Minecraft: My Journey Through the Great War of Civcraft

A story of war, hope, betrayal, and love (not really).

by on 18th May, 2013

<em>Civcraft</em>

They say that Civcraft is like the Hotel California of Minecraft servers — that is, once you join, you can never, ever leave. It’s a statement which holds surprisingly true. Civcraft is a grand experiment in societal construction, borne out of the now-defunct AnCapMinecraft, a server created and run by an enigmatic administrator known only as ttk2. This server does not run on the principles that most public servers do — there is but one rule (no hacking), and the moderation team generally only exercises their powers when users are caught breaking that one golden commandment.

One would expect, then, that Civcraft’s overworld is nothing but a wasteland of lava and broken homes, of sacked cities and scarce resources. It’s only the logical conclusion, after all — we’ve all seen the effects that griefers can have on our builds…

…Or not.

Civcraft is unique in that it runs a parcel of server modifications that allow its playerbase to mete justice on their own terms, and to protect their homes with often-expensive fortifications. The most important of these mods, PrisonPearl, allows players to imprison each other in Ender Pearls, a process colloquially known as “pearling”. This sends pearled players to The End, a dimension which can normally only be accessed through specialized portals. Its presence on the server completely changes the power dynamic between players, and shrinks the power divide between “rich” and “poor” — powerful and wealthy players are able to indiscriminately imprison those who oppose them, but they themselves are vulnerable to being pearled if mobbed. However, in the world of Civcraft, pearling has consequences, and one of those consequences is that any pearled player can instantly access the coordinates of their particular pearl.

The second most significant modification, developed in-house specifically for Civcraft, is called Citadel. This mod enables players to protect blocks they place by “reinforcing” them with certain materials (that is, smoothstone, iron ingots, and diamonds, which each offer differing levels of reinforcement). When a block is reinforced, it can still be broken, but with the reinforcement in effect the block will instantly re-appear a set number of times before finally breaking for good. This mod works hand-in-hand with PrisonPearl — players can add a second layer of imprisonment by locking someone’s pearl in a reinforced chest, which itself can be surrounded with reinforced obsidian for extra effectiveness.

Several other modifications run on the server, including one which limits chat range to 1000 blocks in any direction, but they’re nowhere near as game-changing as PrisonPearl and Citadel — PrisonPearl in particular poses as a significant deterrent for would-be criminals and those who only join the server in the interests of griefing its denizens.

What these mods also do is allow societies to be built, and the many players of Civcraft have taken to that task with nothing short of a brisk alacrity. Hundreds of different players have formed countless different factions across the huge (100,000 block area) map, and the server’s official subreddit (reddit.com/r/Civcraft) serves as a discussion board for anything and everything related to the server’s players and their varied political ideologies (and arguments based thereon).

However, until last month (I’ll go into it later), there has been but one snag in the experiment, one unintended event which, turned the server’s culture upside down, and caused many players to leave in disgust.

It was an invasion, of the worst kind imaginable.

When I originally joined the server, in September 2012, I did so with the aim of building a cool base in the middle of nowhere then blowing up a theatre in the server’s largest city, Mount Augusta. I made a throwaway account on Reddit and posted a vague threat on Civcraft’s subreddit, all the while not really intending to actually go through with my plan.

I didn’t know much about the server then, though, and my friends and I never followed through with our grand plan to blow up Mount Augusta’s theatre. However, in the days following my post on the subreddit, I noticed a curious trend in the comments — people believed that my threat was credible, and began to openly suspect each other of being the mystery poster (username of UnderpantsBomber). I was nothing if not intrigued by this trend, but schoolwork forced me away from the server for a few months.

Three months later, in December, I started to play again, this time with no concrete goals or affiliations. I’d been reading the subreddit for a week before I joined again, to get a feel for it - but all I really knew was that Mount Augusta was the safest, friendliest city in Civcraft, and that I wanted to live there.

After roaming about the map for a short period of time, I finally found myself in Mount Augusta, and set up a small house near the east wall. Over the week that followed, I got to know my neighbors, and even began to participate in the communal harvesting and replanting of the wheat fields adjacent to my home. My neighbours on the eastern side of Mount Augusta slowly came to trust me, and I felt like I’d found a proper nice home.

My lovely home

My idyllic existence was not to last long, however — one morning, I logged on to find that a particularly tall construction near my home had lava cascading down from it. Unfortunately, it made quite a mess of the wheat farm, and it was rather annoying to clean up, though I was thankful that it hadn’t hit the public wheat chests. Interested in finding out what had happened, I went to Civcraft’s subreddit and found out that the attack had been carried out by a couple of users, who broadcast their affiliation with but three letters:

“HCF”

Intrigued and more than a little bit wary, I investigated further. These HCF players, originating from the HardcoreFactions server (unaffiliated with Civcraft), had quite suddenly emerged from the shroud of obscurity to become feared opponents across the server — most Civcraft players are better versed in political manoeuvres than PvP combat. These HCF players seemed wholly malevolent, and, worse, they also appeared to have a vendetta against Mount Augusta, a city renowned for its political neutrality.

<em>Minecraft</em> propaganda posted by <em>Civcraft</em>DefenseFund (courtesy of CivcraftDefenseFund)

I wasn’t happy with how things were turning out, but how could I change the course of the raging river of the HCF? Every day I dreaded logging in, but couldn’t stop myself anyway — one day I’d see the town’s center portal covered in a huge cube of cobblestone (produced by HCF agents dropping water and lava buckets repeatedly), and the next day the cobblestone would be gone, cleared by the ever-industrious citizens of Augusta.

Events continued in that general manner until one morning, I logged in out of sight of my home — I’d logged out the previous night after retrieving a large amount of items for a player who had accidentally fallen off their roof and died (thereby scattering an inventory load of wood across the lawn in front of their house). Whether that was good luck or bad, I don’t know, but when I walked towards my home (now a striking, well-designed tower), I saw nothing in its place but lava and cobblestone. Those bastards had targeted my home now, and I had lost everything (or so I thought).

My destroyed home

Luckily, a few days before, I had placed a snitch (another serverside modification; a block which logs any actions which occur nearby) hidden inside a wall, and the lava had flowed in the wrong direction - it was safe. Still in shock, I climbed a tower of dirt to the snitch, and read the logs. To my horror, there were pages full of entries such as “Username: Placed - Lava Bucket”, and even then, I knew that I wouldn’t be rebuilding.

The grief

As I read the logs from the snitch, a player in a full set of enchanted diamond armor decided to stroll by, and quickly noticed me standing in the ruins of my own home. Without any warning, the diamond-armoured player quickly pearled me, and before I knew it, I was in the End for the very first time. Needless to say, I was pissed — and, as I later learned, I had been pearled by the very leader of the HCF himself, a nasty character known as Gordge, who just happened to be patrolling my part of town when I logged in.

Going to the End for the first time was an… interesting experience. At first bearings, it didn’t look good to me - a dark dimension filled with roaming criminals and innocents alike, milling about with nothing much to do. There were trees, though, brought in via the two End Portals on the overworld, and there appeared to be a fairly inexhaustible source of lava, going from the rampant lava griefing.

My first view of the End

I walked around for a bit, then, to my surprise, a player (who I didn’t know) contacted me through the private messaging system. He offered a safe haven for me and anyone who might have been pearled with me, at a place called Fort Marienberg. I followed his instructions, and soon found myself on a very long bridge leading away from the floating mainland, and, after a short walk, I was confronted with the towering fortifications of Fort Marienberg, the home of the End’s resistance forces.

There, I met with the player who had contacted me: apparently I’d been vouched for by another resident of Mount Augusta, and I’d been deemed trustworthy enough to enter the base. He showed me around, and I noted that they had set up something that almost felt like… home. The Fort was fully self-sustaining, with a large farm and cobblestone generator, and some of its citizens were bedecked from head to toe in shining iron armor. We all, at the very least, had rudimentary weapons to protect ourselves from the plebeian masses huddled only a couple of thousand of blocks away on the mainland, accessible via a dark bridge.

(Courtesy of CivcraftDefenseFund)

Despite its obvious power advantage, the base was still vulnerable to griefing, and many times I’d log on to find our crops destroyed and random chunks taken out of the walls. We persevered, however, and one day we began to hear whispers of a huge raid being undertaken on one of the HCF vaults by a coalition of the most powerful factions on Civcraft — including the Ancaps, the most wealthy players on the server. I, personally, doubted them — there had been rumours of similar happenings before, and they had never come to fruition. Who was to say that they would succeed this time when every other attempt had failed?

To my happy surprise, I was completely wrong. The day after hearing about the vault raid, I logged on and, instead of being greeted with Fort Marienburg, I burned alive in lava. A good start, to be sure. When I respawned, I was inside the chest room of my destroyed house, which miraculously hadn’t been touched at all (being made of cobblestone instead of wood). My biggest challenge was getting out of the room, and, eventually, I was able to block off the lava and make my way out.

When I stepped out, it was to the largest sack of Mount Augusta yet. The farms had been wiped out, and there were huge mountains of cobblestone covering the center of the city, effectively prohibiting access to the Nether portal and the player-run shops dotted around it. It was almost heartbreaking to behold the devastation which covered the city, the countless man-hours which had been nullified in one fell swoop, and from that moment forth, I knew that I wouldn’t rest until I’d made a concrete contribution to the underground resistance.

(courtesy of LouisIndustries)

As I stumbled around, not quite knowing what to do, I was hailed by one of my neighbours, a member of the Communist Party of Mount Augusta (the CPMA). He urged me to follow him, to build a base far, far away… and I agreed, because there was nothing left for me in Mount Augusta except ashes and memories. After a few hours’ scouting and sailing, we discovered a small island a great distance from civilization, hidden deep in the map’s northeast quadrant. We dug downwards, made a small home base, and returned to Mount Augusta to transport his (and my) valuables to the island, which we dubbed New Pyongyang for the communist principles which we’d operate our civilization on. Soon after, we were joined by some other members of the CPMA, and our little family was created, out in the middle of nowhere.

Fast forward a week, and my comrades and I had developed the grandest of plans: instead of living in a hovel in the dirt, we would dig out a mighty cavern beneath the island, to serve as a glorious enclave for the resistance. The idea was ambitious, and the execution took longer than we expected, but after digging out nearly 300,000 blocks’ worth of space underground, and drafting a constitution, we adopted a juche policy (following in the footsteps of our city’s namesake) and attempted to seclude ourselves from the outside world, with its ongoing conflicts and messy requirements of human/HCF interaction. In New Pyongyang, we were utterly safe — we followed a strong policy of security through obscurity, and it worked extremely well, until it didn’t.

Here’s the point where I say “it wasn’t much, but it was home” — but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t much. New Pyongyang was a grand and almost entirely self-sufficient city. The saddest thing is that our exclusionist policies precluded our grand constructions from being seen by the masses, especially those who would appreciate the beautiful architecture that was exhibited in both its towering buildings and displays of public art (including a statue of Geckolubber, our Dear Leader).

Note that I’m using “was” instead of “is”. We worked diligently towards finishing construction for over a month, and even accrued quite a bit of wealth — hell, we could have even hired a hitman to take care of anyone who stumbled across us. Our paranoia had almost no limits at that stage, and I suppose it’s ironic, after all our hard work, the weeks of planning and running and hiding and deception, that our secret society was taken down from the inside by one of the very people who founded it. In fact, it was the same player with whom I originally undertook the scouting mission which resulted in the founding of New Pyongyang. We didn’t know that at the time, though — he attacked the city with an alt account, and managed to access our vault. With this in mind, we spent the next week or so running around like headless chickens, endlessly repeating the same theories to ourselves, wondering who the attacker was.

We uncovered the truth eventually, though, and by that time, New Pyongyang had been evacuated and then abandoned, with only a few signs left in front of Dear Leader’s palace to explain the history of our first home for any who might wander upon it.

After that, my time on the server was effectively over. I didn’t log on much to talk to my comrades, since I’d just flown to a time zone sixteen hours away, and I was discouraged by the fact that a couple of months’ work had gone down the drain due to the actions of a filthy traitor.

Civcraft pulls you back, though, and I was about to log in again when I read a post on the subreddit that, quite literally, made my jaw drop. Something awful had happened to the server — a HCF-affiliated user had volunteered server space for backups (something ttk2 needed) and had breached his trust by leaking the entire backup of the server, including the Civcraft map and source code of the custom in-house plugins. It was a catastrophe of the highest order, and every other HCF player (indeed, even the management of the Hardcore Factions network) immediately denounced his actions — but it was too late. The damage had been done, and over a year’s worth of work by hundreds of users had been undone in the space of minutes.

In spite of the huge damage that this breach wreaked on the server, some players are looking on the bright side — the breach has made a server map reset mandatory, which is something that many have called for in the past, and the map reset will necessitate the beginning of a whole new world of Civcraft: new players, new factions, new cities, new drama. The new map is scheduled to start on Sunday, May 19th, and I plan to be there to watch more stories unfold.

It’s going to be awesome.

(Courtesy of JakacBatko)

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