The next major update to the PC version of Minecraft just entered the testing phase. Mojang released the first snapshot for Minecraft 1.9: The Combat Update on Wednesday and, as the name suggests, it is full of changes to the way combat works in the open-world sandbox game, plus adds a new mob and makes changes to the Ender Dragon encounter.
Mojang developer Nathan "Dinnerbone" Daniels warned in a blog post that this snapshot is a "super-alpha-development-preview-test-build-thing." In other words, there is no balancing of any kind with the melee combat changes, and those that download the snapshot run the risk of breaking already created worlds. Backup your existing worlds before using them with the 15w31a snapshot build.
While Daniels would only list things not to expect in the latest Minecraft snapshot, the community quickly jumped and detailed the first changes for The Combat Update. Many of these were previewed during Minecon 2015 earlier in July, such as the ability to equip items in the character's off-hand. This gives players the ability to dual-wield, carry a shield (also a new item), and perform other new Steve tricks.
Pressing the right-mouse button will use the item in the off-hand if it has an action associated with it. You can also press the "F" key to switch items between the primary hand and the off-hand. There are some additional rules, such as the use of the item in the primary hand always takes precedence over the item in the off-hand, and holding two swords gives no extra benefit because the off-hand can't be used to attack.
A new dungeon-like structure called "End City" is added to The End, and is accessible via the End Gateway that spawns after killing the Ender Dragon. The city is arranged on islands that surround the main End island, and sports a new hostile mob named The Shulker. It disguises itself as a block on the ground or walls and shoots projectiles, which move along the game's x/y/z axis. Getting hit by a projectile has the same effect as the levitation potion, and will make players float until it wears off.
The End City itself has loot scattered around that can be picked up. Items verified so far include beetroot seeds (new item), diamonds, gold, and high enchanted diamond and iron gear.
The Ender Dragon fight is being tweaked to make it more similar to the same experience from the Minecraft console editions. The dragon will breathe purple fire on players and other mobs and defend the obsidian pillars as the fight progresses.
The major difference is players will be able to restart the Ender Dragon fight once it has been defeated by placing player-made craftable ender crystals on the ground in a pattern. Also, an Ender Dragon head will drop and can be worn by players.
Bows and arrows are receiving an upgrade, too. Arrows can now be tipped with potions, and their effects will trigger when they hit a target. A new Spectral arrow is also being added that outlines a mob or player even while they are invisible.
There are some AI changes for zombies and skeletons. So far, it's been discovered that the latter will have their bow put away when non-hostile, and will pull it out when they become hostile. Meanwhile, the former can now spawn left-handed, because nothing is more frightening than a left-handed zombie.
This is only a light touch on the number of changes coming with the Minecraft 1.9 update. There's much more than can be contained in this article for this snapshot, and even more to come in future snapshots. Please check the Minecraft Reddit thread for the full changelog that's even too lengthy for a single post there.
Those interested in trying out the 15w31a snapshot for the Minecraft 1.9 update can access it by changing the settings in their Minecraft launcher. Bugs should be reported to Mojang's bug tracker.
[Images via Reddit]