All in all, they still haven't produced enough. They've added bosses. We need more bosses. Why arent giants an actual mob? They existed but were never fully implemented.
Giants were buggy messes that couldn't even properly traverse the ground due to their size. They also fall into your complaint as "Just reskins of zombies", only with a bigger size. (They literally even used the same textures and AI).
I can see you want new content, but you're forgetting it's quality over quantity. Husks and stray were results of people's constant "Need" of new mobs, and look how they turned out. Adding more stuff randomly doesn't always just make the game better, there has to be more thought put behind it than "You know pizza rifles sound pretty funny.... Why doesn't Minecraft have those?"
That's probably why updates like 1.12 took so long. Sure it's "Just a bunch of blocks", but there actually was a whole bunch of thought put into 1.12. Terracotta took forever to design to make it look nice when rotated around, the advancements and soon-to-be new crafting system directly enhances the player's experience no matter what side of the spectrum they're on. Rewriting all of that took tons of thought.
Besides, I don't really think your issue with Minecraft is that there's not enough stuff to do. For everything new they've done, you've found complaints for them right away. There's a point in time where it's not the game that's uninteresting, it's you who's lost interest. Any game will always inevitably get boring, and no major updates are going to permanently fix that unless the game got overhauled into essentially a whole new entire game, unrecognizable from the original.
They've produced content for creative more than survival. Nothing but the combat has changed in survival. New blocks don't count towards survival in my opinion. We need new adventures. More mobs, more weapons, more enchants/potions. Stuff that can change up the norm.
For mobs: Polar bears, parrots, husks, strays, Guardians, illagers (3 types, I believe?)
For adventures: Woodland mansions, Ocean monuments, End cities
For weapons: Axes (Sort of), lingering potions, tipped arrows.
For enchants: Sweeping edge, Mending, Depth Strider, Frost walker
For potions: eh, you got me there. Levitation and that Spectral effect, I guess.
This is also skipping stuff not in your exact categories.
I'd say that's plentiful. Creative users got a bunch of blocks, but that can't really count since blocks are both survival and creative content.
1.12 is rather dull. Just like 1.11 was. All of these updates are so spread apart and so small that the enjoyment is not even worth the wait. We haven't had a big update in many months now and each of the last few updates have taken at least half a year. Mojang's team continues to grow, yet they seem to be getting slower and slower in producing new content. It's getting frustrating as someone who has hosted a survival server since survival began in alpha, I feel kicked to the curb ever since Notch left. Why is Mojang trying to kill survival?
Considering 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, and 1.11 were based off of enhancing mainly the survival experience (Or at least contained major changes related to survival), I really doubt they're trying to kill it off.
My biggest bugbear is the drop command has changed - after a mining session I used to be able to drop 4 stacks of cobblestone at once by putting them into my crafting slots and exiting the inventory - then they would drop, that does not work now - it is a case of dropping each item individually in a stack from the hotbar by pressing the drop key - 64 times per stack - seriously?!??!?
The items sticking back into your inventory was a quality of life change made in the update. I personally think this change is nice since there are multiple, much more efficient ways to drop items, and every time I closed the crafting, having the items drop isn't what I wanted. Now I can safely close it to quickly remove items from the table in case I ever make a mistake with large number crafting.
To drop items directly from your hotbar, highlight the stack you want to drop and press Ctrl+Q (Or whatever your drop button is). To drop them while your inventory is open, simply pick up the item and click anywhere outside of the inventory screen.
I completely agree it was not working before. Nobody discovered shapes, instead people look on the Internet. But here with the recipe book I have the feeling instead of fixing the system it just bypass it completely.
Right now, and even moreso with the shift feature added in 17w14a, I'm 100% convinced shapes have become pointless.
Imagine you replace it with a list of ingredient (like 2x Stick 3x Stone for the Stone Pickaxe) and you get the exact same gameplay. The Recipe book is just so better to use.
Now whether that's good or not is up to debate.
I feel the shaped recipes makes things unique enough to where it'll stay, pointless or not.
It's still much faster to just place down a couple of materials and fast-craft from there rather than having to sift through tabs to find the items you want. Unless I'm just like the slowest tabber in the world, I guess.
Either way I feel it's a change that only has a positive effect. New players might like it and it doesn't spoil anything for them, old players that don't like it can ignore it and move on.
I get it might bother some people because "that's not how you're supposed to play" or "No respect for older crafting" or whatever, but I feel that's a bit selfish and it's entirely on you if you let something like that get to you.
I don't get why figuring out shapes is such an issue. That doesn't break a sense of exploration, not once in my hundreds of hours did I randomly move around blocks and had a feeling of "discovery" when I somehow magically figured out a recipe. Everyone already went on the internet to figure out the recipes, having the shapes "spoiled" for them, this just removes the middle man of having to open a browser, and it's spoil free!
You don't have to worry about figuring out how to unlock a beacon or shulker boxes too early because they require end-game crafting materials. Plus there's room for improvement since this is an unfinished feature. Currently chests are unlocked by having 8 (Maybe 9?) items in your inventory rather than picking up wood. This means there's potential for improvement.
Sometimes you have to sit back and look at it from multiple standpoints to understand something.
As for my own opinion, I think it's great for newer players and crafting things en mass. Though, yet, I do feel it kind of takes away part of that feel of mystery, learning recipes through friends and the wiki as it was done in the days of old. I wonder how mods will make use of it.
You still do kind of figure out things on your own. Right now it's basic, but most crafting recipies should have unique unlocks later on (Ex: Chests currently having to have a certain amount of inventory slots filled before unlocking).
As of now you don't unlock any recipies unless you have all the materials for it, so you still do eventually learn through the game instead of realizing everything at the start. You just don't have to blindly guess 90% or tab out of the game this time around.
And even if they were straight up ripped from mods, who cares? They would be Vanilla, easily accessible for everyone, even those who don't like modded or don't know how to mod. Isn't that a good thing?
Well I mean, if you directly took something from the community, it'd be nice if you mentioned it somewhere.
Luckily, though, Mojang actually does that. They also ask first before taking from mods on the rare instances they do.
I'm guessing people just think "Aw its from a mod Mojang is running out of ideas Minecraft is dying :(((((". I don't really know how they get that conclusion, but that's just how it seems to be.
The new blocks are... Hypnotic. All the little details added to them make them a lot more complex than they appear to be. There are so many pattern combinations and it's beautiful.
I had to stop though because all that spinning around to get blocks placed correctly makes me a bit too dizzy. They're a bit hard to properly position and that'd probably be my only complaint. I do love that we also have more colorful blocks. Concrete is wonderful as it's basically just as bright as wool but without the awkward wooly texture/feel. Basically what I wanted stained clay to be.
Hotbar switching is nice, too. Sometimes you just have too many different blocks to fit in one bar so its nice to swap through the items quickly. I feel I'll tend to type the wrong number constantly though and mess it up.
I am especially thankful for the terracotta blocks, though. On a more personal level, at least. They remind me of a lot of memories when I was younger, so of course I'll instantly be biased towards them and love them. They really were wonderfully designed. You could tell lots of care went into their textures.