Minecraft nerds, myself included, were pleasantly surprised today when several pieces of great news came from one of the game's core designers, Markus "Notch" Persson. Before we get to the news, I'm assuming some of you don't know what Minecraft is. This will be the first time I'm mentioning it on TechnoBuffalo, but I know others in our staff have played it. Here goes.

Minecraft is a massive, randomly generated, singleplayer, multiplayer, magical, mystical, independently developed sandbox game. You can play the alpha version for free at Minecraft.net, or you can "pre-order" the game by buying the ever-updating beta. The beta is currently sitting at version 1.4. With a test group of over 2 million users, Mojang (the Minecraft dev team) has already made more than $33 million.

Early this morning, Notch dropped the first bit of news through Twitter. He told fans that version 1.5 will be getting both rain and snow. He even shared an image of what it looks like when both biomes meet in a single line, as seen up top. He then added later that thunder would also make an appearance in 1.5. Minor additions, sure, but Notch has indicated that each environmental element will have affects on the player, crops, animals, and gameplay mechanics.

Notch updated his Minecraft blog with more information regarding 1.5.

We've been working on finishing up Achievements and Statistics for 1.5, I ran into some issues with JSON, got frustrated, and added weather instead. Developing new features like that is what I enjoy doing the most, so I ended up covering a lot of ground. There's periodic downfall (snow in snowy areas, rain in others, nothing in deserts) that make the sky darker, hides the sun, moon and stars, and makes everything wet. Ice grows back in cold regions, and snowfall covers the ground when it's snowing. During rain/snow, there can be occasional thunderstorms with lightning. I haven't finished the actual lightning bolt yet, but everything else is fairly done.

In the same update came news of an official release date. The full version of Minecraft will be available on 11/11/11. What does this mean, exactly? The purchasing price will go up, the beta tag in the upper left hand corner of the game will disappear and users will beam knowing they're playing the real deal. Mojang will continue to support their product with updates.

How many in the herd here are Minecraft fans? I've been building a gigantic, 3D Pokéball with friends for the last week or so. Yes, you can go inside. We intend to build an awesome Pokémon in the interior. Here's the beast as it stands now.

Minecraft: really, really nerdy.

[via The Word of Notch]