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Here's how exploitative Minecraft servers can be

The Minecraft EULA has always forbidden these kind of practices - but only from August 1 will they be enforced.

Mojang are in the throes of their most dramatic community fall-out in years, thanks to an update to Minecraft’s EULA. The developers have announced their intention to enforce rules preventing players from making money in Minecraft without their express permission. 

While they’ve made exceptions for clear entry fees, donations and aesthetic upgrades, hosts remain worried they’ll have to ditch payment systems that keep their servers - and in some cases, their staff - online.

Minecraft has an incredible online culture of minigames that Mojang ought to do their best to support. Here’s the thing, though: many of its most popular servers are run through by nagging microtransaction systems. More punitive than those found in any commercial game outside the App Store, these systems have taken root in a game adored by children. And Mojang are absolutely right to do something about that.

You only need filter the Minecraft server list by popularity to find some of the worst offenders.

GTA Minecraft is a cute idea that aims to make good on APB’s promise, letting players loose on city maps with gun sprites. But in this GTA, ‘cheat codes’ constitute paid-for weapons, designed to give players “that extra edge” in the streets from $5 a piece. 

Stretch to $50 and you can unlock higher-tier server ranks. They come with some attractive perks, like teleportation requests, the ability to keep XP on death, and server commands to find out how close other players are to your position.

MC Central run a variety of minigames for free, but accept donations for rank upgrades. They’re named, quaintly, after Minecraft’s hierarchy of materials - coal, iron, redstone and the rest. But the hosts’ best trick is to charge for account unbannings. $20 and we forget all about your indiscretions.

Mineplex is the self-described “largest Minecraft network in the world”. Even on a morning like today, when the US is asleep, it hosts upwards of 4000 players. Were it a Steam game, it’d be within the top 30 most-played.

“We have been very careful to ensure that donators do not get an unfair advantage over regular players in-game,” write its hosts on their site. “We strongly oppose ‘pay2win’ and want everyone to have a fair chance. 

“Payments support Mineplex by paying for server costs, plugin development, world development, giveaways, etc.”

When I join their server, I’m immediately subjected to references to an in-server gem currency. Opening my ‘gadget’ inventory, I can see items that look like eggs. But if I hover over them, it becomes apparent that they’re actually prompts to buy pets - a pig for 3000 gems, a chicken for 4000, or perhaps a cat for 5000.

Every Mineplex player has access to a paintball gun. Equip it, and you can fire missiles which repaint portions of the map in random colours. Brilliant! But it comes attached to a capitalised warning: every shot requires two gems. My starting total of 1000 gems is depleting fast.

Forever-scrolling on-screen text informs me that I currently hold no rank, and need to purchase Ultra rank on the server’s site to unlock “all game benefits!” - double gems, kits for every minigame, and the chance to apply for a staff role on the server.

If you're looking to add some new life to your Minecrafting, you should check out our twenty best Minecraft mods.

“Anyone for a gem party bomb?,” asks a player with a pink ‘Hero’ prefix. He throws an item to the ground, which triggers a particle-effect laden explosion. Gems scatter in all directions, and we all drop what we’re doing, each of us after the biggest share of green, bobbing sprites.

Subsequent chat is drowned in the clamour for more gem bombs, and two or three more are fired off.

“again, omg”, says our exasperated Hero, tired of making the monkeys dance. “fine, last one guys!”

He drifts away, and chat dies down again.

“Who playes GTA5,” asks Reaper2386. “I do.” 

GTA 5 might be rated for adults, but it’s clear these players are barely more than children. They’re being subjected to tiered class systems far worse than those we ripped The Old Republic apart for, in a game fast occupying the same cultural space as Lego. That has to stop.

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@iamgingerbear's picture
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yeh, just yeh, content on servers is so gated that there is a huge advantage to those that pay more than those that play free. I find that buying stuff within servers is usually really expensive, like the cost of a new AAA title sometimes, which is a crazy, it should be regulated and it shouldn't make an unfair experience for people that don't pay. What makes it worse is that it is mainly kids that play minecraft.

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Harmon's picture
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I have a 9 year old son who has played Minecraft for years. He watches Sundee and all those other guys play these servers on YouTube. He then goes to the servers to play. He then wants the paid perks they offer. I haven't bought all of them for him but enough to have spent 3 times what I actually paid for the Minecraft game itself.

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IDED-[JFK]'s picture
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I see you hit out at mineplex here but fail to mention that gems are not a pay for currency and that those paintball guns or gems offer nothing more than a cosmetic option for when using the hub server they are not used in any of the minigames on there and the gems give you no advantage its just something you earn for playing the games provided, The more you play the more you earn but the gems are not for sale the money ranks only give you a bonus to said gems that only reward cosmetic items and some additional options when playing the minigames but no actual game changers and no way is it a pay to win.

Yes they advertise their pay for ranks but then if you didn't how would people even know they exist, this article feels awfully bias and written from the perspective of someone who only looked skin deep.

Shame on you!

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Jeremy Peel's picture
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Yeah, that's the system as I understood it and I don't think I've misrepresented it here.

You might not have a problem with it, but the rank system (and increased gem pickup rate that comes with it) is designed to create a hierarchy where paying players visibly have the most fun.

They might not be winning any more often, but I don't think it's in the spirit of Minecraft, nebulous though that may be. And clearly neither do Mojang.

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IDED-[JFK]'s picture
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Well based on minecraft new EULA they can rather than allowing everyone access to these items be able to literally only give them to the donators making the gap worse as these are as I said only aesthetic items (which is what mojang have said can be sold) and provide no gameplay advantage where as using the current system allows all players access to these hub items like pets and the paintball gun, so with the new EULA they are actually increasing this gap you claim exists between the players by forcing the server to remove the currency and only allow donators access to these items.

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tytrie's picture
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While your right saying there is cosmetic features,you are wrong saying its only cosmetic. For example, theres many kits for that a donator rank only, more gems each game, you can join a game when its full, etc. Just as it says in the article. Not to mention you can also pay to un ban yourself on Mineplex. Personally i am glad Mineplex is getting talked trash about cause all it does is copy other server, it has what, 5 original mini-games out of up to around 30 max.

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Noraan™'s picture
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You don't need the gems to have fun- They're litterally just for new kits to play as and for vanity items.

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Noraan™'s picture
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It's funny how you complain about how your "1000 starting gems are running low", when in the very first screenshot you posted it has a tutorial handing you 5000 gems for just sitting there. It is very clear that you did not look very hard into any of these servers as on Mineplex it is VERY easy to get gems without donating. I do agree that some servers take donating to the extreme, but I believe that these servers are not the case. If you want to have a valid point look towards the faction servers with 500$ donations, not Mineplex which can barely survive on the donations that it gets- Most of the perks you can get easily if you play long enough.

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worMatty's picture
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One doesn't need to 'look hard' to see what is immediately obvious. The system is designed to encourage a culture of desire for shiny things and a convenient way to get them quicker by contributing real money. Once you entice the kiddies in with sparkly stuff, they may decide to go badger their parents so they can get them quicker. Yes, you can work to achieve all the shiny things yourself just by putting the time in. That is an option. Basically it's like all those FTP games in iOS, Android and Facebook, where the player can make an in-app purchase of special currency to give them those few extra lives or 'bombs', to give them a quick boost when they really can't be bothered to put the effort in. In an adult world, it's expected of someone to know when to stop. But the kiddies don't have that sense. And the Minecraft server world is unregulated and not policed. It's a system designed to make money - whether that is to grow or just maintain the huge technical operation to have a server network granting 4'000 slots. It's very impressive but it's so ripe for exploitation, it needs to be addressed.

With regard to bias in this article, all the author has done is lay out a set of occurrences. It's up to the reader to decide what they mean, and how it affects them. If you find it shows the featured systems in a bad light, then perhaps they are deserving of scrutiny. Certainly, a wall cannot be shown to hold without a few knocks.

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worMatty's picture
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A little update.

Apparently the EULA never changed. It always disallowed monetisation. But someone inquired with Mojang about this rule a couple of weeks or so ago, who confirmed it with them. Then the community heard about this and entered in to a game of Chinese Whispers, presuming this was something new, and that server operators would soon be forced to scale down. This forced Mojang's hand. They are changing the EULA to allow certain things, provide clarification and some relaxation of the rules, which is actually better than before (which you linked in your article, Jeremy). But the kiddies are under the impression that Mojang have come forward, out of the blue, to dispense nastiness and make the lives of server operators worse. So in a way, the people complaining have brought it upon themselves.

If anyone is worried they will lose their special items, that the server operator gave them in exchange for real money, then you should be taking it up with the server operator, the people who sold you the goods. In Mojang's clarification, they say that server operators will have to give the same gameplay-changing benefits to all users, or none at all. So it's up to the server operator whether or not he lets you continue to fly, gives you free items and so on, or takes them away.

Sources: http://notch.net

https://mojang.com/2014/06/lets-talk-server-monetisation-the-follow-up-qa/

Danke, mein hard-hatted friends!

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