Mojang will launch Minecraft's 1.3 update on August 1.
"Minecraft 1.3 consists of a huge number of changes, and some of them are changes to the fundamental game engine," the developer says.
A compact list of changes follows, while you can get the full change log here.
Minecraft 1.3: The Good
Lots and lots of bug fixes and new features. Players who mainly play in multi-player on servers should enjoy a smoother and more stable experience, as this has been our focus of the development. We've looked over the network packets and added encryption to prevent session stealing. Dinnerbone has updated the chatting screen, to allow for easier editing and clickable links.
The single/multi-player merge has added the possibility to share your single-player worlds with friends who are on the same local network. It has also enabled players to use multi-player-like commands in single-player (such as /gamemode and /give), but only if cheats are enabled.
We've added emeralds, emerald ore and a trading system that makes it possible to buy items from villagers. Villagers will add and remove items depending on what you buy.
We've added the possibility write in books and leave stories for other people.
We've added new terrain features, and you can choose to begin the game with a "bonus chest," to get you started quicker.
We've added tripwire, so you can create new traps and contraptions.
We've also added new stairs, new half-slabs, cocoa plants and tweaked dispensers, leaves, cauldrons, levers, gravel, pressure plates, cookies, buckets, boats, minecarts, ice, furnaces... Plus you get magic orbs from mining and smelting (and not just killing monsters)!
Minecraft 1.3: The Bad
Since single-player has been turned into a shell on top of a background server, the game's resource requirements have increased. When playing single-player, the game needs to be able to both simulate and emulate the world, which take many more CPU cycles. We're working on optimizing rendering, but those improvements will not be included until Minecraft 1.4.
Minecraft 1.3: The Ugly
A couple of problems and expected features have been pushed to Minecraft 1.4. The most notable problem is the lighting issues causing black regions in the terrain. We're looking into ways to solve this, but lighting is a very expensive calculation and we are struggling with finding a solution that doesn't hurt framerate.
And the most notable missing feature is the modding API. Throwing out single-player was the first step in order to make the API possible, and that's done now. We decided to release 1.3 without the API, because otherwise it would be an even longer wait for a Minecraft update.
We've also added an extremely basic version of "adventure mode." We'll work more on this in future updates.
A group called WesterosCraft is currently building Westeros, one of the three giant continents from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice, in Minecraft. Check out their impressive work here.
Mojang's latest game Scrolls went alpha today, meaning selected players will soon receive codes enabling them to sample deck building, single and multiplayer gameplay.