"Hardcore Mode" is not more difficult than hard mode. Literally the only thing different is that the punishment for dying is greater; actually avoiding death is no more difficult than usual.
Mobs are only a problem on the first night, and when you get a bed, they might as well not exist. So in order to make survival mode challenging, beds should not skip the night. That will force the player to encounter mobs more often. Also, the mobs should be overpowered, so that instead of "I have iron armor on my second day; I think I'll kill skeletons for their bones now" you think "I have iron armor on my 16th day; now, in the case that I encounter a mob, I won't die in one hit anymore".
First of all, zombies, drowned, husks, skeletons, strays, slimes, magma cubes, spiders, and cave spiders should be able to kill an unarmored player in one hit. Zombie pigmen, endermen, witches, ghasts, blazes, wither skeletons, shulkers, drowned with tridents, pillagers, and vexes should be able to kill a player in iron armor in one hit. Guardians, elder guardians, vindicators, evokers, illusioners, ravagers, the ender dragon, and the wither should be able to kill a player in diamond armor in one hit. That is so that rather than fighting them right away, you would have to think of clever strategies to outsmart them later on.
Second, all mobs (or at least nether and end mobs) should have lots of health. (Wither skeletons should have about as much health as the ender dragon.) That way, protection IV diamond armor and a sharpness V diamond sword won't make you invincible.
Third, there should be no local difficulty. Instead, mob spawning rates should always act as if it were at its maximum.
Fourth, the better the items that are in you inventory, the more health, attack damage, armor, positive effects, and enchanted gear mobs should spawn with.
Fifth, natural regeneration should be off by default, and reduced debug info should be on by default.
Sixth, mobs should be able to see as far as the player can.
Seventh, mobs should be able to sprint.
The above changes will make hardcore mode actually more difficult. Even the last two alone would provide an extra challenge. In part two, I will tell you about my ideas for changing world generation in hardcore mode.
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