First off – I want to give huge Kudos to Mojang/Microsoft for continuing to push development of a game that people have already purchased. Often times developers will only fix bugs after a release, and any new features are delivered as (often costly) DLC. So kudos for that.
As of writing this post, Minecraft 1.9 is not officially out yet. We used Snapshot 15w50a but there is a more updated snapshot here. But it feels close to done. Perfect? No, but still great. To test things out I set up a private server for myself and a few friends. We played Minecraft the way people would normally play Minecraft and did our best to discover the new items under standard conditions. This was fairly easy except for one thing, but I’ll discuss that later.
It’s long been a joke that Minecraft boats are broken. If you’ve ever used a boat prior to 1.9, that’d be a fair statement. Too close to land? Boat breaks… Squid nearby? Boat breaks… Sneeze too hard? Boat breaks… BUT – in 1.9 – as far as my testing went, I was unable to break a boat. Yes, that’s right – boats are unbreakable. As you see above, like doors in 1.8, boats now have different colors based on the wood you use.
Another difference you should notice is the oars. Crafting a boat now requires a wooden shovel. Using boats has also changed. In the past, you could only really move forward, and turn by looking. Now, you use “A” and “D” to row your oars. You can hold both down to go forward, or lift on finger to start turning. What this allows you to do is look left/right without steering the boat (which is HUGE). Boats also move faster,
Overall grade of new boats: A- A huge improvement from where they were, but still room for improvement.
Combat has been changed. Big time. I say big time because the old method of combat (spam click until something dies) no longer works. The first big change is the attack cool-down. Basically this is the time required between clicks before you can do maximum damage. What is a bit wonky is that you can “attack” during the cool-down period, which resets the cool-down but does significantly less damage. When first using the server, all my friends said: “Is this on super-hard, I hit a zombie a hundred times and it didn’t die.” Thankfully, you can turn on a visual indicator for the cool-down.
The second big change was removal of the “block” when holding a sword. I know the gut-reaction when a creeper comes up is to grab your sword and right-click. That will NOT work anymore. But – the answer to that is the shield. A shield (pictured above) requires 6 wood planks and 1 iron. It can be designed using a banner (Minecraft 1.8 thing). If you put a shield in your off-hand (discussed later) you can right-click to hold up your shield and prevent incoming damage.
Another huge change to combat is the AI of mobs. In 1.8 and earlier, mobs were pretty dumb. In fact, unless you were swarmed, combat against the AI was not exactly scary. But, on the 1.9 server, in the early days, my friends and I amassed quite a few deaths. Skeletons will strafe to avoid your incoming arrows, zombies chase better, and combat feels more frenzied (especially with the cool-down forcing you to wait between attacks).
Overall grade of new combat: B+ The new AI made skeletons more frustrating, but brought back a threat to Minecraft. We had the server on “Normal” difficulty, and I can only imagine having things on hard would be quite a combat challenge. One note though – the new AI affects how effective mob farms are.
Another huge update to Minecraft 1.9 is an expansion of “The End.” No longer is it just a dragon fight, there is now a bunch of floating islands that you can teleport to. I forgot to grab screenshots while I was there, so I don’t have a picture to put here.
The Ender Dragon fight has changed slightly – some of the Dragon’s regen crystals are now protected by Iron Bars, so you’ll have to nerd-pole up and break the iron bars, other than that, it was a standard dragon fight. At first I was really excited to explore the end – there are now End Cities (which are really just an odd building), new mobs, new blocks, and wings that let you glide! But, navigating The End without a pumpkin on your head is very dangerous, so you’re forced to walk around with limited vision – the first frustrating fact. The next frustrating thing was that The End was extremely vast and extremely empty. After about an hour of wandering (which is very dangerous, as the compass won’t work, so you need to make sure you have a train to find your way back).
I switched to creative mode and started flying around The End and it took me another 20 minutes to find my first End City. The city didn’t have an End Boat – so I didn’t get to test out the wings (called Elytra). Another 15 minutes of searching and I finally found an End City with a boat… I was easily 4000 or 5000 blocks away from the portal – not an adventure I’d expect to be able to take playing survival.
Overall grade of The End: C+ While I love the End City, End Boats, and Elytra, the fact that they are not feasibly found in survival makes my interest in them wane.
SURVIVAL FLIGHT WITH ELYTRA
Ignoring how hard it is to GET these wings (and that they have durability) they are AWESOME. They work like a wingsuit. You need to fall at least 4 blocks, at which point you switch from “fall” mode into “glide” mode. From there you can control your angle of descent, as well as the direction you’re going. They can take you quite far if controlled well, and if you have enough speed, you can actually gain some altitude to get over an unexpected hill.
They are horrible when it comes to assisting with building. They are NOTHING like creative flight.
They must be worn on your chestplate slot. So – while wearing them, you are much less protected. So there is some frustration in that you use them, land, then have to put your armor back on. Not sure why they didn’t just make a new slot.
Overall grade for Elytra: A- I just wish I didn’t have to swap them. The fact that they are nearly impossible to find is not counted in the grade, otherwise I’d give it a solid D.
A small-but-huge change is the ability to use your off-hand. I discussed Shields above, but you can also use your offhand for nearly any item. This makes quite a few tasks easier. One way I used it so heavily was when mining. I had my pickaxe in one hand, and torches in the offhand. I would mine a few blocks, and when it got dark, quickly place a torch. Previously (1.8 or prior) I’d have to switch items, or use my middle-mouse-wheel. Not that it was hard, but it was time consuming, especially when you do it so often.
The best way to describe how the off-hand works is probably like this:
- You can press “f” to switch which item is in your on-hand and offhand (easier than switching between items in your pockets)
- If you right-click, and your current item does not have a right-click option, it will do the right-click of your offhand.
What does #2 really mean? Let me explain some examples. The first was my mining one – I would mine, then place a torch. Since a pickaxe cannot right-click anything, the right-click went to the torch, which is “place torch”. If you’re building a staircase, you can put your stairs in your offhand, and break the block, then place the stairs. If you’re farming, you can have your hoe in your main hand and seeds in your off-hand – in this example, you right-click, which will first till the land, then sow the land (with your seed) – which lets you hold down right-click and till/sow a field very quickly. You can also have a sword in main hand and blocks in off-hand for quick nerd-poles. Combat getting to difficult, quickly build up while keeping your sword ready.
Grade on Off-hand use: A This is very useful. Sometimes a little trolly (I’d place torches all over the place when doing a big build, but in those cases, I would just remove torches from my off-hand. It technically also gives you an additional slot of storage, which is nice. It’s optional and reduces additional keystrokes or mouse clicks so I see it as a big improvement.
ALL THE REST
There are a bunch of other updates – such as new potions (one that gives jump boost), a new enchantment (that lets you walk on water), and a slew of other changes. I tested them, they work, but nothing that was game changing to me. Although walking on water does make building near water or crossing lakes much easier. But with new boats, they seem less necessary.
With the new combat, and the promise of new discoverables in The End, the game felt improved. Having come previously from a world of Modded 1.7, it still felt quite backwards, but the thought of being able to have a server that could run on minimal hardware (the server ran – without lag or issue, 5 people concurrently playing, with 512 megs of ram on a 1.7 GHz processor) is a benefit. And the fact that not everyone’s computer can handle modded Minecraft, 1.9 felt like a nice addition. I know there is also a huge PVP following for Minecraft, and these new combat changes will most certainly spice things up.
I’ll post pics of the builds people did on our server in another post. Thanks!