How I Peaked
(in Minecraft)

Or, How I Finally Quit Video Games:
A Memoir, A Warning, A Saga

Part Five

I. February Foibles

Once the museum was finished and opened to the public around the start of February, our interest in the server began waning. The museum project began to take precedence in our minds over ICI, and we found ourselves using our declining playtime on the server trying to pick fights and kill people solely to acquire new items for display in the museum. Whenever we saw someone going around killing people with a named weapon, we lusted after it and would target that player relentlessly with chest inspections and the like. Frustratingly, as things went on, it became harder and harder to get in fights once again, as players became scared to leave safe zones, leaving us with little to do. I began to play around with a VHS camera that I had recently bought a video capture USB device for, and recorded an “ICI Informational Video” by pointing it at my computer screen and spouting some nonsense ICI rhetoric in the background. The video is actually still available on YouTube here. Then, I realized that since I was using OBS to get input from the USB, I could also stream to Twitch using the VHS camera, which was simply too good to pass up. I livestreamed myself doing a chest inspection at a relatively large up-and-coming town, showing the tally counter and all to the camera while answering questions about chests and lag. Quite a few players tuned in to see how the sausage is made at ICI, and some started spamming me with abuse in private messages on the server, so they could see it show up in my in-game chat on the stream. Unfortunately, only a few days later I stumbled into the VHS camera while drunk and knocked it to the floor, breaking the lens, so that was to be the first and only chest inspection livestream. I guess it was pretty popular, because some guy was trying to give me tips on how I could get a better camera for the next one.

What really revitalized things for us, at least temporarily, were some new players that joined and started making waves. They stood out primarily because they were extraordinarily obnoxious in chat and were really pissing off many of the Hyperion regulars with their antics. Spotting an opportunity, I immediately invited them to ICI, and they accepted. I figured that if they made Hyperion mad enough, Hyperion would show up to fight them at their town, and ICI would be there waiting. Sure enough, the plan worked brilliantly. Hyperion members showed up at their town (also annoying in that it was perched on an extremely steep and thin mountain island) to fight, where we had the home turf advantage of being able to toggle permissions in our favor. At the expense of the new people dying a few times due to inexperience, we managed to get off some valuable kills on Hyperion members, including the elusive Paddywiggle himself. This was enough to rekindle combat on the server, and some other newer players who were on the rise started fighting ICI as well, with even some wars occurring. However, by now people had had months to figure out all of the ins and outs of the server’s janky custom war plugin, so a lot of cheap strategies were used to win wars without really fighting. For example, if neither nation got enough kills to win the war within one week, then the defending nation would win by default. This meant that when we declared war, often enemy players would just hide out for a week, either inside their houses (which we were sometimes able to glitch inside to kill them) or by staying in the spawn, where they were safe even during a war. Being the nation leader was also risky during war, since even one kill on them would end the war, which led to nation leaders temporarily making alternate accounts the nation leader for the duration of the war. Nations with lots of residents were at a disadvantage because there were many more potential targets for killing, so they would remove many of their towns or even residents for the duration of wars as well. During one war with Hyperion (which had been the server’s largest nation for a while, with dozens of members), it got to the point where there were maybe only three or four people total we could kill and have it actually count towards the war. Sometimes one of them would fight with three other Hyperion-aligned players, and we’d kill the three players, but the “true” Hyperion member would run away and make it out, so the whole fight wouldn’t count towards the war at all. Another strategy that was used was getting alternate accounts into enemy nations, and then killing them over and over again with your main account until the war ended in your favor. Usually, our opsec was good enough to avoid such incidents, but one day I foolishly invited some newer guys I had been hanging out with in a voice chat to the nation. I then left for a bit to go take a shower, and when I returned, I found that one of our enemies had declared war (since ICI was never peaceful) and won by convincing the new guys to let him kill them several times. After that, swallowing our prior pride with regards to not doing so, we started to keep ICI peaceful most of the time as a precaution.

While we never made use of any of those strategies due to having to uphold our reputation and the fact that we could win wars the “honorable” way through actual fighting, we did develop one novel combat technique during this time. I had still been keeping tabs on the YouTube channel of our old friends, the German “Technical Minecraft” guys, who had finally come out with a machine that was both reasonable for us to build and extremely useful. For convenience, the server had a number of commands you could use to teleport to various places, such as the spawn, your town, or individual homes that you set (regular players can set one “home” teleport, but donors could set an infinite amount, one of the more busted donation perks. I had never seen a server before that did that, usually even for the highest donation rank most would cap it at around 100 or so). To prevent players from easily escaping during combat, the combat tag plugin disabled all teleportation until you exited combat. You could still teleport in combat, however, by using an item from the default game called an “ender pearl”: you would throw it, and teleport to wherever it landed. It had a brief cooldown and limited range, but they were absolutely indispensable in combat, and we always carried around quite a few. While ender pearls were useful for getting around quickly during fights, what the Germans had invented was a sort of “ender pearl stasis” device. It was a machine that you throw an ender pearl into, and it would keep them indefinitely suspended in the air by using a slime block on a piston to keep pushing it back up into the air every time it fell down. It was really quite a sight, the ender pearl bouncing on top of the slime block/piston. In any case, if you stopped the piston from pushing by pressing a button, the ender pearl would finally fall back to the ground and land, and you would instantly teleport to where it landed, no matter where you were on the map and even if you were in combat tag. So, before going out into a fight anywhere on the map, you could put an ender pearl in the machine, and have another player (or an alternate account) man the machine, and press the button to bring you back if you needed to escape a fight you were losing. This was almost certainly against the rules, like everything those poor Germans came up with, but we were confident that if we were careful and hid it deep underground within our town, nobody would ever find out.

We used the ender pearl stasis device with great success to get out of quite a few scuffed fights, but the most memorable time is when we used it just to mess with good old Paddywiggle. One day, I showed up alone to his town of Opportunity. Usually this would be a death sentence, since his town was almost inescapable (being a floating island in the void) and it was also his turf, so he was the only one who could build, use ender pearls there, etc. I was sure that he would be quick to fight me if I was there alone, and sure enough, after a few minutes to get prepared, he started wailing on me along with two (!) other allies he brought in. I tried to score a few hits, ran around a bit, really sold it, and then with all three in hot pursuit, leapt off the edge of the island into the void and certain death. Then, I gave the signal to Utonium, and within seconds found myself safely face-to-face with him, next to the ender pearl stasis device. Meanwhile, Paddy & Co. waited for a death message in chat that would never come, and asserted in disbelief that there was no possible way I could have survived that.

Around the same time, a group of new players on the server actually did put in a nearly German level of effort and made a wither skeleton skull farm. Wither skeletons are somewhat uncommon monsters that spawn in Minecraft’s “Hell” dimension called the Nether, who rarely drop their skulls when killed. The skulls can be placed to summon a sort of miniboss called the Wither, which drops a nether star when defeated, one of the rarest items in the game. As a result, the nether star was the most expensive item you could buy/sell to the server by a long shot. Of course, like with most things in the game, if you put in a massive amount of time and effort, you can build a farm that will get you tons of wither skeleton skulls and thus nether stars as well. This crew of around three or four players joined the server, and put in something like fifty hours apiece into making an absolutely gigantic farm for wither skeletons in the Nether that allowed them to pretty much print nether stars, which they then sold to the server’s admin shop to become massively rich. I first found out about this because one day we killed some random guy who had 16 nether stars in his inventory, normally an unthinkable amount. Unfortunately, the bonanza was not to last, as by finding an alternate way to get large amounts of server currency, the new players had fallen afoul of server Rule 0: the only way you were supposed to be able to do that was by purchasing it with real money in the server’s donation store. The server owner came on, and disabled selling nether stars to the server, and an argument between players and staff once again ensued, with many players pointing out that the seemingly-sudden windfall had in fact been the result of long hours of hard work beginning to pay off. As usual, there was no use in going against the owner’s decision, and discouraged by all their effort that had now gone to waste, the players who had built the farm quit the server.

II. The Occupation of Deseado

As March came along, a long-awaited event seemed finally set to occur on the server: the fall of Deseado. Deseado had been on life support for almost seven months at this point, with nearly all of its players having quit following their crushing defeats at the hands of ICI in the late summer. Despite this, their town was still practically the New York City of the server, at least in terms of its buildings. The sheer number of active members they had had when the town was still being worked on meant that it was probably the largest built-up claimed town area on the server, ranging from a dense urban core of skyscrapers to far-flung suburbs with modest houses and farms. Where there are active players, there are also items, and many also lusted after the fat loot that certainly lurked in the basement storage rooms that lurked throughout the town. But, all of it had been untouchable for months, since there were still two or three Deseado members who logged in every two weeks or so and deposited money (usually donated from other players) in the town bank to keep it up. There had been a few close calls over the months, most notably in January, when the town had come within mere hours of falling, but either they got lucky or somebody had warned them. Now Deseado’s time was finally up, and players from across the server gathered there to get a piece of the pie.

With our reflexes and planning, it was child’s play for ICI to swoop in and start claiming over Deseado when it fell. By quickly claiming over the town, we could prevent other players from breaking blocks and accessing chests, and loot later at our leisure. Our town had been out of town claims for a while, so we claimed the town by having one of our alternate accounts create a new town, add it to the nation, and then turning on all permissions for nation members so that we could treat it like our own town. The new town had almost no residents, so its claim size was limited, which meant that we only ended up being able to claim the urban core that had the most impressive buildings and highest likelihood of items left in storage rooms. Sure enough, as we started to go through the town, we filled chests upon chests in the ICI warehouse with loot from Deseado. Even weeks afterwards, we still occasionally found a chest or even a whole chest room that had been overlooked with even more items for the taking.

The Church of Chestianity in Deseado, loaded with explosives
Same location, seconds later

As we cleared out Deseado, though, I started getting an idea for a new project. What if we kept our town claim at Deseado and renovated it into a model ICI city? It would be the final humiliation for what had been one of the most dedicated groups of “chestists” on the server, plus it would be an entirely different building project from what I normally did. I started the grand renovation of Deseado the same way nearly every renovation starts: with some demolition. The first target was the notorious Church of Chestianity, and I made a big show for the server of blowing it off the face of the earth with an absolutely excessive amount of TNT. Then, the crater was covered over with a nice gray block (andesite), that I also replaced all of the grass in the town with. I started tearing down the giant tree in the city’s “Central Park” in order to turn it into an ominous square, perhaps with some sort of statue commemorating the glorious March revolution, when suddenly I was jumped by one of our up-and-coming rivals, ThePigGang. ICI-occupied Deseado, now called Lyteiopolis (in memory of Lytei, who had gotten himself banned yet again), was envisioned to be kind of a “war zone”, so we left combat toggled on all the time with hopes of encouraging fighting. It was easy to forget about that, and PigGang caught me at a very awkward moment, because I had absolutely no fighting gear on me other than my armor. I leapt down from the tree, barely hanging on to life after the attack, and ran towards the closest building: Deseado’s famous gay café. I barricaded myself in with the only block in my hotbar, which happened to be TNT that I had been using for the demolition work. This was an unfortunate choice, since I had forgotten explosions in the town were still toggled on, also for the demolition work. PigGang was able to use a flaming arrow to detonate it, and would have killed me had I not just barely escaped by crawling into the basement and running away into Deseado’s labyrinthine underground. From then on, players would show up now and again to challenge us in Deseado/Lyteiopolis, but that was the only real close call.

Aftermath of the Gay Cafe Incident. The omission of a word on the sign is intentional

When the two or three former Deseado players who still occasionally played on the server found out about what ICI had done, they were of course furious. They came back on, and with some help made a new town called “Chesteado”, out in the outskirts of Deseado that we had neglected to claim. The only player from Chesteado who was actually active, though, was this one guy named Bagelz, who I think may have legitimately been driven insane by ICI’s antics. He seemed to log in and play for the exclusive purpose of spiting ICI. In chat he would constantly go on barely-coherent rants about chests and against ICI. He also built a few new buildings entirely out of chests for his new town of Chesteado. Bagelz, as mayor of Chesteado, also expanded it and claimed as many of the still-unclaimed parts remaining of Deseado as he could, coming up as close to the border of Lyteiopolis as he could. We built a barbed wire (well actually cobwebs, but they were supposed to like barbed wire) topped wall around all of Lyteiopolis, and he answered it with a wall that was twice as high around Chesteado, made entirely out of chests. Since you could not claim within two chunks of another town, we ended up with a 16 to 32 block bombed-out “DMZ” between the two walls and the two cities, which I found very funny. Bagelz was rather ill-equipped to fight anyone after losing everything that had been in Deseado, so we simply waged a little Cold War in the area, with the divided Deseado as our Berlin. As an answer to the chestist architecture of Chesteado, I forged ahead with the reconstruction work in Lyteiopolis. Ugly buildings that didn’t suit ICI’s aesthetic sensibilities were torn down or modified, every chest in the town was destroyed, and all of the Deseado banners were replaced with ICI banners. Deseado’s former communal storage building, which had a nice rotunda in the middle, was converted to a barrel museum. Another building was converted to a real estate office, and I had grand visions of renting out various buildings in the town to approved tenants and perhaps even creating a luxury shopping district on the former site of the Church of Chestianity.

The... unique architecture in Chesteado
The Lyteiopolis-Chesteado border
One of the exhibits in the barrel museum

Meanwhile, sorting through all of the Deseado loot in our base, I noticed that we had retrieved a lot of named items and heads, which immediately brought to mind the museum. Deseado had been a large part of the early server, and now we had pretty much the definitive collection of Deseado artifacts, both of builds in their town and items in our chests. Thus, the idea was born for a “special exhibition” in the museum, entitled “The Life and Lies of Deseado”, with the usual ICI flair. Then, while working on the exhibit, I noticed that the Deseado residents had been rather prolific writers as well, and that we now found ourselves with a significant collection of written books. We could publicly display them in the museum exhibit and let them be read by players in a recently added block called a lectern, but looking at all the other written books we had collected over the months, I had a better idea: Karakorum’s next building would be a library. I envisioned it as a companion to the museum, so I broke ground for the library right next to the museum.

A view of the "Life and Lies of Deseado" exhibit

Similar to the museum, the exterior of the library was in the usual ICI style, but the interior was completely different, making use of lots of different colors of dark wood/logs and bookshelves for a cozy, rustic feeling. Of course, this was a Karakorum building, so each room was still gigantic, and it soon began to dawn on me that perhaps I had bitten off a little more than I could chew with my plan to line the walls with bookshelves in each room, floor to ceiling. A bookshelf required three books, which required one leather apiece, and leather pretty much only came from cows, which made them a rather labor-intensive block to acquire in such scale, as opposed to all of my beloved gray blocks. Many of the gray blocks came from our extensive raiding, but at some point Utonium had also built an automatic stone factory, complete with brick smokestacks that used to have campfires in them to produce authentic smoke (at some point we realized that having several hundred campfires in one place was killing our framerate and removed them). But, we weren’t really set up to produce leather, so this was when I took over Karakorum’s underground grassy area and turned it into a gigantic cow farm. Nonetheless, it still took quite a while to get enough bookshelves, even after I decided to make extensive use of the far easier to craft loom block in the shelves as well, since the side of it looked like empty shelves. Once the bookshelves were finished, I sorted the books into six categories, and then arranged them on lecterns in each of the libraries six rooms. In the end, I think we had nearly a hundred books of varying lengths, quite an impressive collection for Minecraft library.

The exterior of the library. I'm sure there's at least one modern library that looks like this, although perhaps with glass behind the slats
The "Philosophy" room inside the library

III. Old World Blues

On the PvP side of things, by March ICI had definitely started to fall off. This was due to a number of factors, inactivity and a lack of motivation perhaps being chief among them. As previously mentioned, Lytei had gotten himself banned for hacking (again) months ago by using some sort of AI thing to automatically mine for him (truly Minecraft hacking has gotten sophisticated), saying that he got banned on purpose because otherwise he couldn’t focus on his schoolwork. For doing so, he had probably been the wisest of us all. Dev had never been all that active once summer ended, but was now getting very involved in his real-life entrepreneurial schemes and the like. We were left with pretty much just me, Utonium, and PieZ, who wasn’t that much of a fighter. Many of our enemies had also become a lot better at fighting, because they had invested a significant amount of time into practicing in-game combat on other servers, mostly for the express purpose of going up against us. I was fairly decent at the old Minecraft combat system, but had been far too lazy to put any time into actually learning Minecraft’s new combat system, that at that point had already been around for something like four years. To be entirely fair, most of the PvP servers, including the ones I played on, had never transitioned to the new combat system. ICI had managed to dominate because in the first couple months of the map, everyone had been even worse than us, and then after that I managed to stretch that a few months longer by making up for my lack of combat skill through superior tactics and teamwork. Utonium, for his part, was actually pretty good and could hold his own against pretty much anyone on the server, but for me it started getting to the point where I couldn’t win a 1v1 with any regular on the server without resorting to trickery and cowardice. Still, I ardently refused to practice what I believed to be the inferior new combat system, which consequently led to a handful of humiliating defeats or near-defeats, such as one that occurred somewhere in the ocean near Lyteiopolis at the hands of the ascendent PigGang, who had been putting in the hours.

The grief outside Karakorum around this time also started to get particularly ambitious

Our combat strength was somewhat revived by the unexpected return of our old friend (in fact my oldest Minecraft friend) Emtrick, who had perhaps found some more free time as a result of the incipient pandemic (I on the other hand found myself instead playing other games in addition to Minecraft). His main account had been banned from the server almost five years beforehand, due to an incident where an admin got salty about losing a fight to him and banned him for hacking after digging up an old video from another server of him hacking. He was in fact a prolific hacker, but ironically, that had been one of the few fights in which he hadn’t been hacking. So, when he rejoined the server, he played on the account that I had snuck into Hyperion, which had in fact originally been his alternate account. Without leaving Hyperion, he embarked on a killing spree across the entire server, killing people with increasingly better armor and bootstrapping his way up to a fully maxxed-out set of gear, like those guys who start with a paperclip and trade their way up to a house. It wasn’t long before Paddy noticed that one of his formerly inoffensive and relatively inactive nation members had suddenly become a crass killing machine, and attempted to recruit him in the eternal fight against ICI. Naturally, Emtrick was unresponsive to his overtures, and even started killing “fellow” Hyperion members, which soon earned him a kick and a return to his rightful position as a member of Karakorum.

Emtrick was a big boost to ICI’s combat ability, but since he was Australian, he could only play during the late-night hours (for us, at least). There was also the minor fact that the main reason he was so good is because he hacked, which made every fight a bit of a risk. Hacking in Minecraft was a delicate art, that surprisingly required some amount of skill to be good at. Bad hackers would be far too blatant and get caught immediately, but good hackers would be so subtle that you could play alongside them for years and never notice. In fact, Lytei had been with us for years and we had just thought that he was an extremely skilled fighter, but no, after the dust settled, he confessed that he’d been hacking nearly the entire time. To be fair, probably so was every other “excellent” fighter he had sparred with. At the very least he’d gotten a little something out of it, as when he confessed, he told us that he’d hacked his way to winning a few hundred dollars in a Minecraft speedrun competition on another server. The reason that I say that hacking in Minecraft requires some skill is because it takes a subtle touch to balance both giving yourself a big enough unfair advantage to guarantee a win, and not being blatant enough to actually get caught doing so. This could get very interesting in very high-level PvP matches, where both parties are likely hacking and potentially being watched very closely by referees trying to spot signs of hacking. It turns into a bit of a game of chicken between the combatants, where the winner is whoever cranks up their hacks higher without getting caught. As such, the best hackers always left plenty of room for plausible deniability, toeing the line between extremely good fighter and hacker. However, in Towny, many of these considerations were moot, since the staff on the server were unused to anything other than the most obvious fly hackers or automatic endermen grinders, which meant Emtrick was able to get away with even fairly blatant combat hacks. Nearly every good player he fought against called him out for hacking, and despite occasional solid video evidence, the staff never took any action against him.

It was also around this time that Utonium decided to step down from mod. I have to admit that he had really made a great go of it and had been an excellent staff member, despite all of the information he had leaked to ICI. Even some players who really hated ICI begrudgingly admitted to this on his forum post that announced his departure from the staff team (though they were unaware of the spying). He really had tried to reinvigorate the server and the staff team with new ideas and events to solve that age-old issue of declining activity on the server, but ultimately, he’d gotten stonewalled at every turn. The owner would shoot down ideas for no good reason, and the rest of the staff were content to simply sit around on the server and continue just warning people in chat for swearing every so often. Increasingly discouraged, Utonium decided that the only way he could send any message to the staff team was by dramatically resigning. Players harangued the staff at length on the forums for essentially pushing out what had been one of their most passionate and innovative members. As usual, the staff got defensive, and no changes whatsoever occurred, though they did announce that they were once again looking for new staff members. The ever-duplicitous Paddywiggle, who had been telling people that he didn’t even want to be a part of the staff team after seeing what Utonium had been through with them, eagerly applied. I was somewhat concerned that he would be accepted, but I suppose the owner still held some distaste for him because he got denied.

Facing increasing disillusion after Utonium’s resignation, not to mention boredom, our activity declined even further going into April. We got careless and invited some people who we shouldn’t have to the nation and to Lyteiopolis, which resulted in a further blow to our morale as someone nearly destroyed the entire town. The grief was so bad that we in fact abandoned the whole Lyteiopolis project soon after that. Even combat got less alluring, as players started to develop increasingly bizarre tactics to avoid actual fighting. The main one involved a little-used ability from mcMMO Mining called “Blast Mining”. At a loss for new abilities to add to the mining skill (I suppose), the mcMMO developers had added blast mining as an alternative way to mine with TNT. Higher mining skill level unlocked abilities like “Remote Detonate”, which let you instantly detonate TNT from a distance by aiming at it and clicking with a pickaxe, along with increases to blast radius. Recent updates (plus the server being on hard mode) made players in standard combat gear particularly vulnerable to explosions, and as it turned out, the mining skill’s increased blast radius also resulted in increased blast damage to players, to the point that it could even kill those close enough in one hit. Combined with the Remote Detonate skill, some players turned this mechanic into a deadly suicide bombing tactic. They would go invisible with just a pickaxe and some TNT, sneak up next to fully-geared players, place a TNT, step back and click it with the pickaxe, and go BOOM. It was a devastating tactic, as you could risk almost no items and potentially come out with full sets of gear, if you had an accomplice to swoop in and pick it up. Once the element of surprise was gone, it didn’t work as well, but it certainly had a chilling effect on fighting across the entire server, as now everyone was constantly on guard for invisible players or other such shenanigans. With no more building projects and no more fighting, there was very little for us left on the server. Our activity dropped off almost completely at this point.

Before long, it was nearly the one-year anniversary of the map, an unprecedented length of time for one map on the server. Only the very first map, 5 years before and predating the establishment of the Cycle, had lasted as long. Activity had finally dropped off to the point where the owner decided that it was time for another reset, which for some reason he scheduled four days before the map’s one-year anniversary. In any case, a massive war on the server had been promised for the last week’s festivities, and the ICI crew grudgingly returned for One Last Job. The server staff had some ambitious plans for an all-out server war using the Towny plugin’s default war system, but of course it hadn’t been used or tested for years, and ended up glitching out. Instead, it was to be one of the wars from the usual custom war plugin, with Hyperion and ICI (the obvious choice) selected as the belligerents to represent the entire server. Other towns and nations chose whether to side with Hyperion or ICI, and our reputation actually netted us a very good crop of fighters from across the server. I gathered everyone who had allied with ICI in the ICI High Council chamber inside the pyramid, and made a rousing speech in our voice chat (recited the speech from the movie Independence Day to a bunch of random Minecraft nerds).

The meeting in the ICI High Council chamber, prior to the Final War

The start of the Final War was tense and uneventful. Neither side was sure of the other’s strength, and consequently didn’t want to risk showing up at the other’s home turf. There was also the fact that both Opportunity and Karakorum were built in such a way that they were extremely difficult to escape from if things started to go wrong. Opportunity, as explained previously, was a floating island in the void, and Karakorum had the massive walls encircling the entire city, specifically built to be just high enough to prevent ender pearls from making it outside the city. Eventually, it was mutually agreed that the first battle should occur in the ravaged wasteland right next to the server’s spawn, the closest thing to neutral land on the server. Paddywiggle set a server warp at a location just outside spawn, and fighters from both sides swarmed in. The server owner had provided very little structure for the war besides activating the plugin, enabling combat in most of the spawn, and announcing that the team with the most kills at the end of three days would win. Paddywiggle then tried to negotiate some sort of ten-minute preparation/base building phase before the hostilities started. We were getting a bit tired of his tongue wagging, since it had already taken us 30 minutes to agree on where to start the fight. Everybody was all already there, and we were of course the ICI, so we instead decided to go for it and attack right away. Bases probably would have ended up being of minimal use anyways, but either way, Hyperion seemed to have been caught somewhat by surprise. In mere minutes, our blitz attack had swept through the ranks and left devastation, with Paddy and his inner circle forced to retreat once the battle seemed hopeless. Boldened by our overwhelming victory (and by Hyperion’s refusal to fight anywhere else), we returned to Opportunity and made it our battleground again for the first time since the devastating battle we had had there many months ago. This time, things went differently. Weakened by the battle at spawn, Hyperion didn’t stand a chance, even on their home turf. The outcome of the initial battle was a swift and decisive victory for ICI, after which ICI fighters prowled the island of Opportunity uncontested, hunting down stray Hyperion members. With their gear and morale exhausted, and the score already standing at 31-3, Paddy called it quits and conceded instead of letting the slaughter go on for another three days, which had been the original planned length of the war. This final victory proved once and for all that ICI had won the map, and perhaps the server as well. There was only one final thing left for ICI to do: we gathered in the warehouse, destroyed every single chest, and replaced them all with barrels.

IV. My Retirement (in Minecraft)

After the reset, I considered myself retired. Not from Minecraft, of course, but in-game. No more ambitious plans, no more international organizations, no more huge builds, no more looking for fights all the time. But before my retirement began in earnest, I got the boys together for one last score: speedrunning the Dragon Egg on the new map. Last time we’d been the unfortunate victims of bad luck, so we still hadn’t proven that we had the skill to yoink the dragon egg before anyone else. We managed to convince a few of our Minecraft friends who didn’t even play the server to join us temporarily, and so we had about six or seven people working together for the sole purpose of nabbing the dragon egg. We didn’t really make any plans beforehand other than maybe trying to get ender pearls from villagers (which people usually don’t think of), sometimes a more reliable method than trying to find and kill endermen and hoping they drop. The attempt was both a comedy of errors and an extremely competent showcase of “professional” Minecraft skills. We split into different teams, attacking separate portions of the base problem (finding the end portal, making eyes of ender, getting armor, etc.). I used a classic trick of building a nether portal using dirt as a mold and a single bucket to pour lava and water to create obsidian, which got us into the nether unbelievably fast. Meanwhile, others worked on trying (and sometimes failing) to kill endermen, or finding villagers who traded ender pearls and occasionally accidentally getting said villagers killed. In the end, all of us gathered, ready to go to The End, standing in front of an activated end portal kitted out in our finest iron armor. Woefully underequipped despite our advantage in numbers, the actual fight against the Enderdragon ended up being one of the most time-consuming portions. We built up to the ender crystals (that heal the dragon) and punched them out with bare fists, got flung around by the dragon and died a few times to fall damage, used the old bed bomb trick to damage the Enderdragon, and otherwise wailed on it from behind when it landed. Finally, one of the friends we recruited (kycrafft) landed the killing blow, with a mere stone sword to boot. Thus, in just under an hour (55 minutes approximately), we had snagged the Dragon Egg, to the disbelief of everyone on the server. Really, at this point they should have seen it coming.

Finally, I began my retirement (in Minecraft) in earnest. I chose a nice comfy place to settle down, in a high mesa-type biome located somewhere in Colorado (yes, an Earth map was being used again, alongside a regular Minecraft map for those who had complained). Since it was summer in real life once again, I decided that I was going to run a little summer camp on the server. I set up a few little tents and sleeping bags, a totem pole, a dock on the lake, a little volleyball court, and a campfire over which I placed the Dragon Egg, saying I was making scrambled eggs. Our base, dug out underground in some caves, was accessed by going down a ladder hidden in one of the tents. I didn’t play a whole lot at this point, so the summer camp builds were all deliberately low-effort, with some occasional additions like a trailer for myself to live in. I started mostly just logging in and messing around with people who I invited to the summer camp, and did have one memorable night where I hopped in voice chat with some chill dudes living in (Minecraft) Finland and helped defend them from an old ICI frenemy (guy really just liked to fight so his loyalties were always flip-flopping). I was retired, though, so I was not fighting seriously at all, showing up in iron armor (vs. his full enchanted diamond armor) and teleporting around with enderpearls, or saying I’m getting my diamond armor set and showing up in leather armor, dyed blue. The whole time, he was in the voice chat listening to us, so I was also talking a bit of trash, saying that I had “almost gotten” him after scoring one or two hits with my fist and dying. It was all in good fun, and I really hit it off with the Finnish (in Minecraft, except one guy) fellas. Naturally, my peaceful retirement could not last long. It turns out our dear frenemy had actually been secretly recording our voice chat, and submitted it to the owner. I got a three-day tempban for “bullying” (frenemy later said that he himself did not think it was and that he didn’t expect this to happen when he submitted the recording, although I’m not really sure why he submitted it at all then), and one of my new friends picked up a permanent ban for advertising, since in the recording he had said the address for the most popular Minecraft server at the time as a joke.

Shenanigans at the summer camp
Playing volleyball with some new friends

Once again, after I came back from my ban, I was pissed. Ever since Utonium had stepped down from the staff team, our relationship with our former staff friends had become rather strained. With this new slight, it was approaching a total reversal, back into the familiar hostile dynamic of the olden days. I began coming on the server just to rail at the staff, and started falling back into some ICI-esque habits. Some other players started to get riled up after listening to my diatribes in chat, and I decided that it was time for the server’s players to “unionize”. I invited all the players on the server to a union meeting, and gave people turns standing on a podium and talking about their issues with the staff. I eventually turned the union into a nation, and somehow managed to almost immediately grow it into the server’s largest nation, thanks mostly to a huge town of French-Canadians who were similarly disgruntled. Then, I even began construction on yet another massive skyscraper building to house the union headquarters. But this time, my heart just wasn’t quite in it. I was still in the retirement mindset, and simply didn’t have the energy or the will to pour dozens more hours into Minecraft over petty squabbles with server staff. I had been there, and done that. So, progress on the skyscraper continued at a glacial pace, and the extent of my union activities was logging in and yelling about/at the staff for a few minutes daily.

Decent attendance at the first union meeting
Someone takes the stage to air their grievances at the union meeting
Yet another skyscraper starts to take shape in the distance

At this point, I would have gladly destroyed the entire server if given the opportunity, and oddly enough, it very nearly happened. A new player on the server got a bit mad at getting punished for something by the staff, so he said he was going to call in his influential friend. Usually people were full of shit when they said stuff like that (another favorite was the “my sibling was on my account and did that!” excuse), but this guy came through. He actually was friends with a somewhat-popular Minecraft Youtuber, SalC1 (some of you may have heard of him), who then showed up in person (on the server) just a few minutes later. He began taking stock of the server, but foolishly decided to fly hack right away and got banned. However, he was intrigued by the server, and what he heard from us in the voice chat regarding the server’s violation of the EULA. He had previously done a video where he and a few friends had done dupe glitches and otherwise hacked in order to bring down a pay-to-win server, and thought that perhaps he could do the same thing again. After getting banned, he said that he needed a veteran of the server to privately discuss strategy on his own Discord server. As the Cranky Old Man of the server, I was the natural choice, and soon I found myself in a private voice chat with SalC1 and his crew, plotting the downfall of the server. I swear to God, all of this actually happened. I spent an hour, or possibly two, pouring out my life story of struggle on the server, against overpowered donors, against a prejudiced staff team, against an owner who just didn’t care, against vague and nebulous rules. At the end of my rant, he had only one question: Why? Why did I keep playing there? I thought about it briefly, and gave a simple answer: we like the challenge. At the end of the planning session, Sal said not to breathe a word to anyone about the plot, and that we’d put it in motion after a sufficient amount of time had passed, and the server staff forgot about his brief visit. I think he ended up forgetting about the whole plan and I never heard anything about it again, but it was probably the closest brush the server ever had with (in)famy.

SalC1 on the server, shortly before being banned

One innocuous day, I logged in to the server to banter in chat as usual, only to find that the real action was going down in the server’s discord. Our old enemy Hqvox was making an attempt to get unbanned, and one of his biggest fans (the dragon egg guy) was arguing with the owner against the denial of Hqvox’s ban appeal. I didn’t care for Hqvox, but couldn’t resist a rare opportunity to argue with THE MAN himself, plus I thought it might be fun if Hqvox got unbanned. Things quickly got ugly, as the argument proceeded and dragon egg guy got increasingly mad. It also didn’t help that he was proudly the server’s self-proclaimed “drama kween”. I didn’t really join in on the attacks, and mostly stuck to the sidelines cheering on, occasionally contributing a quip when I saw a good opening. Then, I saw his name from disappear from the Discord server, and suddenly the whole server disappeared from my Discord as well. This was nothing new, as I had been kicked from the Discord a few times before. I tabbed back over to Minecraft to get a new invite. Instead of the server, I was greeted with the words “Banned: The ban hammer has spoken!”, the game’s default ban message. This was absolutely unprecedented, a simultaneous ban from the Discord and from the server for events that had occurred on the Discord, but since it was the server owner’s doing, he could technically do anything he wanted. Finally, I opened up the forums, and was greeted with a generic ban message as well.

That was it. It was over. Instead of panic, I felt relief. I was free. I closed Minecraft and stepped back from the computer. Now, I was retired from Minecraft as well. I had absolutely no desire to get unbanned. On that fateful day, I quit Minecraft and video games as a whole pretty much cold turkey. Without video games, I was now an empty vessel. I went to the university library, and checked out some books. A few days later, I got involved in a scheme with my brother to travel by train across half the country, transporting a potentially valuable piece of art. There was a lot of empty time on the train, passing through the vast plains of eastern Montana and North Dakota with no internet connection. I stared out the window, thought a lot, and read my books. I began to fill up with something new.