Meet the Wandering Trader
Let us sell you on this Village and Pillage villager!
Imagine you’re out strolling in the Overworld. The sun is shining, the cows are mooing, and the zombies are growling beneath the ground. It’s a beautiful day and everything is as it should be! Then, all of a sudden, you hear a strangely familiar sound - Hrmm!
A mysterious blue-clad villager has appeared out of nowhere! You gasp and drop your controller. You fall to your knees. Your mind explodes with questions: “How did it get here?”, “Why is it trying to trade with me?” and “Minecraft villagers outside of villages? What blasphemy is this?!”
Calm down, friend! Everything is fine! You’ve just encountered Minecraft’s latest and most experienced salesman – the Wandering Trader!
Covered in blue robes and accompanied by two llamas, the mysterious Wandering Trader is just what its name suggests – a travelling salesman, journeying the Overworld in search of customers willing to exchange their shiny emeralds for rare and exotic items.
Steve Enos is a game designer for Minecraft, and one of several developers that have been involved in the Trader’s design. “The idea for the Wandering Trader came from RPG’s,” he explains. “When the heroes are travelling through an incredibly dangerous place, they usually come across some sort of merchant. It’s obvious that the merchant is there so you can get stocked up on potions or healing items before you fight a boss or something.
“But we started to think about the merchant's story. Why was it there? Where is it going? We thought it would be neat if the Wandering Trader could travel from village to village, sometimes encountering the player in the wilderness.”
While trading isn’t exactly a new mechanic in Minecraft, the trader’s mobile behaviour certainly is. They can appear when you least expect it – either out in the overworld or occasionally in villages, appearing at the local gather site. The trader can offer a wide variety of goods, from dyes and flowers to coral blocks or even nautilus shells. Also, since they like to travel, the Wandering Trader has its own way of dealing with hostile mobs.
“My favorite part is how it drinks a Potion of Invisibility when in danger. It’s funny how you can still see it holding the two llamas by the leads!” says Steve.
Designing a villager with such a profound love for moving between villages proved to be a technical challenge for the development team. Initially, they tried to make the Trader just pop into the player’s village.
“The solution was to spawn the same particles the Endermen use when they teleport, as if to explain how the trader got from place to place safely,” Steve explains. “Later we decided that we didn’t want the Trader to be so supernatural and we were ok with it just popping in whenever it appeared.”
Another big challenge was the work on the Wandering Trader’s visual design, which Lead Pixel Artist Jasper Boestra designed together with fellow artist and pinball enthusiast Chris Nordgren from the Minecraft: Dungeons team.
“We wanted to make it look mysterious and exotic, so the first iterations were a bit overboard,” Jasper remembers. “I let Chris have a shot at it and we liked the new design more. It looked a little too much like a pirate and not a merchant, so I tried to add a hat to it afterwards. However, our art director, Johan Aronson, wanted us to try giving it a hood instead, to make them more mysterious and hide their villager-ness a bit.“
A hood? I love hoods! Giving the Wandering Trader a hood was likely the best idea since sliced bread (or my idea to store sliced bread in my hood!) The hood isn't the only aspect that makes the Wandering Trader stand out from the rest of the villagers – they also have their own unique voice, which further raises the question of who they really are.
“They had to be designed as a mysterious trader from far away lands, nothing like the villagers you see in the villages around you,” Jasper explains. “With the hood, you might even question if they're actually villagers.”
Ahhh, that’s a good point. I'm not that mysterious, but can I still wear my hood, though?
“Er, sure Per,” says Jasper. Hooray!