Written by Brandon Pearce
Before I get into the details of this upcoming system, I'd like to preface this post with a bit of context when it comes to the team's opinion on Minecraft's crafting system.
First of all, I think all of us generally agree that the shaped crafting system has this wonderful sense of discovery when playing Minecraft for the first time. A lot of the starting recipes are generally quite intuitive and easy to learn - relying on people's perception of certain objects. In particular, no on can argue that the crafting recipe for a Pickaxe is challenging; if anything, it is quite easy to predict.
However, after a lot of discussion within the team, we've found that the crafting system poses a very difficult design challenge for the Aether experience. While a lot of Minecraft's crafted objects are grounded in reality (such as Pickaxes), a lot of the objects you can craft in the Aether are grounded in fantasy. While we do our best to make the crafting recipes and the subsequent objects as "logical" as possible, we feel like Minecraft's crafting system presents too many problems for the experience.
So, after some thinking, we've decided to implement a system which utilizes a page from the "Traveller's Guidebook" (An expansive feature planned for later implementation, similar to the "Book of Lore" idea from earlier development) into the Crafting Tables that you can find in the Aether.
This Traveller's Guidebook will appear to the left of your Crafting interface, and provides you with a list of crafting recipes that are available. These recipes are calculated from the items you have in your inventory. It will also show you recipes that you have some of the materials for, but not all - these are greyed out in the recipe list. When you click on one of these recipes, it will automatically assemble the materials in the crafting matrix for you - you just have to click on the result stack and you're done crafting that recipe!
While we don't think this is a perfect solution to our problem, we feel like it's a necessary mechanic going forward. We plan to implement MANY new recipes into the Aether as we expand the world, and we don't want players looking up recipes on a Wiki or, worse, simply never finding out that certain recipes exist.
Written by Brandon Pearce & Hugo Payn
Another mechanic we've been designing is a new utility block called the "Masonry Bench". This block will use the same Recipe system as above by displaying the Traveller's Guidebook to the left of your interface.
The Masonry Bench is a mechanic we've wanted to implement into the game for a long time. We really love decorative blocks in Minecraft, but often times we feel it is too punishing for players to create these blocks. Another problem in the base Minecraft game is that there are only so many different recipes you can create for visual variants, making it quite difficult for new players to understand how to create these decorative blocks.
So, as you might have guessed, the Masonry Bench is our solution to this problem. When you have constructed one, you can craft a huge variety of visual variants to existing blocks. Right now, the ones we've started with are Holystone Bricks, Quicksoil Glass and Scatterglass. We'll detail those below!
The great thing about the Masonry Bench is it doesn't require you to have a huge selection of materials to create these decorative blocks. 1 Holystone Brick can be worked into 1 Holystone Pillar, for example. We believe players should have the freedom to create these decorative blocks with ease.
Decorative Blocks and Visual Updates
Written by Hugo Payn
While Brandon has been developing the systems above, I've been busy polishing some of the art for the project and creating some more visual variants. These visual variants are constructed in the Masonry Bench. While I've only started with a few, don't fret because we have many more planned in the future!
Additionally, I've been working on various texture updates and polishing, new models (such as the Masonry Bench mentioned above and for the Icestone Cooler) and work on improving sub-biomes and biome structures such as the unique trees.
Overall, the world is really starting to come together nicely. Showing just how much variety we can achieve in one Biome so far is really encouraging for later down the line as we develop new totally different ones.
And that's it for now! You should be able to see those decorative blocks in the inventory screenshot above, as well as the new recipe suggestions in the Traveller's Guidebook! Tune in next week for more insights into our progress, and once again: thank you so much for your support.