Saturday, January 30, 2016

The 1.9 Update - Why I Won't Be Reviewing Any Further SnapShots

Hi, again! As you may or may not know, I did a review of a snapshot for the upcoming Minecraft 1.9 update last autumn (one of the earlier snapshots - August):

A few months later, J626w and I were playing around with some new mechanics and items added in a somewhat later snapshot (around November 2015 - no video of this).

In the original review, I remember noting the following:

- New damage animations for when you hit and kill mobs
- New building blocks and bricks - Purpur, Prismarine, End, etc.
- New items - Banners, EnderDragon head (Redstone powered), etc.
- New mobs - EndMites, Shulkers, etc.
- New effects and enchantment options - levitation (for players), effects for arrows, etc.
- New Combat Mechanics - Sword-andShield combination, Use of both hands, etc.

Keep in mind, I had to cover as much as possible in this review. It may have been a bit boring, but it was done this way to ensure that I wasn’t skipping anything. In retrospect, I liked most of the new update - it was enjoyable, and added a lot to the overall game experience. New arrow effects made long-range weapons way more versatile, and now they aren’t just offensive weapons. They can be used for marking and close-range tracking, illuminating targets even through blocks! The new mobs added a degree of difficulty to the game in the End department, making the fight against the EnderDragon more difficult and more strategy-based. Oh - and the EnderDragon head is a nice trophy for anyone who slays the EnderDragon in unadulterated Survival game-mode. The new building blocks added more creative possibility to the game and also gives players a bit more reason to go into the End, rather than altogether avoiding it. In addition to this, new tweaks to effects and potions have aided in balancing gameplay and PvP - a great touch to the multiplayer aspect of the game. Oh - did I also mention that you can change the color of your shields? Nice, right? 

Oh wait, there’s more!

LogDotZip, in September 2015, delineates more of 1.9’s creative aspect - with more emphasis on weapons and armors. Customized weapons are now an inGame feature, not requiring mods. They can even have customized textures. But, there’s even more to this update.

Remember J626w? Yes - it was during this multiplayer session that I was introduced to the new flight mechanics! Players can now play around with gliding - we can has wings (well, Elytra, but still)! Here’s what Mumbo Jumbo had to say about them:

On a side note, boats got wrecked, so that left a bit of sour in my mouth, but flying made up for that entirely. But, we can use both hands now - Sword and Shield combinations allow for attack and defense-based fighting, and we can even hold two swords at once. But hold your horses - you can’t dual-wield! 


I digress, I still liked the rest of the update, and that can be fixed later.

But, there was one thing that always irked me - since my first snapshot review for Minecraft 1.9. While most of the new Combat changes were pretty decent in nature, the addition of the new attack-charging system was underwhelming at best. It has it’s upsides and downsides (as all changes do), but this one has mainly one huge downside, overturning any positive changes it may have produced. With the new combat system, you have a new bar onScreen - a charge bar, if you will. This bar is connected to a new ability - players can now do charged attacks (with some obvious delay), putting obvious emphasis on dodging and timing attacks. While this new bar adds a strategy aspect to the game, it also depletes when you perform attacks and take damage. At first, it seems almost expected - it’s similar to a stamina bar, right? Well, no. 

Firstly, it’s only connected to combat - it’s more of just a charge bar than a full-out stamina bar. More about it here:

 Also, the more the bar depletes, the less power each subsequent attack will have. It’s a good concept, but it runs out all too quickly, and has one other obvious defect - it’s separate from hunger, and it’s not stamina. What is it? It only serves as a limit on how often you can attack in any given time - good luck trying to hold off more than one enemy at once. It’s more of a annoyance-based hindrance than a strategy aspect. It has no apparent connection to existing mechanics other than combat, and simply leaves the player vulnerable to hordes. Unfortunately, after this update, it appears as though I was (and still am)* better at sword fighting than Steve when it comes to endurance and overall power-on-impact.

*By the way, that was nearly a year ago, when I was beginning to learn swordplay for the first time - I haven’t practiced since. 

Fighting against multiple enemies simultaneously has become pretty much a fool’s move in this new context (the new snapshot), and staying out at night or in caves becomes more of an unnecessary risk - especially when players like I, know how to strip mine well enough that we never really need to encounter caves. We can get everything without specifically seeking out a cave or abandoned mineshaft. The only exception to this would be in wanting to find a dungeon - but seriously, that just helps my case. The mob spawner would overwhelm you in single-player. We can pretty much give up playing in hardcore as well - hordes become way more common in this game-mode. The only reason that I wouldn’t be affected by this would be due to how I situate my houses in Survival - they’re always at least 8-10 blocks off the ground, and have a dirt patio attached to the side, for growing trees and wheat. The only thing I have to leave the house for is stone - oh wait, cobblestone generator anyone? The only thing I need to leave my sky house for is metal, and I'll never need that if I stay airborne. I can get that through strip mining (placing torches every-so-often), allowing me to avoid the mobs almost entirely. 

But back to my main point - the new ‘charge bar’ will not make Minecraft any better. It just causes players to avoid one challenge, while loosing access to an aspect of gameplay that was previously more enjoyable. The ‘charge bar’ just becomes another thing onScreen to watch, detracting from the actual focus of performing combat. It has no value itself. It adds no value to the Minecraft experience. In fact, it subtracts value. With this, I now offer a suitable fix for the observed issue, as proposed and delineated by Captain_Quacer of Reddit:

I think a stamina bar would add more to the strategy of Minecraft then this charge attacking thing. Stamina should be depleted from any act, but running takes the most, and jumping and fighting a little more then standard attack. Hunger kind of acts as a stamina indirectly. So hunger would no longer be lost directly by your activity, but rather for recharging the stamina bar.

Reddit User: Capain_Quacer

As you can see, this would link the loss in offensive and defensive effectiveness to an existing mechanic, and unify what would be scattered in the snapshot implementation. Instead of running and jumping, taxing the hunger bar, and combat depleting the ‘charge bar’, all physical activity directly affects the Stamina bar. Refilling the Stamina bar (a logical metaphor to metabolism IRL) then taxes the hunger bar. While the Stamina bar can be refilled on-the-go, the Hunger bar needs to be filled, as usual, by having the player ‘eat’. One is short-term, the other is long term. This is how some of us think this issue should be handled. Others of us would like for this to be done away with completely. And for this, I offer the following - make the new Combat update an optional change. In other words, ship it with the final product, and allow players to have it either turned on or off. This would cater to a wide variety of players, and leave the game unscathed. As it stands, however, I already know some players who won’t be updating to the latest version when 1.9 comes out. This is a problem that only Mojang can solve. Now is NOT the time to make a useless void that mod creators have to fill. Mods should be used for creativity - not for fixing fundamental game mechanics that could have been handled better by Mojang.

With this, I end my tirade.

TopHat, signing out.

Edit:: New Combat Strategy for 1.9 Environment

Edit:: New FollowUp Post for the next Snapshot

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