How We Ruin-ed Minecraft
Behind the sea-nes of the new Update Aquatic!
How was your weekend? I spent mine underwater, exploring ancient ruins from long-ago-times, while trying to avoid the deadly stings of poisonous fish. Oh, and I also played the new Minecraft Java Snapshot.
Dive into this latest snapshot and you'll get a tantalising taste of upcoming Update Aquatic features, like the oh-so-mysterious Underwater Ruins.
“Exploration is a fun and important part of Minecraft,” says Java developer Agnes Larsson, when I ask her why they've added underwater structures to the game. “Ruins make exploration of the oceans more fun and exciting!
“Imagine swimming in the deep oceans among kelp, seagrass and lots of fish, and suddenly you find a ruined, overgrown village! What's the story of the village? Can you find treasures in there? Maybe you can rebuild the ruins to be your very own ocean base? It's all up to the players!”
Agnes is confident the Ruins fulfil one of the main goals of the Update Aquatic, which is to make Minecraft's oceans more interesting to explore. “[Especially] exploration of ocean biomes,” she explains. [Ruins] come in different variants for warm and cold oceans, so they give new differences between biomes which also is good for exploration.”
Though they're far from final, the Underwater Ruins do have treasures to be found. What kind of treasures? You'll just have to play the Snapshot and find out yourself!
But you're not here to read about ruins.
You're here to read about the most exciting thing to happen to this game in years.
You’re here to read about an addition that's practically guaranteed to be the most popular feature in Minecraft since someone suggested adding blocks – Kelp!
Ace Pixel Artist Jasper Boerstra explained how kelp isn't just a new underwater plant in Minecraft, but new ground for the visual design of the game too. “Kelp is the first plant to utilise a new kind of visual feature: Animation.”
“Before, the only things that [were] animated were either particles or the lava/water and some other solid blocks. But we never animated a plant that used transparency.
“This was a new challenge for the style of Minecraft - as it has never been done before, we had no frame of reference to adapt the animation style to - so we had to find it.”
But why bother animating the plants at all?
“It would look very unnatural if it didn't move at all underwater,” Jasper explains. “It's okay on land that everything is static because it still looks good, and animating all the land foliage might be too busy in general.
“But in the water you can't see that far, so it's still easy on the eyes. As everything is animated smoothly and wavy, it gives off the calm atmosphere you would expect from being underwater.”
You're not the only new explorer of the updated oceans, mind. We've filled the seas with new types of fish! Above is the delightful pufferfish, which filled me with delightful poison because I was too busy taking that screenshot to swim away in time :(
“If you come close it puffs up and poisons you,” confirms Jasper, completely unsympathetic to the fact it just poisoned YOUR HERO (me). “The pufferfish already existed in Minecraft before, as a small fishing item. It had an iconic yellow look and a face that looked like he was screaming in agony.” Er, great!
“For the new update, we were going to give the pufferfish a real body,” Jasper continues. “The design for it was quite obvious - IRL they are just round when puffed up, so we just adapted to that and made it a block instead.
“We started out with a yellow texture to follow up with the already existing icon, but we felt like it could be improved to follow the new default textures.
“So we continued to remake it to look more like a pufferfish. [So we] gave it a distinct brown colour and beige-coloured belly. We decided to keep the blue fins as a tribute to the old texture.”
As for the item icon, it still looks like a pufferfish screaming in agony. Er, hooray!