Mojang have announced the next big Minecraft content update, Caves & Cliffs, with a focus on improving holes and heights. They're overhauling how it generates these geological features while adding new biomes, so we should expect some cavernous caves, watery caves with waterfalls and rivers running through, stalactites and stalactites, a lovely new 'Lush Cave' biome full of flora, and a spooky 'Deep Dark' biome with a nasty new enemy. The update is not due to launch until next summer, but Mojang showed a few bit of the newness in their Minecraft Live event over the weekend. Oh, and hell yeah it's adding axolotls.
The feature I like most is the Lush Cave biome, full of glowing vines, flowers, grass, rivers, and other things that please me when I imagine how those caves must smell. One neat touch is that Lush Caves are signposted on the surface by azalea trees, which grow above them. So if you see one, head down.
As well as new plantflife, caves are home to lovely new friends, axolotls. You can scoop the salamanders into a bucket to make them your friends and carry them around, then later unleash them as your army. Yep. They'll attack enemies in the water for you, and don't worry about them dying. If they get wounded, they'll play dead while they regenerate (actual real axolotls actually really can regenerate large and vital bodyparts). I once had pet axolotls and now have a tattoo of a pair so yep, well up for these weird teens.
"There's definitely still the old style of caves, but we wanted to make sure that there was much more variety in the sort of caves, in the shape and the sizes you can get," Mojang's Brandon Pearce said. I'm up for anything making Minecraft a more interesting place to explore.
Caves also now have different water levels, with some perhaps being flooded in parts, and waterfalls and rivers aplenty. Which yep, you can xtreme canoe down:
Elsewhere, the Dripstone Cave biome will introduce stalagmites and stalactites, which hurt if they fall on you or you fall on them. You might also find crystal and amethyst geodes that chime and tinkle magically.
Way down at the bottom of cavehell, we'll find the Deep Dark biome. This has new Sculk blocks, kinda organic creep slime bits, which comes in Sculk Growth blocks and Sculk Sensor blocks. These sense vibrations from movement and placing blocks, triggering an unnerving rattling noise. These are Redstone blocks, mind, so you can use them as sensors - and even carefully wrap them in wool to create a sort of directional wireless Redstone. But another awful thing is down there sensing vibrations, the blind but murderous Warden.
"With this mob we really wanted to make sure that we recapture that feeling of the first night of Minecraft," Pearce said. "We can often forget that Minecraft can be a pretty scary game, so we wanted to make sure that we go back to that. I mean, caves can be scary, they're dark, and all I'm gonna say is that when you go into the deep dark, I wanna make sure that you're very quiet and watch closely for The Warden."
Underground we'll also find copper, a new ore which spawns in veins to follow rather than random blobs. As a block, it'll naturally gain that lovely green Verdigris patina over time. It can also be used to create the new telescope and lightning rod.
Careful excavation will come with the addition of archaeology. We'll sometimes find in-progress excavation sites, and can craft a brush to slowly clear away blocks to find artefacts - though mind you don't rush and destroy them.
"I love the story side of the archaeology," Mojang's Agnes Larsson said on stream, "because we often talk about that we want to deepen the mystery in Minecraft, and when you find these hidden artefacts you kinda find like connections and hints, and we will never tell the full story but this will inspire the players to tell their own stories about their own Minecraft worlds."
Over on the cliffs side of the Caves & Cliffs update, they say to expect "better mountain generation with spectacular and more-dramatic mountains", including treelines and snow at the appropriate heights. It'll also add the Powder Snow block, a sort of trap which players and mobs can fall through.
In short: axolotls!