Minecraft ditched fireflies in update 1.19 so kids’ real pet frogs don’t croak

minecraft 1.19 launches today, loading the new biomes, mobs, and technical changes from the Wild Update. It’s the final push to (almost) all of the new features that were originally introduced to players during Minecraft Live in 2020, and the last of three major updates.

As always, there are no hidden secrets on launch day, assure Minecraft game director Agnes Larsson and developer Ulraf Vakninthe. Mojang is more committed to player feedback than ever before – or else why the hell bother with snapshot builds, release candidates and betas – and the developers have talked about some of the changes 1.19 underwent after players started play.

The dangerous Guardians may have morphed further over the course of development. “That was a place where we were looking for feedback from both our technical players and our challengers,” explains Vakninthe. When I tried to play with the Guardians in their first March snapshot, they were already pretty scary. They made a very intense heartbeat noise when agitated, roared in my face and obliterated every poor chicken I spawned in their path to distract them.

They now also have a sonic attack – a ranged ability emanating from their chests to deal with players who have figured out how to deftly dodge the reach of their long arms. The Skulk, those new guard summoning blocks found in the Deep Dark biome, have also undergone changes based on feedback from players who love the redstone tech side of Minecraft.

(Image credit: Mojang)

“It’s a bit technical,” says Vakninthe, explaining that Skulk sensors no longer register the first sound detected in the code, but now respond to the first one that is closest to it. “We looked at some gadgets that players tried to build that didn’t work because of this weirdness in the code, and we tweaked it to make it look more intuitive.”

Feedback also continues to have a huge impact on the ideas that Mojang walks away from. Prior to the Wild Update, fireflies (originally released as frog food in Minecraft Live 2020) were a surprising point of contention, so much so that a recent Q&A video about Wild Update’s new features was titled “What happened to fireflies in Minecraft 1.19?

In that video, producer Anna Lundgren explained that players pointed out how poisonous fireflies can be to frogs. In our conversation, Larsson and Vaknin explain that it wasn’t just the players who sounded the alarm. “I was contacted by pet shop owners who said this is already a problem with people not being educated about it and there are memes about frogs eating fireflies,” says Vakninthe. “People already make this mistake and if Minecraft amplifies this mistake, it makes it much worse.”

“We’ve reached millions of players,” says Larsson. “And that must come with great responsibility. We realized that if we launch a feature like fireflies that are poisonous to frogs and we have frogs eating them, it could lead to people killing their real-life frogs.”

We reach millions of players, and that must come with great responsibility.

Agnes Larsson, Minecraft Game Director

My instinct is to defend developers who change their minds about features in development for whatever reason, but Larsson’s more measured explanation is probably the smartest. Minecraft has been more than just a game for years at this point, Marketing itself as an educational tool also. Minecraft’s new features aren’t just for Bedrock vs Java editions or PC vs Xbox interfaces, Mojang must also consider its roles as entertainment and education for its huge audience of kids.

Without fireflies acting as frog food, Larsson says the scope of the new insects was much smaller. Mojang has decided to veto them entirely for now, sending them back to the big ideas catalog and focusing on the quality of other features in the pipeline.

As for what they personally expect in 1.19’s new features, Vakninthe is excited to see new Allay friends flying through the houses and buildings. Larsson, a player who likes my heart, is excited to find new mangroves and create new buildings with the reddish mangrove wood and mud blocks set.

Minecraft 1.19 is released today with a long list of patch notes, and can be found as a new version available in your Minecraft Launcher. Today is also the day that all Minecraft players will have access to both the Java and Bedrock versions of the game, even if they previously only had one or the other.

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