On Notch’s twitter, he posted an image with a height cap of 512 blocks, commenting on how the landscape generator doesn’t like to play nice with numbers that high. For reference, the default height of Minecraft worlds up and down is 64 blocks. On the image was a bar and a new gauge that looked like meat. Now, Notch explains that it’s an upcoming EXP bar, the second clearly hunger.
Notch had said “I’m a big Roguelike fan. It’s really fun, the idea is that you level up really, really fast. You can grind away and level up fast if you want to, or you can just play as normal and level up that way. The longer you play, the bigger the risk of dying becomes. It’s the part that really works. If it feels like it’s too harsh, we might make it half or something like that. But the fact that you lose everything – you lose all your inventory anyways.”
He is still trying to figure out how leveling can actually be implemented. It could be automated, or your EXP can be based on items you craft, with more complex and rarer items giving more EXP. As he said, you lose everything when you die, but this likely only means that you lose the items as you normally do, and maybe all of your levels, then you respawn. It’s very, very easy to die in Minecraft, especially while working with lava and explosives. One wrong click and the only thing left of you is a sizable crater where your house used to be.
He did say however “It’s the biggest risk.” when asked about the concept of permadeath and progression, which could be a risky move for Minecraft. “We have to make sure that it’s fun, and as streamlined as possible. I kind of figured out that was a really good test of what works or not is when I go back to 1.7.3 – the previous version. If it feels like it’s lacking that feature, if it feels like it should be in there. But it’s what I like about Roguelikes like Nethack – Everything is dangerous.
If I had no option to avoid true permanent death in the game, meaning it takes your savefile with it, I’d probably be playing on peaceful for the rest of my life just in case a creeper decides to troll me from out of nowhere. Those things show up when you least expect them to and by then it’s too late.