working full-time on Minecraft here, and has already got a flying start! We managed to do a lot of fixing and tweaking for this week's snapshot, and have finally decided to lock down on a proper release date for Minecraft 1.3: August 1, 2012.
A week prior to releasing, we'll post a “release candidate” that is likely to be identical to the actual release. This version is intended to give server admins and modders a little more time to prepare for the new Minecraft version.
Minecraft 1.3 consists of a huge number of changes, and some of them are changes to the fundamental game engine. The most dramatic change is that we've kicked out single-player, and made it a shell on top of multi-player. There are two major benefits to this: first, it's required for the modding api if we don't want to have multiple implementations of every mod, and second, if we fix a bug in single-player, we know the bug is fixed in multi-player, too. Previously we had to fix bugs both in relation to single-player and multi-player.
Here's a compact list of what the update will bring…
Minecraft 1.3: The Good
Lots and lots of bug fixes and new features. Players who mainly play in multi-player on servers should enjoy a smoother and more stable experience, as this has been our focus of the development. We've looked over the network packets and added encryption to prevent session stealing. Dinnerbone has updated the chatting screen, to allow for easier editing and clickable links.
The single/multi-player merge has added the possibility to share your single-player worlds with friends who are on the same local network. It has also enabled players to use multi-player-like commands in single-player (such as /gamemode and /give), but only if cheats are enabled.
We've added emeralds, emerald ore and a trading system that makes it possible to buy items from villagers. Villagers will add and remove items depending on what you buy.
We've added the possibility write in books and leave stories for other people.
We've added new terrain features, and you can choose to begin the game with a “bonus chest,” to get you started quicker.
We've added tripwire, so you can create new traps and contraptions.
We've also added new stairs, new half-slabs, cocoa plants and tweaked dispensers, leaves, cauldrons, levers, gravel, pressure plates, cookies, buckets, boats, minecarts, ice, furnaces… Plus you get magic orbs from mining and smelting (and not just killing monsters)!
Minecraft 1.3: The Bad
Since single-player has been turned into a shell on top of a background server, the game's resource requirements have increased. When playing single-player, the game needs to be able to both simulate and emulate the world, which take many more CPU cycles. We're working on optimizing rendering, but those improvements will not be included until Minecraft 1.4.
Minecraft 1.3: The Ugly
A couple of problems and expected features have been pushed to Minecraft 1.4. The most notable problem is the lighting issues causing black regions in the terrain. We're looking into ways to solve this, but lighting is a very expensive calculation and we are struggling with finding a solution that doesn't hurt framerate.
And the most notable missing feature is the modding API. Throwing out single-player was the first step in order to make the API possible, and that's done now. We decided to release 1.3 without the API, because otherwise it would be an even longer wait for a Minecraft update.
We've also added an extremely basic version of “adventure mode.” We'll work more on this in future updates.
The time between Minecraft 1.2.5 and 1.3 has been the longest update interval yet, and that was because we changed so much in the game engine. I (jeb_) was a little scared to push it to the public, but waiting even longer is not a solution.
If you want to get the whole Minecraft 1.3 change log, I suggest you read redstonehelper's great summary here: Reddit.com
Please check your piston contraptions. Most we've tested still work fine, but some require changes to repeater delays and similar. Overall, pistons should have fewer bugs, but will appear to update slightly slower.
If you haven't downloaded Minecraft you can grab it here: www.minecraft.net/download
// The Minecraft Team