Minecraft Gets Even Homier With Terra Cotta

Minecraft (by Mojang) has come a long, looong way from its crowdfunded alpha and beta days. Those of us who were around back then remember a time when you could only find coal in the ground and night time was ten minutes of unskippable pure terror, hiding in a hastily dug hole while listening to the deafening growls of zombies just overhead. Since then the game has grown to be a bit more homey: charcoal is just a log away, and an easily crafted bed will allow you to skip those dark, lonely nights.

To be frank – for the past few years I’ve been mostly out of the Minecraft scene. While I ran a server with fanatical devotion for several years eventually real life took over, the fantastic players I had come to know and love got older and started getting responsibilities of their own, and I was forced to finally shut down the wonderful little world we had built up together. Every now and then, though, I get a whiff of nostalgia and fire up a single player world to relive the glory days and see what’s changed.

The answer, it seems, is “a lot”. Imagine my surprise when, after setting the game aside for a couple years, I launch Minecraft to discover rabbits, llamas, and polar bears (oh my!). It seems that while I left this blocky realm a long time ago, it continued on just fine without me, delivering a plethora of new features to attract a gaggle of new young explorers and builders. It seems that Mojang has acted in this same spirit again with its latest snapshot (17w06a), released earlier this month.

In this snapshot (Mojang’s term for a pre-released update) several new blocks have been introduced to Minecraft’s 8-bit realm, and all of them seem focused on the goal of providers players with even more tools to build even more amazing structures that I’ll never be creative enough to make. The first new block, concrete powder, seems to function much in the same way sand does (and by that I mean that it will fall down under the force of gravity, unlock most blocks which will happily hover in open space if you so choose). The main advantage concrete powder has over sand is that it’s dye-able, allowing players to craft it into a variety of different brilliant colors.

When concrete powder gets wet, it naturally hardens into the second new released block: Concrete proper. Concrete will retain the same color it had as a powder, but seems to harden into a solid, untextured surface. I could definitely see it being useful for those into creating “pixel art” structures or builders who just have a general need to add a little color to their homes.

Players who really want to get snazzy with their builds, however, will want to take the star of the latest snapshot: Glazed Terracotta. Each one of these blocks (created by smelting stained clay) forms a different brilliant multicolored pattern that players are then able to place at any one of several different orientations. The exact pattern you get depends on what color clay you throw in the smelter, allowing for endless different combinations and arrangements with which to decorate your abode.

The snapshot also features other minor (but very welcome) features, such as the ability to save and swap different toolbar arrangements in creative mode. All of this points to the upcoming version 1,12 being very much a “Builders-centric” update.

It seems that every time I hop on to Minecraft for my little nostalgia trips, it always seems to be massively changed for the better. Snapshots like this give me the urge to jump back in more regularly and try to rekindle some of that pixelated wanderlust I lost so long ago. Who knows… maybe one day I’ll even resurrect my ancient server and invite the old gang back to update our old buildings with terracotta and concrete.

(Minecraft is out now for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, Xbox, Raspberry Pi, hell probably even your toaster at this point.)