Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Minecraft Challenge: Griefers 1, me 0...

Sorry to keep posting about Minecraft -- I don't want to make a separate Minecraft blog, so if you're not into Minecraft, just scroll past this one...

Ever since I discovered Minecraft, I keep feeling tempted to set myself different challenges!! And most of them have worked out, but not all. For example:

1. Modify the Minecraft server program so that it has the features I want.

This went quite well -- if you're interested in what features I added, I'll list them at the bottom of this post.

2. Design an attractive building.

You can build anything you can imagine (as long as your imagination is limited to a cubic grid of cubes...), but it's surprisingly tricky to design a building that's not butt-ugly. So I took up the challenge, and think I did fairly well. You can judge the results for yourself on this video that I posted earlier.

3. figure out how to make videos of myself and my kids playing Minecraft, and upload them to YouTube.

This one kind of goes without saying, see above.

4. Design a fortress that is difficult to attack.

Given the peculiarities of Minecraft (eg. it's easy-peasy to chop through walls), the strategies for building a castle in Minecraft are different from the strategies one uses when making a real castle. My brain kept involuntarily wandering back to this question: If I were playing on a faction, or "capture the flag" or something like that, how could I design my castle so that my team would win?

The crazy thing about this is that I would probably never play such a game (because I don't enjoy competitive or strategy games), plus I'm a something of a pacifist, so I'm ambivalent about making war into a game. But somehow my brain hit upon this as an engineering puzzle, and there's basically nothing I love more than engineering puzzles!! My brain could not rest until I'd solved it. Again, you can judge the results I posted to YouTube.

5. Outwit the griefers on an open server on the Internet.

This one was something of an engineering puzzle that got stuck in my head, too. Here's how it works:

There isn't one big, official Minecraft server out there -- to play multiplayer, different individuals set up their own servers for people to join. Often people make a server that's open to anyone, and post the address on the Internet. The problem is that there are lots of people who make a game of giving people grief (hence the name "griefers"). Their game is to go to open servers and do as much damage as possible to buildings and structures that other people spent lots of time making.

I wanted to see if I could log onto the Wild, Wild West of one of these servers and succeed in making myself a little home where I could gather and produce the supplies I need. And maybe start trading and sharing items with other players once I got myself set up. Part of the challenge was that I'd never really spent any time playing on any setting other than "peaceful" (i.e. no monsters and your character doesn't need food), so I wasn't even used to dealing with monsters.

My plan against the griefers was simple: Instead of building an obvious house in the village with the rest of the players, I'd go up into the mountains and dig myself a hole in the face of a cliff. Cover the entrance with dirt instead of using a door. After all, griefers can't attack what they can't find!! Brilliant, huh?

Can you find my house in this picture???

Unfortunately, my plan had one fatal flaw: Everyone else on the server was getting repeatedly griefed. And the admins responded by repeatedly rolling the world data back to an earlier state, before the griefers arrived.

This ended up being a big problem for me on the server that I randomly chose. Because of the time-zone thing (I'm in Europe and I think the other players are mostly in North America), the backup was done at exactly the wrong time for me. The Americans would work on their buildings, the admins would make a back-up, and go to bed. Then I'd wake up and play a little in the morning. Then the griefers would come and wreck stuff. Then the admins would wake up and say "OMG, griefers!!!" and roll the server back to the backup. Thus, the Americans' progress was saved and mine was repeatedly deleted.

** Edit ** I just looked at the server's website, and apparently it's UK-based! Maybe I'm just the only Minecraft player in the world who's a morning person? lol. So scratch "American" in the above and replace it with "night people". ;)

I had done one fairly complex (but necessary) improvement to my cliff-house just before the first roll-back. I logged on the next day to find my improvement undone. "No matter," thought I, "I'll redo it." So I redid it, and it was even better the second time, so I was fine with it.

The next day, I logged in and again found myself right back to where I was before making the renovation!!! It was like being in the movie Groundhog Day!!

"Well, I'll try one more time," thought I. My home improvement wasn't done quite as neatly as the previous one, but I added a whole bunch of new stuff, and gathered some great new items. I thought it was up there long enough to get backed-up, so I invited my son to join me on the server, and I set up some stuff for him in my cliff-house as well, so he could play there with the other kids.

I was arranging the place to get it just right for my son when I saw some very ominous discussion appear on the screen. An admin was arguing with someone, and accusing them of griefing. Then I saw the automated announcement that the server was going down....

Then I reconnected to the server....

Noooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was Groundhog Day again!!!!!

All of my beautiful cave-house improvements, and all of my supplies that I'd gathered, disappeared!! My character was again transported back in time.

So, the griefers won. They wanted to destroy stuff that other people spent time working on, and they succeeded quite nicely. I concluded that, no, I can't outsmart the griefers and survive on the Wild West of a server where I can't control when the back-ups get made.

.................

Bonus: The features of my home server mod!

  • "/freebie" command: Once per (Minecraft) day, you can get one pack of a random number of random items.
  • Pumpkin Scuba!! If you put a pumpkin on your head, you can stay underwater as long as you want without drowning!
  • Teleportation commands (ideas copied from mods made by other people): /sethome, /home, /back, /ascend, /descend, plus requests to teleport to other players.

2 comments:

C. L. Hanson said...

The griefer story has a rather embarrassing coda:

I originally posted the above without the image and the "edit". Then I thought I should go back to take a screenshot... (hence the image).

Near the spawn, there are some signs requesting donations, so I thought, Hell, why not? I had fun and learned a few things playing on this server, so I can chip in a couple bucks. And in the paypal message, I can include a link to this post, and see if the owners swing by and leave a comment about my experiences on their server.

Then, because I am some sort of glutton for punishment, I decided to try going back, to see if my theory is correct that by playing in the evening (instead of the morning) my play session would be backed-up. So I re-did my cave-house renovation again. The fourth time, if you're counting.

This time an admin came by to give me some free items, which was nice. I'm not sure whether it was related to my donation.

It seemed like things were going well for me on this server, so I logged on again the next morning. You can guess what happened:

Groundhog Day, again!!!!!

Then I thought, I must be crazy. Isn't that the definition of insanity, to keep doing the same thing and expect different results?

But I didn't do the same thing! This time I played at a different time of day, and I gave the owners reality-universe cash money.

I would think that the whole server is just some sort of bizarre joke except that I can see other people's projects advancing each time I log on...

Oh, well, you know what they say: "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me four times, shame on me." ;^)

And anyway, they've done me a favor by convincing me that I just need to stop going there, period. I don't have free time to burn, and the last thing I the planet that I need is to be burning precious free-time playing Minecraft on a server run by some random people I don't even know...

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