Old McAstra had a farm… E-I-E-I-grrr…

One of the unfortunate consequences of Beta 1.8.x not working well on the lousy machines that Kristal and I possess is that we didn’t learn about the ramifications of some of the Adventure Update’s additions until we found a later version that we could run. So it wasn’t until we got to grips with 1.9 pre 5 that we learned something which rather puts a dent in our enjoyment of the game…

The hunger bar and the persistence of friendly mobs are a right royal pain in the arse.

Now, if you read this blog often, you’ll know that I tend to be enthusiastically positive for the most part, but even on the odd occasions when I disagree with the direction that Minecraft takes, I tend not to get too ranty about it (well, I don’t think so, anyway). But with the way the game stands at the moment, having to deal with the demands that the hunger bar places upon you is such a nuisance – and for that matter, changing mobs to being persistent serves to exacerbate the issue.

(UPDATE: Erm, yeah. Occasionally ranty…)

I’d already heard Kristal’s rather extended and colourfully-expressed rant on the matter (and I’m not exaggerating here: it’s a rant by her own admission, and she was the one who originally called Beta 1.8 “The Farmville Update”, not I), but it wasn’t until I was playing in SSP that I realised the extent of the problem.

As you’ll most likely know by now, you’ll only automatically regain health when the hunger bar is at 90% or higher, so you’ve got to eat to replenish the hunger bar. That in itself is fair enough, all fine, lovely and wonderful. But now you’re pretty much forced to farm if you want to make any sort of progression within the game.

In my SSP game, I’d started to dig a staircase down to level 12, so I could plunder the bowels of the earth for its riches, but had to stop when I remembered the existence of the hunger bar. So then the next three or four hours were spent creating a wheat farm so that I could go and gather animals (and eventually breed them), together with putting together the paddocks for the cows, pigs and chickens. Plus, because I didn’t have any armour, my work on the farm was punctuated by running back to my little hole-in-the-wall house so that I could dive into bed before anything evil spawned.

I suggested to Kristal that players could simply get away with farming wheat for bread, which speeds up the process to a degree. But she pointed out that we still need cows for leather (at least at first), and chickens for their feathers, since zombies now drop Rotten Flesh instead. Pigs pretty much have no value whatsoever besides food, so there’s no real need to breed them. If you kill the cows and chickens without breeding them, you’re going to be pretty much out of luck for replenishments – unless you feel like living a nomadic existence. So it’s time to get your farmer costume on…

Kristal has estimated that approximately one-third of her playing time is spent farming; time which could be spent engaging in the more interesting aspects of playing Minecraft. I don’t know how accurate her estimate is, but nonetheless, it’s a frustration.

(Side note: The number of Excavation Station ideas that I see in The Shaft’s submission notes each week asking for still more foodstuffs to farm is quite unnerving, I can tell you >.<)

The Minecraft à Trois Farm.

This is what Kristal determined should be a good-sized farm complex to feed three people. That 'empty' pen actually contains chickens.

Don’t get me wrong: Even though I feel passionately about this matter, it’s definitely not going to stop me playing Minecraft1. But it would be great to have some viable alternatives. OK, so we can build a “mob farm” in the hopes of obtaining arrows, so that we don’t have to venture into the caves, but I would prefer a much faster method of getting them, such as trading with NPCs – even if only in limited quantities every x minutes/hours/days.

The guys from The Shaft have repeatedly made statements along the lines of “If you don’t like it, play an earlier version” – but I for one like most of the new stuff in the game, even if the current means of obtaining some items borders on the ridiculous (melon seeds can only be obtained from abandoned mineshafts? Seriously?). And what if you want to play SMP?

Ah, well. I guess I’ll just have to keep on dreaming, for the moment. Anyway, I’ve got to be up in the morning to feed and breed the cows and the chickens, harvest the wheat, and tend to the melon patch. Good night, John Boy… good night, Jim Bob…

Chickens in the coop.

TOLD you.

1 My own version of Kristal’s rant, on The Shaft’s Pre-Minecon Panel earlier this week may have suggested otherwise… 😉

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