Following an E3 tease earlier this year, Minecraft's "Boss Update" for the Pocket version and Windows 10 has finally arrived. The most exciting aspect of this update has to be the add-on system, which allows players to edit various values in the game to create their own modified Minecraft experience.
It's not full-on modding, because Minecraft players can only tweak existing values. Even so, the update represents a big step forward for the game, which has had no official mod support at all so far. So far the only entities that can be modified are mobs and NPCs, but presumably if this roll-out goes well, we will see the add-on capability extended to other areas of the game as well.
One add-on I sampled was a castle attack/defence map with wacky mob changes, like attack rabbits and witches riding wolves. Another add-on I experimented included a city under attack by aliens, which naturally you have to save.
These maps were thoroughly underwhelming. Castle Siege was an unplayable confusion of glitching and teleporting mobs that chugged so badly, it threatened to brick both my phone and my tablet. Actually, this is apparently a common occurence with other players: reports around the web say that the update is very taxing to mobile hardware, to the point of crashing on some older devices.
Alien Invasion was little more than a thin coat of paint on the base game — the aliens still sound and behave like zombies and skeletons (because they are). As usual, Mojang tapped some very talented builders — in this case, YouTuber Sethbling — and the maps are lovingly crafted, with tons of small details, decorative flourishes, and clever builds that show off Minecraft. Even so, add-ons still need work.
With add-ons, you can only edit existing values, not create new ones, so if you want to build a new mob you have to replace an old one. It's not a huge problem, but not letting players populate the world with new mobs seems like an oversight.
Though the official offerings leave a lot to be desired and the add-on system is still limited, it shows potential. With add-ons, there is room to experiment in interesting ways: exploding sheep, deadly rabbits, chickens the size of houses, you name it. Small tweaks can be made to mob behaviour and values to make the game more or less dangerous, opening up a lot of avenues for experimentation.
The update also allows resource packs to change the look of your game, and comes with four professionally designed packs that can be bought on the store. Players will be able to upload their own resource packs, but it's easy to be a little cynical about this particular addition. given Minecraft already has a dedicated community of artists and modders who have been creating resource packs on the original Java edition for years, and they are are bound to be frustrated by the addition of support and paid resources for MCPE instead.
Largely because of this, the add-on system is likely to divide the community even further. This update is for Minecraft Pocket Edition and Windows 10, but the mod community heavily favours the original Java edition, and have been asking for something like this for half a decade.
The success and failure of the add-on system will hinge on whether or not modders and creators can be enticed to make the shift from the Java edition to the MCPE edition, and so far there's not a lot of enthusiasm for that. Without more are better tools, the best minds are likely to stick with what they know.