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CU Updates #46 - MC Updates, Outside Help Results, and The Big Website Move

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Hey, everyone! Looks like it's time for our first forum announcement of 2023!


As you may or may not have noticed, our website and forums were offline for a few hours there - you might have even seen a 500 Internal Server Error or some other wild HTTP error. You might even have noticed that things seem a bit... different. Or maybe not. Either way, let's get into it and figure out just what exactly was going on today - as well as some other goodies.


Minecraft - New Hub and Factions Removal

First and foremost - for those of you who aren't part of our Discord, we've made a couple updates to the MC server. First, we've updated our hub once again to something a bit less festive. Yes, I know - it's a bit late, but hey - better late than never, right?


The new hub isn't just our previous non-festive hub, however. It's actually the Christmas hub thawed out. Now you might be thinking, isn't that what the previous one was? Well, not quite. The original version of the hub was much more enclosed in the immediate spawn area. At first, we thought this was fine. However, if you recall our previous post talking about inviting some outside help, this is one thing that became a bit more clear to me after getting the feedback from them (more details on that later).


The key issue was simple: having the entire hub be enclosed and claustrophobic wasn't exactly inviting to new players. At first, I planned to resolve this by having a brand new hub created - professionally. And while I did pay for a new hub to be professionally built, we almost certainly won't be using it (again, more details later on). However, when first creating the Christmas hub, I had the idea to open up the top - partially to have a way for snow to get in, but also a way to just help things feel more breathable. Upon doing so, things immediately felt a fair bit better - and so I decided to take this updated version of the hub and use that as the base for the new hub.


For the most part, it's about the same as the Christmas hub, just without any snow or ice or Christmas lights. A few other minor improvements have been made, however, including:

  • Detailed Building Interiors - The majority of the buildings (though not all just yet) have proper, detailed interiors - they aren't just empty buildings!
  • Redesigned Holograms - We've basically been using the same copy/pasted holograms for the past 7-8 years - and another point of feedback from my outside source was that things overall felt outdated - and not in a good way. Looking at the holograms again, I did find myself thinking that they could use some touch-ups. The initial welcome hologram has been rewritten, and some minor stylistic changes have been made to all other holograms. These changes do NOT apply to previous hubs, of course - so feel free to compare directly if you like.
  • Some previously unfinished areas have been finished
  • A few small new areas have been added throughout the explorable areas. See what you can find!



Yes, the title is true unfortunately. With the update to 1.19.3, the Factions plugin we found had stopped working properly - and there was no update. In other words, to replace it would result in all existing faction data being lost. This, combined with the complete lack of players on Factions, caused us to end up shutting factions down outright - as there just wasn't a point in bothering at that point.


Upon reflection, it seems as though part of this stems from the fact that most in the community just aren't the type to get joy from griefing or destroying other people's stuff. Maybe that's wrong, but even when our Vanilla server was setup to allow griefing, nobody did - people instead just did what they do now, play survival, largely leaving other people alone except when directly working together.


Will Factions ever return? If there's popular demand, sure. But the other thing Factions needs is a solid playerbase from the start. In other words, it likely won't be something that gets introduced for some time, not until we start getting solid playercounts on the other gamemodes.


Outside Help - The Results

As mentioned earlier, I had gotten in contact with someone in order to get some outside aid - which turned from "let's start advertising" to "let's get this ancient server up with the times". Since that previous post, I have indeed gotten the document. Or more specifically, documents - one for each gamemode. Each one was fairly more thorough than I expected, including visual aids and stuff like that.


For the most part, a lot of the suggested changes are reasonable. In some cases, the ideas include stuff I've thought of myself - or even stuff we used to have before. While I currently won't go into a ton of detail, nor will I promise that anything listed below will definitely 100% happen, the key suggestions that we're currently considering going along with and introducing include:

  • Additional NPC Usage - Essentially, having more NPCs used for a variety of purposes - such as links, shops, etc.
  • Tab Menu Updates - Nothing too significant would be done here, just having some minor additions to the tab menu besides just regular statistics.
  • Survival Shop - This is one of those that we used to have back in the day, an official server shop in Survival. We ditched it primarily because it de-incentivized the creation of player shops. While this is still a concern for us, we hope to be able to balance it a bit better should we decide to introduce it again.
  • Jobs - Another feature we used to have, and (somewhat) recently at that. It was removed both due to it having some pretty serious issues (at least with how we had it configured) where it'd issue far too much reward. When we tried to fix it, it actually started awarding negative amounts of money - in other words, you would actually lose money by progressing through a given job. Ouch. These issues would have to be remedied before we introduced it to Survival again.
  • Additional Playtime Rewards - Many years ago, we introduced "Time-Based Ranking", or as it's currently known as by the plugin we use for it, Autorank. This was a way to allow ranks to be obtained not just via real-world cash (or "donations"), but by simply playing for a while. This is cool and all, but currently it's the only thing you get for straight playtime. One thing we'd like to do is introduce additional types of rewards for a certain repeating amount of playtime, such as a secondary global currency. What we're thinking of doing here is finally introducing "CUPoints", a planned universal currency that would be earned via certain minigames - though in its original implementation, it was very easy to burn through parkour maps and rack up massive amounts of points. Additionally, there was never any form of store to actually use those points. Things will be a bit different this time around - and they'll probably be called something else, too. The original name was just derived from NDPoints, a similar type of secondary currency found on NuclearDistrict's MC server - the name we're currently thinking of is just "Tokens". A bit generic perhaps, but sounds a bit better in our opinion than CUPoints.
  • Additional Crates - We've had the single "VoteCrate" for a long time, however the crate does have its limits. Primarily, the fact that there's just one crate. What we're thinking of doing is expanding the crate selection, and making use of the Tokens system described above - issuing 1 per vote - and allowing the user to choose what type of crate key they want. Better keys would be more expensive, but this way you'd have a great deal more control than just a single crate and hoping for the best. We'll probably keep the current crate as it is currently and have it be worth 1 key, but have some other additional goodies and some "guaranteed good item" crates for a larger amount of tokens.


Some things have actually already started to make their way in - we recently introduced a default scoreboard in most gamemodes that shows various statistics and information, depending on the gamemode, along with the redesigned holograms found in the hub. As a side note: if you aren't a fan of the default scoreboards, you can in fact turn them off per-gamemode using /sb toggle. This was a hard requirement for me to introduce the feature to begin with - as I figured there'd be a number of people for whom the scoreboard is just annoying and distracting, or even intrusive depending on the player's GUI scale and/or resolution.


Note that the above changes described aren't all that was suggested. There were other things proposed as well, however we aren't currently certain if or how we want to pursue those other changes. Some of them sound interesting, but could potentially do more harm than good. Others (though to be clear, very few others) are ones that we internally disagree with - such as having customizable rank prefixes (as in, your rank prefix could be literally anything for a certain in-game price), and replacing portals to switch gamemodes with NPCs.


The NPC thing is an interesting idea, and one that I won't entirely rule out as a secondary alternative. However, one thing that I can guarantee is that our use of portals isn't going anywhere. To me, and to others, it conceptually makes a lot more sense to enter a portal and be transported somewhere, rather than effectively walking up to some dude and magically being warped somewhere.


The Paid Hub

Oh, right - I almost forgot! I paid for a professionally built hub! And it was pretty much a waste of money.


I'm not going to name the builder or the group they belong to, for obvious reason - as I don't entirely put fault on them. Rather, I think it's just that what I expect out of a hub, and what the "typical" modern day MC hub contain and look like aren't necessarily aligned. At first glance, I thought it was decent - however, upon having nearly every person who saw it tell me all the ways they didn't like it, and looking deeper at it myself, the general list of complaints include:

  • Too much strange block palette use - The build has a lot of areas that use a variety of weird and unconventional blocks. The general aesthetic was a tropical island type thing, and the giant palm trees had bark made of a bunch of weird blocks. Most of the beaches were not just made of sand, but also included birch planks. The terrain underwater had the majority of it made up of different wood types - seeming to try to add some additional layering/depth.
  • Lack of explorability - Unlike many of our hubs thus far, there was virtually nothing in terms of secrets to find, and not many ways to really explore. The only secrets were two things I explicitly requested - the inclusion of the classic space shuttle from old CU, and a Nuclear District tribute room. That's it. One thing that was cool, however, was being able to climb to the top of each and every cliff. What's less cool is that that was made possible by me adding vines in, and that out-of-the-box, this was not possible at all.
  • Too much "smoke and mirrors" - Similar to the above point, there's certain parts of the build that are clearly not intended to be seen up-close. The biggest example of this was the variety of buildings. There's a whole town on this little remote island, except every single building, minus the information building and the ND tribute building, are fake. They have no interior, and they don't even have normal doors - opting instead for large black voids that are quite a bit larger than a normal Minecraft door. Most buildings are sized and shaped in such a way that you couldn't even easily add an interior, without completely reshaping and resizing the entire building.
  • Strange areas that come across as incomplete and undetailed - Most of the build is reasonably well detailed, but the primary example of where that isn't the case is underwater - it's just a super smooth hill thing that doesn't have much detail to it, and there's nothing even under the water in terms of plants, rocks, or anything like that - just basic hilly-looking terrain (once again, made of wood - see the first point in case you skipped past that part).

If you're curious as to why these issues are even issues, check the spoiler below - I wrapped it in the spoiler tag because it ended up being a fairly wordy explanation, and it's something that, while important, may be something a lot of you folk already know about to some extent.



The central thing I've concluded from these key issues is, as I said before, a fundamental difference in the way that other servers (or at least, some of them) build hubs, and how we at CU build hubs. One could make the argument that a lot of the above issues are a bit nitpicky, and that there's not much point in having all these extra details that nobody will ever even see. And you know what? That's not necessarily wrong - unless we're talking about Chaotic United.


One of the big things that's been (more or less) a constant with CU spawns and hubs is an element of exploration. In part, this stems from old CU - where you had to register on the forums in order to actually play on the server outside of talking in chat and looking around. And so, while you waited to get promoted up to Member, you'd often just wander around the spawn and see what you could find. Early spawns were pretty small and didn't have much to see, but as the years passed they gradually got larger and included more stuff to see. When we revived CU, we sort of did a similar process - our early hubs were fairly small, with only the odd thing here or there to find. But as time went on, our hubs got larger and, by extension, had more potential for stuff to see. Even when we later did a sort of "soft-reset" and went back to smaller biosphere hubs, we did our best to pack them with neat stuff to see if you made your way out.


It's easy to look and say that it's a giant time investment for stuff that 90% of players won't even bother to look at - especially since today, registration is entirely optional. However, even still - it's a staple. It's something small that makes us unique. It's a direct manifestation of the passion we have for the community and the MC server, in a sense. I don't even disagree that most people won't notice or care, and I'm well aware of the purpose of hubs to be a utility first - that's generally how we design our hubs and spawns in the first place. But just because most won't see it or care, doesn't make it unimportant. The same goes for stuff like the Nuclear District tribute room and the space shuttle - and while both of these (particularly the shuttle) are newer recurring inclusions, and while some will get annoyed by how this random space shuttle that looks like a 2012 build looks out of place, these things are yet another way that we honor and respect our past.


Those who built and operated Nuclear District played a significant role in the fact that Chaotic United even exists today. For all the trouble and drama that happened between ND and CU in the early days of the revival, their willingness to give us a shot helped us out a great deal - it's because of the merge we did that allowed us to carry their torch forward, with their blessing. It's why their forums license powers our own forums today, and why the decent chunk of topics from their forums will live on for as long as we continue to exist. And odds are, it's why I even stuck around long enough to care to bring CU back at all.


When the old CU was rebranded as HurricaneCraft during that short time, I kept playing on there for a brief time. But I had a number of frustrations with it - old donation ranks weren't honored at all, very few familiar faces were around, and things just weren't very developed. It didn't feel right - and odds are, if ND had never existed, or had ntx2 never pulled me over on an alt account and told me about ND, I may have just left HurricaneCraft or played until it closed, and then left this entire thing behind. Had that happened, history would've turned out very differently - and odds are, Chaotic United's legacy would've died out in 2016. Those people poured in huge amounts of effort and dedication and burned themselves out doing it - and part of what I want to do is make sure that those efforts, that all of this, wasn't in vain. That it can all build up to something greater that can truly stand the test of time.


And so, to come back to the paid hub - with the issues it had, we opted to just ditch it, and eat the cost, and simply not use it. However, that doesn't mean that we're just nuking it, or that we'll never use parts of it here or there. One thing we've done is added it to the hub archives - if you'd like to explore this hub in-person, just do /warp hub_2023.



Website Changes

Alright - at long last, let's discuss those website changes.


For a long time (about 11 years, in fact), there's been this separation between the "main website" and the "forums". During the old CU days, they had a period of time where their homepage was actually a proper portal, integrated with the forums - it was virtually seamless. However, later on in the old CU's run, they changed back to a separate homepage - and that trend continued throughout the rest of CU's life, through all of ND's life, and through all of the new CU's life.


Until today.


Something that we've been gradually doing is replacing the old "main website" pages with redesigned pages that both look better, and are built using the forums' technology. This has been an ongoing project for quite some time - it started with the helpcenter, then the about section, then the different pages for each server's information, and most recently a couple leftover pages from the old helpcenter - and finally, now, the homepage.


The redesigned homepage contains a number of improvements. Besides a nice facelift, it shows several recent news posts and has a better display for the different servers - including their IPs within each server's block rather than on the old info sidebar block. Additionally, much of the text - including the about text on the homepage which for a long time has just been copy/pasted and slightly altered/expanded text that dates back to the Nuclear District about pages from 2015/2016. A lot of stuff in there was poorly written, and was inaccurate in some cases - for instance, stating that we are continuously exploring options for new gameservers. For better or for worse, we've been primarily Minecraft focused for many years now - and that isn't changing anytime soon.


The layout is otherwise mostly the same, with the other obvious improvement being the updated "proceed" section at the bottom. Most immediately, it's split in half showing options for both Forums and Discord - since a lot of activity nowadays is on Discord, it seems kind of silly to not showcase that on the homepage. Along with that, both sections have nice background images - like it was originally supposed to on the previous homepage. The basic idea was actually inspired from the very first ND homepage, fun fact.


The one major technical change this required was moving the forums installation out of the /forums subfolder and into the root of the website directory. This means that, among other things, stuff like the downloads section, about pages, and everything else that it isn't the literal forums won't have the /forums prefix anymore. We've taken care to ensure that the majority of old links still redirect properly, since a lot of stuff is configured in a way that depends on those old links working - and of course any old bookmarks or links on pages or anything else like that needs to keep working too.


However, this isn't the end of the old main website - at least, not entirely. It's the end of it being used as CU's main website, but it's not just going into the void to never be seen again. It has instead simply been relocated to a new home.


The (very early work-in-progress) Chaotic United Archives

Currently, the old website as it was just before the migration can be seen at Something I've been wanting to do for a long time is have something similar to what we have setup for Nuclear District - except bigger and better. First and foremost, it's gonna be the permanent home of the old main website as it existed until today. Down the road, however, we'll be restoring all the old versions of the main website - allowing you to go through and revisit the site through each major update and redesign.


But that's not all. We also plan to reintroduce older versions of the forums - mainly, the final copy of the forums prior to updating to IPB4 and prior to the Nuclear District merge. Even though the merge was only about a year long, it was during that merge that we started to begin to develop a bit more understanding of keeping things professional-looking. As such, I'll be restoring one of those old backups and putting it up for viewing.


Eventually, I want to also extend that back to old CU stuff as well - which will likely involve rebuilding a lot of stuff based on old snapshots. The eventual end goal is gonna be to have as much historical CU web content up and viewable as possible. I'd like to even extend that further to some other past projects, such as United AlyCraft and other... more obscure projects. However, all of that is stuff that's gonna take time - but today marks the first step in that process.


Most old URLs that reference stuff from the old main website have been redirected to the archived site, with most remaining links to be configured in the coming days. For the most part, things should be pretty seamless.




Whew - that ended up being a lot longer than I was expecting, but hey - it's been a while, anyways. Regardless - if you find any issues with the website - like any missing images, any broken links, etc - please be sure to report it on the bug tracker! Otherwise, be sure to keep your eyes peeled - like always, there's stuff coming down the pipeline that we can't wait to share.

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