The TottonCraft Story
A lot of time has passed since we started TottonCraft and it has now been a few months since our closure. Now is a good time as any to take a step back and reflect on the origins of the server and why we decided to keep it up for 3 years.
What is TottonCraft and why did I spend a good part of my free time on it? It was a server dedicated for adult Minecraft players to build whatever they felt like, without being irritated by younger players or having to worry about their creations being destroyed by vandals. I originally started playing Minecraft with a close friend for several months before we decided to expand by inviting strangers to join us. To avoid constant moderation and stress (oh the stress) we set the server to only accept people we pre-approved. This was achieved by doing a background check on the player, mainly by googling their username and using sites that register who the bad players are.
We started off small, on a measly 192MB server, before gradually increasing the memory available to us. We have rented from various companies in our history, all of which were rather affordable (by the small amount of donations received).
We first opened the server in July 2011 back when Minecraft was still in beta, at the time I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing nor did I realise how much of a time sink this would become. Having to manage a game server where anything can go wrong at any possible time is a bothersome experience. When I wake up in the morning will the server still be up? Has someone been cursing at people all night, or maybe destroyed someones building? It became a thought constantly in the back of my mind, the idea of letting my players down and maybe even losing them to a different server. Even though I wasn’t receiving any contributions in way of money I still put in the hours to motivate the player base. This is perhaps one of the key things to consider when providing a server for people, try to encourage and stimulate the players so that they will keep logging in.
After a couple of weeks of running it solo I found a few people to help me out. A lot of people want power in a server, to be higher ranked than the common player. The main reason I chose who I did to aid me in managing TottonCraft was because they weren’t like that. They honestly wanted to do the same as I did, to provide a safe friendly place for adult players. During our 3 years we hired many others to lighten the load even further giving the main moderators more time to actually play the game instead of fixing problems. But no matter how many people we hired I could never rest easy.
I felt an obligation to the players to keep the server as alive as possible. To keep getting new people, making sure that is wasn’t lagging, that the core TottonCraft experience doesn’t get tainted. These 3 things became increasinly difficult as time went on.
Gaining new users was a tiresome process. First we had to make a post somewhere to advertise the server, followed by manually checking every application sent via our website. Searching up 20-30 candidates was a laborious undertaking and one that I hated doing. This had to be repeated whenever we would notice player numbers drop and was something only I could do. Typically only around 25% of the players we approved became regular players, and from that percentage perhaps only 10% would stick around longer than 3 months.
Server maintenance and stability also ate up a lot of time. Plugins would have to been updated and tested after we upgraded to a newer version, each with their own config files that had to be adjusted to keep in line with our gameplay ideas. When we started the server the only plugins we would use were for creating backups, in case of something catastrophic happening, but as time progressed we came to the realisation that we would need additional ones to keep not only the server safe from potential griefers but to help engage the player base. We were always big on utilising outside game mechanics to help track of server happenings and progress. Our users could check on our site their gameplay stats; their total playtime, block breaks and kills to name a few. I was pleased with the overall way this worked, despite how long it took with my inexperience in web design.
Keeping the TottonCraft experience in line with what we envisioned caused a lot of pondering and discussion within the team. How do we make sure we don’t alienate the people on our server? As we were a very small close-knit community we would live and die by our choices and changes. Even when we decided on a change for the server we would always discuss it first with the player base. Most alterations were to give our users more safety and didn’t majorly affect the core gameplay. We all wanted to play Minecraft as it was intended, so that is what we strived for.
I mentioned earlier how we would use donations to keep this all running. Although the server cost was low (around £50 a year) we were able to fully finance it by user donations sent to my PayPal account. A lot of servers in return of monetary contributions give special perks or powers to the donor, not the case with TottonCraft. It was always my idea that if someone was pleased with the server and would like to say thanks then sending us a few pounds would be more than adequate and greatly appreciated. During the first 2 years we managed to just scrape by without us having to make up any extra money to cover the bill. For the last year though we decided to build our own server. Benefits of this were that after the initial cost we would no longer have to pay a monthly fee to anyone, but we would have to get around £80 in donations beforehand. We were able to get the full amount in less than 24 hours. I found this incredibly touching, people were more than willing to take a gamble with us, for nothing in return, just purely because they enjoyed what we gave them. One user donated some spare computer parts and one of the head admins hosted the computer at his house in NY.
However, after time my interest in the game dwindled, down to other games to play and my disinterest in the way the development of the actual game was headed. TottonCraft needed attention, my staff could handle it but they were also losing interest fast. One by one they stopped playing, until nobody remained. Players began to leave. We couldn’t add more without an active staff presence and I sadly was not prepared to idle in the server after getting home from work to monitor activity. I felt a sense of guilt, that what I had helped to achieve was going down the toilet. This went on for a months with myself updating what needed to, doing the bare minimim to keep it running. But this was not to last.
A couple of months back the trusty computer that was running the server died. Something burnt out inside it and im just glad it didn’t cause a fire. Now was a good time as any to call it quits and I posted this on the TottonCraft subreddit titled ‘The End’.
Everyone has moved on and I don’t have the time or energy to keep this going anymore. TottonCraft will be closing down, more or less.
I have moved the server to my own personal vps. It may not be as smooth as the previous one but I think it should be fine for the small group who are still playing. I dont have any plans to close it down completely, so long as there are people who enjoy it.
It has been moved to – samfielding.net so connect to that instead of tottoncraft.com
Everyone will need to reapply to be added, just send me a pm on here or via firstname.lastname@example.org
Dont worry, all of the files were backed up and everything will be the way it was.
We have been doing this for 3 years now and it wasn’t an easy decision to make. Even though the core members left years ago I couldn’t bare to close it down.
You all mean a lot to me.
I will still be reachable on reddit if you want to chat. We can even play together on different games, all my usernames etc are here.
Oh and the mumble server is still up for talking about random crap.
It has truly been a pleasure,
The reason why I kept at it all this time was because we were a group, a family. One that I will never forget.