designing the visuals for the deep dark. We wanted the ancient cities to feel like it's made for a larger creature than a player – that's why some of the staircases and room shapes are a bit larger than normal and the City Center is a huge central piece. Instead of using stairs blocks everywhere, we created elevation with single blocks for example. It makes you feel very small! 

The look and feel of the ancient cities were loosely inspired by Central American and South American ancient cities and temple aesthetics, with shapes that play around with the concept of sound and hearing, a core element of this biome's gameplay. As a South American myself, it was really enjoyable and inspiring to do this research and infuse it into the deep dark.

MARIANA SALIMENA

If you’re planning an archaeological dig, then there are a few things to watch out for. The first are those sculk sensors mentioned above. These detect vibrations caused by movement – walking, placing or breaking blocks, or items falling on the ground. When they hear one, they’ll send a signal to a nearby sculk shrieker that unleashes an almighty howl, summoning the very worst creature you’ll encounter in this biome – wardens.

Wardens are fearsome creatures with the highest health and melee damage in the game. Luckily, they’re blind and can only navigate by smell and sound. That means you’ll need to creep quietly and carefully around this biome if you don’t want to suffer their wrath.

Why would you want to come to this awfully dangerous place? Well, there are a couple of things to be found in ancient cities that can’t be acquired anywhere else. The most notable is probably the echo shard, which you’ll need to craft a recovery compass that points to the direction of your last death. There are also fragments of discs, which can be crafted into a unique music disc if you find enough of them. 

It's going to take a while to get fully prepared for such a risky expedition (and to summon enough courage). In the meantime, head back to the surface while you still can and find yourself a nice flower forest and enjoy some sunlight. After all, it’s very dark in the deep dark...

Duncan Geere
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Duncan Geere
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