Words to the Wise: Owning a Minecraft Server

At long last, I had found the Minecraft server that was the perfect fit for me. Back in 2011, I first logged into this world that would forever change my outlook on Minecraft servers. It was a role-playing game (RPG) server and I became enamored with it. At the time, the server had an active population of about 500 online at peak times. In a short amount of time, I had built friendships with many other players on the server and through the use of the plugin Towny, we had started our own in-game town.

There was no creative mode on the server in which we could draft our layout for our town. Naturally, we decided to buy a server from a hosting service. This would become our test server, in which we would construct the building plans for our town on our test server before creating it on the RPG server. We would bring our friends, who weren’t necessarily members of our town, onto the test server to see our work as we built it. We also used this test server to test the features that towny provided. With all of us being relatively new to managing a server, we enjoyed learning and messing with all the server configurations. We had entertained the idea of perhaps opening our own towny-based server someday, but that day certainly was not anytime soon… or so we thought.

Among the people we brought on to view and critique our builds, some of them happened to be moderators from the RPG server. They began utilizing our test server for making their own builds, as they did not have access to creative mode on their native server. They began experimenting with plugin commands and were likewise also entranced by the features it offered. More and more of their time began to be spent on our server over the one in which they were moderators. Before long, administrators from the RPG server caught wind of this and were outraged.

Regardless of the fact that their moderators were spending their time on our server in the interest of bettering their builds on the RPG server, the administrators had stated that their moderators actions were a conflict of interest. To say that they overreacted is a gross understatement. In response, the moderators pointed out that they had not failed to fulfill any of their responsibilities as staff members and declared that they did not have to spend all their time on one server continuously. The administrators clapped back by offering them an ultimatum: it’s us or them.

The irony of this situation is that we weren’t anything but a test server of people who were active players on these administrators’ server. Their server wasn’t some random no-name server either; they were the highest rated server on Planet Minecraft at the time. To this day, the way they approached this situation still dumbfounds me. But nevertheless, in response to their ultimatum, some of the biggest names on their RPG server, members who had spent countless hours making it into the success that it had become, resigned from their positions as moderators.

This put me in a rather peculiar position. I had not taken any part in the arguments that had occurred but I had been singled out as I was the owner of the test server. Representatives from the RPG server would periodically log on to our server accusing me of orchestrating what they called a “coup de’tat.” The recently resigned moderators came to me with a proposition: would I be interested in beginning a new and better role-playing server?

As I previously stated, I had finally found a server that was the perfect fit for me. But this was only seemingly. While the dedicated community was the greatest asset the RPG server had, their staff constantly ignored their player base and continually made bad decisions with even worse justification for them. Their response to the situation that unfolded involving their moderators was only the most recent development in a long line of bad acts. So I began to consider the following: what if you matched the amazing playerbase that a server like that RPG one offered with a staff that actually made intelligent decisions in the best interests of the playerbase? Believing that I could do a better job than those before me were doing, I responded to these former moderators’ question with a confident “yes, I am interested.”

What happened afterwards was a surprise to all of us. Having been forced into this role, players from the RPG server came flocking to our server as a form of rebellion against the abusive RPG staff. For a while now, much of the playerbase had long held resentment towards the staff of the RPG server. When news broke of how some of the most prolific moderators on their server had quit, this pushed that resentment into full scale anger. Our server became the natural rallying point for these players. There was only one problem: we had nothing to provide to these players.

This situation had forced me into my real first challenge. At the time, we were still just a test/build server. What were we to do to keep the hundreds of people that now were interested in our server preoccupied? I quickly enlisted the former moderators of the RPG server as the staff for my own server. Together, we formulated the first iteration of our own RPG server. At the very least, we had a vision we were all striving to achieve.

Next came the infrastructure. We upgraded the RAM on our server and selected people from our playerbase who were proficient in writing to draft the server’s lore (as this was meant to be an RPG server). By doing this, we had meant to supply our playerbase with a foreseeable future of the server. The players soon began to imagine where they would fit into the world that we had planned to create. They began joining together to form what would be the server’s first towns and consequently began building the outlines for their own town on our server.

Just as I had done in the past, these players began bringing in their friends from the other server to see their work. The only difference was that now there was a server that our players could advertise to their friends. This brought even more players into our community and we once again began taking on more than we could handle. More problems began to pop up because as we gained more and more players, the RPG server now saw us as their potential rivals and increased their negative PR campaign against us accordingly. In a sense, we became their frankenstein monster.

Yet, the administrators of the RPG server had made a miscalculation in doing this. By singling out our server as a threat, they nonetheless had given us exposure to their playerbase. Bad PR is still PR. More and more players began talking about us and eventually logging on our server to see what all the talk was about. While this was amazing for us on the one hand, it put even more pressure on us to release a better finished product in a shorter amount of time.

We weren’t without our strengths though. I had experience with system administration and configuration. The members of my staff were all experienced moderators who were not only were adored by the player base but were incredible builders and terraformers too. We were even able to recruit an incredibly famous Minecraft Youtuber (for his sake I will keep his name anonymous) to our staff and in doing so, secured a sponsorship from a huge server provider. In addition to all of this, we had the funds to keep our server afloat for the foreseeable future. It was my job to put these people and resources where they could be most effective.

However, with our strengths also came our weaknesses. In our attempt to outdo the server we all previously were a part of, we overreached ourselves. What was meant to start out as a basic RPG server began exploring the possibilities of custom-made plugins. We had been lucky enough to attract people with experience coding in Java who were willing to turn our most wild fantasies into reality in the form of a plugin. Something like a creative renaissance began to transpire on our server. With the assurance of these coders, who, unbeknownst to us, were still relatively new to coding in the Minecraft API, we reinvented our vision for the server. We began getting lost in our ideas of what could be rather than making what can be.

My staff and I had reached some sort of consensus on what types of custom plugins we would have commissioned for the server. However, we agreed that these plugins would be added in a later version of our server. For now, we would continue with the release with our original vision in mind: a towny RPG server. Yet, there was something unsatisfying in returning to this vision. After letting our imaginations run wild, recreating a better version of what we used to have on our old RPG server didn’t feel like something everybody was on board with anymore.

Our motivation began to dwindle and our progress began to rapidly slow down. Players who we were used to seeing online everyday began to become impatient with us and our active playerbase began to shrink substantially. My “all for one and one for all” inspired staff soon became more interested in selling their builds or creating videos for their builds on their youtube channels than they were in our server. These issues, along with drama and other internal conflicts, led to the end of our server.

For a long while after closing our server, some of our former staff and loyal players, myself included, continued to chase our shared dream of having our own server. We went through new ideas for the server, threw more money at the project, and wasted more of our time in developing it but after much toil, we had decided it was all for naught. To this day, there is still a part of me that wants to start the project anew. But this is only an afterthought in my mind and nothing more.

Years after this experience, I seem to constantly see myself changing my mind as to what led to our failure. I think my story is a rather unique one as I haven’t heard of many other instances in which a startup server had so much going for them from the get-go.

While it may be easy to dismiss my experience as one that was destined to fail due to the root of its origins, I don’t think that is an entirely fair assessment. We would have had impressive and professional builds because we had talented builders. We would have had the online promotion of our server through the popular Youtuber that was part of our staff. We would have had the playerbase needed to have an active community from the day we launched the server. This isn’t to say that I have any complaints or regrets; quite the opposite in fact. Looking back, I don’t think I would have had the longterm dedication and time to be able to have properly owned a server with that type of potential. That being said, its a shame that things turned out the way they did and that I’ve lost the connections I made on that journey. But hey, it makes for one good story.

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