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Background

Me and some friends have been playing Minecraft since around 1.1, we started our current world at 1.2 which initially was SMP but we later moved it to SSP with LAN host.

Back in the days we were rather active and always upgraded to the newest version when it got released up until 1.8.8. That's when for various reasons our Minecraft sessions became less regular and we abandoned the world for a while.

When coming back 1.9 had released and we weren't too fond with the changes. Combined with not playing Minecraft as often any more we decided to no longer upgrade as we would have to check patch notes on every session.

Now several years have passed (5 in fact) and with the Nether Update out we're considering upgrading again.

The issue:

Our world houses a variety of farms to make obtaining items easier. Some of these including

Furthermore we make extensive use of villager trading to get our gear and some resources.

Now my question is, what will break on the way from 1.8 to 1.16?

Keep in mind that I am talking about the Java Edition of Minecraft

I'm only looking for survival gameplay related changes. So back-end stuff like The Flattening and map making features like Structure Blocks should be ignored for answers.

I'm also NOT looking for information on what has been added throughout the updates. That information can be found by checking the version history on the Minecraft Wiki.

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Let me try an answer more specific to your question:

  • The sugarcane farm will work, although it's massively overcomplicated and laggy comparing to modern alternatives. Consider building a new one before decommissioning this (or turning it into a museum piece).

  • Mob farm using dispensers with water to push the mobs down - works. Entity cramming won't allow accumulating mobs for occasional XP harvesting, and dispensers are more expensive than waterlogged trapdoors, so depending on your specific design it may be less optimal than what it could be. It's probable you may be able to 'upgrade' it to trapdoors and recover a ton of dispensers. Also depending on killing mechanics more optimal may be available.

  • Witch farm: this will break, the shifting floor mechanics have changed significantly several times, and a simple floor of slabs simply won't make the witches drop down. At the very least replacing the spawn floors with alternating solid blocks and soulsand, and open trapdoors over that, like in this one, although at that point rebuilding the whole thing would likely be little more work and improve your rates too.

  • This zombie pigman farm will work, but worse than before. It may require shooting zombie piglins from time to time to re-aggro them, adding means of disposing of magma cubes, piglins and hoglins, but in general it can serve as a framework for upgrading to an optimal 'donut style' zombie piglin farm; the worst, menial part of the work is done.

  • Endermen XP farm: Will work just fine, and produce exactly as much as before. If you're not saturating your XP intake though, you may consider building an EnderMINI instead, it's a cheap, maybe an hour build that works even better. (though if you're producing more XP than you can absorb with this one, the upgrade is meaningless).

  • Item sorter: Should work, most of it - the storing slices, water streams etc. There may be some issues in the 'quirky' parts like overflow etc, related to 1.16 redstone dust changes:

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This usually doesn't render a contraption useless, just requires some tweaks and adjustments.

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If I missed anything feel free to add it is as a separate answer or edit this one.

Versions that introduce breakage are written in bold:

  • 1.8.9
    • Unrelated bug fixes
  • 1.9 Combat Update
    • New end: There's currently a bug that only allows respawning the ender dragon on portal located at (x=0,y=0). Check MC-104897
    • Brewing stands now require blaze powder (will break old auto brewers)
    • Item elevators based on collision will no longer work (other like the ones that push solid blocks into the items still do)
    • Mob spawning changes (will cause issues with farms with certain assumptions about spawning rules)
      • Mobs can spawn on upside down pistons
      • Mobs can no longer spawn on rails
    • Mobs avoid cacti and fire (might break some weird farms)
    • Mobs no longer glitch through blocks moved by pistons (breaks witch farm)
    • Other:
      • Can no longer craft enchanted golden apples
  • 1.9.1
    • Hoppers can now push and pull items to and from chests that are blocked from opening.
  • 1.9.2 - 1.9.4
    • Unrelated bug fixes
  • 1.10 Frostburn Update
    • Endermen can now spawn in the Nether
  • 1.10.1 & 1.10.2
    • Unrelated bug fixes
  • 1.11 Exploration Update
    • Entity cramming maximum set to 24. If there are more entities in a single blockspace players and entities will start taking suffocation damage. Affects AFK mob farms that stack mobs (e.g. Blaze farm). Can be adjusted with the maxEntityCramming gamerule.
    • Breaks automated fishing farms using iron (trap)doors as player looking at the them will cast their line now
    • Item elevators outside of dropper based ones are broken.
  • 1.11.1 & 1.11.2
    • Unrelated bug fixes
  • 1.12 World of Color Update
    • No changes breaking automated farms
  • 1.12.1 & 1.12.2
    • Unrelated bug fixes
  • 1.13 Update Aquatic
    • Noteblocks can be pushed/pullled with pistons. Might break some designs relying on them not being pushed/pulled by a piston
    • Can now place same type of chest next to each other without them connecting
  • 1.13.1
    • Squid now spawn only in rivers, oceans or beaches, breaking squid farms that are outside of those biomes (e.g. in the dessert)
  • 1.13.2
    • Unrelated bug fixes
  • 1.14 Village & Pillage
    • Beds replace doors as to what counts as a village and what doesn't
      • This will affect all iron golem farms.
      • Will affect villager farms
    • Trading has been overhauled (including keeping the lock on a trade until the next day). Old villagers will keep their trades though.
    • Destroyed leaves can now drop sticks (might be of importance if your tree farm features an item sorter)
    • Dispenser can now shear sheep with wool
  • 1.14.1 -1.14.4
    • Unrelated bug fixes
  • 1.15 Buzzy Bees
    • Dispenser can interactive with bee nest / hives (useful for farms)
    • Dispensers can now fill water bottles
  • 1.15.1
    • Unrelated bug fixes
  • 1.15.2
    • Oak and birch saplings grown with a flower 2 blocks away within a 5×3×5 volume centered on the sapling have a 5% chance to generate a bee nest on the side of the tree. (Might break some tree farms)
  • 1.16 Nether Update
    • Redstone changes
      • Single redstone dust is now a cross powering blocks on all for sides (can be toggled with Use)
      • Redstone will provide power to blocks on sides it shows a visual connection to, and not do so on those sides without a visual connection.
      • Wire that goes over a block A can already power a block B next to A if the wire leading up to the block is power but not the one on top.
    • When fishing, treasure loot can now only be obtained by fishing in open waters. -> This will break auto fishing farms that farm for treasure loot
  • 1.16.1
    • Unrelated bug fixes

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