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.

Iberia: Trailer

I’m wrapping up the first version of Iberia, and put together a little trailer for it. It’s pretty simple, but tries to show off all of the key features in just a few minutes, to give a sense for what playing with Iberia is like. Without further ado, here it is.

Now, a few notes on how I made it. I used Open Broadcaster Software for all of the recording. It’s an open source tool that I’ve found to be pretty good for recording Minecraft footage, and I’ve used it in the past for videos of my melon and pumpkin farm, and my library and sugar cane farm.

For the audio, I wrote up a script and recorded it on my cheap work microphone. If I ever make Minecraft videos more regularly, I’ll definitely want to get a decent mic. For the music, I looked around on Youtube for some good, royalty free tunes that fit the feel I was going for and found Jingle Punks.

For editing, I used Adobe Premiere Pro CC. I’m still very much a beginner, and took way longer than a pro would have to put this together. But I learned a lot, which I’m happy about. If I make more videos with it, it should be a little easier.

Also, in making the video I came up with a new logo for Iberia. You can see it above.

Iberia: For the Experienced Minecraft Player

If you’re like me, you remember your first time playing Minecraft vividly. You may have seen a youtube video, or heard about the game from a friend. Maybe you were an early player, when it was still an almost underground movement. Or maybe you just tried it out recently, after Minecraft paraphernalia had already taken the world by storm. Regardless, that first day, and especially that first night, in Minecraft was special. You probably died. Maybe you died a lot. But the satisfaction of building your first tools, and later your first home, ugly as it surely was. And then the wonderful sense of discovery when you found coal, or iron, and later gold, redstone, and even diamonds.

Over time, maybe that “new player” excitement has faded. That’s fine. It is just a game, after all. And there are other good things to do with your life. But maybe you want to recapture that, to be a new player once again. If so, I think Iberia might be the way to make Minecraft fun again. Iberia takes the Minecraft you know and love, and with a few simple tweaks makes it hard again, makes it challenging in ways that force you to learn new habits, face new challenges, and overcome simple mistakes again.

Your first day may start out much the same, but you’ll quickly find that mining to bedrock and quickly accumulating all the coal, iron, gold, and diamonds you need is hard. Literally hard, as the stone you want to mine has become hard stone, and takes much longer to break. If you want the goods, you’ll need to go caving. But to do that, you’ll probably need to prepare a bit first: gather some food, maybe get a set of leather armor. You can play vanilla Minecraft for years and never have made yourself leather armor, but now you have a reason to.

Once you start exploring caves, you’ll notice that you don’t magically heal just because your stomach is full. To heal, you’ll need that, but you’ll also need to sleep. So even minor injuries, or brief skirmishes may force you to head home to recover for a few days. You can build up a better base during those days, and actually build with limited resources. Your forays into the caves will slowly grow longer as you build up better armor.

But acquiring nicer armor also has a drawback – it will slow you down if you wear it while crafting, opening chests, checking furnaces, etc. And the heavier the armor, the slower that will be. All of a sudden you actually have a reason for armor stands. Fortunately, it’s easier to swap what you’re wearing with the armor stand quickly.

Because you won’t just be exploring caves, but also the land surrounding your base, you’ll also need to find your way. No longer do you have access to exact coordinates via a completely unrealistic “debug screen”. You’ve got to use waypoints, towers, compasses and maps to find your way around your world.

Of course, the inevitable will happen. We all die, eventually. Minecraft put some teeth into death with hardcore mode, and Iberia keeps those teeth there, but it also gives you a reason not to rage quit when you die. Instead of having to start an entirely new game when you die, you’ll find that you respawn in your same world, but kilometers away from your original spawn, at the start of a new day. And the world spawn has changed as well. There is no easy way to find your old home, your old mine, etc. You’re starting fresh, a new player in a new world, but not a blank slate world like the one you had at first. Now, this world has been lived in. There are ruins – maybe just a first day hut, maybe a mid-game base with nice farms and a nether portal, maybe an entire castle, city, or multiple cities that you built up in a previous life. Now you have a reason to build up again, create a new life for yourself, and venture forth to discover new, and old, worlds.

Happy Mining!

Iberia: For the New Minecraft Player

One of the goals of Iberia is to preserve the vanilla feel of Minecraft. As such, it’s worth asking if it would be a good introduction to Minecraft for the brand new player. Well, it depends. If the brand new player is a five year old kid who wants to play Minecraft because she just got a Minecraft lunchbox, probably not. If the brand new player is an adult or an active gamer who is finally ready to try out Minecraft, definitely.

Let’s play this scenario out a little further. Let’s imagine that Iberia were baked into Minecraft and when you started you could select the easy introduction (vanilla) or the challenging introduction (Iberia). People like my thirteen year old son would choose the challenging one, just because it’s a challenge. And at that point he is dropped into a survival world with all of the challenges Iberia adds on top of that.

And so, of course, he would die. But first he’d knock down a few trees, build some tools, maybe even create a hidey hole. But within the first day or two, he’d be dead, as a new player. He’s not even going to face the challenges of finding your way or slow crafting with armor. And without natural regeneration, he may not even get to mining enough to experience hard stone. And so, he dies, the spawn point is changed and he respawns (reincarnates?) in a seemingly new world. At the start of a new day, though he may have died at night. So he now gets another 10 minutes to learn better how to start a new life in Minecraft. He’ll get further this time around, maybe even build a place to survive the night. But if not, he dies again, and gets more practice.

This repeated practice of the first day is a way better experience than my first attempts at Minecraft. Sure, I made it through that first day, and then died early in the night. And respawned in the dark. Then I had to run around blindly in the dark, hoping I could maybe find my stuff, but in reality just dying a couple more times till it got light again. Then getting a new start. But not really learning how to start well.

True, the new player using Iberia would likely repeat that first day experience more times because of the need to sleep to heal. And that could get grindy and annoying for a new player. But once he can survive through two or three nights, he’s got the basics down. Sleeping to heal will force the new player to do more early work during the day and he’ll have more time to build a home and base with early game materials (wood, dirt, grass, sand). Over time, this home base will be expanded and rebuilt using stone and other materials, giving him a greater sense of accomplishment.

Iberia: Death With Consequences Challenge

I love the concept of hardcore: you die, you have to start all over in a new world. It gives your play some weight – you have to make good decisions. One level beyond hardcore would be that when you die, your license to the game is revoked and you have to pay to play again. Yikes! I keep wanting to call that ultra hardcore, but that’s already come to mean a hardcore world where natural regeneration is turned off, so it’s harder to stay alive. Iberia already has natural regeneration turned off as part of the Sleep to Heal challenge. But there are some changes we can make to the hardcore concept, at least for single player games, that will make it even better.

That’s where death with consequences comes in. You essentially have the same consequences as in a hardcore game, but set up in such a way that you want to play again when you die, and each time you die the game becomes richer, even though you have to start from scratch. With that little teaser, let’s just lay it out. When you die, the world spawn is moved far away and you respawn there as if in a new game. No matter what time of day you die, you respawn at the start of a new day, 1000+ blocks from your old spawn, as naked and poor as when you played your first game of Minecraft. The twist is that instead of losing your old base, your old buildings, all the knowledge you gained exploring and great gear you built up, it’s all in the world.

Somewhere.

But you have no way of locating it easily. You can’t just build a compass and find your old spawn, because the world spawn has changed. And because of the Find Your Way challenge, you can’t rely on debug coordinates to find your old base. You never knew where it was either, except in relation to waypoints and markers that you built. You don’t know which direction the old spawn is from the new spawn so while you could go exploring, you’re as likely to get lost as anything.

You’ve started a new game.

But it’s not like your other games of Minecraft. In this one, someone has already played. Maybe many people have. They’ve built a base, they’ve mined, they’ve farmed, they’ve set up markers and waypoints. And there’s a chance you could find those bases, those old buildings and abandoned towns. But you’ll have to build your own base, make yourself safe, collect resources, and go out exploring. Then, when you do find those abandoned constructions from your own previous lives, you can loot them, or revive them, connecting with them via marked paths, rail lines, or nether portals, or take TNT to these relics of your past failed lives.

Iberia: Find Your Way Challenge

This is the simplest challenge so far, and you don’t need Iberia to make it happen. The “Find Your Way” challenge is just that you have to find your own way in Minecraft – no coordinates are available in the debug view that you get by pressing F3. Really straightforward, really easy to implement, you don’t even need to install Iberia. But it’s part of Iberia because of how well it fits the goals.

First, it makes the game more difficult. If you get lost, you’re lost. Second, it preserves the vanilla feel. I actually think this should be the default in vanilla Minecraft. Third, it enhances the gameplay. Now you’ve got to consider how to keep track of where you are when you’re traveling. Besides using the under-appreciated features of maps and compasses, you can use other tools to find your way: landmarks in the environment, of course. Waypoints that you build, or bigger structures that you build. Breadcrumbs that you leave, whether they’re as simple as torches or stone blocks. Beacons as well.

This is a good time to point out that none of these features is set in stone, not even hard stone. But “Find Your Way” is especially open to changing, whether through other ways to make it difficult to get information to guide you that wouldn’t be available in the real world, or more likely, by mitigating the challenge in the same way that quick armor swapping makes slow crafting with armor feasible. In other words, more tools for finding you way, measuring distances, discovering direction (especially in the End or the Nether), and measuring light may be added as a part of this challenge.

Iberia: Armor Slows Crafting Challenge

Wearing armor slows crafting … and chest access, and enchanting, and hopper/dropper/dispenser access, villager trading, etc. Basically, wearing armor makes it harder to do things. The exceptions are accessing your own inventory and accessing inventory when on a horse. The way this works is that if you try to use a crafting table, open a chest, look inside a hopper, dropper, or dispenser, or well, you get the picture, then there will be a delay and a wait indicator. The delay doesn’t exist if you’re wearing no armor. And it’s shorter with leather and gold armor than with iron and chain armor. Diamond armor has the longest delay, and it can be quite annoying. As, I imagine, trying to build stairs out of wood while wearing a full suit of diamonds would be quite annoying.

That’s the challenge, in a nutshell. By itself, however, this would just be annoying/dangerous. So there’s also a change to armor stands to make it easier to deal with this challenge. You can now shift-right click on an armor stand to swap the armor you’re wearing (including your off hand tool/shield) with the armor stand. That means that you can quickly remove your armor by shift-right clicking an empty armor stand, and quickly armor back up by doing the same thing a second time. As an added bonus, you can now place elytra on armor stands.

So, why handicap armor in this way? Well, mods galore have tried to handicap armor in interesting ways: slowing your walking or sprinting speed, accelerating hunger, making swimming more difficult. I’m not opposed to adding those if I can find the right mix of realism, gameplay, vanilla feel, and difficulty. But I wanted to start with something unique. And encouraging more use of armor stands while also making them easier to use is a great bonus.

Besides that, this challenge encourages other changes to your gameplay. First of all, when you are wearing armor and need to do some crafting, you’ll be more likely to find a protected place to do it. You’ve got a bigger reason to build a home. Or block yourself in when caving or mining. Plus, there’s an added reason to use leather and gold armor, because they barely slow down your crafting at all. And chain armor slows it down less than iron, so that’s also useful.

Finally, because you’ll want armor stands to swap out your gear, it will be useful to have them wherever you expect to do a sustained amount of crafting, redstone work, enchanting, or potion making. Something to consider as you layout out your base.

Iberia: Sleep to Heal Challenge

The challenges in Iberia are meant to make Minecraft harder, but also more fun and realistic, if possible. “Sleep to Heal” is directly related to the naturalGeneration gamerule. This gamerule is the key difference that makes hardcore into ultra hardcore, and it prevents the player from healing just because they’re full. In UHC games, whether multi player or single player, that means you would need golden apples, golden carrots, potions of healing or potions of regeneration to get well after being injured. The fact that all of these options for healing exist make it so that turning on this rule still allows the game to be playable, especially if you’re not playing hardcore. Sleep to heal turns this gamerule on, but also adds one more way to heal: by sleeping.

Specifically, for sleeping to heal you, you need to sleep without being hungry at all. Additionally, you need to wake up naturally (i.e. not because a monster attacks you). When those conditions are met, you will heal one heart. It’s not much, but before you have lots of gold, it’s nice to know you can slowly heal yourself just by making sure you get your rest.

Besides making Minecraft harder, it’s more realistic: rest is important in real life when you’re recovering from an injury or sickness. It doesn’t fundamentally alter the mechanics around health or hunger, or sleeping, so it keeps that wonderful vanilla feel. It adds an element to your gameplay decisions. If you’re hurt, you can stay closer to base, make sure you’re sleeping through the nights. Plus it gives you a reason to sleep. In vanilla, after the first few nights there isn’t much reason to sleep. You can fight off the nasty monsters, or just build within your base, or mine through the night. Now you have to trade off those possibilities with the need for sleep in order to heal up.

Oh, and sleep is also used to set your spawn point, but a different challenge will take that ability away. Stay tuned …

Iberia: Hard Stone Challenge

I mentioned in my first post that one challenge I sometimes gave myself when trying to make vanilla Minecraft more interesting was to not allow myself to branch mine. This is a common rule in UHC matches, and I found that it generally made the earlier stages of the game take longer and be more challenging. With the new combat mechanics introduced in version 1.9 that’s even more true. And honestly, once you get the basics of branch mining, it’s quite easy to avoid exploring caves altogether. With branch mining you come across all the necessary ores and lava as well. Plus you avoid the majority of the monsters. The only inducement I can think of is to find dungeons, but I’ve found as many of those branch mining as I have caving.

So, if this is a good challenge to introduce, how would it be done? How do you encourage, or almost enforce the exploration of caves? To do this I came up with the idea of hard stone. Hard stone is stone that is surrounded by other stone, ores, or dirt, and it takes longer to mine. So any stone block (stone, andesite, diorite, granite) can become hardened if it’s fully surrounded. And any hard stone will revert to normal if it’s not surrounded. But there is a delay, otherwise, you could just branch mine, because as soon as a stone is un-surrounded it would become un-hard. So Iberia uses the same algorithm for growing plants to convert stone to hard stone and vice versa. On average a surrounded stone block will become hard stone in the same amount of time that a crop will grow one stage.

Now that we’ve got stone and hard stone conversion worked out, what about the mining speed? It needs to be long enough to discourage branch mining. And there’s not really any reason to keep it short. There is so much exposed un-hard stone in a world, that it’s still quite easy to get the stone you need for crafting. As such, I went with a default slowdown of ten times as long to mine hard stone. Of course, by encouraging more caving, Iberia shouldn’t then eliminate mining. It is called Minecraft after all. Given how easy it is to find iron at or near the surface, the slowdown needs to apply to iron tools. But gold takes much more work to get when caving, and diamond as well. So it makes sense to make gold and diamond pickaxes exempt from the mining slowdown.

Now that the feature is fleshed out a bit more, we can see how it affects your choices. Early game, you’ll definitely want to explore caves to get the ores you need. Although another option is to collect the necessary materials and mine using TNT. Either way, once you’ve found gold, you have an extra use for it and a legitimate reason to make a tool from gold. Given how quickly gold tools break, your gold pickaxes may be used only in certain situations, like when you can hear monsters through a wall, or want to mine around a vein of diamond ore to make sure you don’t lose any. Of course, if you find enough gold, you could do some limited branch mining with it. Additionally, the early game technique of mining out a hidey-hole for your first home will be difficult, unless you do it in a pile of dirt. So hard stone will push you to build a real home earlier, whether it’s with dirt, or wood, or cobble you mined from exposed stone. Finally, this feature will make it harder to rack up large amounts of stone the traditional way, which is branch mining. Instead it will encourage you to create a stone quarry, where you expose a large area of stone so that as you work to mine it out, there is time for the exposed stone to un-harden.

Now we can ask if hard stone meets our goals for the Iberia mod. Does it make Minecraft harder? Definitely in the early game it does, until you are able to get diamond tools. Next, does it preserve the vanilla feel? This is more subjective, but I think it does. No new blocks or items are added. Does it enhance the gameplay? Again, subjective. But all of the effects discussed above definitely add variety and choice to the game. And that’s better gameplay in a sandbox game like Minecraft. Finally, does it encourage the use of under-appreciated features or approaches? I say yes: TNT, exploring caves, gold tools, stone quarries, at a minimum.

Iberia: Goals

So, in my last post I outlined how I went from being a vanilla Minecraft player to deciding to create a mod of my own. In this one, I’ll lay out the goals for Iberia. In short, they are to:

  • Increase the difficulty of Minecraft while
  • Preserving the vanilla feel,
  • Enhancing the gameplay, and
  • Encouraging the user of under-appreciated Minecraft features

Increasing the difficulty of Minecraft

This first goal is really the core of the mod. After playing for a few months, vanilla Minecraft was just too easy. Even on hardcore, it’s mostly not hard to stay alive, which means that when you die its due to a stupid accident. That makes hardcore engaging in some ways, but once you’ve made that one misstep the whole game is over. I like a good hardcore game, but I also want to be able to keep playing (with serious consequences) after a death. So Iberia is trying to make Minecraft harder than hardcore in some ways: let’s make the actual gameplay take some thought, require some work and skill that just isn’t necessary in hardcore. But it’s also letting it be easier, in the sense that you can respawn after death.

Preserving the vanilla feel

The goal of preserving the vanilla feel comes from my own enjoyment of vanilla Minecraft. I don’t want a big mod with so many esoteric changes that it requires a whole new wiki to document everything. I want to spend my time playing Minecraft, not reading a wiki. Where possible, Iberia should be usable without knowing anything about it, just by playing the game and adjusting to the challenges that naturally present themselves to you.

Enhancing the gameplay

The goal of enhancing gameplay is really about recognizing that making Minecraft harder should never make it boring, or a grind, or just plain silly. Enhancing gameplay is about making Minecraft more fun and more realistic. But not too realistic. Because perfect realism would make Minecraft as boring as real life. The challenges in Iberia should be challenges that make you grin and say, “yeah, let’s do this!”. When you fail, you still feel like it’s possible and want to try again, because it’s fun no matter the outcome. And if you accomplish them, you should be proud, more so than in vanilla Minecraft.

Encouraging the use of under-appreciated Minecraft features

While it’s clear that mods greatly expand the number of cool things you can do in Minecraft, Iberia should point players to all the cool things in vanilla Minecraft that are under appreciated. It’s so easy to start a new world, start your mine, get all the stuff you need, and build a base, while not ever enjoying significant parts of the game. Have you ever built an armor stand? If so, have you ever used it? Have you ever dyed leather armor? Have you ever gone caving for diamonds? Do you ever write in books? If we can make those features fun to use and fit into accomplishing new challenges, all the better.

So, how does Iberia do all this? Well, it’s still a work in progress, so your ideas are welcome. But it does exist, with at least a few unique challenges already available. Plus, I’ve got a decent backlog of ideas that I’m excited to add and then use when I’m playing. But I’ll save the challenges for future posts.