Minecraft 1.3 update coming August 1

It's been a while since the perpetually updated indie blockbuster Minecraft has gotten new features. The game updates were slowed by large shifts to the game engine, but now the next one has put its flag in the ground for August 1. It will add some new features, along with a pretty dramatic shift in the game's underlying foundation.

The announcement details the changes we can expect. The biggest change comes to the entire single-player mode, which will work as a shell on top of multiplayer. This assures a smoother multiplayer experience, lets you share your single-player worlds with other users on a local network, and allows you to use certain commands in single-player with cheats enabled. This will also make it easier for Mojang to fix bugs, since the company won't have to fix them twice-over for single- and multiplayer.

Other features include emeralds, ore, and a trading system to buy items from villagers. The update will also add the ability to write in books, new terrain features with a "bonus chest" to start the game with a boost, a trip-wire for traps and contraptions, magic orbs from mining and smelting, and a bunch of new or tweaked items.

On the down side, the resource requirement has increased, and the game needs additional optimization that won't hit until update 1.4. Some of the planned features from this update have also been pushed back to 1.4, like a lighting fix and the modding API. The team also warns that some piston contraptions might be broken.

"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," said developer Jens Bergensten. "I was a little scared to push it to the public, but waiting even longer is not a solution."

As usual, a release candidate will be available about a week before the proper release.