Minecraft's big 'Better Together' update is live

Minecraft's "Better Together" update, "the first big step toward unifying Minecraft for console, mobile and Windows 10," is now live. Originally revealed in June, the new version of the game enables cross-platform play between Windows 10, Xbox, mobile, and VR versions of the game, on "massive servers, with communities numbering in millions of players and eccentric minigames to suit every taste." 

Also on tap in the update are a host of new items, new world start and host options, game rules, and more. The "True Beauty of coarse dirt," which I guess is code for Minecraft blocks in 4K (Update: I have been informed by sources in the know that this is not a reference to 4K rendering, but just a spot of self-effacing sarcasm that went sailing over my head) is yours to behold for the first time ever, and Realm invite links can now be shared (although that's still a "coming soon" feature for the Xbox One). 

The release of the new version of Minecraft will also bring about some new names. "Going forward, the Bedrock Engine-based version of Minecraft will be called simply Minecraft on all platforms," the Better Together FAQ states. "Our general rule of thumb is that if a version can play together with the others, it’s called Minecraft. The original Java PC version and all other isolated versions will have 'Edition' names, like Minecraft: Wii U Edition and Minecraft: Java Edition." 

The FAQ also says that development of the non-unified Minecraft editions will continue: "We plan on actively supporting the Java Edition going forward with updates as we always have and have also welcomed several new members to the development team in Stockholm." 

The Minecraft: Better Together update is free on all relevant platforms (it's not coming to the PS4) but will be delayed by a day or two on the Xbox One.  The update patch notes are below. 

New Features:

  • Stained Glass
  • Fireworks (with Elytra boost!)
  • Parrots
  • Banners
  • Armor Stands
  • Jukebox and music discs
  • Recipe Book
  • Book & Quill
  • Ravines
  • Coarse Dirt
  • New world start options: Starting Map; Bonus Chest; Trust Players
  • New game rules: Show Coordinates; TNT Explodes; Natural Regeneration
  • Added '/tickingarea' command to create areas that still update when no players are there
  • Player permissions
  • Zombie Villager spawn egg
  • In-game host options
  • Paper doll viewer
  • Outline selection toggle
  • In-game player names toggle
  • HUD opacity toggle
  • Expanded Xbox Live multiplayer world settings
  • New loading screens with funny and helpful tips
  • How to Play screen
  • Remix 3D export functionality (Windows 10 only)
  • New achievements
  • Server Partners
  • Realms invite links
  • Mash-up Packs and Texture Packs will now decorate the main menu and in-game HUD

 Tweaks:

  • Rebalanced most of the game sound effects and music, such as rain being much quieter
  • It is now much easier to see underwater after drinking a Potion of Water Breathing and Potion of Night Vision
  • Blaze Powder is now needed to fuel brewing stands
  • Ice blocks are now transparent
  • Maps can now be held off-hand and show the heads of players' skins
  • Locator maps now track the owner's position, regardless of dimension
  • Worlds can now be set to Invite Only, Friends Only, or Friends of Friends
  • Various improvements and changes to navigating the user interface
  • Redesigned button mapping and added Pick Block for controllers
  • Render Clouds and Fancy Leaves can now be toggled in Video Settings
  • Skins can now be changed from the pause menu
  • Chat messages can now be muted
  • Items picked up are now animated on the hotbar
  • Stained glass and banners will now spawn on End Cities
  • Increased the default player limit on worlds from 5 to 8 on higher-end devices
  • Block placement speed now matches the player's movement speed
  • Temperature decreases with height and it can now snow at high elevations
  • Observer blocks have updated textures and will now blink red when outputting a redstone pulse
  • Adjusted the color that flashes when mobs are attacked
  • Brick Blocks, Nether Brick Blocks, and Clay Blocks have been renamed to better differentiate from other items
  • Underwater particles
  • Jungle leaves are now transparent on higher-end devices when Fancy Leaves are enabled
  • Changed the sound effects for Creeper explosions
  • Added sound effects for placing Eyes of Ender into portal frames and opening The End portal

Bug fixes:

  • Too many to mention. My favourites are: making cats purr again, preventing bats from swimming underwater and stopping llamas from creepily turning their heads to stare at you while riding them.