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Nasty, Brutish, and Blocky
August 21, 2012 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Minecraft by itself may represent a post-scarcity world, but one poster at the official Minecraft forums conducted a test of what would happen if you took 30 players and constrained their available resources. The Closed Map Experiment.

Or maybe not. Still, it is an interesting thought experiment and piece of meta-fiction. Enthusiasm for the idea has manifested in plans to organize a real version of the event fully documented by its players and organizers.
posted by codacorolla (34 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I guess I have internalised all the conservation messages of my youth because I never cut down a tree without planting a sapling (even when I am in a forest and in an unlimited world). This was a great idea for an experiment - if it really did happen, I don't know who to believe :(
posted by saucysault at 8:46 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


You want to make it a real test of the human condition, make it so that players die after 100000 cycles and children are born if enough food is available, and must eat, but cannot do anything productive for 10000 cycles until which point they can be inhabited by new players.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:47 AM on August 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


What's the crafting recipe for the social contract?
posted by The Whelk at 8:49 AM on August 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


I work in a division of government that has the difficult task of balancing the resource industry with the well being of the public. Thanks so much for linking this article/forum post. Fascinating look at behaviour.
posted by dogbusonline at 8:49 AM on August 21, 2012


I think a lot of people do the tree replanting thing (I'm fanatical about it) but use of ores would be interesting provided an environment was competitive. Will you continue to use cobblestone weapons and tools when your competitors are using iron or better? (Even that's forgetting about wooden tools, which even the most conservation-minded Minecrafters tend to avoid. I mean, cobblestone is near-infinite, right? Like fish in the sea...)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:53 AM on August 21, 2012


Needs more plagues.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:57 AM on August 21, 2012


I only replant sapplings because I'm lazy and don't want to trek to another island for wood after I inevitably burn down my island's forests to make way for my labyrinth.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:01 AM on August 21, 2012


I would absolutely play Minecraft: Dark Ages where your get randomly wiped out by droughts, famines, plagues, and marauding warbands.
posted by codacorolla at 9:01 AM on August 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


"You want to make it a real test of the human condition, make it so that players die after 100000 cycles and children are born if enough food is available, and must eat, but cannot do anything productive for 10000 cycles until which point they can be inhabited by new players."

That would be very interesting. Or, to utilize mechanics already in the game, each player could be in charge of a village. Villagers only spawn when they are safe and have ample housing. The goal of the server running the experiment could be to see who has the largest village when the time is up.

It would be an arms for iron, to get golems to protect the villagers. Also, what might players do to protect their villagers from griefing players ...
posted by Tevin at 9:04 AM on August 21, 2012


I've played a lot of Vechs' Super Hostile maps and I don't really buy the aspects about stuff being that rare. A lot of the Super Hostile maps have very limited resources (a single water block on the whole map, almost no cobble, two or three trees in the whole map, no diamond until the last dungeon, etc.) but some of the items in the game are inherently plentiful. Saplings and non-gravity blocks could never be rare because once you have saplings, a few dirt blocks, and some cobble blocks, it's trivial to make massive amounts of saplings, wood, and torches. Just getting one tree on a resource-starved map is enough to be able to do pretty much anything. Not having any way to make food is annoying but you can always just respawn, and if you have dirt and some seeds you have infinite food anyway.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:04 AM on August 21, 2012


once you have saplings, a few dirt blocks, and some cobble blocks, it's trivial to make massive amounts of saplings, wood, and torches

Charcoal was the game-changer, which I always thought was in preparation for the torches going out. Which not only never happened, but doesn't seem to be spoken of anymore.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:06 AM on August 21, 2012


I mean, cobblestone is near-infinite, right?

It's real-infinite if you use a cobblestone generator, which I assume everyone would. You could devote an account or two to just mining at a generator while your real players use the material to build - set up the mining accounts, move them into the right spot, and put something slightly heavy on the mouse button. It's how I got through Skyblock!
posted by echo target at 9:20 AM on August 21, 2012


It's worth noting that the players made many choices early on without thinking of the consequences. The lack of buckets is probably the biggest. Water and lava are two of the best resource generators and weapons in the game. Saplings or seeds are also key. With a a block of dirt and a sapling, you have infinite lumber, charcoal, torches and food---bones/bonemeal are easy to get, and neither require anything else to generate. With buckets (one lava, one water) you have infinite stone tools too.
posted by bonehead at 9:22 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dumb question, why was grass so important? I see using dirt to grow crops as important but what does grass do? Oh wait, do peaceful mobs only spawn on grass? I didn't see any cows/pigs/chickens on the griefers small platform. My head is spinning from all the updates, was it just in the apork that peaceful mobs were spawned once, at the creation of the world and all subsequent peaceful mobs were bred?
posted by saucysault at 9:31 AM on August 21, 2012


Shades of Microcosmic God (wiki), though with an entirely different outcome.
posted by Phyllis Harmonic at 9:32 AM on August 21, 2012


saucysault, yes, peaceful mobs spawn on grass, and long grass is also a source for seeds (for growing wheat (both important sources of food on a survival map), as well as flowers for making dye.
posted by LN at 9:39 AM on August 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh wait, do peaceful mobs only spawn on grass?

Yes. That limits feathers and thus arrows, wood and gravel being somewhat easier to come by. Leather is also somewhat important, but not nearly as much.
posted by bonehead at 9:40 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't this just Day Z with worse graphics?
posted by PenDevil at 9:48 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


You all realize this is fiction, right? It's a good story though.

I'm guessing the 350x350 world he describes has about 1500 diamonds, 125 clay blocks, 35,000 iron. Those are all non-renewable resources, but pretty much everything else important is either abundant or regenerable.

The world he describes has roughly 350x350x64 = 8 million solid blocks. It's roughly 500 chunks. A quick search turned up this March 2011 post with estimates of occurrence of various things per chunk. No doubt the statistics have changed since that data, certainly biomes will have an influence.
posted by Nelson at 10:04 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh wait, do peaceful mobs only spawn on grass?

Yes. That limits feathers and thus arrows, wood and gravel being somewhat easier to come by.


As long as you get enough eggs to spawn a new chicken (around 8 on average I think) you can setup an infinite source of chickens, although it's pretty slow as far as farming stuff goes. Also if you have wheat and two of any animal you can mate them to make more, it's just more annoying with other animals to get them back to your base if it's a long way from where the animals are.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:22 AM on August 21, 2012


That comes back to the choices made early on though---who would think to keep a couple dozen eggs or would prioritize collecting them? Eggs generally are pretty limited use items.

But not enough buckets, that I don't get. My first three iron usually go to a bucket. How can you mine in the goodie zone (below block level 32, preferably at 12) without a water bucket?
posted by bonehead at 10:26 AM on August 21, 2012


You all realize this is fiction, right? It's a good story though.

I didn't actually, hunh. Apparently so. Good catch.
posted by bonehead at 10:32 AM on August 21, 2012


I'm guessing the 350x350 world he describes has about 1500 diamonds, 125 clay blocks, 35,000 iron. Those are all non-renewable resources...
Iron is a renewable resource now, though. You can get it either from Iron Golems, who will replenish themselves once a village is big enough or a single ingot at a time as rare drops from zombies.

Dirt, diamonds, sand and clay would run out. Everything else I can think of is either renewable or available via the nether once you have a portal.
posted by Jugwine at 10:35 AM on August 21, 2012


That comes back to the choices made early on though---who would think to keep a couple dozen eggs or would prioritize collecting them? Eggs generally are pretty limited use items.

If you're playing on a low resource map and you want to have chickens it's a pretty obvious move. But anyway if all of the chickens are gone and you want arrows you can just farm skeletons, that's probably faster in the long run and doesn't require much resources if any to do.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:51 AM on August 21, 2012


Gravel.

Arrows are renewable if you can build a mob grinder (and is an obvious move in a low resource map, but very vulnerable to griefing). Otherwise, you're effectively limited by flint production. I really doubt your could farm skeletons in the wild effectively enough to be a significant arrow source.
posted by bonehead at 10:54 AM on August 21, 2012


Just to fill people in: the story above the fold? IT'S ALL A LIE. This never happened. This is a total bait-and-switch post.

I had that nagging feeling throughout reading the story, that this didn't happen, that it's too pat and simplistic, that a lot of details were being glossed over, that it's being used to make some sort of cockamamie point or something, which I'm not against but make it an HONEST cockamamie point based on something that REALLY HAPPENED.
posted by JHarris at 11:07 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't believe I'm the first one to bring up Easter Island here. More recent research indicates that the collapse started later, and happened faster.

This experiment has already happened, in real life.
posted by panglos at 11:21 AM on August 21, 2012


We know, JHarris, but it's scratching that Skyblock itch...how to survive and thrive with extremely limited resources.
posted by LN at 11:25 AM on August 21, 2012


Vaguely related: At the urging of my girlfriend's son, I recently installed Tekkit on my Minecraft server. Suddenly we have all of this advanced technology that allows us to create limitless building supplies from sunlight and fly and all kinds of stuff. Suddenly our world is getting a lot stranger. Around the same time I was reading cstross's Singularity Sky, and I couldn't help but think that Tekkit is the Festival to our server's Rochard's World. Singularities are a messy business.
posted by brundlefly at 11:25 AM on August 21, 2012


This is interesting, but it's also obviously fake.

Resource shortage in Minecraft? Well, then... how about making tree farms? I've had desert island starts in Minecraft with just one or two trees and only the dirt I could find through digging pretty much directly below, and turned the surface into into a dense forest, used to supply unlimited charcoal.

And lack of buckets?! With only thirty players, in an area that big? 30 players in a 350x350 world translates to about 8704 potential iron blocks per person x.0072 (it's frequency) = about 62 blocks per person, plus what's available in treasure chests and the like. And iron isn't even a limited resource, as it's dropped by mobs such by zombies. (Are we to believe that nobody would set up safe areas to farm the supposedly plentiful mobs or possible monster spawners?)

With iron comes buckets... and with buckets, lava. And with lava? Obsidian... and endless cobblestone. Rather than worrying about diamond, you'd get people using the molding technique to create portals to the nether, where the potential for infinite resources and infinite food awaits, in the form of mushroom farms. You can also easily create safe tree farms in the nether, if you know what you are doing.

Armor is the difficult part of the equation, but only if we assume that nobody bothered to create even a small wheat farm. With that, it would be easy to spawn a few friendly mobs and put them in a standard cobblestone room somewhere, for farming purposes. Create mushroom farms to feed the humans, while a wheat farm is used to feed the animals. You can even easily do this in the sky, if you so desire. I have a thriving wheat farm in a treehouse of mine, used to feed a roomful of chickens in the same treehouse. And chickens lay eggs, which makes them reproduceable, even without feeding them. It's *real* easy to create huge chicken farms in the nether, too. Save the wheat for the cows... and use them for your armor needs instead, along with stone swords. It's not iron, but it's all you need, especially since zombies drop even better armor, weapons, etc. Build an enchanting room to make your weapons and armor better, farm nether wart for potions, farm lava from the endless supplies in the nether, and use molding to create structures... you'll be plenty strong, and able to shrug off the hordes.

I keep growing trees on top of a huge treehouse I created, using just a little bit of dirt... and then harvest some of the trees, using a few blocks of wood to replace the dirt I grew the trees in, just because I find it more aesthetically pleasing to connect the trunk of my new trees directly to that of my existing structure. It also allows me to keep growing my fortress, without having to leave it... a renewable green fortress in the sky, linked to my other fortresses through nether gates for fast travel. Really, I hardly even use the original tree trunk anymore, and could easily get rid of it, as it's just not the most efficient way to get around anymore.

Really, it's entirely possible that sunlight could become a valued commodity, too. Those with farms on the ground might have a certain degree of dread, watching the canopy in the sky get thicker and start blocking out the sun... not that they really need sunlight to create a renewable scenario, but it does kind of help.
posted by markkraft at 12:00 PM on August 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Tekkit really is a whole new game. It completely captured me back into Minecraft when we discovered it. A Tekkit server war would be much shorter and much more decisive though---nukes, destruction catalysts, rings of flight and armour harder than Superman's skin. The new forcefields though might lead to factions and pockets of impenetrable safety, and nothing would be resource limited if equivalent exchange is turned on.
posted by bonehead at 12:08 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just occurs to me as to what would be the ultimate evil bastard move, especially if you had much of the diamond, and a secure fortress in the sky...

1> Get your group to farm lava in the nether... lots of it.
2> Create a network of scaffolding in the sky, using your infinite cobblestone. People might wonder what you're up to, but nobody would be the wiser.
3> Attach lava blocks to your scaffolding, effectively raining firey death and scorched earth from the sky. Target your opponent's fortresses and farms, of course, for maximum lolz.
4> Dump water on it, to turning everything below you into bedrock.
5> Use buckets to collect your lava and water, and then repeat. Fill in the gaps in your new floor in the sky with bedrock.
6> Cover that with all the lava you harvested, then dump water on it, to give you a nice obsidian floor in the sky.
7> Focus your group's subsequent efforts on "building out" the area below your obsidian floor, turning it into a giant monster spawner in the sky.
posted by markkraft at 12:25 PM on August 21, 2012


Uh, a stream-block + lava is cobble, not bedrock. Nothing a player can make or place is really impenetrable, at least in vanilla MC. Even obsidian can be punched through, but it takes about a minute.

The MC player isn't really a human being---look at how much it* can carry after all. Playing your Steve is what the Predator must have felt like, an alien, indifferent superhero, killing and remaking the world without remorse.

*According to Notch, there's only one gender in minecraft. All of animals are a single sex. In MC, same-sex marriage is the ONLY kind of marriage.
posted by bonehead at 12:50 PM on August 21, 2012


Every time I read there instead of their I felt like my diamond pickaxe broke.
posted by Splunge at 1:33 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


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