Latest ‘Minecraft’ update means new blocks, better villages, and pillagers with crossbows

Latest ‘Minecraft’ update means new blocks, better villages, and pillagers with crossbows

“Minecraft” may be one of the best-selling video games of all time – with more than 154 million copies purchased to date – but the developers haven't stopped building more into the game.

Acquired by Microsoft in 2014, developer Mojang has just launched Village & Pillage, a free update that adds a plethora of new goodies to “Minecraft,” for both the Java and Bedrock versions of game, which includes Windows PC ($26.95 and $26.99 for PC and Macintosh), mobile (iOS and Android, $6.99), Xbox One ($19.99) and Nintendo Switch ($29.99), and virtual reality platforms.

Before we get into what’s new and newsworthy in this new update, take in these additional facts about the world-renowned building simulation, released ten years ago this month: more people are playing “Minecraft” than ever before at about 91 million unique players every month (across all platforms); more than 160 million people have watched more than 5 billion hours of Minecraft video content on YouTube; and not only is “Minecraft” one of the best-selling games in history, but also one of the highest-rated, with the PC version netting a 93% average “metascore” at Metacritic.com.

Building better ‘Minecraft' villages 

As the name suggests, villages have changed quite a bit and are among the highlights in this latest ‘Minecraft' update.

Visually, villages will look different based on biome, or region – plains, desert, savannah, taiga, and so forth – therefore you can expect to see changes based on climate and local resources. In fact, villages are now generated differently, so the layout and architecture of the village will vary.

Villages are generated differently now in 'Minecraft,' and enjoy a new look and gameplay elements tied to each biome, or region.

Villages are generated differently now in ‘Minecraft,' and enjoy a new look and gameplay elements tied to each biome, or region. (Photo: Mojang/Microsoft)

Along with new building types, villagers also look more unique, with clothing that matches the biome they’re in, as well as their level and profession. With the latter, villagers now learn a trade when near a job site block, such as a Blacksmith, Librarian, Butcher, Cartographer and Shepherd, to name a few.

Villagers go about their business with a specific routine – from bed to work to socializing with others – and with better “pathfinding” artificial intelligence, too. 

There are other additions, too, such as Masons and Nitwit villagers, kids who play tag, and more. 

Prepare to fend off Pillagers 

Want to pick a fight? Even if you don’t, you might be forced to defend yourself from an angry mob in the “Minecraft” Village & Pillage update.

While not too bright, the crossbow-wielding pillagers will disrupt the villagers’ daily lives, by attacking them in small groups, at fortified outposts, and will plunder indiscriminately throughout the land. Unlike skeletons, these pillagers may not be smart enough to move out of the way of your return fire; their aim isn’t the best; and they’ll often hurt each other with friendly fire (and say “Ow!”).

What’s better than a bow? A crossbow, of course. This is the main new weapon found in the ‘Village & Pillage’ update for ‘Minecraft.'

What’s better than a bow? A crossbow, of course. This is the main new weapon found in the ‘Village & Pillage’ update for ‘Minecraft.' (Photo: Mojang/Microsoft)

But what they lack in brains they make up for in tenacity. Pillagers will respawn in large outpost towers and swarm and destroy villagers in their path. So, keep a shield handy to minimize damage from an onslaught of arrows.

Once you clear them out, you can score some loot. Players who successfully defend a village from a raid will receive some fireworks and the Hero of the Village effect, which provides a deep discount on trades with villagers (see below). And if you take out a pillager captain – the ones with the banners on their backs – you’ll be rewarded with a triggered raid when you enter a village. 

Along with pillagers, there are other new mobs in this update, including chubby pandas, stray cats, Ravagers (a powerful new mob), and some other surprises.

Trading up in the ‘Minecraft' update

As previously mentioned, there are new occupations in each village you visit, and that means new opportunities for trading.

When villagers make trades, they gain experience. Gain enough experience and they level up. Leveling up unlocks new trades. You get the idea.

Villagers now have a new visual-based trading system and will hold up an item they wish to trade if the player is holding something they want.

Also new is Wandering Traders, which are mysterious salesmen – flanked by a llama on each side of him – who deal items from several different biomes, often with rare materials, and offering up to six randomly generated trades. These special characters stay alive at night by drinking invisibility potions. And their loyal llamas spit at mobs if approached.

The latest ‘Minecraft’ update adds several new professionals to the game, including cartographer, librarian, butcher, and, shown here, the stone mason.

The latest ‘Minecraft’ update adds several new professionals to the game, including cartographer, librarian, butcher, and, shown here, the stone mason. (Photo: Mojang/Microsoft)

Bamboo, berries and bells 

There are dozens of other new features (and fixes) in the Village & Pillage update. Here are a few more worthy features:

•Like bamboo? Then you’ll love the update as there’s plenty of it in two new biomes: bamboo jungle and bamboo jungle hills. You can not only chop it down easily by hitting it with a sword, but also combine it with string to make scaffolding in building structures.

•Several new blocks now pop up, including a variety of slabs, stairs, and walls. New textures have been added to blocks, too, such as stained glass. And there are new job site blocks that assign trades to jobless villagers.

•As you might expect, crossbows offer many benefits over a regular bow: the weapon enjoys higher damage (and can pierce multiple enemies), plus it reloads faster, and can also shoot fireworks.

•Other additions include a bell you can ring to warn villagers of an impending attack or danger – so they run inside and hide; campfires, which serve as a light source or to cook meat; Sweet Berries, a new source of food found in taiga biomes; seven new Achievements including one for killing a pillager captain; and some accessibility features such as text to speech, which can now be enabled to read in-game chat.

‘Minecraft’ Creator Excluded From Anniversary Due to ‘Comments and Opinions’ (EXCLUSIVE)

‘Minecraft’ Creator Excluded From Anniversary Due to ‘Comments and Opinions’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Minecraft” creator Marcus “Notch” Persson, who sold the title to Microsoft for $2.5 billion in 2014, won’t be part of 10-year anniversary plans for the game because of his “comments and opinions,” Microsoft tells Variety.

“His comments and opinions do not reflect those of Microsoft or Mojang and are not representative of ‘Minecraft,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Variety.

The spokesperson also noted that Persson hasn’t been involved with “Minecraft” since he sold the studio and rights to the game in 2014. 

Persson, once an involved member of the video game development community, has increasingly ostracized himself with his Twitter comments, including transphobic statements and comments about a “heterosexual pride day,” and  that “it’s ok to be white.” Persson has about 3.7 million followers on Twitter.

An update to the game last month removed loading screen text on “Minecraft” that referenced Persson. Microsoft didn’t comment about the decision to remove the reference last month.

But speaking with Variety this week, a Microsoft official confirmed that Persson would not take part in a press event at Minecraft studio Mojang in Stockholm to celebrate the May 17. The event will look at the “past, present and exciting future of the decade-old franchise,” according to the company.

“Minecraft” is a seminal video game. With more than 91 million monthly players, the building and survival game is the second best-selling video game in history, behind “Tetris.”

“Minecraft” is available on all gaming platforms.

This Minecraft Program Helps Students ‘Rebuild’ Heritage Sites Destroyed by Conflict

This Minecraft Program Helps Students ‘Rebuild’ Heritage Sites Destroyed by Conflict

The Buddhas of Bamyan were two monumental statues carved into the side of a cliff in Bamyan Valley, central Afghanistan, during the 6th century. Though constructed directly from the sandstone itself, sculptors fashioned some of the more intricate details out of mud, straw, and carefully coated stucco. At 115 and 174 feet tall, they both stood as towering tributes to Buddha.

In March 2001, the Taliban destroyed both statues, reducing centuries of history and ancient expression—both artistic and religious—to rubble. It was a blow that will reverberate throughout the generations that will never get to experience its glory firsthand.

Many war-affected countries harbor similar stories of loss while younger generations miss out on not only the majesty but also the chance to truly place the deep cultural significance of these pillars. That is why the History Blocks project was launched in February.Minecraft | History Blocks

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With the support of the United Nations agency UNESCO, History Blocks allows students to collaboratively rebuild monuments that were destroyed during conflicts in the Middle East. The interactive program takes place within Microsoft’s Minecraft Education Edition platform. With the help of their teachers—and subjects like math, history, and government—students can “restore” notable landmarks like the Buddhas of Bamyan or the Temple of Bel within the legendary Minecraft world.

Developed by agency Africa in São Paulo, History Blocks is available to schools in over 30 countries. The team behind the project’s development hopes to expand to other nations, which would continue to close the gap between today’s generation and these relics.

“Unfortunately, many monuments have been destroyed by wars and conflicts … monuments which are a part of and tell our history,” said Sergio Gordilho, Africa’s Co-president and CCO. “Since we are unable to rebuild these monuments in the real world, at least we could make it so in the digital world.”

Running such a program under a name as widely recognizable as Minecraft further exemplifies the versatility of a video gaming industry that continues to battle a negative, violent perception. Lending a platform to such a pedagogic effort provides another inextricable link between video games and education.

“Technology is a tool to transform education and bring to life methods that used to be unthinkable when it comes to teaching,” said Daniel Maia, manager for academic projects at Microsoft Brazil. “The project on the UNESCO’s world heritage sites opens the door for students all over the world to study important monuments of our history.”

Microsoft teases ‘Minecraft’ AR for your phone

Microsoft teases ‘Minecraft’ AR for your phone

Microsoft has something big in store for Minecraft fans. The company used the start of Build 2019 to offer a teaser for an augmented reality Minecraftexperience for phones. The clip doesn't say much about what the experience entails, although it's safe to say you won't be building entire virtual worlds in your neighborhood — the limitations of the real world will likely dictate what you can do.

The teaser promises more info on May 17th. This isn't going to be as slick as the HoloLens take on Minecraft, but it might not have to be. If anything, this could be an introduction to AR for kids and other curious gamers who might otherwise be unfamiliar with the technology and what it can do.

Catch up on all the latest news from Build 2019 here!

The Sims 4 audience grew 35% year-over-year

The Sims 4 audience grew 35% year-over-year

Electronic Arts said today that the audience for The Sims 4 grew 35% in the past year.

In its earnings report, EA said that active players for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2019, grew 35%. That’s a testament to EA’s live operations for the PC and mobile versions of the game.

Back in October, EA said The Sims 4’s expansions have been downloaded more than 30 million times. The Sims 4 launched for PC in 2014, with the Xbox One version following in 2017. The base game has sold well beyond 10 million copies.

Minecraft Marketplace March 2019’s top 10 downloads

Minecraft Marketplace March 2019’s top 10 downloads

The Minecraft Marketplace is continuing to attract fan engagement. Players showed up to the store for 3,705,978 downloads in March. That’s up from 3.32 million in February, and it’s also up more than 10-fold year-over-year from 321,317 downloads in March 2018.

The downloads are coming from a lot of familiar pieces of content and concepts. Ongoing hits like Dragons and Luxury Life are once again on both the top 10 most downloaded and highest grossing lists. City-based maps are also still extremely popular.

Top 10 most downloaded

2. Pet Shop

 2. Pet Shop

1. City Living — Noxcrew

“Cars, helicopters, private jets …. They’re all yours with Noxcrew’s City Living. Get the full lifestyle experience with luxury apartments, office buildings, and even drivable vehicles.”

2. Pet Shop — Pixelheads

“Welcome to Pet Shop. Choose between 17 lovely pets. Explore a town and earn coins by collecting poop or by catching stray animals. Play fetch with dogs, trim a poodle, or take a snake for a walk. Cats, hamsters, lizards, poodles, capuchin monkeys, snails, hedgehogs, snakes, German shepherds, parakeets, penguins, rats, piggies, ferrets, koalas, chameleons, and rottweilers.”

3. Dragons — InPvP

“Take one of six dragons to the skies and become a legendary dragon rider. Surprise your enemies with custom attacks. Shoot fireballs and drop TNT. Explore three huge castles and the beautiful custom landscape.”

4. Luxury Life — Pixelheads

“Luxury Life is a world where you role-play life as a billionaire. Cruise the streets in a sports car or any of the 10 other vehicles, explore luxurious mansions and decorate with furniture!”

5. Springtime — CubeCraft

“Spring is here! Dress up as a cute Easter bunny or choose from a variety of pastel coloured outfits. Show your friends you have the best style with one of our adorable onesies.”

6. Teens! HD — Pixel Squared

“Teens are back! We’ve revisited one of our favorite skin packs and re-created these teens in HD! Enjoy some of your favorite outfits again, but this time in even more detail! There are matching skins here for everyone, so grab your friends and adventure in style as any of these fashionable pairs.”

7. Steven Universe Mash-Up — Minecraft

“Steven enters the Minecraft universe in this Diamond-worth mash-up. Contains Steven Universe themed skins, textures, and original music from the show and all your favorite locations, from Beach City to Homeworld. Believe in Steven.”

8. Dinosaur Island — Pixelheads

“This once-idyllic island has been overrun by prehistoric beasts after the scientists lost control of their genetic experiments. Explore and discover the hidden mysteries of this intriguing island in a completely new adventure on Dinosaur Island.”

9. City Life — Pixelheads

“Cruise through the big city in City Life! Chase down a bandit in your police car, save the day as a firefighter or take your dog for a walk.”

10. City Mash-Up —  Everbloom Studios

“With over 1,000 hand-detailed rooms, there are stories, secrets, and mini-games around every corner. Build with the city’s full texture pack in your own worlds or take on any role you can imagine!”

Top 10 highest grossing

2. Pet Shop

 2. Pet Shop

1. City Living — Noxcrew

“Cars, helicopters, private jets …. They’re all yours with Noxcrew’s City Living. Get the full lifestyle experience with luxury apartments, office buildings, and even drivable vehicles.”

2. Pet Shop — Pixelheads

“Welcome to Pet Shop. Choose between 17 lovely pets. Explore a town and earn coins by collecting poop or by catching stray animals. Play fetch with dogs, trim a poodle, or take a snake for a walk. Cats, hamsters, lizards, poodles, capuchin monkeys, snails, hedgehogs, snakes, German shepherds, parakeets, penguins, rats, piggies, ferrets, koalas, chameleons, and rottweilers.”

3. Dragons — InPvP

“Take one of six dragons to the skies and become a legendary dragon rider. Surprise your enemies with custom attacks. Shoot fireballs and drop TNT. Explore three huge castles and the beautiful custom landscape.”

4. Luxury Life — Pixelheads

“Luxury Life is a world where you role-play life as a billionaire. Cruise the streets in a sports car or any of the 10 other vehicles, explore luxurious mansions and decorate with furniture!”

5. City Mash-Up — Everbloom Studios

“With over 1,000 hand-detailed rooms, there are stories, secrets, and mini-games around every corner. Build with the city’s full texture pack in your own worlds or take on any role you can imagine!”

6. Steven Universe Mash-Up — Minecraft

“Steven enters the Minecraft universe in this Diamond-worth mash-up. Contains Steven Universe themed skins, textures, and original music from the show and all your favorite locations, from Beach City to Homeworld. Believe in Steven.”

7. The Nightmare Before Christmas — Minecraft

“A nightmare? Before Christmas? With thousands of blocks over there and more redstone than I can bear? Looks scary, but also fun! Could it be I got my wish? Should I play, or should I run? A Christmas pack so nightmarish!”

8. Dinosaur Island — Pixelheads

“This once-idyllic island has been overrun by prehistoric beasts after the scientists lost control of their genetic experiments. Explore and discover the hidden mysteries of this intriguing island in a completely new adventure on Dinosaur Island.”

9. City Life — Pixelheads

“Cruise through the big city in City Life! Chase down a bandit in your police car, save the day as a firefighter or take your dog for a walk.”

10. Advanced Farming — Gamemode One

“Farm your heart out with new machines, vehicles, animals, pets, vendors, characters, and lands to explore.”