A new major update is coming - Minecraft 1.3! This version is expanding the game in many directions for those who want more building options and those who want more depth to the survival aspects. Furthermore, the capabilities of the single player game have been improved. The release date is 1st August.
Villagers now have a purpose. Players can trade various resources with them in return for the new emeralds, which are otherwise sparsely distributed under new lands. The emeralds are the official coinage and can be used to buy items from the villagers. Each type of villager has a different stock, but watch your wallet. They only have a finite supply.
New life has been placed into familiar items. Stairs now come in all types of wood. Timber can be placed on its side, like a fallen log. Players can write inside new books, but will require leather to make them. New items have also been added, the most powerful of which is the Ender Chest which stores items in another dimension, accessible from any Ender Chest owned by a player. In Creative mode, many more items have been added to the infinite inventory, which has been made more user-friendly with a gui divided into sections and a search box.
The start of a new Adventure gamemode has been added which prevents players from building, mining or crafting. This is tailored for world makers who wish to give players a challenge with a story. To assist this, builders in all modes can use the hard-to-see tripwires to trigger redstone circuits. For those who want a bit of a ready-made adventure, a few temple designs have been added to the villages that are automatically generated when areas in worlds are created.
Behind the scenes, big changes have been made to how the Minecraft code works. A lot of bugs have been fixed and the distinction between code for single player games and that for multiplayer has been removed. Now, all the faults and features of one are available in the other. Furthermore, single player worlds can now be shared with other computers through a LAN connection. Families can now play the same Minecraft world at the same time!
Many of these changes are all working to the next big update which will introduce the official Minecraft API. This will help mod developers better access the internal data of Minecraft, hopefully improving the huge range of gameplay they offer. Until then, gather your wheat and start trading. You might find it the fastest way to a diamond sword.