Minecraft 1.19 launches today, loading the new biomes, mobs, and tech changes from the Wild Update. It’s the final push for (almost) all the new features originally introduced to players during Minecraft Live in 2020 and the last of three pretty major updates.
As always, there are no secrets hidden on launch day, Minecraft game director Agnes Larsson and developer Ulraf Vaknin assure me. Mojang is as committed to player feedback as ever, or else why the hell bother with instant builds, release candidates, and beta builds? And the developers talked about some of the changes that 1.19 underwent after players got down to business.
The dangerous Guardians may have transformed further over the course of development. “That was a place where we looked for feedback from both our technical players and our challenge players,” explains Vaknin. When I first tried to play the Wardens in their March debut snapshot, they were already pretty scary. They made a very loud heartbeat noise when they were agitated, they roared in my face and took out all the poor chickens I spawned in their path to distract them.
Now, they also have a sonic attack, a ranged ability that emanates from their chests to deal with players who figured out how to sneak out of the reach of their long arm. The Skulk, those new Warden summon blocks found in the Deep Dark biome, also underwent changes based on feedback from players who love the tech side of Minecraft.
“It’s a bit technical,” Vaknin says, going on to explain that Skulk’s sensors went from recording the first sound detected in the code, but now respond to the first one that’s closest. “We saw some gadgets that players tried to build that didn’t work because of that quirk in the code and we tweaked it to something that feels more intuitive.”
The comments also continue to have a huge impact on the ideas that Mojang walks away from. Leading up to the Wild Update, fireflies (originally released as frog food in Minecraft Live 2020) have been a surprising point of discussion, so much so that a recent Q&A video about the Wild Update’s new features was titled “What happened to the fireflies in Minecraft 1.19?“
In that video, producer Anna Lundgren explained that players had pointed out how fireflies can be poisonous to frogs. In our chat, Larsson and Vaknin explain that it wasn’t just the players who raised the alarm. “I was contacted by pet store owners who said this is already a problem with people not educating themselves on this and there are memes about frogs eating fireflies,” says Vaknin. “So people already make this mistake and if Minecraft amplifies this mistake, it’s going to make it a lot worse.”
“We reach millions of players,” says Larsson. “And that should come with a lot of responsibility. We realized that if we released a feature like fireflies that are poisonous to frogs and frogs eat them, that could lead to people killing their real-life frogs.” .
My instinct is to defend developers who change their minds about features in development for almost any reason, but Larsson’s more measured explanation is probably the smartest. Minecraft has been more than just a game for years at this point, marketing itself as an educational tool also. Minecraft’s new features aren’t just beholden to Bedrock vs Java editions or PC vs Xbox interfaces, Mojang also has to consider its roles as entertainment and education for its large audience of young children.
Without fireflies acting as food for frogs, Larsson says the range of the new insects was much smaller. Mojang decided to scrap them entirely for now, sending them back to the big ideas catalog and focusing on the quality of other features in the works.
As for what they personally look forward to in the new features of 1.19, Vaknin is excited to see Allay’s new friends flying around houses and builds. Larsson, a gamer after my own heart, is excited to find new mangroves and create new constructions with the set of reddish mangrove wood and mud blocks.
Minecraft 1.19 launches today with a long list of patch notes, and can be found as a new version available in your Minecraft Launcher. Today is also the day that all Minecraft players will have access to both the Java and Bedrock versions of the game, even if they previously only owned one or the other.