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CU Updates #47 - Experience Storer, Why Things Have Been Quiet, and Future Plans

haloman30 -

Hey, everyone - we've just made a small update to our MC Server! And this time, it's in the form of new content in Survival!
It's a small addition - and technically not even a brand new one - but it's an upgrade to an item you might already be familiar with: The XP Storer. For those unaware, you can shift-right click on an Emerald Block in Survival and it'll "store" your XP into Bottles of Enchanting. However, that system had a few flaws - which all have been remedied with its shiny new replacement.
The Experience Storer
The Experience Storer behaves largely the same as the previous one - but with a bit more polish, and some custom models and UI to go along with it:


Upon opening the Experience Storer, you'll be presented with a few slots and buttons, and a number selector. First and foremost, you've got an empty slot with an empty bottle placeholder - which is where you'd place any empty bottle. The other slot is the output slot, which is where you'll get the resulting Bottle of Experience.
The number selector allows you to select a number of (approximate) levels to store inside a bottle. The "Store" button will then let you store the XP for those levels inside the bottle. Alternatively, the other small button with the XP Orbs on it can be used - which will simply store all of your XP inside the bottle right away.
To find out how to craft it, use /recipes in Survival and choose the Blocks category. Then, you can click on the Experience Storer - and it'll show you the recipe.
What does this Fix?
As mentioned before, this fixes a few key flaws with the CraftBook XP Storer:
Storing Precise XP Amounts - The old XP Storer stored experience using XP Bottles (or more formally, Bottles of Enchanting). This works, but the issue is that XP Bottles don't give precise amounts of XP - it's slightly randomized each time. As such, you'd end up losing some XP upon storing it. Avoiding Lag - When trying to store XP with the old XP Storer, if you had a large number of levels, you'd end up creating huge amounts of XP Bottles - which could create both clientside lag on your end, and server lag as well as it tries to spawn countless stacks of XP Bottles Better Polish - This one is a bit subjective admittedly, but surely you can see how having a custom block with its own GUI and everything just feels a bit nicer and cleaner than clicking on an Emerald Block - right?  
The other addition that comes with the Experience Storer is the Bottle of Experience (not to be confused with the Bottle o' Enchanting). This item has a bit of a different appearance, and contains the XP you've stored away. To get the XP back, you simply hold it and right-click. However, if you don't want all of it right away, you can get a single level out of the bottle by left-clicking instead.
The Silence
Some of you have likely noticed that things have been a bit quiet around here as of late. Not so much in terms of people on Discord or anything like that - but in terms of updates and progress on the Minecraft server. Last year we had talked about plans for investing in advertising, as well as continuing forward with content updates and improvements.

Then things seemingly stopped, with only maintenance-related updates and critical bugfixes coming down the pipeline. The reasons for this are fairly complicated - and I won't be going into all of them here, at least not today. However, a big part of it was a combination of two, fairly familiar problems.
Elaztek Studios
I've spent a good chunk of time as of late focusing on Elaztek Studios, especially on its new project, Sandbox - a 2D top-down sandbox game that doesn't have an official title yet. It's a fun project to work on, and part of the goal of it is to help bring in revenue into Elaztek Studios - and by extension, myself and Chaotic United. However, the reason I've been so heavily focused on this project and ignoring almost everything else comes from the other big issue:
The Job Hunt
While the extended vacation was nice, the time came for me to finally find a job again. This was difficult for a few reasons, most of which I will readily admit are "me" problems:
Adjusting to a 40-hour workweek - After being unemployed for a year and a half, it was (and still kind of is) rough to re-adjust to just working. I'd become comfortable and accustomed to just getting up and going to bed whenever I felt like - and so going from that to suddenly having a big chunk of time chewed up by a job hasn't been the easiest thing to adjust to. Adjusting to a normal sleep schedule - As stated above, I'd become accustomed to just not having a sleep schedule. I'd go to bed when I felt tired, and got up when I no longer felt tired. In my case, this ended up with me staying up for ~16 hours, and sleeping for 10-12 hours. You might notice that those numbers add up to more than 24 hours. I'm still in the process of adjusting to getting less sleep - a process which has largely been slowed due to the third piece of the job puzzle. The nature of the jobs - Most of the jobs I've had thus far, including the ones I've had recently, are all somewhat labor-intensive and more akin to blue-collar work, rather than some sort of office job. I'd love to have an office job - but at least in my area, it's exceedingly difficult to get into those jobs without having had experience in something similar before. You know, the classic catch-22 of "you need job experience to get the job". Similarly, I've not been able to find any sort of IT or software development job either - in part due to the lack of these types of jobs in my area, and my unwillingness to move out of my home town.  
There's a bit more to the story, but those are the big things that have made things tough. To put it simply, the end result of all of these just comes down to reduced free time for me to work on things. As a result, I've been more heavily focused on things like Sandbox - as the idea has been that, the sooner I complete it, the sooner I can either use it as a portfolio item to help me land a better job, or perhaps even the sooner it can get released on Steam and potentially bring in some revenue. Who knows, maybe it could even take off and let me retire early (though I don't exactly expect that, to be clear ).
Coming Back to CU
So, then - you might wonder, what changed? Why suddenly emerge and start working on Chaotic United again if all of this stuff is still true?
Well, nothing changed - all of that stuff is still true. However, after some thought, I came to realize that I'd been a bit too neglectful of CU lately - which isn't fair to the community that we do have here, however small it may be. You folks have stuck with this community through all these years - you've put up with drama, you've seen us merge and unmerge with numerous communities, you've tolerated battles between us and those other communities, and stuck through even when I've done pretty ridiculous and stupid stuff. You've stuck through as I've made countless failed promises of future growth, and even helped me in some my times of greatest need.
I can't sit idly by and just let this place rot and wither away with each passing year. However, I'm also not going to lie to you and make false promises, either - there will come a point again where I shift my focus back to Elaztek and Sandbox - for all the reasons I outlined above. For now, though - I'm gonna spend some quality time working on CU again - and I'm going to try to be more consistent about it going forward, attempting to avoid such long stretches of silence. Whether or not I'll succeed is yet to be seen, but I can at least say that I'll give it my best shot.
The Roadmap
And on the topic of working on CU again, we've got a roadmap for the short-term future, leading up to Minecraft 1.21. All of these items are in order to set the stage properly for the next update.
The addition of the new XP Storer was the first item on the list - as it will be included within the next Survival spawn. Also to be added in the next Survival spawn are vendors - the new implementation of a server-run shop. Rather than having a giant building like we did back in 1.12, though, we'll have a series of NPCs that will act as vendors - and will also have a bit of fun dialogue, too. This will require some custom work for the shops themselves, but nothing too crazy.
Once that's done, the next step will be implementing a "perks toggle" feature. This will allow for the various abilities of each of the donation ranks to be disabled and enabled at-will, and will also come with some additional measures to better isolate legitimate gameplay and items from "perk-enabled" gameplay. There will be some other adjustments done with this as well that we won't go into today - but what I will say is that, if you were one of the folks upset or frustrated with the nerfs done to some of the perks when we updated to MC 1.18, you'll probably be pretty pleased with those aforementioned adjustments. 😉
The last big thing that we'll be preparing internally is the addition of multiple vote crates, along with finally introducing CUPoints. The current idea is that CUPoints will be given as a vote reward instead of specific vote keys - and those points can then be spent on one of those crates. The idea is to allow for some degree of choice when opening a crate - the new crates will have more specific selections of items compared to the variety of the current Vote Crate. Don't worry, though - the classic Vote Crate as it exists right now will be sticking around as an option, too.
From there... well, we'll just have to see. We've got a few ideas of where to head next - but in order to avoid overpromising (and because it's still hard to say how long everything listed above will actually take to implement), we'll save those for another time.


For now, though - that's all we've got. If things go to plan, we should have some news to share relatively soon. No (tm) this time - actually soon. Until then, be sure to keep an eye on our Discord and MC server.

Oh, and - one last thing. Thanks for sticking around. I mean it. I hope that I can make the seemingly endless wait you've had to deal with worth it in the end.

- haloman30

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Website Outage - What Happened?

- haloman30

Hey, everyone! As you can see, our website is back online!
Some of you may (or may not) have noticed that the website was offline for a couple days - all kicked off by an attempted hardware upgrade on the server. If you're interested in the details, keep on reading.
How it Started
The hardware upgrade in question was a graphics card - this was intended to allow for the Elaztek Studios Jenkins server to have more flexibility when it comes to building certain projects. Part of this process was migrating the Jenkins from its own dedicated server, to a virtual machine (VM) under our hypervisor - which in our case is a separate server running Proxmox. The existing server install was migrated from the original server to its new VM without any issue - but upon shutting everything down to install the graphics card, it was clear that the card was a bit too large, and would not physically fit within the server.
As such, it was closed up - with plans to add a new graphics card later on down the line. Ideally, that would've been the end of it - just a brief, 30ish minute outage, and nothing more. Unfortunately, while all other VMs booted up without issue, one of them didn't - and you can probably guess which one it was.
Upon realizing the website wasn't accessible, we checked into the VM - and realized it was failing to boot from its virtual hard disk. Further investigation showed that the partition table on the disk was seemingly corrupted - all software believed the disk was completely unallocated. 
The Recovery Process
The process first began by trying to restore the original installation of CentOS 7, avoiding any need to reconfigure or reinstall anything. After several attempts, and even some degree of success in restoring the partition table - we got somewhat close, it just wasn't quite enough. We were able to get some partitions to be readable again, but we couldn't get it bootable. We also tried restoring two different Proxmox VM backups - both to no avail. Whatever had happened, it wasn't right on that day - it happened at least a few days ago, and potentially longer ago than that.
Given this, and given that CentOS 7 reaches end-of-life in June 2024, we decided instead to try a different approach - which was simply reinstalling the OS entirely. Even if we managed to get the original install back, it wasn't a guarantee that we'd get it working entirely correctly. And considering we had no real idea what caused this issue to begin with - it was also possible that the issue could repeat itself again. And to top it all off - we'd still have to ultimately reinstall the OS regardless in around 6 months time anyways.
This in itself was not a simple task either - as it took a few different attempted combinations of operating system and cPanel/WHM version before we found a combination that would work properly. Last night, we finally got things up and running as desired - and overnight, we reimported the automatic backup that WHM created of the cPanel account - which worked almost perfectly out of the box.
The Result
After some further reconfiguration, almost everything is exactly as it was - there should be essentially zero data loss - as the backup was from the same day that we performed the original hardware maintenance. Maybe a few hours of lost registrations or logs - but that's it.
However, there is one thing that some of you will notice won't work anymore - some of our older archives.
Any archives of the old main website or forums are no longer functional - as they require PHP 5.6 - which has been end-of-life for nearly 5 years. The old main website ran under IP.Board 3.4.x, same with the old forum archives - and a few other things here and there.
Everything that required an older version of PHP will now display a 403 page, and it will likely remain this way for some time. In the future, we plan to set up a dedicated server, fully isolated from everything else, specifically to run these older websites and keep them up and running. We don't have a timeframe on when this will happen - as currently, I'm quite busy with work and preoccupied with other projects (primarily at Elaztek Studios) - but you can be rest assured that we've got all of the data perfectly intact still, and that at some point down the line, we'll be bringing this stuff back online.
In terms of non-archival stuff, however - you shouldn't notice any issues, and everything should be exactly as it was before this whole mess.
To wrap up - if you happen to find anything that doesn't seem quite right, be sure to report it on our bug tracker, or let us know on our Discord server - and we'll investigate as soon as we're able. For now, though, that's all we've got. We apologize for this downtime, and we hope that getting things up and running on a fresh VM, with a newer OS, will prevent something like this from happening again.

Introducing: Autorank 2.0 - CUBungee Edition

- haloman30

Hey, everyone!
We've been hard at work for a while now, working on the replacement for Autorank - the plugin used for time-based ranking. As of today, that development is, essentially, complete.
Some of you may be wondering, why did we feel the need to replace Autorank? Well, there were a few key issues that we needed to remedy:
First and foremost, it hasn't lived up to its name ever since we migrated to BungeeCord. Even after updating to newer versions, it simply failed to issue rewards properly.
Second, it has no real easy system to allow for combining playtime and rank purchases. Since ranks can be both bought and earned, you'll have cases where players may, for example, work to earn Donator rank - and then decide to get VIP. Rather than requiring that you pay the full 10$, we allow users to use those 5 days of playtime as a sort of credit, and so you'd be able to upgrade to VIP for 5$. The issue is that this is an entirely manual process - you have to donate the specific amount, and then a Moderator has to manually promote you from there. Additionally, automatic rankups no longer work afterwards - and once again, a staff member must manually promote you once one of you notice that you've reached the playtime required.
Lastly, it's had a number of weird quirks and issues that we just wanted to iron out or leave behind - and that's what we set out to do.
Whats New
So, let's get into the changes, then! What's new about this Autorank replacement?
Enhanced Playtime Tracking - The plugin now stores two types of total playtime values - referred to as "Earned Playtime" and "Valued Playtime". Earned playtime refers to how much time you've actually played. It can't be modified by commands, and this is what gets displayed in the total time leaderboards. Valued playtime, however, can be modified with commands - and as such, can be modified by things such as rank purchases and such. This is the value that gets checked against for playtime rewards, but is not displayed in various toplists - since it isn't representative of a user's playtime. In-Game Reward Progress Tracking - Rather than just having to guess or do math to figure out when you can earn your next rank, you can check your progress of all rewards using /ar rewards. It will display the total times required for all rewards, and will also display how much time you have before you unlock it (or, if you've already unlocked it, it'll say that instead). Improved Leaderboards - Previously, /ar top would only show the top 5 users - and if any of those top 5 were hidden, the list would just be shorter by one item. Now, the toplist has been increased to show the top 8 players, and rather than having missing entries, excluded users are simply skipped - and the next person after them takes their spot. Support for Repeatable Rewards - This is something that isn't in just yet, but will be in the near future. We want to soon be able to have more things you can earn from playtime besides just the ranks. Primarily, this will be used for Tokens - the new name of CUPoints/NDPoints. These will serve as a new global currency and will be obtainable via a few methods - and will have a variety of uses. You can find a little bit of additional information on this topic. Bugfixes - In addition to the new features, most of the bugs that the original Autorank plugin had before have been resolved. Ranks should now properly be rewarded when you've reached the right amount of playtime - finally living up to the name "Autorank" once again.  
For the full list of changes, you can read the full changelog here: 
Next on the Horizon
Next up, our focus will be on additional bugfixes, as well as some of the new features described in CU Updates #46. While we can't commit to any timelines, you can reasonably expect these improvements to be sooner rather than later.
For now, however, that's all we've got. If you happen to notice any issues (with the new Autorank or otherwise), be sure to let us know by submitting a bug report! Otherwise, just keep your eyes peeled for what's next on the horizon.

1.19.4 Update Released

- haloman30

Hey, everyone - we've officially updated our MC server to 1.19.4!
In addition to getting things on the latest MC version, we've also made a number of bugfixes and improvements as well, some of which have been hanging around a bit too long. For now, we'll just go over the highlights:
/back Improvements
With the introduction of cross-server warp and teleportation, there were some cases where /back would behave strangely and would never seem to take you where you expected. This was because, by default, Essentials only keeps track of its own teleportation events. However, since warps and teleports were no longer handled through Essentials, using those commands wouldn't update the previous location properly. This issue has actually technically existed pretty much forever - it's just that back in the day, only admins would run into it, typically when using Multiverse's world teleportation commands. At first, this seemed like an unfixable issue - but turns out, Essentials has a handy option called register-back-in-listener which, wouldn't you know it, tells Essentials to monitor all teleportation events - completely fixing the problem. Why this isn't on by default is beyond me, but hey - it's on now, and as such using /back should once again work as expected.
Removal of ChatControl
For quite a long time, our chat filtering plugin hasn't exactly worked as expected - it doesn't work well cross-server, notifications don't work properly for staff (so in the event of a filter, we couldn't see what triggered it). As such, we've opted to remove the plugin for the time being. In the future, we'll be introducing a replacement which runs at the BungeeCord level and works cross-server properly. To be clear, however, no changes have been made to our chat rules, and racial slurs and other such content is still prohibited in chat.
Sit/Chairs Improvements
Originally, we used the Chairs plugin to allow for sitting on certain blocks - typically stairs and slabs. We later introduced SimpleSit alongside it to allow use of a /sit command that worked anywhere. As time went on, however, these plugins began to break and have various issues. Chairs broke outright, and while I did attempt to fix it, it'd have an issue where you would gradually sink further into the ground as the plugin "refreshed" its sit data, meanwhile SimpleSit no longer worked at all. Most recently, however, we started using GSit - which offered the features of both Chairs and SimpleSit, and had a few extra features, too - such as /lay. As of now, Chairs and SimpleSit are no longer used and have been replaced with GSit across all gamemodes. In addition, we've restored some previous functionality where Cauldrons could be sat in - both empty and with fluids. Overall, you shouldn't notice anything much different, besides sitting working better now.
Discord Join/Leave Messages
First and foremost, we've (for real this time, hopefully) fixed the issue where Owners and Managers wouldn't have any join or leave messages displayed in the #mc-chatlogs Discord channel. This was originally done on purpose, as for some time we didn't have a vanish plugin that worked properly across the entire BungeeCord network - so in order to prevent staff from being revealed in Discord, join/leave notifications were blocked for them entirely. Lately, though, we've been using a new plugin that does work cross-server. However, staff still had the permission nodes which were used to block out their join/leave messages. This was mostly still the case with Managers and Owners, since both ranks have all server permissions - and the permissions were not directly negated from their ranks. This has now been fixed, and join/leave messages will show as expected for all users.
Server Renaming
Previously, our BungeeCord server naming had a strange quirk - the "hub" and "cu" servers. This is for a couple reasons: first of which, was that the BungeeCord configuration can have its roots traced back to the one we used back when we were merged with NuclearDistrict - where we had three servers: "nd", "cu", and "hub". The ND server was NuclearDistrict's survival server, the CU server was our MC server, and the Hub server was used as a bridge between the two (fun fact - the spawn used in our "hub" server is a modified version of that one, and you can view the original one we used in ND by heading to /warp mergehub). The second reason comes down to how we migrated to BungeeCord more recently. For those who weren't around, we originally had our entire MC server - all gamemodes, all worlds, everything - under a single Bukkit (or rather, Spigot/Paper) server.
While this had its benefits, such as not having to do any extra work to make things like chat, teleports, etc. work cross-server, along with making updates a lot faster, it also had some serious drawbacks. Diagnosing bugs took longer, as every plugin for every feature across the entire server was sharing one Bukkit instance - thus resulting in a larger list of possible plugins to go through to diagnose and fix. It also resulted in much poorer performance, which eventually became a severe issue around 1.13/1.14 - having that many worlds and plugins all sharing one Bukkit instance was pushing the limits of what the server software was capable of handling.
As such, we decided to, for real, migrate everything over to BungeeCord. We'd actually explored this a few times prior - but each time, the amount of legwork, headache, and compromises made weren't justifiable. However, with how bad the performance issues became, it was time. However, it wasn't a one-and-done process - this was a longer process that went on over the span of a few months or so, where gamemodes were gradually migrated out of the main server and into their own separate servers. The original "Main" server was named "cu" in the BungeeCord config during this process, and when everything else was moved out, the Hub and Builder worlds were left behind, and the original MC server would instead act as the hub going forward. This resulted in the confusing situation of having a "cu" server and a "hub" server - where the "cu" server is what is generally thought of as the hub, and the "hub" server is typically considered a fallback or "waiting room" that exists in the case of the "cu" server going offline.
At this point, there's certain data which relies on the servers' existing names - such as the MySQL database used to store warp data. As such, changing the "cu" server name wasn't feasible - what we have done, however, is renamed the "hub" server to "fallback" in the BungeeCord configuration - and renamed it to "Fallback Hub" in the #mc-chatlogs channel. At a future date, the "Main" server will be renamed in the Discord messages as well, however we've left them as-is for the time being.
Unfortunately, with the update, a couple plugins ended up breaking (or rather, just refuse to even attempt to work outright):
LibsDisguises - This is the plugin we use for disguises in-game, and with its absence, you won't be able to disguise. This will be restored as soon as a 1.19.4 build is released, and you won't lose access to any previous disguises. CustomOreGenerator - This is the plugin we use in Survival to generate Durite Ore within The End. Unfortunately, with its absence, Durite Ore will NOT generate, at all. We strongly advise that you avoid any exploration within The End for the time being until this has been resolved - as any new terrain you discover will have no Durite present at all. As with LibsDisguises, we'll be posting an update on Discord as well as a reply to this topic once everything is sorted out and these plugins are restored.  
The above plugins have both been reintroduced as of 3/31/2023.
For now, though, that's all we've got! We've been a bit quiet and lacking when it comes to posting announcements on the forums lately - and that's something that we'll be working to ensure changes going forward. After all - why would anyone else use the forums if announcements don't even get posted there? Additionally, you can view the full changelog of today's changes here - there's some other minor stuff that wasn't touched on above.
As per usual, if you find any bugs while playing, be sure to let us know on the bug tracker! Once we get some immediate features finished up, we plan on doing a sweeping bugfix pass in the not-too-distant future as one of the final steps before we start exploring advertisement options.

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Chaotic United (or CU for short) is an online gaming community that can have its roots traced all the way back to 2011. What first began as a World of Warcraft and Runescape private server later became a Minecraft-focused community, which it's become known for ever since.

Throughout its earlier years, it underwent several changes of ownership - and very nearly closed for good. In early 2014, many of CU's team branched off into Nuclear District - in order to create a healthier, better community, free from the clutches of their previous rogue owner. Then, later that same year, the "new" Chaotic United was born - under new ownership. While first treated with skepticism, it later joined forces with Nuclear District - until the original leadership and team decided that their time was done, and complete ownership was transferred to Chaotic United's new administration - who continue to carve the path forward to this day.

While we deeply treasure our past - and go to immense lengths to preserve as much of it for the future as possible - we are equally focused on our future. We continue to focus on our Minecraft server, introducing new gamemodes, features, and content - all with two goals in mind: Build the best Chaotic United we can, and build something that those who came before would be truly proud to witness.

The true core of Chaotic United, however, is its community. The people who've stuck around since the early days, the people who've only been around a little while, or the people who joined yesterday - whether you're on Discord, Minecraft, the Forums, or any combination, you'll find our loyal, tightly-knit community. They are the backbone of Chaotic United, and each member - new, old, or even the ones who have yet to find their home - plays a key role in Chaotic United's long and storied history - a history that will continue being written for years to come.

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