Iberia: A Couple Months of Play

I’ve been playing in my Iberia world for a couple months now. So far, I really like it. Though it’s far from perfect, I enjoy the additional challenges to the gameplay, and the excitement that new experiences creates. Let’s go through the challenges and see what I’ve learned.

Hard Stone Challenge

Late in the development of this feature, I added new stone textures for hard stone, and a crumbling noise when it changes to regular stone. Those are the best parts of the feature for me now. The sounds add an ambiance to mining and caving that is really cool. You’re working your way through a branch mine and can hear the stone settling around you. It’s also an indication that hard stone can now be mined more quickly. The other indication is that the texture changes to be lighter. It makes sense as you see it happen, and helps make the challenge understandable, even if you haven’t read anything about it. Another late change was to make all of the hard stone generate during world generation, which greatly reduced lag in a new world, or a new portion of the world.

As for gameplay, I still love this challenge. It was the seed that started Iberia, and it’s held up well. Before finding diamonds it’s just not feasible to do branch mining. But once you get to iron tools, it makes sense to start a mineshaft and work on it a bit at a time, while spending your other time building up an early game base and farms, and caving as well. When building that first mineshaft I’ve learned to make it as small as possible on the first pass. Just try to get somewhere. You can easily go back later, once the hard stone has crumbled into regular stone, to widen it. I’ve also built a stone quarry, where I have a lot of exposed stone that I can clear out. By the time a new layer has been mined the next layer has almost all crumbled to regular stone and is mineable.

The quarry, with hard stone crumbling into normal stone
Hard stone, crumbling into normal stone

Given how happy I am with this feature, I don’t see making any major changes or additions to the design.

Sleep to Heal Challenge

Like the hard stone challenge, the sleep to heal challenge is all about the early game. Once you’ve got decent armor, healing and regeneration potions, and golden apples, it isn’t as necessary to sleep. That said, the main point of this challenge, besides increasing difficulty, is to push you back home to encourage building up an early base. And it certainly had that effect for me. I’ve now died five times, meaning I’ve effectively restarted in this same world six times. Each time, I eventually try to go caving, and it’s challenging. I want to make inroads into a cave system, but after going a little ways I’m hurt enough that I have to back out, and heal up by resting. As I do that, I flesh out my base or work on my farms, maybe make some progress on a mineshaft. And then head back into the cave once I’m ready again. Only to head home again after lighting up a little more.

In some ways, I love it. Minecraft is hard again. I have to make strategic decisions about whether to go deeper or go home. And it’s scary to go into a cave again, knowing I could get laid out for a Minecraft week, if I’m lucky. If I’m not, I’ve got to start over again. Even once I’ve got decent armor and weapons, spending the night in the wild is still a risky proposition.

In some ways, it’s too difficult. On hard difficulty, you only heal one heart for a night’s sleep. The amount of time stuck at home base healing up is a little excessive at first. And if you’re on an island without sheep, it could be hard to get that first bed, which you’ll need.

In some ways, it’s too tedious. Challenges that seriously deplete health now require an excessive amount of preparation. I needed a bunch of regeneration potions before tackling the Ender Dragon, and later, when I built an enderman farm, I went through healing potions like water trying to get an endermite to spawn. I suppose that could be one way the challenge pushes you to automate – automate a potion brewer, automate a gold farm, and automate collection of potion ingredients.

Stocking up on regeneration potions
Stocking up on regeneration potions

In some ways, it’s too easy. Once I’ve got a bed, I can easily spend a Minecraft week exploring the surrounding areas, just putting the bed down to sleep, and healing each day if I need to. Exploring should be a little more challenging in the early game.

All that is to say I feel like this challenge could use some tweaks. I’ll probably double the default amount healed when sleeping (from one to two hearts in hard mode), to take the edge off just a little bit. There may also need to be another end game way of healing.

Armor Slows Crafting Challenge

Armor slows crafting is the weakest challenge. When I asked for initial feedback on Iberia, everyone agreed that this one needed to change. At the time I came up with some good replacement ideas, but because Iberia was close to being done, I went ahead and left it in, as it was. Which means that when wearing heavier armor, access to chests, crafting tables, brewing stands, hoppers, droppers, etc. all takes longer. Without playing with it, everyone agreed that it was not a well designed challenge.

I have now played with it for a couple months and while I agree that it is problematic, it actually achieves it’s goals better than I thought it would. The goal here was to give people a reason for having different sets of armor, and for using armor stands. And that definitely happened. I now have a leather suit of armor for working around my base, and I actually had a reason to enchant it. I want it protect me as much as possible. There is still no real reason for keeping iron armor around after getting diamond armor, but it takes long enough to get diamond armor that that’s OK. And the armor stands are great both for storing the armor, and for quickly swapping it.

Rows of armor stands
Rows of armor stands

That said, it’s really easy to forget to swap armor when you venture forth. So you head into the Nether only to realize too late that you’re still wearing your weak leather armor because you forgot to “suit up”. I’m not sure if this is a good part of the challenge, or something that needs to be fixed in the gameplay. Maybe if it were easier to notice what armor your wearing, while wearing it, that would be good. Like, it would be cool if wearing a helmet obscured your vision like wearing a pumpkin does, but way less, so it’s not annoying or detrimental, but still lets you see what armor type you’ve got on your head.

The big problem is that when you do have heavier armor on and try to craft, open chests, etc. it’s just really annoying. Like, not fun annoying. So, I’m leaning towards changing this to be “armor with drawbacks” challenge. The different drawbacks could be applied at different armor levels and could be things like prevent sprinting, trample crops, disable block placement while jumping, disable hoes, disable shears, disable fishing poles, disable cow milking, slower bow pulling, slower axes, no potion stand access, slower horses, and no crafting table access. I’m sure I’ll come up with other ideas in time. Figuring out which of these makes the most sense, and how best to set the defaults will be an interesting gameplay problem to solve. But I like all of these options better than the current annoying wait that’s in place.

Find Your Way Challenge

As with hard stone, this is another challenge that fits well into Minecraft. No longer can you simply use the debug screen to figure out your coordinates, what direction your facing, etc. Being forced to use maps, compasses, and waypoints has been a good change to the game. As long as you don’t go wandering without a compass, this challenge is most notable after you die. When you do, your spawn and world spawn are moved over one thousand blocks away. Because of the find your way challenge, there’s no easy way to find your old spawn and base.

So this challenge really gives death with consequences it’s sting. There are a couple things I’ve discovered. First of all, large maps are your friend. They’re pretty cheap, and if you’ve got a horse, not too hard to fill in. Second, the Nether is not just a quicker way to travel, but a way to find your old bases. If you can get to the Nether there is now a portal marking the location of your base. 250+ blocks to travel in the nether is still difficult, and you won’t know what direction to travel, but it’s a much smaller amount of space to explore than in the overworld.

Large maps are your friend
Large maps are your friend

All that said, this challenge is hard because Minecraft’s solutions for finding your way around aren’t fleshed out quite enough. I have a few ideas for features to add to this challenge to make finding your way more enjoyable. First, the ability to craft a compass that can be set to point to a specific location. This should require more effort/materials than a regular compass that points to spawn. Second, the ability to add markers to maps. Third, a new tool that makes it easier to measure distances. The chunk-local coordinates are still available in the debug screen, but it would be nice to have a measuring tool that could easily tell you how far you are from a given location. I think there would also be value in some sort of compass that lets you figure out which direction is north while in the Nether, and an End compass

Death with Consequences Challenge

While this was the last challenge added to Iberia, it’s one of my favorites. When you die your spawn, and the world spawn, are moved over a thousand blocks away. Because of the find your way challenge, you can’t just go run back to your old base, you don’t even know where it is. Even making a compass won’t help.

So, I’ve now died five times in my Iberia world. In my first life I built up a nice island base, with a lighthouse, some farms, a Nether portal, etc. I had healed a zombie villager, and was hoping to get the ender pearls I’d need to make a trek to the End soon. And I made a stupid mistake while mining and died. Next up, I started a little home in a savannah valley but died fairly early on to a baby zombie. My third life was quick too, another island build cut short by a creeper I never even saw. My fourth life got interesting again. I built a home on some ice plains, found a couple igloos, explored a ravine and some caves, and built up a rabbit farm to collect leather for enchanting. On an excursion into my mines I forgot to change into my good armor and once again a creeper surprised me before I got out. On my fifth life I spawned right next to a taiga village. I quickly herded the villagers into protective custody in one of the buildings, and started leveling out the ground and improving the village layout. Thanks to the villagers, and a whole lot of sugar cane, I got some diamond tools and armor, went to the Nether and did some exploring in hopes of finding my first nether portal and returning to my first island. No luck though. Then one afternoon I accidentally walked away from my computer without pausing Minecraft. Zombies got me.

So, after five deaths, and three good starts, I was now on my sixth life. This time I got a great spawn. Before my first night I found an exposed spider dungeon, lit it up, and found a saddle in one of the chests. Fortunately there were horses nearby, so I tamed one, and entered the ice plains that opened out on one side of the valley. Sure enough, after a days ride I came upon my ice plains base. While there I built up an iron farm from the villagers under one of the igloos, made it back to the Nether, and found the portal to my taiga village. After consolidating the goods from both bases, I decided to finish improving the village. So I’ve focused on that, taking occasional breaks to go clear out a stronghold, fill in a few maps, and rediscover my very first island base. It’s been a long road, but I’ve now made it to the End, defeated the Ender Dragon, and acquired some elytra. And I’ve learned a ton about the challenges Iberia poses.

While Death With Consequences can be demoralizing, it’s nowhere near as bad as dying in a hardcore world. Because of that, I quickly jumped into my new lives, hopeful that I could find my old bases. And honestly, the excitement that came when I did reminded me of the joy I had playing the game for the first time. When you’re on a third or fourth life and stumble upon an old base it’s absolutely wonderful. Plus, I now have multiple interesting locations that I naturally want to connect with rail lines and easy Nether travel.

Finding an old base
Finding an old base

When I first started, I thought moving the spawn 1500 blocks might not be enough in hard mode, but since it can take multiple lives to get back to the Nether, it worked out pretty well. I didn’t want it to be so easy that in every life you live you find your old bases. But it should be possible, so I don’t think I’ll change that. I have thought about how it might make sense to adjust the distance based on how long your current life has lasted, but overall, I’m happy with the current design.

The big challenge is how to extend Death With Consequences to multiplayer. One thought is to just have every player spawn and respawn some distance away from the last one to spawn or respawn. This means everyone starts separately, builds up their base, but can go explore and try to find the other players. Going that route may mean chat should be limited between players who are within a certain distance of each other, though with the find your way challenge, it would still be hard to find each other, even if you could magically talk to each other across large distances. Compasses would have to point to the last spawn for the player who made them, found them, or traded for them. In this case, it probably makes sense to leave world spawn in one place, and have some end-game way of finding it.

Other Ideas

All of this play time has also given me a chance to consider other additions to Iberia that aren’t directly related to the existing challenges. I love some challenges from other mods, especially additional mobs that come with Quark: the Ashen and Dweller depth mobs, Wraiths, Pirates, Blazes in the nether, and Guardians in the oceans. For that reason there is no plan to add new mobs to Iberia.

That said, some minor tweaks to existing mobs are on the table. Some percentage of spiders that spawn underground should be cave spiders. The occasional zombie should afflict you with slowness, poison, or other effects when they hit you. I’d like to make zombie pigmen a little easier to accidentally aggro – maybe if you collide with one at a high enough speed. Larger creeper explosions at deeper levels also seems appropriate.

I want to do more with hunger in a new way. Not just have it make you slower, but cause other problems. Because natural regeneration is off in Iberia, hunger is not that big of a deal after the first day or two.

Exploring is still pretty easy to do, as soon as you have a bed to pass the night away without any worries. Another challenge could be sleepless nights. This would mean that if your bed is not in an enclosed, lit up space there is a chance that you’ll wake up in the middle of the night. When that happens you cannot go back to sleep that night. It would mean that if you go exploring you’ll want to create small shacks for yourself when sleeping away from base, to avoid waking to the terrors of Minecraft nights.

All that is to say, Iberia is great, and I can make it even better. Watch for future releases at https://minecraft.curseforge.com/projects/iberia.