It looks like the folks at Mojang have finally returned/recovered from the holidays, as Thursday brought about the first official preview of the Minecraft 1.8 Update, and (in this writer's opinion) Minecraft snapshot 14w02b makes for one hell of a way to kick-off the New Year.

More than a month after Minecraft 1.7.4 introduce one-button Twitch.tv streaming to one of the most popular video games in the history of the medium, Mojang is back with the world's first look at the next round of Minecraft changes, revealing Minecraft snapshot 14w02b via the official Mojang Blog on Thursday morning. Ok, technically, Minecraft snapshot 14w02a offered the first glimpse, but 14w02b arrived just a short time later; complete with extra fixes for some of the most-common crashes in the first Minecraft 1.8 preview build.

So, what's new in Minecraft snapshot 14w02b?

Longtime fans of the game will be happy to hear that Minecraft is getting another new set of blocks to kick off the New Year, along with some major changes to the game's Repair and Enchanting systems and the improved villager trading that many fans hoped to see added to Minecraft before the end of 2013. Snapshot 14w02b also increased the total number of doors that can be stacked -- for those of us you feel the need to keep 64+ doors on-hand at any given time -- and some backend optimizations meant to improve the game's performance on a variety of systems.

Minecraft snapshot 14w02b also features a handful of new recipes to go along with the game's new Stone types, offering Builders a handful of additional materials for their next major project(s), We've included the complete list of changes below, for any patch note junkies out there, and will update the page if/when Mojang releases any more changes for this week's preview of the Minecraft 1.8 Update.

Here's the complete Minecraft snapshot 14w02a change log. We'll have details on the fixes included in 14w02b as soon as they're posted online.

  • - Made relative teleports much smoother
  • - Added CanDestroy NBT tag for tools

    • -- Mostly for use in adventure mode
    • -- Example: CanDestroy:["minecraft:sand","minecraft:grass"] - Screenshot
  • - Rebalanced villager trading

    • -- Offers will be less random and probably more useful
    • -- Existing villagers will not be affected
    • -- Maybe: Trading will give experience
    • -- Maybe: Lapis might be buyable
  • - Added a bouncy block with fancy graphics

  • - More stone variants

    • -- Only for decoration
    • -- Granite
    • -- Screenshot
    • -- Smooth/Polished Granite - Screenshot
    • -- Will be craftable, likely from cobblestone and quartz
    • -- Maybe: Might also generate naturally
  • - Updated the enchanting system

    • -- Screenshot
    • -- Enchanting will now cost between 1 to 3 levels, but you still need the same minimum total levels
    • -- Additionally, there is now a material cost - Enchanting also costs 1 to 3 gold ingots now
    • -- The actual enchantment calculation stays the same
    • -- One of the enchantments will be displayed in the tooltip
    • -- The enchantments you would get on a tool will not change you enchant something

      • --- This enchantment seed is stored per player
    • -- Leveling up now takes longer
    • -- Reduced anvil costs to adjust to this change - Notable: renaming items will now only cost 1 level, repairing will now start out with 2 to 5 levels and tools can be repaired longer and with better enchantments
    • -- Maybe: The material cost might be made optional
    • -- Maybe: The random text might be changed to make more sense
    • -- Maybe: The material might be changed to lapis
  • - World difficulty can now be locked per world to prevent accidentally changing it when joining the world

  • - Improved doors

    • -- Now stack to 64
    • -- Crafting recipes changed to give 3 doors instead of 1
  • - Each world (main, nether, end) will now run on its own thread

    • -- Purpose: Improving performance, not slowing down other worlds when one world is particularly busy
    • -- First tests indicate massive performance increase when ticking worlds
  • - Block hitboxes no longer appear in Adventure mode if interaction with the block is impossible
  • - A way to change chest contents using commands

    • -- /blockdata will merge the existing and the supplied data tags
  • - A way to lock containers from being opened using NBT tags

    • -- Mostly useful for adventure maps in adventure mode
    • -- NBT Tag in JSON format: {Lock:"Secret"}, containers can be unlocked by clearing their String for Lock
  • - Fixed some bugs

    • -- Fixed some transparency issues with blocks
    • -- Fixed villagers ignoring NBT tags on trades
    • -- Fixed zombies sometimes killing villagers completely on hard difficulty
    • -- Fixed chicken jockeys causing lag and clogging up the mob cap (Possible fixes: they no longer lay eggs, chickens despawn with rider, picking up eggs doesn't make mobs persistent)
    • -- Fixed mobs tending to move north-west

[UPDATE] And here's the list of changes from Minecraft snapshot 14w02b:

  • - Fixed some bugs
    • -- Fixed interacting with the top part of doors crashing the game
    • -- Fixed a crash with faulty trades
    • -- Fixed giant mushrooms generating incorrectly
    • -- Fixed the end crashing the game

Be sure to check back with iDigitalTimes.com and follow Scott on Twitter for more on the Minecraft 1.8 Update and the parade of snapshots that will precede it in the weeks leading up to the debut of Mojang's first major Minecraft patch of 2014.

What do you think of Mojang's first Minecraft snapshot of 2014? Were you hoping to see different changes introduced in the Minecraft 1.8 Update? Still struggling with a bug or other issue that hasn't been fixed by the Minecraft dev team?

Let us know in the comments section!

More Minecraft News:

Minecraft PS3 Dev Work Ongoing; Title Update 14, PS4 And Xbox One Ports Still On Hold, Says 4J Studios

Minecraft Wii U Rumors Shot Down By Notch; Existing Workload To Blame, Says Minecraft Creator

Minecraft Xbox 360 Avengers Skin Pack Release Date Revealed; Captain America, Loki And More Headed To XBLA Before Christmas