It doesn’t scare my 4-year-old as much as Herobrine in Titan’s clever “Lego Minecraft” YouTube flicks, but The Wither is coming to the Windows 10, Pocket Edition and Gear VR versions of Minecraft in something dubbed “The Boss Update.” It’ll be another freebie, and Microsoft says to look for it this fall, post-Minecon. (Though if you’re on Android, you can opt into the public beta, which starts today.)
Those versions will also get ocean monuments (underwater temples haunted by Mojang’s aquatic homage to Dungeons & Dragons’ beholder), nether stars (dropped by The Wither, letting you create beacons of light), new building blocks (prismarine and sponges) and “slash commands.” Slash commands may be the biggest deal here, since they’re basically shorthand for tinkerers who want to make god-level tweaks to the game on the fly. The Boss Update will include 20 of these, and Microsoft says to expect more down the road.
Microsoft also writes “Our goal is for every version of Minecraft to have full feature parity with one another,” a statement it’s been making for some time now. This is something like the holy grail for multi-platform Minecraft wonks like me. My only worry about that aspiration, is that it seems less and less technically tenable. You have such disparity between platforms that range from tiny smartphones and middling tablets to high-end consoles and PCs, that with the original version continuously surging ahead, getting to a true common denominator seems increasingly difficult.
Did you know, for instance, that the Windows 10 and mobile versions of the game offer infinitely capacious worlds, while the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions top out at 2,500 by 2,500 blocks (the edge of the world is an invisible force field)? That the flagship original PC version of the game (where all the genuinely cool stuff’s happening) still runs on Java, while the Windows 10 and mobile versions of the game use C++? That the Windows 10 and mobile versions don’t yet have the series signature Ender Dragon or The End (both added to the original PC version way back in 2011)? That even after a recent patch that fixed a console version bug that nerfed terrain height variety, you’ll still never see the crazed, cloud-piercing extreme mountain biomes the PC version routinely cranks out?
My point is that a “write once, compile anywhere” approach seems as elusive now as it did before Microsoft stepped in. Is that nitpicking? Expecting too much? Should Mojang and Microsoft even be talking in terms of “full feature parity”? And if so, is it too much to hope that down the road this could mean both parity of function, as well as synchronous feature rollout?