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

(Image credit: Mojang)

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

As ever, there are no secrets hiding away on launch day, Minecraft game director Agnes Larsson and developer Ulraf Vaknin assure me. Mojang is as committed to player feedback as ever—or else why on earth bother with snapshot builds, release candidates, and betas—and the developers talked through some of the changes that 1.19 underwent after players got hands-on.

The dangerous Wardens may have morphed the most over the course of development. “That was a place where we were looking for feedback from both our technical players and our challenge players,” Vaknin explains. When I first tried messing around with the Wardens in their debut snapshot from March, they were plenty scary already. 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. 

Now, they have a sonic attack too—a ranged ability emanating from their chests to deal with players who figured out how to craftily creep out of their long arm’s reach. The Skulk, those new snitch-y, Warden-summoning blocks found in the Deep Dark biome, also underwent changes based on feedback from players who love the redstone tech side of Minecraft. 

(Image credit: Mojang)

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(Image credit: Mojang)

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“It’s a bit technical,” Vaknin says, going on to explain that the Skulk sensors went from registering the first sound sensed in the code, but now respond to the first that’s closest to it. “We saw some contraptions that players tried to build and they didn’t work because of that quirkiness in the code and we adjusted it to something that feels more intuitive.”

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

In that video, producer Anna Lundgren explained that players had pointed out how fireflies can be poisonous to frogs. In our chat, Larsson and Vaknin elaborate that it wasn’t just players who sounded the alarm. “I got reached out to by pet shop owners who said this is already a problem with people not getting educated about this and there’s memes about frogs eating fireflies,” Vaknin says. “So people already make this mistake and if Minecraft amplifies this mistake that makes it so much worse.”

“We reach millions of players,” Larsson says. “And that should come with great responsibility. We realized if we release a feature like fireflies that are poisonous to frogs and we have frogs eating them, that actually might lead to people killing their real life frogs.”

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

Minecraft game director Agnes Larsson

My gut instinct is to defend developers changing their minds about in-development features for just about any reason, but Larsson’s more measured explanation is probably the smarter one. Minecraft has been more than just a game for years at this point, marketing itself as an educational tool as well. New Minecraft features aren’t just beholden to Bedrock vs Java editions or PC vs Xbox interfaces, Mojang also has to consider its roles as both entertainment and education for its huge audience of young kids.

Without fireflies acting as frog food, Larsson says that the scope of the new bugs was massively smaller. Mojang decided to nix them entirely for now, sending them back to the grand idea catalogue, and focus on the quality of other features in the pipeline.

As for what they’re personally looking forward to in new 1.19 features, Vaknin is excited about seeing new Allay friends flying around houses and builds. Larsson, a player after my own heart, is psyched about finding new mangrove swamps and creating new builds with the reddish mangrove wood set and mud blocks.

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

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