Meet the Phantom

How we made the Monster of the Night Skies

I'm terrible at getting enough sleep in Minecraft. How can I go to bed when there are more diamonds to mine, monsters to fight and a garden to replant after another blasted Creeper blew it up again?

Just accept it - sleep is for suckers! Bedtime is for bores! Rest is for... rest is for... drat, I'm too tired to think of anything.

In fact, that’s not the only reason I should really start getting to bed. Because if I don't start getting enough sleep in Minecraft, I'll meet The Phantom.

Last year during our MINECON Earth livestream, we let you vote on a new mob to be added to Minecraft. The winning mob was Mob B – The Monster of the Night Skies. Before voting opened, Jens described Mob B as:

This manta-ray-like monster is a flying creature that spawns at high altitudes. It is attracted to insomnia, and will find players who haven't slept for many days. It will swoop down in groups and bite your flesh. You should vote for Mob B, because there are currently no flying monsters in the overworld. Jens Bergensten

Flesh bites! Punishing insomnia! Flying monsters! Yes, apparently the majority of you found those features appealing enough to make B the winning mob. Take a look at the original design below:

Having won the vote, Mob B – now named The Phantom - started development. This original design was included in a recent Java snapshot:

As you can probably (hopefully?) tell, the Phantom has been through a pretty large redesign since then. So what happened?

“The main feedback was [about] the concept art that people voted on,” explains Jens, “ I think it had more details than the model that I made.

“But one reason for that was the mouth in the concept art. When I put that in the game, it looked so much like a muppet! And then since the mouth didn’t actually do anything - it didn’t have any gameplay connection - I just decided to remove it.

“I also simplified a lot of the other [parts] – the body and the wings as well, so there were fewer segments.”

A lot of people in the office say they'd like me more if someone removed my mouth. Yeah, thanks.

Feedback was mixed, so the team considered a new approach. “Jasper Boestra [Minecraft pixel artist] just wanted to make a new texture,” explains Jens. “And then he changed the model as well, including trying out the mouth, but he came to the same conclusion.”

“It looked like a weird sock muppet with a mouth,” agrees Jasper. For some reason, Jasper didn't want to be known as 'the guy who put a sock muppet in Minecraft'. Instead, he wanted to try another design – one that would take The Phantom in a darker direction.

“I wanted the new Phantom model to appeal more to older audiences,” explains Jasper. “So I made it scarier and more grim. At the same time, this would definitely appeal to our younger audiences as well. I tried to achieve a certain cool factor that would make people go 'That's awesome!'.”

I was searching Jasper's desk for anything worth stealing when I saw these - early sketches of his Phantom design. Neat!

One of the most striking parts of the new Phantom design is the visible skeleton. “I wanted to do this for the phantom as well for the scary factor,” says Jasper, “and as you all know, I'm really into skeletons.” Unfortunately, this is a fact.

“The blue colour was added instead of black to make it more colourful - not everything has to be so dark to be scary,” Jasper continues. “We tested more colours as well, but we thought it was important to make it a unique monster that isn't really connected to any dimension. Red was our second choice, but it looked too much like a Nether creature.”

But The Phantom is now solely a creature of the overworld. “We also did a few gameplay changes,” confirms Jens. “It doesn’t spawn in The End anymore.”

“Partly because in The End, you can’t sleep, so you can’t make it stop spawning, and you’re also under the sky all the time, so it would just spawn all the time.

“I tried to achieve a certain cool factor that would make people go 'That's awesome!'”

“We wanted it so you can protect yourself either by being in the day or in a cave or by sleeping. So it was just too much effort to avoid the Phantom in The End.”

Hooray! And with the Phantoms gone, The End is once more a lovely safe place to explore, full of lollipops and sunshine and ha ha ha JK please don't send me back to the nightmare that is The End please please please.

For Jasper, designing The Phantom was a chance to try something new with the look of Minecraft. “I was thinking about ideas, and I was always thinking very on brand and in-style,” he explains. “I decided it was time to challenge the style a bit, and [so I] made something that I thought would be really cool.

“If it was not Minecraft-y enough, we could edit it to be in style. But it ended up being just fine. We've introduced a new thing as well with this texture. I used alpha channel on a body block to give it more detail.

“I'm super happy how it turned out.”

Am I super happy? No reader. No I am not. Because currently, I'm sprinting away on my tired little legs from a pack of vicious Phantoms. Oh, why didn't I remember to get some sleep? Hey, at least they can't bite me now they don't have mouths! They'll likely just peck me to death.

Wow, every cloud really does have a silver lining!

The Phantom is currently lurking in the skies of the latest Minecraft Java Snapshot

Written by
Tom Stone
Published
03/12/2018

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