Meet the Allay
Your new, music-loving companion!
If you thought we’d introduce all the other new mobs for the Wild Update and forget the allay, then let me allay your fears, dear reader, because this story is all about our new, blue friend! Voted into the Overworld during Minecraft Live 2021 and finally ready to make its whimsical debut, the allay is a mob I am personally very excited to meet. So I thought I’d go and chat to Nir “Ulraf” Vaknin, one of the Vanilla Gameplay Designers that helped bring the allay to life!
If you haven’t heard of the allay before, then let me give you the details. It’s a new befriend-able mob coming to the Overworld as part of The Wild Update and it loves to collect things. Give the allay an item, and it’ll find dropped versions of the same item, then bring them back to you! What kinds of items, you ask? I don’t know, let me ask Ulraf:
“The allay collects any item you give it. An interesting question is: 'What counts as the same item?' We really had to think about it, because if I give the allay an enchanted book with Power 3, is that the same item as a regular book? There was no simple answer, because sure, they all started off as the same item, but they’re not technically the same once they’re enchanted. In the end, we settled on what we thought would be the most intuitive for both the player and for the allay: it will seek out the same base item. If you look at an item and it looks the same, then allay will count it as the same item. That way it's simple.”Ulraf
Simple and very useful for a clumsy explorer like myself, who tends to lose enchanted armor and swords about six seconds after I find them in ruined portal chests. Now I’ll be happy, because I’ll get my shiny swords back, and the allay will be happy because it gets to find things! “The allay loves having an item," says Ulraf. "That’s why we gave it two ambient sounds. With an item, the allay will 'chortle'. Without one, it’ll 'yearn' Giving the allay an item will make it really like you, too.”
I didn’t think it was possible to make the allay cuter than it already was but it seems I was wrong! What’s even more adorable is that the allay will deliver your items back to you in their own, whimsical way, too. “They’re not machines,” explains Ulraf. “Which is why we didn’t want the way they throw items to be monotonous. Getting the item collection and throwing mechanic just right was tricky, and we tweaked the numbers a lot. We had to question whether we wanted the allay to be really precise, or whether we wanted it to just launch the item at you. We wanted the allay to feel alive, to feel quirky, which is why it won’t throw the item in exactly the same way all the time. It’s got personality!”
"It was really important, first and foremost, that the allay was a companion you’d want to have around, and not one that would keep getting in your way."
Having an allay as a new, quirky friend will be game changing (quite literally), not only because I’ll finally be able to collect all the leads I have scattered across my Overworld, or because Ulraf will get to clean up all the eggs cluttering his, but because your relationship with the allay is a little different to your other companions:
“We spent a lot of time working on the allay’s interactions with the player. It was really important, first and foremost, that the allay was a companion you’d want to have around, and not one that would keep getting in your way. We didn’t want the allay to stop you from mining or breaking a block, nor did we want it to get in the way if you’re trying to defend yourself against hostile mobs. To solve this, we gave the allay and the player a magical connection, formed when you give the allay an item. This bond means that you can’t hurt the allay, so you can go ahead and focus on your mining, building, or combat without worrying about your new companion. We want you to feel confident that it will be there to help you, without you worrying about it getting hurt. It was a very deliberate design choice.”Ulraf
Phew! So does that mean the allay is invincible? Because I’ve lost one too many good wolves to water that’s a block too deep… Ulraf says: “Unlike the axolotl or the wolf, which are active mobs when it comes to combat, the allay is a passive helper. We don’t want players to worry too much about their allay, which is why we gave it health regeneration, so that even if it gets hit it should be OK. That doesn’t mean it’s invincible, it just means if it accidentally flies into lava or comes between you and a skeleton’s arrow, it can recover its health.”
What’s also interesting is how you meet the allay, which is a little different from other mobs. Rather than spawning in a specific biome, like the frogs also coming in The Wild Update, or spawning in response to something specific, like wardens, you’ll find allays caged up in some naturally spawning structures.
“We considered a lot of situations to introduce the player to the allay, for example having it spawn in forest biomes, however one of the things we wanted to highlight was how the allay really shows its personality and becomes dynamic when they interact with the player. That’s why we wanted to focus in on the companionship aspect from the very beginning, starting with how you meet them. Your first introduction to the allays is you having to rescue them from the predicament they’re in!”
Although knowing my personal gameplay style, it’s far more likely the allay will watch me lose my inventory a few times before I succeed in freeing one. If that doesn’t build an unbreakable bond, I don’t know what will! (Except giving it an item. Because Ulraf told me that earlier. I’m listening, Ulraf!) Speaking of gameplay, what are you most excited about when it comes to the allay and your own gameplay, Ulraf?
“Personally, I’m super excited at the prospect of having such a dynamic storage system. Currently you can very easily sort stackable items, but you can’t filter for non-stackable items in the hopper. The allay is the perfect solution for non-stackable storage. You don’t need complicated redstone systems, just an army of allays! I have this vision of the allays all whizzing back and forth in my base. It’ll turn item sorting from something that happens silently in the background to something that creates a great atmosphere (not to mention music!) in your base.”Ulraf
In fact, the allay loves music so much that if you play a note block close to it, it’ll forget where it was taking the item it was carrying and will drop it near that note block instead! But Ulraf points out that it’s music the mob loves: “It remembers the note that’s played, rather than the block itself. You would need to keep playing the note for the allay to keep dropping items near the block, which means… you can make music! You can choose which notes and which frequency, so your musical sorting system can soundtrack your base.”
I will be the first to raise my hand and say I’m going to try and recreate some well-known, two-note theme tunes with my allays. But the best part is, the allays join in and contribute their own sounds to the music, too! “We wanted the allay’s noises to feel calming and soft. After all, we didn’t want players to be annoyed by having their companion around all the time! That’s why it was important the noises it made were the kind that sounded relaxing.”
"What’s cool is that normally when we randomize things in the game, we do it on the seed of the mob. In the case of the allays we do it based on the seed of the world, so that if all the allays are together, they’ll synchronize!”
“Every time the allay throws an item, it has a random chance of playing the sound or not playing it, which means that even the act of dropping an item has a musical element to it! We played with how often it should have a chance of playing a sound, and then how those sounds would stack if you had a whole group of allays. What’s cool is that normally when we randomize things in the game, we do it on the seed of the mob. In the case of the allays we do it based on the seed of the world, so that if all the allays are together, they’ll synchronize!”
Like a true choir. Please excuse me while I wipe a tear from my eye, because that’s just too beautiful. I’m going to make my base an orchestra of music, and life, and color, and allays! And they’re going to chortle in sweet, sweet harmony along with my purring cats, and my panting wolves and my talking parrots, and I will stand there in my shiny, enchanted armor, and nothing can stop me! Unless of course, I leave my front door open again. That was a disaster…
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- Sophie Austin