Meet the Dolphin
Nathan Adams talks about the latest aquatic mob!
The ocean of the overworld is a dark and ominous place of mystery, just waiting to be explored in the upcoming Update Aquatic. What untold horrors have the development team added to Minecraft’s depths? Sharks? Krakens? Enderwhales? Minecraft Java’s Nathan Adams has the answer to their unique thinking.
“We wanted to add dolphins, just because they’re super cute.”
Wait... what? Super cute dolphins?!
“The very idea of dolphins just fits the theme of the update perfectly!” Nathan elaborates. “We’ve added so many hostile and adventurous things to the ocean that we also wanted to add something friendly as well. The dolphin was the obvious choice!”
As Lead Engineer on the Java Edition, Nathan has been heavily involved in the dolphin’s design (along with Jens, Agnes and particuarly Maria Lemón) for the upcoming Update Aquatic. Since its announcement at Minecon Earth last year, he and the Java team have been hard at work to design the dolphin as not just a unique animal in Minecraft, but also act as something of a guide to welcome players to a brand new world beneath the surface.
“I think the thing that they’re bringing right now is just a very friendly face underwater to show you that you’re not alone and that not everything is scary,” Nathan explains. “It’s nice to have something in the water that actually cares for you, and I think dolphins do a great job of showing this to the players.”
Social creatures of habit, dolphins can be found swimming together through the ocean in large groups. As they spot the player, they will try to interact with them, showing them just how highly intelligent and curious they are. Above all else – they are extremely playful!
“Dolphins want to swim with you or play with items that are floating around in the water. If you’re nearby, they’ll try and play with you, especially if you’re in a boat. Then they’ll will follow it, maybe pretend to be a boat themselves, or even jump over it – just to show off how playful they are.”
Ok, I’m convinced. Forget about terrifying monsters or lurking horrors. I want to hang with these guys!
“If they trust you, which they automatically do unless you upset them, they will treat you as one of their own and pretend you’re another dolphin,” Nathan explains. “With that in mind, they can flock with you and even give you a special speed boost, or even play ping pong with nearby items.”
The dolphin has undergone several iterations throughout development, sometimes with interesting results. One time they even turned against the developers themselves!
“When Maria [Lemón] was adding dolphins for the first time, and especially working on the jumping behaviour, she got really upset because they kept crashing into her boats,” says Nathan. “She thought they had it out for her, like they were just trying to get her out of the boat for some reason, and it was hilarious just watching her be frustrated with the dolphins!”
So perhaps the dolphins aren’t as cheerful and happy-go-lucky as we’re led to believe? What if they are in fact way smarter than us humans? Telekinetic mind-readers just waiting for the right moment to take over the world? Were they even based on real life dolphins?
“We did a fair bit of research, actually,” Nathan assures me. “Where do dolphins actually live, what kind of behaviours do dolphins have, how social are they? What have the movies told us that is actually true versus just us repeating a lie?”
Implementing this research was a challenge, because of the dolphins’ habitat and natural conditions, which is different to practically every other animal in Minecraft.
“Most animals either have to be on land and if they go underwater, they die. Or they have to be in water and if they go on land they die,” says Nathan. Dolphins, however, need to spend some time both in water and occasionally need to surface for air. “They need oxygen and to be wet, which was a really weird thing for most mobs of Minecraft since dolphins are the first ones that need both.”
A dolphin’s trust is easily gained, but also easily lost. If you hurt or aggravate one, you will upset the entire community of dolphins within that area, and they’ll all have it out for you. Nathan has an easy solution for the problem.
“Just be nice to the dolphins! I think a lot of people just want to see what happens when you upset them, and that doesn’t end well. People try to catch the dolphins to tame them, but I don’t really think that’s ever going to work. Just let them be and be nice – they will help you if you help them!”
Ok, so not that scary then, but hear me out here; what about an Enderdolphin?