I’ve been tinkering with the 1.8 patch for a few days now and gotten quite used to the current setup. It took some getting used to and I had a few knee-jerk reactions, so I kept playing as the game is quite fun, but also to allow me enough time to build up some info to figure out just what I think about the new-fangled hunger bar.
I like how it refills your health over time. It adds subtle strategy to the game, as it does not refresh fast enough to survive a beating, but at the same time it takes a lot of minor “oh crap!” moments off the table. (And while that may sound minor to the bolder adventurers out there, try lighting an never-ending cavern. When you get to a fork with three or more entrances at once on different vertical locations, lemme know if you don’t fear a “Ssss…” ’round every turn. Did I mention the Creeper explosion does a lot more damage now?) It provides a helpful boost without being heavy-handed. If you mess up, the game will curb it for you naturally. Misjudge a jump and lose a few hearts? Break a sword in the middle of a fight with a spider? Swear you didn’t think the water was that deep? Keep the hunger meter full and those aren’t even minor bumps in the road.
The Not So Good
The problem with the hunger meter is that it is quite demanding, especially on new maps. The Misses and I started out new save like a week or so ago, knowing full well 1.9 will likely change it all and we’ll have to start fresh again. Just setting up a base takes time, but now to juggle a hunger bar on top of that is pretty harsh for a fresh new landscape. Sometimes it can take the entire first day to harvest enough wood and find a space to make camp, let alone the hunger costs associated with it. In the end we built a sturdy base and ignored the hunger all together. We would harvest some crops but not eat them as why fill the entire hunger bar when only a full bar would help anyway? We’d jump into a mineshaft and respawn with a hull health and hunger and hoof it back to base just to avoid the annoyance in the first place.
My main concern is that for ten icons, only five actually matter: the first two and the last three. The middle ones are just filler and a waste of space. If you have more than two hearts not filled, you no longer regain hp. If you have three or less you cannot sprint. The ‘middle’ five are pointless and only serve to stretch out the time it takes to lose health from being hungry. Why not allow half a bar to regen your health (10-6), 5 and 4 do nothing as they currently do not, and the last three stay as is with the ‘no running’ rule in place. This would be a lot more useful, especially with the change to how animals will stay dead unless you breed them in 1.9 or 1.10. (And to breed them takes, of all things, more food!)
The Hardcore mode/option just compounds this further. I try to play all games as if it were hardcore. The ‘rules’ are simple: Do not die. (Bioshock did a doozy on my mental state because of this unspoken rule, I tell you what ^_^) If I wanted to play hardcore mode that resets your world save every time you die, how would that even work? If you kill animals they don’t come back, so going on a rampage will help you at first but hurt you in the end. Grow wheat? That takes *days* to get started and ends up with you staring at the same four walls, hoping for a crop to pop to eat before you starve and get dangerously close to death at all times. Eating mushroom stew is about the only option I can think of, and you’d have to be extremely lucky to find any to make a snack out of to begin with, let alone the first day.
I know Notch is actually adding a ‘mushroom biome’ or ‘dirt biome’ in 1.9, but that does not help out right now. Not to mention the combat upgrades are not in right now, and the xp we get isn’t doing anything but being dropped and picked up by someone else. I am sure these new abilities will help out a great deal, but again, we do not have these right now, making starting experiences in a foreign landscape a huge step up in difficulty than in the past. We were given new challenges without the proper tools to combat them, and while I appreciate the constant updates, I think they should have just lumped 1.8 and 1.9 together.
Notch made a comment on his blog that they plan on pretty much finishing the game in the next twenty days. From October 18th and on they only wish to bug fix, polish, and optimize to make sure the game is spotless before the release a month later. After that they go back into adding new stuff, but they want “to make sure the release will be as good as possible.”