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Minecraft Named Binary Tag DAT Files

Minecraft uses DAT files to store information about game levels and player information. These DAT files use Named Binary Tag (NBT) file format. NBT file format was designed with a goal for a files in this format to store large amounts of data with minimal overhead.

NBT file consists of multiple tagged entities. Each of the entities contains a tag and a payload which differs depending on payload type. Below are available tag types:

  • TAG_End. No payload. Serves to mark and end of the TAG_List list or the TAG_Compound.
  • TAG_Short. A signed short (16 bits, big endian) payload.
  • TAG_Int. A signed long (32 bits, big endian) payload.
  • TAG_Long. A signed long (64 bits, big endian) payload.
  • TAG_Float. A floating point value (32 bits, big endian, IEEE 754-2008, binary32)
  • TAG_Double. A floating point value (64 bits, big endian, IEEE 754-2008, binary64)
  • TAG_Byte_Array. Starts with TAG_Short specifying “length” of a string. After that an array of “length” bytes following.
  • TAG_String. Starts with TAG_Short specifying “length” of a string. After that an array of “length” bytes following defining a string in UTF-8 format.
  • TAG_List. Starts with TAG_Byte defining type of elements in the list and TAG_Int specifying number of elements in the list. After that a list of elements of follows.
  • TAG_Compound. Sequence of named tags ending with TAG_End. Each named tag consists of a pair of TAG_String and any other type of tag as a payload.
  • TAG_Int_Array. Starts with TAG_Short specifying length of a string. After that an array of TAG_Int tags are following.
  • TAG_Long_Array. Starts with TAG_Short specifying length of a string. After that an array of TAG_Long tags are following.

There are multiple tools available which can read and convert DAT files in NBT format to other forms. For example nbt2yaml tool will convert NBT file to a yaml format which is an easy to read plain text based descriptive format. You can also edit NBT files with nbted tool which first converts NBT files to an easy to read and edit text format and then after you’re done with editing it, converts it back.

You can also use NBT Explorer tool to view and edit Minecraft NBT files. NBT explorer provides directory-tree like UI which allows to easily navigate through Minecraft's world data.

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