Meet the Strider
Your friendly ferry in the Nether
The Nether is home to some of the most fearsome monsters you can find in Minecraft: Piglins, Blazes, Ghasts, and my cousin Bob who refuse to share any of the ancient debris he finds on our joint adventures. As his name suggests, Bob is evil incarnate so he’s in good company. The Nether is crawling with hostile mobs who won’t hesitate to make player pudding out of you given the chance. However, there is an exception: an adorable anomaly that couldn’t care less about you, me, or Bob’s debris-hoarding. We call this happy little accident the Strider.
“The Strider is unique in the sense that it is the only non-aggressive mob in the Nether,” says Brandon Pearce, developer on the gameplay team who’s been heavily involved in the Striders design. “Some players were scared of it, because that’s what they’d expect from something in the Nether, and because it was seen as somewhat ugly – only to realize ‘Oh wow, it’s actually peaceful!’”
I beg your pardon? Ugly? Preposterous! The Strider is a natural beauty; a grumpy yet charming smile, long silver hair, and a perfect block-shaped body held up by two elegant legs – what’s not to LOVE?!
Sure, the Strider may appear somewhat meek but it’s all for show. On the contrary, the Strider is probably the toughest being in the Nether thanks to its rather unique ability of being completely fireproof. While many mobs would meet a certain doom in lava, the Strider thrives in it. According to Brandon, there’s a practical reason for it, besides the obvious bragging rights.
“I think it was because we wanted something that allowed you to traverse the Nether – specifically lava lakes,” he explains. “Lava lakes have been known to be difficult to cross and you usually have to build some sort of bridge to get over it, which isn’t interesting in its own right.”
The Strider serves as the Nether’s very own ferry service. To get across huge bodies of lava, the player can effectively turn a wild Strider into a mount by using a similar method to riding a pig in the Overworld. Personally, I don’t mind the occasional, three-hour bridge-building sessions, nor the misclicks that cause me to plummet right into 2000 degrees hot liquid baths, but the Strider sure makes lava life a lot easier. All you need is a saddle and a warped fungus on a stick, then giddyup – you have yourself a mount!
A ride on a Strider can be a shaky experience. Not just because of your own palpable fear of falling into lava and losing all your belongings, but because of the Strider’s moveset. When it walks, it wobbles back and forth, like that bobblehead in your parent’s car you simply can’t stop poking. Extremely charming, but also a complete accident if you ask Brandon.
“Animations in Java’s version of Minecraft aren’t done with an external tool. Instead, it’s basically math functions that make them move in a certain way. At one point, I was playing around with this, and the Strider just did this sort of wobble from side to side. It felt quirky and fun, especially in combination with the Strider’s… unique appearance. It just made it look so lovable!”
Parking your Strider mount can be quite a hassle. Not because of the Nether’s terrible Sunday traffic or shortage of parking lots in bastion remnants, but because of its relation to anything but lava. A Strider that leaves its boiling bath for a walk on land will soon turn purple and start shivering.
Really? A mob that spends most of its time in a burning ocean will freeze on land? Don’t worry Strider, I’ll knit you a nice warm sweater for the winter holidays! The freezing mechanic wasn’t Brandon’s first idea though, but probably the best given his earlier drafts:
“In one of my first versions their legs would just retract in and they would bounce around and take damage until they died, which was kind of sad,” he admits. “Now people create lava pools just so they can keep Striders warm. There’s nothing that forces players to do that from a mechanics perspective – but they still feel compelled to because they’re so immersed in the world and want to be nice to these creatures. That’s so interesting from a design perspective and I hope we’ll be able to carry that into future features down the line.”
Freezing on land, ferrying players across lava lakes… It's obvious to me that we don’t deserve this pure little beast. If you’re curious to learn more about how the Nether Update came to be, or hear more about intricate insights from its development, check out our latest developer diary. Now, speaking of beasts, I’m off to borrow some ancient debris from Bob’s “hidden” chest.