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Java Devs Talk Update Aquatic

A deep dive into the new update!

Minecraft Java players! Did you know you could be trying out a snapshot full of upcoming Update Aquatic features right now? It's true! Click this line of seagrass-green text to read Nathan’s post about it!

Keep in mind, none of the stuff you'll find in that snapshot is final – we always take your feedback into account first.

To find out more about this first look at Update Aquatic, I snuck into the Java part of the Mojang office and spoke to Jens Bergensten and Agnes Larsson. Instead of throwing me out and demanding I be fired, they answered my questions. Thanks guys!

We want to make it easier to have a life underwater," Jens told me. This is the goal behind many of the smaller touches you'll find in the Update Aquatic, like the new swimming animations, faster underwater movement and a tweaked light level so you can see slightly further.

Ah, but you'll find the true stars of this snapshot both in water and on land – the turtles! Players might notice they've gone through quite a redesign since we announced them in December.

“They're also bigger,” said Agnes. “Sea turtles are actually really big in real life and it felt like you should get the right feel. Now it's actually a big turtle swimming around the ocean. It felt more majestic!”

Apart from being so cute my fragile heart might not be able to take it, turtles are also quite a complex new mob. They have a home beach, which they'll always return to, no matter how far they swim away - just like real life sea turtles!

Want more turtles? Then feed them seagrass! “They will go into love mode and one of them will get a bit fat, because it has an egg!” explained Agnes. “It will lay the eggs on its home beach. You can move the eggs because the baby turtles that are hatched will also remember that position as their home beach.”

But no one ever said childcare is easy. So if you want to bring baby turtles into your world, you'd better be prepared to protect them. “Some mobs attack the baby turtles!” Agnes warns. “They are super tiny, super cute and then mobs are like “arghhh! Kill! Kill!” But that's how life is!”

If you don't want that to happen (and of course you don't, unless you're a MONSTER) protect those little turtles with your life!

A life that, unfortunately, will be in more danger than ever, if you keep putting off bedtime. Because swooping in is the winning mob of Minecon, Mob B – The Terror of the Night Skies, now known as The Phantom.

This mob will punish players who don't prioritise getting their beauty sleep. “The Phantom spawns around players who haven't slept for five in-game days, so it's about an hour of gameplay,” explained Jens.

“You have to be under the sky and it must be night for them to spawn. But they also spawn in The End in this snapshot, which I'm expecting... interesting feedback on!”

Do not try and sleep in The End.

But why does it take five in-game days of not getting any sleep?

“I wanted to have some kind of rule that prevented the Phantom from spawning on the first night,” explained Jens.

“And we wanted to connect the urgency of that to the turtle eggs,” elaborates Agnes. “The eggs hatch much faster if you are up during the night.” So if you want your baby turtles sooner, you might have to risk a visit from the Phantom...

Jens stresses just how dangerous a risk that is. “They are really nasty to fight, really hard to hit – they fly up and then swoop down again. They sound really scary too. Samuel Åberg did some really scary sound effects for them.”

Oh goody. As a dedicated wimp who bursts into tears at the sound of a Minecraft spider, I can't wait for the Phantom's screams to become the new soundtrack to my nightmares.

Getting back to the turtles, Agnes is keen to point out that simply looking totes adorbs is not the sole purpose of raising their babies. When they grow up, they'll drop a Turtle Shell Piece.

“With these pieces you can build a complete shell which can be used as a hat!” Agnes tells me. “And yeah, that's nice fashion, but it also gives a Water Breathing effect.” This will help you explore the oceans. “We wanted to make it a bit easier to be able to be underwater earlier in game,” she said.

Turtle shell pieces can also be brewed into the first potion to have two effects. “This potion gives slowness and protection,” Agnes explained, “I think that works with the turtles because they're super slow on land but they have the shell so they are well protected.”

Sure, that potion will improve your defences dramatically, but it also makes it a lot harder for you to get away. CONSUME WITH CAUTION. Or use it on enemies!

"We want to make it easier to have a life underwater."

Seagrass and Kelp are both new underwater plantlife, and kelp can become the Dried Kelp Block. “It's a decorative block,” explained Agnes. One that can also be used as fuel!

Or perhaps you'd rather build a house from a new type of wood? I asked Minecraft developer Jason Major how Stripped Wood came to be added. “We thought that if the logs didn't have bark on them and were just the wood colour then they would look a lot better,” he told me.

Jason and the team then needed a way for players to obtain Stripped Logs easily. They found a solution after “realising that the Hatchet/Axe didn't have any right-click action - like hoes and shovels do with grass,” explained Jason. “This is the perfect way to get them.

“Just equip your axe, right-click on a log and the bark gets stripped away.”

Actually, why would you have an axe equipped, when you could be wielding the new Trident?

“It's a weapon that is intended to be used underwater,” said Jens. “You can both swing with it and throw it.”

True, but if you don't want to throw it away permanently, then you should invest in Loyalty. This common enchantment makes your trident come back to you. Riptide, which makes you lunge with your trident when you throw it (as long as you're in water, or it's raining) is also well worth seeking out!

Handy, but the most shocking trident enchantment is definitely Channelling. “If it's thundering weather,” explained Jens, “and you hit something with the trident, lightning will strike it! It's the first time the player actually has a way of creating lightning, which has a bunch of different effects in the game.”

That's a lot of power to give to the player! Did Jens ever worry it was too much? After all, as Uncle Ben once said, “with great power comes gre-argghhh! QUIT ELECTROCUTING ME WITH THAT LIGHTNING-TRIDENT YOU JERK!!”

“When I added Channelling, I was aware it was quite powerful,” Jens agrees. “But then I realised it's extremely conditional - you do not have thunder that often when you're playing. But, most importantly, it’s really fun!

“If you manage to find the trident, if you manage to get channelling on it – it's a rare enchantment – and it's thundering, then you should be rewarded.”

You'll definitely need that trident for the full Update Aquatic. As Jens teases “we're adding a new hostile mob underwater.” For now, though one of your biggest concerns is getting dragged down to the ocean depths by the new Bubble Columns.

During an early Update Aquatic brainstorming session, someone suggested columns of bubbles that could push things up to the surface.

“But from a gameplay perspective,” Jens explained, “it was actually more interesting to have something that pulled you down.”

There was a lot of debate amongst the team. Up is better! No, down is better! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! Luckily, rather than hitting each other, the Java team hit upon a perfect compromise.

“We have both now, which is fun,” explained Agnes. “But the bubble column that goes down is the main one and the only one that will be generated in-world.” You'll find them being created by magma blocks. “The other one is more like an Easter Egg – you need to guess what block to use and if you place it underwater it will make an upwards bubble column.”

Which block? You'll just have to experiment and see! But it's one Agnes and Jens predict players will end up using a lot, “because you can create water elevators,” explained Jens. “So if you make a chimney full of water, you can put one of these blocks at the bottom. It will create this flow and then you can jump in and fly out.”

Just like Jens promised, it's all about making a life underwater easier!

And this is just the start. We'll be releasing the full Update Aquatic soon, with lots more features, including “an adventure relating to Update Aquatic. We're adding another reward to find.”

Did Jens give me any more details after dropping that hint? Nope! Instead he wisely kicked me out so the team could get back to work. Enjoy the snapshot, and let us know what you think of this first look at Update Aquatic!

Tom Stone
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Tom Stone

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