Elytra: A Reckoning with the Meta

With no warning, CivClassic Admin Wingzero54 announced to the server on June 15th that “elytra [would be] usable and [be able to be made] in the Animal Husbandry factory” come the nightly server restart, in just over two hours. The black sheep of a full four change notes for the night, the addition of a long-debated vanilla item to CivClassic sparked a heated debate during what are normally the server’s slowest hours.

The first reaction to the update came from SirFrenchie, who declared that “the [elytra] update has to be a joke”; two reactions later, Artienia called the update “pog”. This was a microcosm of the following hour of active debate in CivClassic’s Discord server’s #general channel, which involved dozens of unique contributors and settled around three distinct positions.

The first position was that elytra were bad. Argued mostly by oldfriends and other establishment actors, the anti-elytra camp made a number of arguments against the impending feature: a fear of combat escape, a fear of rail obsolescence, a fear of snitch avoidance, a fear for the server’s balance and success from “2.0 mechanics” (CivClassic is generally similar to CivCraft 2.0, an earlier iteration of Civ), a fear of “assimilating civ into every other shitty survival server”, and other such concerns. In a display of opposition to the change, Gregy165 jokingly proposed an international project to render elytra flight less useful by “cut[ting] the map in half” with city bastions “from Mir to HJE”, which received 19 upvotes.

The second position was that elytra were good. Largely promoted by more lighthearted players, the pro-elytra camp proffered an array of arguments for the new mobility option: a simple excitement for flight, faith in said flight’s limitations (elytra tatter if flown over a hostile bastion field), acceptance of bold change from “2.0 mechanics”, excitement for novelty, and similar hopeful sentiments. Several adjustments, such as an inability to carry pearls while on elytra or an extension of snitch fields above y=255, were proposed by these elytra advocates as solutions to balance issues brought up by their opponents; none are yet implemented.

The third position was that elytra would be minimal in their impact. This position evolved later on in the debate, as the nightly server restart approached, and largely centered around the thesis that the benefits of elytra use only justified the investments in rare use cases. These elytra pessimists chiefly argued that elytra’s unusability in hostile bastions prevented their use outside of well-known friendly land, and that their high costs (64 essence and 64 phantom membranes each) further prevented their use outside of thoughtfully chosen situations such as vault defense. This camp was the smallest, but, as CivClassic has not experienced any known dramatic meta shifts in the time since elytra’s implementation, carries substantial weight.

CivClassic has long been a server wary of dramatic change; its very name indicates its dedication to an existing formula. Elytra represent a turn from this, and it remains to be seen what the long-term implications of this turn will be.

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