As a forward, I would like to warn you that it is very early, I am somewhat invested in the subject, and I like to write.The Anti-Defense Manifesto
Recently, the inevitable happened. A band of raiders found Pandora and, rather than just grab and go, they decided they'd stick around and torment the city. Folks are beginning to consider just cutting their losses and moving. In the meantime, plans going forward are being discussed.
tHe_kiiD wrote:So what are we gonna do with the griefer problem? I say we move to a new location...
...For the mean time I will start hauling the hidden chest to the cave system. they, once again, failed to find them.
While the intention in this statement is good, there's a problem. It suggests, essentially, that we react to the fall of one centralized base by moving to another centralized base. Centralizing, to put it bluntly, simply doesn't work. The set-up of the game does not allow it. Given time (and possibly illicit aid) someone you don't want finding your base is going to find your base; from there, it's frankly not that hard for a dedicated attacker to compromise any physical defenses. What I seek to push towards is a distributed network. A system where the fall of your base (your base will
fall, sooner or later) is not a catastrophe that leads to rushed counterattacks and speculative defense proposals, but an annoyance that, similar to dying, is ultimately a trivial loss. The Problem
Stop me if you've heard this. A group of players are living on a citadel in the sky. Suddenly (and unsurprisingly) they are attacked by a group of raiders. Using their high ground, the defenders are able to repel the raiders. For now, at least. Satisfied with their success, the defenders log off. It is late, and furthermore, Sunday night. Fast forward several hours. When the residents of our hypothetical city log back on, they find their city in ruins. While they were away, another group, unrelated to the first, towered up to the city and went to town.
This story is fairly standard for a hypothetical situation, in that it isn't hypothetical at all. Such is the story Bespin, which loses just about everything that isn't tucked away in a corner or on person every day. As a central hub, Bespin generally is able to leverage its considerable workforce to repair in time for the next attack; however, many smaller bases lack such luxuries and ultimately fold under similar stress.
Illustrated in this example are the two key flaws in base defense: constant vigilance, and the ineffectiveness of static defenses. At first, the defenders were able to outplay the attackers. As Kiid and Jello have themselves demonstrated, active defenders can utilize various forms of dynamic defenses and stockpiled resources to keep an attack at bay. Unfortunately these defenses -be they walls, alarms, or trick sand falls- have time and again proven themselves ineffective without players to leverage them (see: Bespin and the second attack on Pandora). If an adequate guard could be mobilized around the clock, such defenses could prove viable. However, as the professional Minecraft scene has yet to take off, finding and maintaining a group will ultimately rely on maintaining a large and diverse player base - a feat which, beyond bringing its own problems, is not necessarily easy to maintain.
Of course, just criticizing the current system is easy and, frankly, unproductive. What we need isThe Solution
Working off the assumption that is no truly secure base, it can be concluded that the question in constructing a base is not whether it will withstand detection and attack, but rather how long it will take to detect and, once detected, how much stands to be lost once it is razed. Using this as a basis, we can construct two main criteria in base building: detectability, and expendability.Detectability
The first of these criteria is no doubt familiar to most readers. A lot of work has been put into devising ways to avoid detection, from simply burying your chests to devising minimalist base footprints. However, most of these systems devolve into one basic concept: hiding underground. With an underground base visibility (and in turn the danger of a casual griefer) can be largely reduced. From there, additional steps, such as hiding entrances underwater or in jungles, minimizing base size, and building on uncommonly-mined heights can be taken to further reduce visibility. How exactly to implement such designs is a well-debated topic and, as detectability is merely a portion of this proposal, I will leave such details to the "experts
." The important thing to remember, however, is that such defenses will be imperfect; all it takes is one cheater, a chunk error, or even blind luck to destroy the cleverest of concealments.Expendability
This brings us to our second criteria: expendability. In the current system, when destruction is not a matter of "if," but "when," being able to abandon a base is a valuable ability. Unfortunately, it's also a relatively uncommon one. Many players develop an attachment to a certain base; beyond this, such a base often is their only
base. These attachments often lead to increased investments into a base. Increased investments invariable lead to increased losses, not only in the initial attack, but in subsequent efforts to rebuild and fight repeat attacks as well. While the inevitable will not necessarily force players to abandon their projects -Bespin and Schneider Farms are examples of this exception- the costs of repeated destruction and reconstruction can be crippling.
As a contrast to these dearly held bases, the expendable base holds little to get attached to. Valuables are stored off-site, with the base itself maintaining only the necessities- beds, crafting supplies, basic materials (food, stone, etc.), and, depending on the size or purpose, farms. Decorations should be kept simple and cheap- wooden benches or paintings are potential ideas, while ornate designs or rare blocks are to be avoided. All of this leads to a base which, should it come under attack, can be easily abandoned and, should it be deemed safe to return, requires minimal effort to reclaim. The builder should, ideally, always act as if a griefer has already discovered and announced his intentions to destroy the base.The Network
It is at this point, having built a hard-to-detect, easy-to-abandon base, that we reach the key behind this solution: do it again. That first base has already been condemned by fate; there is little sense in waiting for its sentence to pass before restarting. Of course, this second base is also living on borrowed time, so it may be wise to work on a third as well, and so on. Ultimately, one should end up with a network of interchangeable bases and caches, through which the loss from an attack is lessened.Implementation
We at xkcd have, to a extend, been practicing this "Distributed Network" already in the form of off-site resource caching. From this point on there are various ways to proceed. The simplest (and perhaps safest) way is, of course, to begin constructing ancillary bases around the map, all the while making sure to maintain both a low profile and a low cost. We could also begin "annexing" the various ruins and abandoned bases that litter the map, or attempt to setup sub-bases or "embassies" in existing towns like Bespin or the Farm. Such maneuvers, while carrying an increased risk of discovery, would also involve little to no labor, greatly decreasing the investment in such a base.
Beyond the base concept, a distributed network carries several other possible applications. Intentionally conspicuous bases could be designed as decoys, to distract potential griefers and prolong the lifetimes of the real bases. On a more practical level, having "homes" located across the map would help both travel and new members of the group, as the distance between one's current location and the nearest safehouse is reduced. Of course, it also comes with the potential for flaws. Such a system would likely spread the group across the map, or in turn revert to a centralized location as members coalesce. In order to maintain this system, metagame, in the form of records (we have), forums (we have), and chat (we don't have), would likely expand from a useful tool to a necessity.
We have not been the first to experiment in distributing our power and, in all likelihood, we will not be the last. But what I suggest here is that we go the next step. That we abandon a system of centralized defense that, like the ruins it leaves, is horribly broken. That we abandon mere speculation and "what-ifs" and try a new approach. Death is cheap, adventure is fun, and Minecraft is at its roots about innovation; fighting yet another a losing battle over a plot of land is, simply, none of the above.