On the Geopolitical Minecraft Server

A dying game mode with a flurry of issues. How can they be fixed?

The geopolitical server, also known as an Earth server or Towny server. This type of Minecraft server has taken the Minecraft community by storm over the last 5 years, experiencing a rise, peak, and slow decline which we are experiencing in the current day. How did we we get here? And how will things evolve in the future?

The first glaring issue when examining the Geopolitical Minecraft Server: few know what it really means. Including Geopolitical server owners and players themselves. The blurred definitions of this game mode has allowed for an… interesting mix of players that find themselves playing on servers calling themselves “Geopols”.

In truth, the vast majority of Geopol servers are glorified versions of the Factions gamemode. They have very little to do with geopolitical strategy, and more to do with territorial conquest.

In the abstract, there’s nothing wrong with this. This form of server has proven to be popular and successful for some networks. However, is this what one should expect when they are looking for “geopolitics”? The domination of the factions-on-an-earth-map type of server has created a negative stereotype of the geopolitical server for players who are more interested in the nation-building and strategics one would expect when they hear a server defined as “geopolitical.”

It is well known among the server admin community that factions server breed a very toxic environment, which is also off-putting for *most* Minecraft players. The rugged PvP competition has little to do with any nationbuilding and more to do with crushing your opponents for the sake of it, with no regard for any “geopolitical simulation” the server might have. Wars will start here based on personal grudges, and not national interests.

This type of server CAN be fun, but it suffers from the aforementioned tendency to breed toxicity, and short and repetitive seasons. Why are the seasons short and repetitive? Because there is no “political roleplaying” element to motivate player actions. In the factions-esque “geopol”, self-sufficiency can be achieved quickly and by one single dedicated grinder. If your country can achieve economic and military self-sufficiency in 72 hours of grinding, what else is left to do? Nothing can motivate or change the political scene besides the egos of players.

Again, this is not necessarily something bad. This just runs counter to a server being truly “geopolitical”. Thus, the average geopolitical server, which seeks to actually be “geopolitical”, starts off with a poor reputation among the general Minecraft player-base.

So for the purposes of our analysis, we will both eliminate the “factions-esque geopol” as a kind of geopolitical server, and insist that a server that seeks to be successful in this space MUST mark itself a geopolitical server, and not a factions server. It must be mentioned explicitly, and reiterated again and again. You would think this to be something self-evident, but experience tells me otherwise. No doubt can be left in the mind of players of this fact. If this is not done, you risk attracting players that you do not seek to cater to.

The “factions-esque geopol” player has very little in common to do with the “true geopolitical” player. They seek a very different experience, and a server administration must make it clear what kind of server they are to market themselves to the correct audience. Failure to do this risks alienating the player-base a server is looking for, as “true geopol” players will be wary of engaging with the “factions-esque” players, who will have very little interest in roleplaying and nationbuilding.

A geopolitical server which seeks to be reflective of the dynamics real world politics and economics must then also accommodate different kinds of people who do different kinds of things.

The ideal geopol server thus must balance several different play styles, without allowing one to overpower the other. Builders, pvpers, traders, role-players, and casual players should all be able to integrate smoothly into the server’s world.

This his rarely ever been achieved. In a sustainable form, anyways.

Without heavy restrictions and rebalances imposed on the world through plugins [see the development of CivEngine / NationStates], I believe this is impossible to achieve without some form of active admin intervention. Now, some servers have in the past taken this route of plugin rebalancing, such as the “Civ” genre of server, which predates the geopolitical Earth server. However, this genre also suffered from its own issues of repetitive seasons (though much longer than in the factions-esque server!).

Suppression of groups and gameplay elements that would be harmful to the balance of the world is a necessity. Whether these are PvP groups, [factions-esque players will be present no matter what. Allowing them to gain too much power and influence will be a deathblow to a server that wants to be truly geopolitical] economy breakers, [such as the well-known minecraft farm, which sends inflation to the moon of your average Minecraft economy], all must be suppressed or mitigated.

This will obviously anger a portion of players. Yet, which portion? The more geopolitically, roleplay oriented, or the SMP/Factions oriented players?

A server can not cater to every demographic. As mentioned before, a server, geopolitical or otherwise, must establish its character clearly. Without an already large, mature, and established community, admin “guidance” is critical in keeping a geopolitical server stable. This the unfortunate truth, which is saddening as one would like to see a geopolitical world run amok a true social simulation with zero admin intervention, Minecraft is not a game suited to do that by the nature of its vanilla economics and incentives.

The Solution is Roleplaying

^Section title.

We’ve established that Minecraft as a game itself is not suited to be a viable geopolitical environment without several gamechanging mechanisms added. The average geopol server doesn’t have these, and is content with plugging in Towny and calling it a day. The “Civ” genre of server pioneered game-changing elements to add more stakes to a geopolitical situation, however, it was poorly thought out and the gamemode has since more or less died out, as it still succumbed to other ills that the geopol gamemode faces today, such as factions-esque players, econ inflation, etc.

Thus, roleplaying is literally the best thing one can do for a geopolitical server that is still mostly vanilla. Give players incentives to actively roleplay and put effort into the pretend game that it really is.

This means:

  • Documenting world history
  • Keeping track of notable events and player achivements
  • Creating in-game organizations and groups
  • Requiring players to develop their nation and characters as a *condition* of playing on the server.
  • Active and ruthless suppression of elements that try to break roleplay

The ideal scenario is a mixture that combines roleplaying, as well as real economic incentives. However, an admin can not truly achieve this by mashing a plethora plugins together. It just doesn’t work. A carefully designed custom environment would be necessary, to completely overhaul how a geopolitical server and the Minecraft experience works, and this can only be developed with months of work. [see NationStates/CivEngine].

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