Minecraft experiment devolves into devastating resource war... or did it? [UPDATED]

Tom Senior at

Minecraft player WordWorksExperiment has posted on the Minecraft forums with the story of an experiment that allegedly turned a group of 30 volunteers into a collection of warring gangs engaged in a battle for resources that obliterated the world in less than two months. Since then, details have come out that seem to suggest the story was a hoax. We've included them at the end of this article.

WordWorks describes the simple set up. A group of Minecraft players were invited onto a server walled off by indestructible bedrock. Chatter was limited mostly to third-party programs, allowing for private communication between players and, to keep things fair, play was only allowed to continue when all players were online at the same time. Everything proceeded calmly for a short while. Then resources started to run out.

"The loss of a resource such as clay was a small warning most players missed," WordWorks notes. Within a week, trees were in short supply. Wood is essential for tool building in Minecraft, and so tensions began to mount.

According to WordWork's account, the playerbase divided into four factions, The Brotherhood, The Dwarves, The Axe and The Merchants Guild, who decided to pool their resources to launch ambitious build projects and hoard dwindling supplies of precious wood. Strip mining began as factions raced to secure rare quantities of diamond. With diamond pickaxes in hand, obsidian mining became possible. A nether portal was built, but quickly broken down by The Brotherhood to act as a foundation for their castle.

The Brotherhood's castle defends a vital patch of grass.

One pair of players saw the danger signs earlier than the others. They built a base attached to a mountain, waited until grass had spread onto their dirt platform and then smashed the mountain to leave a floating, sustainable fortress. From their platform they raided the world below, destroying vital blocks. "From the first week in they began systematically depleting resources in a way that would set the other players behind. Glass windows were broken, trees and saplings were stolen, massive amounts of dirt were farmed"

This activity earned them the nickname "dick-ass griefers." An absence of dirt in the world meant that there were few places that grass could grow, and grass is key to food production and survival in Minecraft. "Wars over surfaces with grass broke out. The Dwarves even showed interest and tried to create establishments on the surface but had trouble handling holding ground. The Merchant’s Guild had not thought ahead but began gathering as many drops from animals spawned on grass to be traded as rarities in the future."

The Merchant's Guild were making good use of the mining and gathering they performed in the early game. They'd started selling rare ores and blocks to the struggling factions. As more and more goods vanished from the bedrock box, the struggling factions stopped paying, and started building dirt shelters on the broken landscape to fend off nightly monsters. "Five weeks into the experiment a lot of players had lost the will to play," says WordWorks.

The Griefer's floating base.

The map was devastated. The land beneath the floating griefer fortress had been mined almost down to the bedrock. This disloded the Dwarves from their underground home, but it wasn't long before the weakened factions banded together to fight for survival. "Most of them were either trying to mine cobblestone for more trade with the Merchant’s Guild for sticks for more pickaxes or trying to survive the night in dirt houses," WordWorks explains.

"It was a vicious cycle that was barely profitable. But a pattern did emerge. The players were effectively working together to survive the night. While there was still rampant war and grief the players that had little had banded together to try to survive the harsh environment."

And so the experiment ended. Looking at the screenshots, it's almost hard to believe the levels of devastation described in the account but, if true, it's a fascinating story, and sounds like a test that should definitely be repeated. All you need is a bedrock box and some willing, preferably unknowing volunteers. How would you survive the experiment?

[UPDATE]

Details have emerged that seem to suggest that the experiment was a hoax. Moderators on reddit.com/r/games have marked the thread with a False Information tag, and user dimmidice has presented a list of evidence that lead him to this conclusion.

Among other things, dimmidice points out that the "griefers" base isn't secure at all, as it could be reached by a simple, one-by-one dirt or cobblestone tower. Additionally, the large strip mine shown in one shot is perfectly square, and shows no sign of a staircase the players could have used to get back out. The mine also shows no signs of cobblestone used to block off caves, and it would be insane in this scenario to spend time and coal making enough smooth stone to keep your strip mine obsessive-compulsively uniform.

"Another thing I forgot to point out that seemed strange is the merchants guilds base," user Slynder on the Minecraft forums added. "Their floor is made out of wooden blocks, they could have used that to makes sticks and then tools to mine the iron and gold I pointed out in my earlier posts. And before anyone says it's half-slabs the prerelease for them came out right near the end of the experiment. Also why would the merchants guild even trade to get netherack from the griefers, the merchants guild has a nether portal and it's the only one on the map so they had all the netherack they could want."

Dimmidice points to a world editing program called mcedit as the genesis of the supposed monument to human greed, and claims "those of you who use mcedit will see right away how this world was made."

The story bears similarities to a recent ten year game of Civilization 5 that left the world in tatters, embroiled in a nuclear struggle that couldn't be broken. That story was definitely real. We interviewed the Eternal War player and he told us how the ten-year apocalypse came about.

For more on Minecraft, check out our round up of the 25 best Minecraft mods out there. An upcoming Minecraft update will add new creatures and items to the world, but there's no word yet of a bedrock box survivor mode.