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First Ever Actual Egg Hunt

We’re using an existing plug-in written by someone else to provide the egg functions. We’ve tested it, and we think we understand it, but we could always be wrong. Isn’t this exciting? You know where to report bugs.

A rainbow striped cubic "egg" Minecraft Style, sitting on the ground.
Eggs look like this.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • There are fifty (50) eggs total.
  • The hunt starts on the afternoon of April 10 after a short downtime and will end on April 24 at 11:59pm Eastern time.
  • The eggs are located in Spawn or Newtown. Remember that spawn is pretty big. Any part of Spawn or Newtown might have an egg, including the Phantom Arena and some locations you probably haven’t visited since you first logged in. No eggs will be located in player-built parts of Newtown.
  • Prizes are valuable, silly, or vaguely spring-like, including rare standard items, custom items, and VoidCoins. In addition, each egg you find will award you $2,000 of in-game currency.
  • The eggs are instantiated per player. That is, each player can find each and every egg. You’re not competing with anyone.
  • All eggs are reachable without flying. No eggs are hidden in absolute darkness. You may have to get a little clever to find or reach some of them, though.
  • If your inventory is full, the prizes are supposed to drop on the ground, but we recommend that you empty your inventory periodically just in case. Finding several eggs may fill you up quickly.
  • You are completely allowed to tell other people where to find eggs, but do not spoil the information for others unless you are asked.
  • We are opening a new channel on Discord just for the egg hunt. Any discussion of egg locations should happen in the #egg-hunt channel.
  • Want to know how many eggs you have found so far? /ee found.
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The State of the Server

Expenses

  • Our Linode instance, where the Minecraft server lives, costs $60/month.
  • Our web and email server instance on Digital Ocean costs $10/month.
  • Google Drive storage for backups costs $2.99/month.

==============================

$72.99/month

Linode is more than twice as expensive as managed Minecraft hosting, but the performance is much better. We have far more tools to control memory usage than we did when we were on managed hosting. You benefit from the performance improvement whether you notice it or not.

Income

Our Patreon takes in $35/month. This is fantastic! Thank you! We have had a few one-time contributions, and they’ve been a surprise and a delight every time.

Please keep in mind that we do not get to keep all $35/month. There are fees. To keep the fees as low as possible, I’ve been withdrawing funds only every three months. I can get away with this, so it’s worth the wait. In February I withdrew $72.56, which gives us about $24.18/month, which covers about 1/3 of our operating expenses.

Public Minecraft Servers Do Not Make Money

Well, OK, maybe some do. I wouldn’t know. As you can see from the numbers above, VoidTree is about $40 in the hole every month it runs.

Where does this money come from? My pocket.

I’m OK with this. Working on VoidTree is wonderful, complicated, occasionally frustrating and positively rewarding experience which has probably put off my becoming senile for at least a couple of years. It’s a fantastic way for a retired IT person to stay in the game. I’ve made many sustaining friendships through VoidTree during some stressful times indeed. It would be hard to get such a rich experience otherwise out of a mere $40/month.

I do very much need to keep the burn rate from creeping upwards, though.

Complications

Minecraft is a resource-intensive game–that means it takes a lot of RAM and CPU power to run lag-free. As a Minecraft server becomes more popular and gains players, it need more resources to keep players from lagging. But that’s not the biggest issue.

Every version of Minecraft has used more resources than the previous version. For a while this resource creep has been partially offset by the increasing power and lower prices of new computer hardware.

Such was not the case in Minecraft 1.18. The expansion of the world on the Y axis resulted in a tremendous increase in the resources used. All of the guides for “How to tune your Minecraft server” are now woefully out of date. Some large public Minecraft servers are really struggling.

What are you supposed to do if you suddenly need twice as much resources to run your Minecraft server and contributions aren’t increasing? You avoid having that happen to you is what.

Staff have all played on other Minecraft servers, and some of us keep in touch with friends there. We’ve been watching what other servers do and how that works out for them.

Minecraft servers often monetize by selling items to players for cash. It’s not pay to play if anyone can get the same item for a voting reward if they wait long enough, right? But items in Minecraft can break or get lost. How would you feel if you died and lost an item you just paid $5 for? Yeah, me too. So let’s not go there, hm?

You will never see “loot crates” for sale to support VoidTree. Taking money in exchange for a random chance for a good item is gambling. Gambling has a place, but the people who spend money on loot crates are often the ones who have less money and fewer opportunities for fun–young people and students, and adults who are house-bound for some reason. It feels yucky, and I don’t think it’s sustainable.

Grow Slow

Resource usage is not the only problem. More users will mean more support requests, more bugs found and fixed, more potential interpersonal drama and more providing a shoulder to cry on for someone who has died and lost all of their stuff.

I’ve completely shelved some plans to attract more players through alliances with streamers and similar. Maybe some day, but not now.

Likewise, we initially wanted to bring up a creative server alongside survival, but paying the additional $30/month is not in the cards. We’ll know we’re ready to expand when we have enough regular players contributing regularly that we can cover the cost.

How to Help Out

We cheerfully accept support contributions towards running VoidTree, both one time and recurring. But there are many ways players can support us that do not require cash money.

  • Play! The server is just a bunch of inert code unless people are on it having fun. You make VoidTree come alive.
  • Vote! Voting gives you rewards and helps us reach new players.
  • Bring friends! Most of our growth has been via word of mouth.
  • Share! Tell people about VoidTree on Twitter. Make an account on Planet Minecraft and post pictures of your builds or discuss VoidTree in the forums. When we announce posts on social media, like them.

When the World Ends

We reset the world when 1.18 came out, and we will do so again when 1.19 arrives. There are a lot of good reasons to do this. It’s our opportunity to leave behind decisions we made that didn’t work out and to reset a few things behind the scenes to work better. A reset will happen approximately four weeks after Minecraft 1.19.0 arrives. It takes that long for all of the plugins we use to update and for us to test our custom code.

We have no information about when 1.19 will arrive. I frequently do web searches looking for clues. The only thing we know so far is “some time in 2022.” I’ve been hoping that this wouldn’t happen until December, but I’m seeing rumors that we’re looking at June. No official word from Microsoft yet, so please don’t quote me on any of this.

We know that saying goodbye to all you built is sad. I’d like to offer you at least one thing to look forward to.

For VoidTree Season 2, we followed standard advice to pregenerate our world to improve load performance when a player enters a chunk for the first time. Pregeneration has downsides. A pregenerated world must have boundaries that you cannot cross. It also takes up a lot of disk space to store areas that have never been visited, and we have to manage ours carefully to avoid out of disk space crashes. At the same time we’ve noticed that our premium hosting on Linode may be good enough that nobody will notice load lag on a new chunk.

Resetting VoidTree would allow us to choose a non-pregenerated, infinite world and might present more flexible options about how to respond to future version changes.

Beyond these esoteric technical issues, a reset tends to be fun. People who wandered off come back for the excitement of something new.

Closed vs. Open Beta

Our initial plan was to get our custom code stable, gain experience, drop the allowlist and declare Open Beta. Some things have changed.

We will not be dropping the allowlist. Sure, getting spontaneous connections from new players is great, but some new players cause new problems. VoidTree has become a warm, friendly, grief-free hangout, and nobody wants to see that change.

In December 2021, a very serious exploit threatened Minecraft servers and, indeed, the entire internet. The main method of combating exploits is to keep everything up to date with the latest versions, but preventing expoiters from joining our server is also important.

The upshot is that without a plan to drop the allowlist, we’re no longer sure what Open Beta will mean for our server. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe we’ll declare Open Beta when Solly clears his bug list and feels comfortable with the stability of our custom code base.

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News

Bug Fixes and New Toys

Altar Updates

  • Fixed a bug that occurred if your town was deleted due to nonpayment and you started a new town.
  • The gods of VoidTree are fickle, but sometimes they notice when you make a sacrifice. Added a small percentage chance of receiving a random reward when you complete a sacrifice. Note: right now you might not get a reward if your inventory is full. We have plans to change this, but you are warned.
  • New boon: Blessing of the Slime. If this boon is on, you will not take fall damage inside of your town. You will bounce. Try it. It’s fun! Just make sure if you throw yourself off a roof you land inside your town.

Custom Item Changes

  • New Item! Foliage Axe. You’re a lumberjack and you’re OK!
  • TAB fix: added code that prevents TAB from breaking containers.
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News

Updates and Bug Bounty Announcement

Updates

  • We added a new type of phantom to our Phantom Event. It introduced a new bug. (I’m not saying any more in case you haven’t seen it yet. Be surprised.) We fixed the bug. We also introduced a new bug, but we fixed that one too. Yay us! And by us, I mean Solly.
  • The bug that causes flight potions to deactivate when you teleport between dimensions has been fixed.
  • Added logging for VoidCoin purchases from Winter and reforging of custom items at the Legendary Blacksmith. You won’t see this, but we will use information about how people use Legendary items in order to improve the game.
  • VoidCoins can no longer be placed so they don’t accidentally get turned into mundane sunflowers.
  • Taylor, the fox with the food stall near the Phantom Arena, now sells food items, mostly items that are already available from /shop for the same prices. There are a couple of new items, though. Right click Taylor for details.
  • Altars can no longer have two instances of the same boon selected.
  • Progress has been made on the bug that causes people to die a normal death during Phantom Events rather than being dropped at the arena entrance. This bug has proven very slippery because we haven’t been able to reproduce in test situations every last way that people can die. If the bug bites you, be sure to say something in chat for when Solly reviews the logs.

VoidTree Bug Bounty

If you find a bug, you win virtual cash from us. The minimum cash award is $25,000, which is the same amount that the first place winner for the Phantom Event receives. There are some conditions.

  • It has to be a bug that we can fix ourselves. Bugs in Minecraft that only Microsoft can fix do not count.
  • You have to post about the bug in #bugs on Discord. Telling us in-game doesn’t count.
  • It has to be a bug we didn’t already know about. Don’t worry, there are probably plenty of those.
Categories
News

Building Competition Wrap-up

See the winners!

The competition area is unlocked, and you can recover any valuable blocks you want. If you have not received your rewards, talk to Solly.

Thanks again everyone!

Categories
News

Search Chest Shops!

We’re all about the economy at VoidTree, so we’re happy to make it easy for you to spend funny money on virtual items.

Background

I recommend that you skip this section if you’re not an enormous nerd.

ChestShop is the plugin that allows players to create their own shops. It may not have been the best plugin, but it’s what we’re using and it’s probably too late to regret the choice. While powerful, ChestShop does not provide the ability to search chest shops and find out who is selling what.

There are two existing plugins that provide additional features for ChestShop. One of them has a full search facility, but when we tried it out, it wrecked server performance. So we’re using the other plugin, ChestShopNotifier, which does not wreck server performance but does not have fancy search facilities, though it does inform you about shop activity when you were offline.

Obviously it would be useful if you could search shops. So Solly went and wrote it for us, because he enjoys this sort of thing.

How It Works

An example output of the /findshop command. The user is searching for /findshop dia
An example output of the /findshop command. The user is searching for /findshop dia

Use the command /findshop <itemname> with any item name or partial item name to see if it’s in a shop. Any items that match <itemname> will be listed. If there are multiple pages, you can page forward and back at the bottom of the listing.

Clicking on a listing will warp you to the town where the shop exists, if that town is public. If the town warp costs money, you will be asked to confirm that you do want to pay that much for a lift to the town warp.

Most shops right now are in Newtown, but people can put chest shops anywhere they want. Your own town is the perfect place for a sprawling mall that sells many items and shows off your building skills. If a shop is not in a town, there is no handy town warp, so those shops will not show up in a listing.

If your town is not public, people cannot warp to your town. The command /town set public will open up your town to visitors. If you want business, be public. If your shops are not near your town warp, re-set your town warp (/town set homeblock) to be close to your shops or put up signs directing people to the right place.

Limitations

Our new feature only works on chest shops that were created after we installed it. If you want a chest shop to show up, you have to break the sign and re-create it.

We realize that Newtown has multiple buildings housing multiple shops by multiple people, so that warping to Newtown doesn’t help you find which shop it’s in yet. We’ll be living with this limitation, at least for now.

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News

First Inaugural VoidTree Survival Build Competition

The building competition area. We’re looking forward to seeing it get filled in.

It’s our first time doing this sort of thing, and we expect there will be some surprises. We appreciate your help finding problems and making VoidTree more friendly and stable. We look forward to seeing what you do in our playground.

How does it work?

We’ve created a contest venue in the ocean with nine plots. If more than nine people or teams want to compete, we can create more.You get a week (from the 18th until the 25th) to finish your build before the plots get locked for judging. We’ve pre-selected three judges from the community (not staff members) to choose the first, second, and third place winners. Plots are 32 square blocks across, and can go as high or as low as you like.

Theme: Life on the Sea (or under!)

Captain Ember’s ship, located outside the phantom arena.

The theme of the competition is “Life on the Sea (or under)”. Builds can range from pirate ships and houseboats to ocean temples and giant jellyfish. The judges are instructed to vote based on which builds fit this theme the most, and are aesthetically pleasing.

Rules

  1. Stay inside your plot. Your plot includes the border of oak planks, and you can remove or edit the border as you see fit.
  2. Do not copy builds from the internet. Finding furniture or patterns online is permitted. Put up signs crediting any builder you use for more than a tiny bit of inspiration so we can appreciate what you did that was unique.
  3. As judges cannot fly, they will only evaluate what they can see from the ground.
  4. Teams are fine as long as you share a plot.
  5. By entering the contest, you are agreeing that we can use screenshots on our website and to publicize VoidTree elsewhere.
  6. After judging we will unlock plots so that you can re-use your blocks.
  7. Be excellent to each other.

Prizes

  • 1st place: Bee kit +50 bonus town blocks
  • 2nd place: Fish kit + 30 bonus town blocks
  • 3rd place: Cow kit + 20 bonus town blocks

The winning builds will be featured on our website for everyone to see.

How do I participate?

You can get to the build competition by typing /warp build_comp. Ask a staff member to assign a plot to you. If you’d like to share a plot with a friend and work on your build together, you can — just make sure that you’re prepared to split the prizes if you win.

After 11:59pm eastern US time on the 25th, all plots will be locked so that our judges can do their job. We’ll announce winners on Discord and on a blog post before the weekend is over.

Categories
News

Voting Rewards Changes

I get to make changes like these because Sollybird took the time to abstract rewards into a configuration file. Don’t worry too much about what that means. The upshot is that I can edit a plain text file and add rewards any time I want without bothering Solly. We can jigger the probability of any particular reward showing up. The changes to rewards can take effect without rebooting the server.

Here’s what I added:

  • All types of coral blocks. Coral is non-renewable (though you can buy it from /shop for lots of money). What do you do with coral blocks? If you don’t want to build a pretty aquarium and don’t need the money you’d get from selling them right away, hold onto them. Ocean altars request coral blocks. If you don’t have an ocean altar, you can always sell the blocks to someone who does for more than you’d get from /shop.
  • Packed ice. You can get it yourself, but it’s tedious, and you need a lot of packed ice for a nether road.

Got an idea for a voting reward? Let us know on Discord.

Categories
News

Custom Code Updates

Our custom code works fine with Minecraft 1.18. Thus Solly has been concentrating on adding features requested by players as well as completing some wish list items that didn’t make it in last season.

Voting

Voting is an important way for us to attract new users and reward our existing users for bringing VoidTree to life. Our voting plugin is mostly custom code, which means that nobody else will fix our problems, but we get to do whatever we want with it. We’ve made some small changes to keep voting fun.

  • The streak mechanism rewards daily voting, but we recognize that the real world can be more important than gaming, and voting sites can be confusing. The vote window has been increased to 48 hours. That’s right. You now have two days to remember to vote daily.
  • When you type /vote now, you get information about when you last voted and when your streak will reset.
  • This information also appears when you log in.

Altars

No other Minecraft server has altars right now. It’s ours. This may change in the future. Open source code is a big reason why Minecraft servers are so much fun. Solly has been adding features, fixing bugs, and adding structure and documentation so that when this code is mature other servers may try it out and contribute fixes and new features. Meanwhile, we have some new utilities.

  • Now you can type /altar to see a short list of commands:
    • /altar log shows you what sacrifices have been made at your town altar and who made them.
    • /altar listsacrifices (also /altar sacrifices) shows you what sacrifices any altars in your town currently require. Use this command to refresh your memory when you go shopping in Newtown for items to please the gods.
    • /altar help gives the same output as /altar (at least for now).
  • Several bugs, spurious error messages and permissions issues have been fixed.
  • Now when you level up your altars, the entire server can see and admire your hard work.
  • A tool for staff, /refreshsacrifices, has been fixed and re-enabled so we can use it to test and improve balance.

Phantom Events

Finally we’ve made some small but significant changes to our showpiece, Phantom Events.

  • We increased the difficulty back to what it was at the end of last season. This increase reflects the fact that most people have full netherite armor.
  • What happens when you die has changed to make this a no-risk event.
    • When you die, you land in front of the Phantom Arena so you can run right back in and wreck havoc on the evil invaders.
    • You don’t lose experience or drop your items when you die.
    • There are still some obscure bugs to work out when people die in unusual ways. If you hit one of those, you’ll land back in bed. Your drops are still protected, so /warp phantomarena and grab your stuff. If you run into problems, let us know so we can hunt down the bugs.
  • Events are automatically scheduled.
  • We no longer have to set the entire server to nighttime for an event.
  • Phantom events now end automatically 25 minutes after they start (events last about 15 minutes). This change plus automatic scheduling and updates to the arena mean that we can set up an event to happen at any time. If you want an event to happen outside of prime time, just let us know and we’ll set you up. An event by yourself may be lonely, but it’s also very lucrative.

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News

Voting Stats

Season Two is here, and pretty much everyone has been voting regularly. We keep a database of information about player’s votes for three reasons. The first is so that we can make sure players have the right number of packages and streak level. The second is to balance the rewards to make sure they’re all appealing. The third, of course, is a bit more selfish:

Stats are fucking cool, okay?

Periodically I find myself looking at the voting stats just to see how they’ve changed. It’s interesting to watch it evolve over time, and some of the charts can be quite pretty.

A breakdown of average voter reward choices, including data from both Season One and the beginning of Season Two

The chart above shows the way that players choose their payout for their voting reward packages, on average. It’s been interesting to watch it evolve; last season the Material section was a lot larger. We diluted the material reward pool so that it wasn’t just diamonds and ancient debris, and since then much more people have been choosing monetary or experience instead. Ultimately though, the way that someone chooses to open their voting package is a personal choice — so how do each of our players choose their voter payouts?

A histogram showing how frequently each player chooses each of the voting reward categories. See if you can figure out which player you are.

Of course, voting serves another purpose besides getting in-game rewards for players. Every vote makes us slightly higher on Minecraft server listing sites, and increases the chance that new people can find our small server. We’re currently rank 84 on best-minecraft-servers.co, rank 987 on minecraft-mp.com, and rank 180 on minecraft-server-list.com’s land claim section.

Every vote helps! Thank you for helping us find new players.