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Celebrate MINECON Earth at Microsoft Store parties Sept. 29 in the US and Canada

MINECON Earth, Minecraft’s worldwide celebration livestream of all things Minecraft is just around the corner! It’s happening this Saturday, Sept. 29 from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. PDT and we’re inviting the Minecraft community to join us at Microsoft Stores across the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada.

A MINECON Earth party is not only a great place to meet other players and learn from skillful creators – depending on the location you can also expect giveaways, Q&A panels with developers or builders, costume contests, Minecraft trivia and the opportunity to snag exclusive MINECON Earth merch!

No less than 81 Microsoft Stores are joining in on the fun this year to celebrate this one-of-a-kind event! Visit the official MINECON Earth page for the full list of locations near you, details about each celebration and info on how to get tickets. Attendees will be admitted 30 minutes prior to the broadcast start time, so come early to ensure you get a seat!

Eight Microsoft Stores will also host some Minecraft content creators you may be familiar with. They’ll be hanging out with attendees at the following locations:

If you can’t make it to an in-store event, be sure to watch MINECON Earth on MixerYouTubeFacebook Live and Twitch. We hope you’ll join us!

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Minecraft Update Aquatic Phase Two available now

A whole new wave of features has drifted into Minecraft! Players on Windows 10, VR, mobile devices, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch will find the second Phase of Update Aquatic pouring into their game today, including adorable turtles, bubble columns that punish careless swimmers and a sinister new mob. Yay/yikes!

Java players, we haven’t forgotten you – the incredibly hard-working Java team are almost done putting together the Update Aquatic for your version – why not try the latest Java pre-release to experience some of the Aquatic features right now?

Here’s what’s new for Phase Two!

FULL LIST OF PHASE TWO FEATURES

  • Realms are now available on Nintendo Switch
  • The Drowned – These dangerous, underwater zombies lurk in dark, deep water and will come up to the shore at night
  • Sea Turtles – These gentle creatures can be found swimming in oceans and tanning on beaches. Protect their eggs so more can hatch!
  • Turtle Shell and Scute items
  • Potion of the Turtle Master
  • Nautilus Shells – Can be found while fishing or held by the Drowned
  • Conduits can now be constructed underwater and give players the Conduit Power effect. Craft them with Nautilus Shells & Heart of the Sea
  • Bubble Columns – Magma Blocks create downward flowing columns and Soul Sand creates upward flowing bubbles
  • New Achievements!
  • Added new commands that only affect worlds with Education Edition enabled: 1. /ability – Sets a player’s ability 2. /immutableworld – Sets the immutable state of the world 3. /worldbuilder – Toggle World Builder status of caller

CHANGES

  • Changed the menu background to be themed for Update Aquatic
  • Undead mobs will now sink in water and can walk on the bottom
  • Improved the steering of Boats when using keyboard and mouse by pressing W to move forward and S to reverse
  • Dolphins can now be given Raw Fish or Raw Salmon and will swim towards the nearest Ocean Ruins or Shipwreck
  • Husks that have sunk in water will now transform into Zombies and Zombies will transform into Drowned
  • Skeleton Horses can now be ridden underwater
  • Skeletons and Strays will switch from ranged to melee attacks while underwater and switch back when out of water
  • Coral blocks will no longer die as long as one side is touching water
  • Improved player swimming at the surface of water
  • Tridents can now be enchanted with Mending and Unbreaking
  • Added an animation when using Riptide in first person perspective
  • Slightly decreased the friction of Blue Ice
  • Updated the texture of the top of Kelp
  • Updated the texture of Cooked Fish
  • Updated the Riptide spin texture
  • Default Field of View has been reduced from 70 to 60 and can be adjusted in Video Settings
  • Tridents will no longer break blocks in Creative mode
  • The Inventory button has been moved to the top of the Store page
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New version of Minecraft is out on Nintendo Switch

We’ve put together this handy FAQ with everything you need to know to enjoy the new version of Minecraft on Nintendo Switch!

Q: What is the Bedrock version of Minecraft?

A: The Bedrock version of Minecraft has been the codebase on mobile and Windows 10 since 2012, also known as our Bedrock Engine.  We brought this version to Xbox One with the Better Together Update last fall and now we’re launching it on Nintendo Switch.

Q: How is this version different than the one I already own?

A: Minecraft delivers a united experience to players on all platforms that the Bedrock codebase is used. Build with friends via cross-play with Xbox One, Windows 10, VR and mobile devices, and customize how you play with community content available through the in-game marketplace. Servers will become available via a post-launch update at a later date.

 Q: I already own Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition, how do I get this new version?

A: Players who already own Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition can download the new version of Minecraft free of charge. Either follow the prompts in-game to download or find it directly in the Nintendo eShop.

Q: Will DLC content I currently own transfer over to the new version of Minecraft?

A: All of the existing DLC content will be transferable from Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition to the new version of Minecraft.

Q: What’s a Microsoft Account and why do I need it for a Nintendo Switch?

A: A Microsoft Account is a free account you can sign-in on device that allows Minecraft players on Switch to play with others on non-Nintendo devices like iOS, Android, Xbox One and Windows 10 via cross-play, Realms or Servers. Having a Microsoft Account also enables the portability of your MINECOINS and marketplace purchases to other devices and platforms. To create an account click here.

Got more questions? Head over to our FAQ page.

We’d also like to thank SkyBox Labs for their outstanding help developing the new version of Minecraft for Nintendo Switch!

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Minecraft’s new Coral Crafters skin pack arrives: Proceeds help The Nature Conservancy help the oceans

We’re supporting the incredible work of The Nature Conservancy to protect and restore these coral reefs (which you can learn more about here). Both from sales of this new skin pack and with the promise to donate more money for every coral block YOU place in the game.

It’s true! As soon as players have collectively placed ten million coral blocks underwater in Minecraft, we’ll donate one hundred thousand dollars to The Nature Conservancy and their efforts. We’ve got no doubt you’ll manage it in no time!

So what are you waiting for? Build something amazing out of coral, help us help the oceans and enjoy the new skin pack!

Learn more about the Nature Conservancy by clicking this lovely line of green text.

IMPORTANT LEGAL STUFF:

Net proceeds from sales of the Coral Crafter Skin Pack excluding platform and marketplace operating fees will be donated to The Nature Conservancy, 4245 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 100, Arlington, VA, 22203-1606, USA, www.nature.org. No portion of purchase or gift is tax deductible.

Minecraft will contribute $100,000.00 to The Nature Conservancy to protect and restore coral reefs around the world once players have placed 10 million coral blocks underwater, beginning on June 8th. (Coral blocks are only counted in Minecraft versions without “Edition” in the title.) The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the land and waters on which all life depends. More information about the Conservancy is available at www.nature.org.

We’ll update on Twitter when ten million coral blocks have been placed.

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Block party: Communities use Minecraft to build new public spaces

As a native of Stockholm, Melin heard about the trial projects with Minecraft back in his hometown. During his next visit to Sweden, he made an appointment at Mojang to chat about some ideas. By the summer of 2012, Bui and Winters were on a flight to Nairobi to meet with Melin and U.N.-Habitat’s new hire, Westerberg, who would oversee the development of a Minecraft-based public space program with global ambitions soon to be known as Block by Block.

“One of most exciting parts is that Minecraft can bring millions of people into a debate about public space and make it more of a mainstream conversation,” said Melin. “We want people to ask their parents and politicians, ‘Why isn’t public space working in my city?’”

Westerberg, whose background is in digital communications for non-governmental organizations, took on more and more responsibilities around Block by Block, until it became his whole job. Also Swedish by birth, he lived in Zimbabwe for a few years during his youth and first recognized the depth of inequality when other kids on his soccer team had to play with borrowed shoes, or none at all. He said, “We knew that we couldn’t just host some workshops and pat ourselves on the back. From the start, we focused on the program’s methodology so that it would be able to build its own momentum and eventually take on a life of its own.”

The goals were relatively straightforward. Working with Minecraft collectives, U.N.-Habitat builds Minecraft models of public spaces that are slated for redevelopment. The models are then used in workshops in which participants are trained in the use of Minecraft and then asked to re-design the public space models in groups. On the final day of the workshop, the groups come together with other stakeholders to prioritize the top ideas. The community-developed Minecraft models are then used to inspire the final designs of the public spaces and, ultimately, the construction work.

Cities can be drivers of innovation and great contributors to economic growth. But done badly, cities cause social disparity and huge environmental problems. That’s true in the slums of Nairobi or Kathmandu but also in the sprawling cities of North America.

The first Block by Block projects were in Nairobi. After a trial project at Silanga sports field, they moved on to Dandora, a once well-planned area that had degenerated to near slum status and is known for its high crime rate and as the location of the largest garbage dump in East Africa.

Block by Block teamed up with a variety of local organizations to revitalize Dandora’s public spaces, initially focusing on creating a “model street” that would influence other improvements in the neighborhood. Proposals built in Minecraft in the Block by Block workshop led to upgrading a main street, clearing ditches, planting trees and now building gateways along the corridor.

“Designing in Minecraft allowed people in Dandora to explore the merits of various design alternatives and visualize their ideas,” said Westerberg. “The process also encouraged people to develop a broader understanding of the urban environment, speak in public with greater confidence and improve community relations.” For many participants, it was the first time they had publicly expressed opinions about local issues.

Melin added, “Minecraft is a tool that is increasing community engagement in public space projects by enabling participants to express themselves in a visual way, develop skills, network with other people from the community and provide new ways to influence the policy agenda.”

U.N.-Habitat and Mojang set out the grand goal of 300 Block by Block projects in the coming years. However, they found that they didn’t have the human resources or capital to hit that target within their desired timeline.

Then, Mojang was acquired by Microsoft in 2014. After careful consideration and planning, Microsoft and Mojang re-launched the Block by Block Foundation as an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2016.

“As a nonprofit, Block by Block can now accept donations, and we can focus on the growth of that charity and making sure it gets everything it needs to succeed. Like all organizations, it must continue to evolve,” said David Boker, a senior director on the Minecraft team who celebrated 20 years with Microsoft while in Hanoi.

U.N.-Habitat signed a long-term agreement with the foundation in August 2016, ensuring sustainable funding for Block by Block for years to come. The board now meets three times a year to approve public space projects, which will be funded by the foundation.

In 2016, Block by Block held community participation workshops using Minecraft in Indonesia, Madagascar, India, Kosovo, Mexico, Nepal, the U.S., Ecuador and Lebanon. There are currently more than 650 applications for Block by Block projects around the world.

The Block by Block project at the public market in Mitrovica, Kosovo, was designated as the site for the first board meeting in the field. The bridge over the river in Mitrovica in Northern Kosovo is a symbol of traditional ethnic division between the Serbian and Albanian communities. The project aimed to revitalize the city market neighborhoods around the bridge, one of few areas in the city where the two communities meet.

Using Minecraft to devise urban design improvements for the city market and both river banks helped local stakeholders and citizens to think of Mitrovica as one city.

“It not only democratized the development process but really gave people ownership over the space,” said Winters, who was on-site for the project. “There are a lot of new residents in the area, and Block by Block gave them a path to come together in a positive way. They even created one of the first skate parks in Kosovo.”

Hanoi was the kickoff project for 2017 and a chance for the board to re-convene and plan for the upcoming year while getting to witness the first Block by Block in Vietnam. The project goal was to design secure and friendly public spaces in the burgeoning, working-class neighborhood of Kim Chung, especially as many of the local girls must travel many miles to reach the school and need to have a safe zone around the buildings.

Prior to the workshop, the schoolgirl participants did “safety walks” to score the surrounding areas in various categories including “can see and be seen,” “can hear and be heard” and “able to get away.”

Problem areas that emerged included: inadequate lighting, dark corners where criminals can hide and piles of garbage in the streets. They judged the tunnel under the five-lane highway to be particularly challenging.

“I hate the tunnel and never like to walk through it by myself, but I have to do it at least twice per day when I go to school,” said 15-year-old Nguyen Ngoc Anh. “We have lots of ideas how to make it nicer so that people will learn to treat it better and then it can be a safer place for everyone.”

As for the workshop itself, the 45 girls divided into seven teams and Christelle Lahoud, a Lebanese architect and urban planner who works for U.N.-Habitat, ran the day’s events.

“I have no specific background in Minecraft but was still able to teach everyone how to use it in an hour or so,” said Lahoud. “Then they were able to start creating their designs.”

They sat four to six at a desktop computer, as they built out their designs in Minecraft atop a model of the neighborhood around their school. Phan Thi Ngoc Huyen, also 15, said, “It was really fun and exciting to have an idea and then be able to make it to show to adults.”

The true significance of the day became clear as the teams of girls presented not only their findings but interactive 3D models built in Minecraft. By improving the security, the girls will have a chance at more inclusion and participation in their education. But there was another level to the experience. By presenting these findings to local government officials, U.N.-Habitat officials, architects and others, the girls are building their confidence in using technology, expressing their ideas and learning that their views matter.

Prior to Block by Block, Westerberg had long searched for a way to use technology to engage youth in the development process. “We found a language that kids enjoy and understand which is important because they are the majority in many places and will grow up to be the adults in the city,” he said. “Minecraft is not just a game. It is a co-creation tool to build better cities and better communities with more equal societies.”

Deirdre Quarnstrom, director of Minecraft Education, who is also on the board, said, “In the workshops we saw valuable ideas for better lighting and safer walkways. The students were able to communicate specific safety improvements to city planners through their Minecraft designs. I see the same increase in student voice and shifting power dynamic when I visit classrooms using Minecraft as part of their curriculum as well.”

Quarnstrom agreed that the workshops and other game-based learning offer numerous indirect impacts too. “Participation also builds confidence in youth and in girls who are often left out of planning and design conversations. They see that they have the potential to make a difference. And this confidence encourages girls to use technology and express their ideas.”

“Minecraft inspires people to be creative,” said Winters. “For some, they have never been able to express that side of themselves before. You can take a complex idea, and easily create a virtual world.” Phan Thi Ngoc Huyen added, “Games are usually fantasy. It was nice to use a game for the real world.”

The ideas that the girls presented to the board, other NGOs and Vietnamese politicians ranged from play areas to a women-only coffee shop to a shelter with a camera that does facial identification at the door. There were plans for unbreakable streetlights in the tunnel, a tree house shelter (why not?) and a free phone to call for help. Other general improvements included street benches, trash cans, improved signage, lighted walkways, security fences along a stream, murals in the tunnel, flower beds and cutting back overgrown hedges. They even talked about converting abandoned structures into public restrooms.

Dr. Nguyen Quay of U.N.-Habitat Vietnam said, “It was great to see how this engages young minds in creative thinking.” But the girls still expect to see their plans come to fruition. They even came up with a group slogan: “Just take action.”

Sometimes Block by Block funds the construction of the projects. Sometimes they fund the workshop and the municipality funds the construction. But the ultimate goal for every project is for the methodology to go viral. They want it to get to the point where Block by Block need not be involved at all.

“That’s when we’ll start to see real scale and growth,” said Westerberg. “People are recognizing the value of participation and value of Minecraft in this process. It’s already gaining momentum. We can accomplish more by educating people than by trying to fund it all ourselves.”

He said, “Now, in Nairobi, the local government is going to upgrade 60 public spaces. At first they didn’t even think about public spaces. It took us two years to get the line in the budget for public spaces, and it was still at zero. Now, after all of the Block by Block workshops, they see the impact and are going to fund all of these new developments themselves.”

The inspiration goes both ways, Bui mused. “We grew into this. Our community brought us into all of these experiences. We continue to listen to the community and are busy figuring out other cool things we can do with Minecraft.”

When asked what is the most common thing that they see across all of the Block by Block projects, Winters responded immediately. “People are shocked and always say, ‘Who knew kids would have such good ideas?’”

Bui smiled. “And we always answer, ‘We did.’”