How to Switch a Minecraft World from Survival to Creative to Hardcore

When you create a Minecraft world you select your game mode and that mode is fixed for the lifetime of the world. Or is it? Read on as we show you how you can sidestep the gamemode lock and permanently change your game’s mode.

Why Do I Want To Do This?

When you create a new world you select your game mode. You can choose from creative, survival, and hardcore modes. Under normal circumstances this selection is fixed and a permanent flag is set within the world file.

Minecraft lends itself to creativity and changing playstyles, however, and you may find that the map you intended to make a creative map feels like it would be a perfect survival map or vice versa. Or perhaps you want to start in creative mode to build your home base and then switch to survival mode to take on the world from the comfort of your freshly built castle.

Whatever your motivation for changing the world type, it’s a pretty straight forward process. Let’s look at two techniques, one temporary and one permanent, you can use to change game modes.

Changing Game Modes with the LAN Trick

This technique might be old hat to some Minecraft players but it’s worth noting as a very hasty and simple technique you can use without any advanced editing or secondary programs required at all.

Here we are in a test survival world we created for this tutorial. You can see the hearts and hunger meter above the experience and item bar.

The world was flagged as survival when we made it and it will stay survival. However we can temporarily skirt those rules by opening the game to the LAN for network play (even if we have no intention of playing it with other players).

Hit ESC to pull up the game menu and click “Open to LAN.”

In the LAN World menu the only important option for our purposes is to toggle Allow Cheats to “On.” Like the header implies, these are the settings for other players, and if you change the game mode here it only changes the game mode for incoming players to your LAN world. If you toggled the cheats on, however, it applies to all players in the game (including you). Click “Start LAN World” when you have toggled the cheats on.

Back in the game, press the “t” key to bring up the ingame console box. Enter the command “/gamemode c” to change your game mode to creative. (If you want to switch back to survival mode, use the command “/gamemode s”.)

Notice the hearts, hunger, and experience meter are gone leaving on the item bar. Despite the world’s survival mode flag we’re now in creative mode.

You can use this trick to temporarily alter the game mode of both survival and creative mode games. This trick can also be used to turn a hardcore mode game into a creative mode game. What’s interesting about this trick in regard to hardcore mode, however, is that hardcore mode (even though we refer to it is a game mode) is actually a separate game flag. Hardcore mode is actually just survival mode wherein death leads to world deletion (so you have only one life to live in your hardcore world). Turning a hardcore game into a creative game creates a weird sort of hybrid wherein you get all the powers that come with creative mode, but if you were to die in creative mode (either by falling into the void or using the /kill command on yourself) you’d lose your world just like you would in regular hardcore mode. We’ll show you how to toggle this later in the tutorial.

When you use this trick, you toggle your game mode, but you don’t permanently toggle the state of the entire world save (and using the multiplayer command /defaultgamemode doesn’t work correctly on single player worlds). In order to make a permanent and global change to the world save you’ll need to do a little editing in the guts of the save file. Let’s take a look at that now.

Permanently Change Your Minecraft Game Mode

In order to make permanent changes to the gamemode state you need to edit the game file, the level.dat. Further, you need to use the same formatting Minecraft uses: Named Binary Tag (NBT).

Installing NBTExplorer

To that end the aptly named NBTExplorer, an cross-platform tool available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, is a tailor made tool for the task. You can read more about the tool at the official thread or visit the Github page; downloads are available for all three platforms at both links. You can run all three OS versions as a stand alone portable application.

Note: Backup worlds before editing them. Copy the entire save file directory to a safe place in case your editing goes awry.

When you run the application for the first time it will automatically load the default Minecraft save directory for your operating system. In the screenshot above you can see our two test worlds “NBT Test” and “NBT Test II”.

Changing the Game Mode

The first test world is a survival world. Let’s take a look at the values we need to change in order to set it permanently to creative mode. Select the name of your world, in our case “NBT Test” and expand it. Within the directory you’ll see multiple entries. The which contains the world rules is the level.dat entry at the bottom of the list.

Expand the level.dat entry and click on “Data”. Within that data list you’ll find an entry labeled “GameType.” Although you can use keywords like “creative” or “c” to change modes when using the /gamemode command in the game, the GameType value must be set using a numeric value. Here are the values you can use:

0 – Survival

1 – Creative

2 – Adventure

3 – Spectator

Our goal is to switch the world we created from survival to creative so we would switch the 0 to a 1. Double click on the value and replace it with the game mode value you desire. Press CTRL+S or the save icon to save your edited tags.

Changing the Player Mode

If you’ve never logged into the world you’re editing before, you can skip this step. If you have logged into the world before you’ll need to make one more edit. The save file remembers the state your player was in so even if you change the world to a different mode your player will stay in the old mode.

You can fix this issue by using the Open-to-LAN trick we outlined above and using the cheats to /gamemode yourself one last time to fix it or you can make a quick edit in NBTExplorer. Navigate to in NBTExplorer your world save and then to the sub-category of “playerdata.”

Change the value in “playerGame Type” using the same 0-4 values outlined in the previous section. To switch our player mode to creative without having to use the in-game work around, we need to edit the “playerGame Type” value to 1. Again, make sure to CTRL+S or click the save icon to save your work.

Toggling Hardcore Mode

In the previous section on using the the Open-to-LAN work around, we noted that if you used the survival-to-creative mode trick on a world that had been created with hardcore mode turned on, you’d end up in a sort of strange limbo where you had creative powers but would still lose your world if you died. Let’s take a look at how you can toggle hardcore mode off (if you want to turn that world into a regular survival or creative world) or on (if you want to add a little thrill to your life and turn a becoming-dull survival world into a one-life-to-live thrill ride).

If we open up the world’s level.dat file in NBTExplorer we see the “hardcore” tag on our hardcore test world is set to “1” indicating that the world is in hardcore mode despite the fact that we set our player’s game mode (using the Open-to-LAN cheat) to creative.

We can leave this setting as it is (and opt to switch the player back to survival mode, recreating the experience of hardcore mode) or we can toggle this setting from a “1” to a “0” at which point the game will not be deleted upon the death of the player (regardless of whether the player dies in survival or creative mode).

Although the point of hardcore mode is that, well, it’s hardcore, we certainly understand if you’ve grown so attached to a world that you can’t stand the thought of losing it and want to convert it to a regular survival or creative world.

Armed with a little know-how (and a very handy editor) you can control the game modes of your world saves without resorting to starting over or continually fiddling with the Open-to-LAN trick to get your settings just so.


Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.