Minecraft Halloween Update: A Visual Journey

It began with whispers and rumors and has since spread across the inter
patchnotesIt began with whispers and rumors and has since spread across the internet like wildfire. Now the indie title Minecraft is practically a household name among gamers and nothing short of a gaming phenomenon. The title celebrated its 500,000th purchase this past week – a figure made even more astounding when you remember that the game is currently only in its Alpha stages and hasn't even entered Beta.

Another milestone landed just days ago – a major update to the game client that included new features, new dangers, new craftable bits and much more. After suffering through a few hours of overloaded account validation servers, I finally was able to spend the weekend digging into the mysteries of the Halloween Update and exploring the features outlined in Markus “Notch” Persson's unique patch notes. (shown to the right)

Please join me on a visual journey through this milestone update. Despite its 8-bit charm, Minecraft is truly a breathtaking visual experience, and one that I hope I can do justice to in these images. Enjoy!

The new worlds that can be created in Minecraft include regional pockets of different climates and biology, known as “biomes.”


With the introduction of these biomes into the world-generation engine, each new area created by the engine has become much more realistic and varied. It has also introduced snow and ice into the basic green worlds we've seen to date.


Based on my observations, the new world-generation code also seems to do a better job of creating more interesting elevations as well – cliffs, lagoons, canyons and such, seem much more prevalent than they were in the previous iteration.

Another new feature: PUMPKINS!


These new plants can be harvested for a number of uses if you find them in the wild, but cannot be grown or reproduced at this time.

One of the more amusing uses of a pumpkin, is as a helmet.


It provides no armor rating however, and is simply a cosmetic toy. A fun one, though!

pumpkin3The other, more productive use of pumpkins, is to combine them with a torch like so:

The result is a Jack-O-Lantern that is slightly brighter than a torch.

And, perhaps most importantly, they work underwater!  For anyone that's gone obsidian farming beneath a waterfall, you know just how handy this could be.


watch1But pumpkins aren't the only new craftable to enter the world of Minecraft. You can now fashion gold and reddust together...

… to create a time-keeping trinket!

This item will accurately map the day/night cycle to an easy-to-read handheld device that is accurate even when deep underground. No more guessing about what time of day it is on the surface after you've dug yourself a cozy hole in the ground. Simply look at your new watch, and behold the answer.


And last, but certainly not least, is the feature that has gained the most attention from this update. The game now offers adventurers the means to travel to an alternate dimension, now officially called “The Nether” after previously being referred to as Hell or The Slip.


It's truly amazing to me how a vista comprised of such low-polygon counts and low-resolution textures, can actually appear so jaw-droppingly gorgeous. But for all its beauty, the Nether has a purpose and is just as deadly as it is pretty.


Accessing the Nether is done via a gate that must be built by the player. It must be built from obsidian (one of the most difficult materials to obtain) and encircle an opening 2 bricks wide by 3 bricks tall. Once your gate is assembled, lighting it on fire with a Flint & Steel will ignite the passageway to the Nether.

You must enter the purple haze and then hold still while the game engine transfers you to your new realm.

One of the more useful reasons that the Nether exists, is for ease of travel. Each step within the Nether is translated to approximately 10 steps in your native land. I tested this by placing two gates exactly 10 bricks apart from each other...


… and stepped through the new gate I had created, to return to my original world. I found myself quite a distance from my camp, just as promised.


Notch has claimed that the gates are smart enough to not dump you in lava or water (depending on the destination realm), and it has been confirmed that movement on the Z-axis does not amplify in the same way that horizontal movement does.

One other reason to travel to the Nether, is for some of the resources it contains. Such as mushrooms, which are quite rare in the other world, but as common as trees in this dank realm.


The bricks and blocks that comprise the Nether can be easily harvested and freely transported back to your home in Mineworld. One of the more noteworthy of these bricks is the lightdust bricks that hang in chandelier-like fashion from many ceilings and overhangs.


They break very easily and make a shattering noise like glass. When broken, each brick yields one lightdust powder.


helllight3This powder can be taken back to a crafting station and fashioned back into a brick, but the recipe requires 9 of the powder for a single brick. It's important to note that these re-built bricks will only yield one powder again if broken.

The bricks can be used as a light source though! Much dimmer than a torch or jack-o-lantern, but also capable of being placed underwater. I believe they'd make a very nice illuminated walkway in a future creation.


But the Nether is not an easy place to live in. The most common denizen you are likely to encounter is the zombie pigmen. With their flesh falling from their bones, and ghoulish cries of anguish, they are truly frightening to get close to. But thankfully, they are not violent.


… unless provoked.


IMPORTANT NOTE:  A bug in the current build is causing all items that should be dropped upon death to instead vanish from the game. So travel with extreme care until this confirmed bug can be addressed and rectified.

The other, far more dangerous creature dwelling in the deeps of the Nether, is the Ghast. These vicious flying jellyfish are enormous (4x4x4 bricks large) and shoot exploding fireballs from their giant mouths if they catch sight of you traversing their realm.


In addition to being quite deadly on their own, they also enjoy the distinction of being completely immune to light sources when determining spawn points. Meaning that placing a few torches in your Nether Castle won't protect you, and there is nothing more frightening than having a ghast spawn in your bedroom. To overcome this, make sure you do not build larger than 4x4x4 in any single room, and get creative with your corners or furnishings – ghasts require a 5x5x5 open area in which to spawn.

The most important aspects of Minecraft – harvesting, building, surviving – have remained unchanged in this recent update, with the exception of having more toys to play with than ever before. So let your imaginations run wild, and remember to share your impressive creations with others. That's half the fun of the game, after all!

She's a work in progress... but she'll make the Kessel Run in less than 12 pixels!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Minecraft Game Page.

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