Minecraft 1.9 has been in the works for a very long time now without a snapshot, and while this leads many to believe the developers are simply taking a break; the reality is in fact quite the opposite. Minecraft 1.9 will be the biggest update ever for the Java version of Minecraft, and what we know so far is very exciting.
The biggest feature though, is dual wielding. This is something players have asked for since the very beginning of Minecraft, and although it is available through a whole host of mods, none of them have pulled it off very successfully so far. This is how Dinnerbone, one of the key Minecraft developers is going to change things. Instead of having two hot bars or two interactions with the existing hot bar, there will just be a simple off hand slot in the inventory (also known as a shield slot) which you can put items in. Simple as that.
How does this second hand work then? When you put an item in it, the item will appear in your second hand. There is not going to be a second click function, however. These items will only work when there is something in your main hand which doesn’t have a “use” function. For instance if you have a pickaxe out, this will mine but can’t be used in the same way a torch is. So, if you want to have a pickaxe to mine with, and a torch to light up tunnels, this is entirely possible now because your torch will take up the use slot. This opens up an entire range of possibilities, like sword and potion, sword and ender pearl or pickaxe and torch to make a lot of things significantly easier.
For a more in depth explanation, check this video:
On the subject on caving underground, there is a new type of dungeon coming to the game in 1.9. This has been hinted at by Jeb_ and is mainly a solution to the repetitiveness of the current design, which again has been the same for many many updates now (before even the beta). This new design is going to contain mobs very different to the current mob spawners, and contain a lot of birch wood and prismarine. The blocks besides these will also be very different, and this does open up the imagination to a variety of exciting new blocks that might be coming.
So, the next update already has new blocks, new mobs and a brand new way to wield weapons. Given the update is called the combat update, this appears to be just the start of development and we likely have much more ahead of us in the way of new structures, new weapons, a new set of off hand items and even the potential for a new dimension. I’m personally very excited for the combat update, and I’m sure we’ll see more features which excite and re-energise the game once more