Temples beneath the sea

What inspired the mysterious Ocean Monuments?

Dive into the deep blue and you may see them shimmering through the hazy water: sprawling pyramidal structures built by unknown hands, but still patrolled by spiny Guardians - spheroid, cyclopean fish-beasts. “I’m really happy with the way the Guardians turned out,” says Jens Bergensten, Minecraft’s lead creative designer. “For some reason I really like mobs that are basically just floating orbs.”

Even the most well-seasoned adventurer will find a submarine expedition a major operation: you’ll need potions to let you breathe and move more quickly underwater. But, even then, the ocean monument won’t give up its secrets easily: Elder Guardians can cast Mining Fatigue on you as soon as you get within range, preventing you from simply digging through the labyrinth’s prismarine shell to the monument’s central gold stash.

The ocean monuments consist of one large shell and a labyrinth of rooms within. It’s wide at the bottom and gradually gets smaller and smaller higher up. There’s one top room and two wing rooms, each with an Elder Guardian in it. These are fixed in position, but an algorithm creates connections through all the other rooms so that you can always reach the three key rooms from the entrance.

Of course, the biggest strength and biggest problem with the design for Minecraft is that you can just dig through anything. So that’s why I introduced the Elder Guardians which magically give you Mining Fatigue. It also accidentally became a jump-scare, because I needed to give some feedback, some visual cue as to why you were being slowed down. I didn’t actually intend it to be scary! I just wanted to encourage people to solve the maze rather just dig through it. I know there are ways around it, but that’s fine - you are still solving the challenge in a new way. Jens Bergensten

Even aside from the fact you can score some rather decent loot by heading underwater, there’s something really appealing about exploring this strange, submarine world. There are so many legends about underwater cities - the most famous being Atlantis, said to have sunk beneath the waves after its occupants offended the Greek gods.

Its fate is only mentioned as a tiny part of a largely unrelated story by the ancient philosopher Plato and it’s very possible that he just made it all up to illustrate a point. Nonetheless, the idea of a drowned city has so captured the imagination that people have been searching for the site of the city ever since.

But maybe that’s not an entirely silly idea: while the specific city Plato mentions might be entirely fictional, its legend was very likely inspired by a mixture of real cities that were swamped by the sea. A thousand years before Plato was writing, the Minoan civilisation, which was flourishing across Crete and the surrounding islands of the Mediterranean, was almost wiped out by a tsunami resulting from a massive volcanic eruption - one of the largest ever in human history. It’s quite likely some vague memory of this event would have survived the centuries until Plato’s birth.

So maybe, just maybe, there’s a real Atlantis still out there beneath the waves, waiting to be rediscovered.