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Hey, everyone - I've been writing and preparing the 1.18 update announcement draft, and there's a lot of detail about a specific change that's coming that could end up having larger ramifications for Survival and Semi-Vanilla going forward. The change is that, starting with 1.18 - Creeper explosions, TNT, fire spreading, and other natural griefing will be enabled in unclaimed areas. This will not affect claimed areas by default, so if you have a claim on a base - you have nothing to fear in this regard. However, this topic is largely unrelated to this specific change, but rather a broader topic of the challenge (or lack thereof) of Survival, and how potentially the premium perks offered by the various server ranks may actually be harming the overall experience rather than helping it. The Catalyst The catalyst for all of this was an experience I had on another server. While it's exceedingly rare for myself (and other staff) to play on other servers, there's no rule against it as long as they aren't staffing on that other server (in stark contrast to the old days where playing at all on any other server was an automatic demote, or worse). You see, I've spent a bit of time playing on the oldest anarchy server in Minecraft, 2b2t. It's generally known to be a bit of a hellhole, a place where hacked clients are commonplace, the chat is toxic, and virtually anything goes. While most of this isn't particularly appealing for most players, I realized after a few days that it gave something that I hadn't experienced in quite literally years of playing Minecraft - investment. What do I mean? Well, when I was killed or otherwise died with valuable gear, or died in pursuit of some specific item, I was frustrated - sometimes very much so, especially because death usually meant another hour or two walking down the nether highway in my case. However, I was also invested. Death actually meant something, and there was a genuine challenge. After playing with perks, even the minor ones like /back and /fly - it was both frustrating, but at the same time, refreshing. I actually cared if I died or not while exploring. I was cautious about what I brought with me. I took great care and caution when exploring, rather than just running around willy-nilly carefree - as one death could cause me to lose some valuable items. It's that investment and risk of losing what I worked for that made it matter. When I can fly around and spawn my stuff back in, or turn on godmode and be unkillable, nothing really matters as much. If my goal is to build something, then this works great. But once my creative energy runs out, then suddenly I find myself not playing for months and months - and now I think I finally understand why. It caused me to reflect on the current state of survival, and something that I can't help but realize after all this time is that the challenge and difficulty of virtually all of our survival offerings have been all but stripped away. So, let's get into it. The (Lack of) Challenge By registering, you get to do /back immediately upon death - which means that, unless you died in lava or by multiple explosions, you maybe lost some XP, but that's it. By playing long enough or by donating, you get to fly around and away from danger, spawn in nearly any item or tool, enchant any item, and put yourself in godmode. You can open your ender chest or a crafting table just from a single command. Virtually all of these perks have been constant staples of the survival experience, only being stripped away in Semi-Vanilla, and even then - a select few remain, like the crafting table and /back. Hell, we just introduced Death Chests into Survival - which again, sound great on paper - but are yet another way that the consequence of death is nullified. Increasing in rank effectively turns the Survival experience into something completely different - it turns it into effectively Creative mode with extra steps. Something that might have made a lot of sense back in the old days, where a creative gamemode wasn't available on CU - but seems to make less sense today, and something that I am starting to realize may actually be causing some significant damage to the overall experience. Now, some of you might be thinking "well just don't use the perks then, easy". Unfortunately, it often isn't that simple. While yes, players can choose not to utilize the perks they paid for or earned - if you had a full kit of enchanted diamond gear and died with it all, are you going to tell me that you wouldn't be the least bit tempted to /back to get it all back in an instant? Or if you were working on a large-scale base, you wouldn't just spawn the blocks in rather than spend hours or days gathering it all? Or that you wouldn't just use WorldEdit to cut away the land rather than dig it all out? Some people can resist the temptation. Many cannot. Many more wouldn't even consider resisting, as after all - that's what they earned or paid for, so why wouldn't they use it? The fact that the perks and benefits of a rank have to be actively ignored in order to make the experience more satisfying should've been a red flag from the start, and in retrospect it seems kind of crazy that it took me playing on 2b2t to see the harm it causes. And everything I just listed is entirely separate from potential EULA concerns, or reputation concerns about the server being "pay to win" - but that's a whole other can of worms. It's never been my intention to violate EULA outright, or to create a truly pay-to-win experience. I actively despise P2W mechanics in other games and think they have no place. Thus far my justification has been that since Survival isn't really competitive - with pvp and other things being disabled by default - that it isn't really pay-to-win, as there's no real "winning" state. I still mostly believe this, however on the same token, there's undeniably an advantage in creating large-scale bases or massive creations when you can fly, spawn in the materials, and WorldEdit things in. And while this technically doesn't matter from a competition standpoint, if someone busts their ass as a Member to gather up the materials and work hard on a base for weeks, they can be rapidly outshone by someone who played a while or paid some money - which could absolutely be discouraging to them. However, at the same time, I recognize that there's somewhat of an audience who enjoys the perks that are on offer. There are a handful of you out there who enjoy being able to fly around and build whatever, whenever. And while we introduced Semi-Vanilla as a way to escape the ranking system changes, most of the player activity continues to remain in Survival. Which makes sense - why play on a separate world, that fundamentally has the same features except you can't use the cool perks and benefits? And for non-donating players, why play on a world where not as many people will see your builds and creations? It's going to be a tough balance to strike, and one that won't be hit overnight. What it Means I'll be continuing to explore options to help reduce the effects of these perks - primarily their negative impact on gameplay. My hope is that I can find a way to maintain the current perks in a way that allows for them to continue to exist, but where they don't ruin the experience for players. I don't yet know whether or not this will be possible. Maybe I can find a magic bullet or two and everybody wins, or it may come down to having to start making tough decisions about what perks are offered going forward. I don't know what the future holds for the current ranking system. It's the first time since the start that I wasn't sure where things were going to go. You can breathe easy for the time being as there are no imminent changes, but I'll likely be having some talks with both staff and community members over the coming months to help me inform where we go next. What I can promise is that, in the event that the powerful perks start being stripped from the ranks, there will absolutely be some form of reimbursement given for those who donated for them. I cannot say specifically what that would entail (as I'm not even sure if the perks will even change to begin with), but I do know that I wouldn't feel right taking away what people paid for and not offering any sort of compensation after the fact. Once again, though - it's likely to be quite a while before any changes actually come - and you'll have plenty of notice before they do, if they do at all. If you have any feedback on any of this, please do share it - as this feedback will help me decide how to go forward. Keep your eyes peeled, folks, as there will likely be more to say on this topic soon.