Migration to 1.8.4

It been a long couple of months with everything that has been going on in real life and in the Minecraft community. There were days when it seemed that whatever direction we picked we wound up chasing our own tails. But persistent paid off. System designs are set in stone and the implementation phase will kick into full gear shortly.

I’m certain those of you that have hosted your own Minecraft server can attest that there is a big difference between deploying a server and managing one effectively. Almost anyone coupled with a set of well written instructions can set up a server for their friends and family. But as soon as it is open to the public a completely different set of tasks, many of which detract from enjoying the server, come into play. Most of these revolve around day-to-day management by administrators and moderators; maintenance and upkeep; configuration and change management, feature compatibility, upgrades, and so on. These tasks tend to be a contributing factor to the demise of many servers. Administrators and moderators just get burnt out and realize that it is no longer any fun, especially when time is limited.

I know for certain that Meatbawllz, Mudwog, Emulated, LightWarriorK, myself, and other staff have felt that way from time to time over our four-year Veterancraft history. However, for some reason or another, we are stubborn and just enjoy the game too much to let those issues get in the way of maintaining a good server for our members and the community. Fortunately, our new system is designed to support and help with such laborious activities and in the long run will make it more enjoyable for all those that put their blood, sweat, and tears into Veterancraft.

There are too many things going on behind the scenes to explain them all. Many of them are transparent to the game and members, but other will have some impact. With that, I will summarize key highlights, some of which I may have already mentioned in prior posts.

New Servers

The tentative move date to our new servers will be May 31, 2015, it may be a couple days sooner, but right now that is the “drop dead” date we’ve set. We will be moving Veterancraft onto our brand-spanking new dual server systems collocated at OVH’s BHS data center near Montreal, Quebec. I have visited the data center myself and all I can say is that it is a geek’s wet dream. I almost considered a career change while there.

It is upon those servers that we will deploy Javacraft’s MEMES (Minecraft Enterprise Management & Environment Systems), which consists of support and backend services for hosting multiple Minecraft instances. Some of these services include, but are not limited to, database servers, directory servers, mail server, map servers, website & forums, wikis, and anything else that will add quality and support existing and new features. Most of these will be on our BSP (Backend Server Platform), while Minecraft instances will be deployed on our MSP (Minecraft Server Platform).

In essence, we are becoming our own VPS provider under which we can centrally manage all Minecraft instances and deploy necessary resources (CPUs, memory, etc.) to specific Minecraft instances as needed. If we run out of horsepower, it is just a matter of adding another MSP to the fold – provisioning of such can happen as quick as a few minutes to no more than 24 hours. This gives us a tremendous amount of flexibility and scalability that was previously impossible or too cost prohibitive. The most prevalent feature is the ability to add new special purpose Minecraft instances without affecting our normal server(s). For example, large-scale Hunger Game competitions, Red vs. Blue challenges, etc., etc. I’m certain once this sinks in, there will be many, many suggestions pouring in from the community.

Spigot/BungeeCord

All our CraftBukkit-based servers will now use Spigot, which is a much-improved version of CraftBukkit. Furthermore, we will be using BungeeCord to seamlessly join multiple servers together. For example, if we are running one of our weekend events on a separate event server, members can still walk through a portal but will be instantly connected to the event server without having to log off and back on to a different server. There are many benefits to having separate servers such as large scale events not impacting normal game play; or, being able to specifically tailor features to ensure that everyone is on a level playing field.

Mudwog and I have performed extensive testing of various Spigot aspects and have come to greatly appreciate the improvements that md_5 and his team have added to the overall CraftBukkit architecture. In hindsight, we should have switched to Spigot a long time ago. Oh well, better late than never.

At this moment, BungeeCord is a major learning curve for us, as it has its own plugin architecture to which we can add intra-server functions. At first we will start off simple, but eventually we will focus on several cross-server capabilities such as chat, messaging, locating players, and player-to-player teleportation.

Beta Tests

Our goal for the next week or so is to deploy a fully functioning beta version of Arda under 1.8.4 with all the bells and whistles that our members currently enjoy. Up till now, we have only performed piecemeal plugin tests. In all but the rarest cases, recent tests passed with flying colors, especially since plugin authors have finished updates or are actively engaged in releasing new versions. The goal of this exercise will be to test a full deployment of ALL plugins in order to uncover any incompatibilities or problems between them and to stress test a fully functioning server. Furthermore, we also hope to uncover any remaining issues regarding the use of UUIDs in lieu of players’ IGN to register settings, preferences, and any other potential cross-server management issues. The UUID issue is extremely important to once and for all overcome name change issues.

Once completed, I expected that we will open the beta installation for a short period of time and encourage our members to give it a whirl. This should help us uncover additional bugs or configuration issues (undocumented features) that may have been overlooked. Furthermore, it will greatly help us evaluate overall performance. I will have more information about the beta test as we draw closer. Please understand that this will only be a beta test. It will use a snapshot of Arda. Any changes made on the beta server will not survive the test period.

Vetronia

It is time to “mothball” Vetronia. We are coming up quickly on Arda’s 1-year anniversary and it time to cut the apron strings. Once we officially upgrade to 1.8.4, Vetronia will be split off to its own 1.8.4 server. Vetronia will essential become a “read-only” world meaning that members can still visit and browse around, but building and zoning will no longer be permitted. Furthermore, Vetronia will have a limited number of plugins primarily for the purposes of protection, logging, and transportation. The exact composition of those plugins is yet to be determined.

After the split, members will still be able to teleport between Arda and Vetronia as before by stepping through portals. However, they will not be able to carry inventory from one to the other. If members still have active inventories or builds in Vetronia, now is the time to start moving them to Arda.

I know full well that a few members will grumble. My heart bleeds for you, but the writing has been on the wall for well over 7 months. Veterancraft continues to strive to maintain a relatively permanent main world, which has been Arda for the past 7 months. Take a look at Vetronia. It was released as a Beta 1.8 world in August 2011 and has survived upgrades of Beta 1.9, Production 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, and even into 1.8. On more traditional servers that would have been between 5 to 10 map wipes, depending on their server admin’s wherewithal or lack thereof. I think that speaks for itself as to the permanency of Arda. Given our secondary worlds, I don’t expect anything to change in the near future. As long as it is under our control, we will refrain from wiping our main world. I’m not sure what Mojo-soft is planning for 2.0, but hopefully it will be no different than other major releases; however, it doesn’t hurt if everyone keeps their fingers crossed.

Rule Changes

Once Vetronia is split from Arda, it will allow us to streamline certain rules. For example, our general griefing/theft rules will lean more to “If it isn’t protected, it is fair game.” As with any body of law, there will be exceptions and/or special circumstances. Just as an example, roadways cannot be readily protected and thus will fall under automate protection. Other members can modify roadways for purposes of extending them or branching off, but anyone changing a road for reasons other than that will be considered an act of griefing. I’m sure there will be a whole slew of discussions as a result of this, but that is another post for another time.

In Summary

  • Tentative update/move to 1.8.4 and new servers date is May 31, 2015.
  • Vetronia will be split off as its own server and put into “read-only” mode.
  • Some minor rule changes will occur after the split.
  • If you still have stuff in Vetronia, move it now!

Final Word

Please make sure to read the 1.8.4 FAQ before asking questions. It will be updated as new questions are answered.

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