Meet the Villagers
Who hangs out at the hamlet?
Villages are some of the most bustling, lively places in Minecraft outside of the player’s own constructions. They’re populated by sort-of-friendly folk involved in various useful pursuits: farmers, fisherman, fletchers, butchers, clerics, armorers and more. Including my favourite: the nitwit.
Right click on a villager and you can trade with them, offering them emeralds in exchange for better equipment, maps to notable treasures or food. Unless you are trying to trade with a nitwit, of course, in which case you’re going to get squat. Who’s the nitwit now?
Back in the old days, though, that’s all you were guaranteed from any of the village’s occupants.
We added them in 2011, but in the beginning they were completely useless - you couldn’t trade with them, they didn’t have any sound effects or anything. Their only purpose was to live in the villages. We discussed a lot about what they would do - we knew we wanted trading, but we weren’t sure about what would happen with the village itself. Would the player do quests around the village? Would it expand?
We decided in the end that, once the player arrives in the world, it’s up to the player to build things. So, we decided to have a system where, if a player improves a village, then it would expand in population. But we found that it was very computationally expensive to evaluate what constituted a house.
So we made the simplest solution: if you have a door and an inside and outside, then that counts as a house. The problem is that people now just make these rows of doors just to increase the village! So we had to balance the game depending on that. Jens Bergensten
One of the reasons it took so long to implement trading was that, originally, Minecraft creator Notch wanted trading to take place in the world - you’d drop an item and the villager would pick it up and throw something else back to you. Jens says this was in homage to Dungeon Master, an RPG series that let you trade with vendors by dumping your wares on a table - and the vendor would then look happy or sad. This turned out to be a lot more difficult to implement in the less restricted world of Minecraft. Back to Jens again!
It was really difficult to make a system in which you knew what items were for sale, what they cost and how much you had paid for it. The villagers weren’t going to talk and it felt out of keeping with the rest of the game to use a lot of onscreen text to describe each transaction.
We did some experiments with thoughts bubbles, but it didn’t look good. So in the end, after I’d been lead on Minecraft for a year, we just decided to add an interface instead. Jens Bergensten