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Minefold Launches Minecraft Game Hosting Service

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the still-waiting-on-minceraft-hosting dept.

Cloud 67

itwbennett writes "If you drew the short straw among your Minecraft-playing friends and ended up running the game server, this news is for you. A YCombinator-funded startup called Minefold will handle all the server admin tasks for just $5 a month. 'Minefold isn't the first firm to offer servers dedicated to game hosting (see for example gameservers.com) but as far as I know they're the first to structure things so each player pays his own way,' writes Peter Smith. 'In other words, if I want to set up a Call of Duty 4 server at Gameservers I can, but it'll cost me (for example) $15.95/month for a 16 player server. So I pay Gameservers and I get my buddies all to send me a few bucks to defray the costs. It's a messy system. Using the Minefold model, everyone would pay $5/month to play wherever they want. On my server today, on someone else's server tomorrow and on their own server the day after that.'"

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ASTROTURF (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39361455)

This is the worst astroturf I have seen on Slashdot in years.
Boo!

NOT ASTROTURF (3, Insightful)

kermyt (99494) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361503)

A new payment model is most certainly news I am interested in hearing about. I am that guy that draws the short straw and ends up running the servers. This Is an innovative payment structure... now lets just see if it catches on.

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (3, Insightful)

ProgrammerJulia (2589195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361517)

There are several problems with it. To begin with, no one wants to pay to play on a server he doesn't know. On top of that, if this is meant for everybody providing payments towards the server, this won't work too well because microtransactions aren't there yet. PayPal, credit cards etc will eat up tons from the transactions. Unless, of course, they make xbox360/ps3 like "wallet" and you can only top it up with like 20 dollars minimum. I still don't see the point.

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (1)

kermyt (99494) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361535)

I still don't see the point.

That's nice. but it has nothing to do with my comment.

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39362361)

Minecraft sucks so this new payment model is not going to be very successful.

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363113)

You didn't read the article or information. You pay $5 a month for unlimited access to MineFold (you can get 10 hours a month for free). Access to minefold allows you to play on any map or create your own maps, as many as your want. There are no "dedicated" servers. If there are no people on your maps it will be saved off, once the first player joins your map, it will spawn a new server. I'm not sure if you can lock your map to only specific users but I believe you can.

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39361519)

astroturf you like is still astroturf. dumbass.

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (1)

kermyt (99494) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361539)

I think it's interesting that all you people complaining about astroturfing are posting as AC.

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39361571)

We live in a basement, so we're not sure what grass roots actually look like.

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39361573)

What exactly is interesting about that?

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (2)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361975)

Confrontation just makes it worse. Ignore them and they will go away.

The model is something that should have arrived a long time ago actually. I can see this becoming quite popular for one only reason: it's a modest subscription for the ability to play many multiplayer games (all games they support and you have off course). It is convenience and service in a cheap(ish) packet.

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39361545)

Not really, its like Xbox Live, with fewer supported games.

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39361613)

exactly this.

and the difference between the old model of "friends chip in for access or special privileges on a server" for whatever game worked because they were friends that either got access or special privileges. Defraying the cost of the server operator was already done, or the server doesn't operate. However, the people not paying, aren't looking to pay to play. If they were they would have already been chipping in for special rights or access on whatever server they frequent, or providing their own.

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39361671)

and I should have said "old model" in quotes, because we already had these types of services when old dialup game services like "won.net" and django or whatever tried to move over to the internet. Notice how they aren't around anymore?

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (1)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362033)

But platform agnostic. And that is important.

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363609)

Not really, its like Xbox Live, with fewer supported games.

Except that, with Xbox Live, the game servers are either running off of one of the players Xboxes (aka the pre-MW2 Call of Duty route) or central servers owned by the publisher (the MW2+ Call of Duty route).

Microsoft has nothing to do with hosting the actual game servers.

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (2)

Spykk (823586) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361611)

Except it isn't really a new payment model. Paying a monthly fee to play on someone else's server has been around since the first pay to play MUDs.

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39361627)

Ffs, I can have a proper, real minecraft server for 4$ month and it's free to play for my friends

also a payment model where both the host and players pay singularly each for the same service.. Taking aside the fact that it's nothing new, if it were 1$ month each, maybe, but at 5$ each player per month is not a business model, is a pipe dream.

Re:NOT ASTROTURF (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361885)

just kick the guys who didn't paypal you cash.

it's not like your deadbeat zero cash in pocket 100% of the time friends will be able to pay for this service either you know.

IS ASTROTURF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39363385)

An advertisement is an advertisement. Take your pro-spam bullshit and fuck off of Slashdot.

Re:ASTROTURF (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361711)

It most certainly is news.
I've never paid minecraft before, yet a simply search gave me dozens of companies hosting mc servers.
Some for $5/mo for upto 5 players instead of $5/mo per player.
But please explain to me; what could be so resource intensive in minecraft as to justify a server for just 5 players?

Re:ASTROTURF (2)

Winckle (870180) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361737)

Minecraft can be pretty grouchy on the RAM it uses.

Re:ASTROTURF (2)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361911)

It also has shit netcode

They've recently hired the guys who made the Bukkit server plugin to work on the multiplayer, so here's hoping it gets alot better quickly.

Re:ASTROTURF (2)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362579)

I'll agree that Minecraft does need a whole bunch of optimization for multiplayer applications.

Two areas that kill Minecraft are the mob interactions (something true for most MMO games), but also the world generation routines that are designed primarily for a single player game but ported over to a multi-player environment. This is also the reason why mounted mobs aren't in Minecraft (especially a mounted dragon) because even a one or two player server would croak in a real hurry if you were flying and generated several new chunks of world data every second.

Then again, who says that ordinary players ought to be able to create new world chunks simply by walking or moving around?

The network messages are also far from optimized and is one area that could be tweaked to significantly improve both bandwidth and CPU usage.

As for the Bukkit devs, one of the major areas of focus that they have been hired on to perform is to produce the API libraries for mods with the goal of unifying the multiplayer and solo mod APIs (or even have a formal API in the first place that makes sense). It seems that goal is sort of going to be contrary to efficient network protocols, but I might be mistaken and could even streamline the solo player version as well. Having a staff of developers rather than two guys who are just sort of slugging it through is going to be interesting. I expect to see more cleanup of the code, but fewer major feature changes... and fewer bugs on major releases.

Re:ASTROTURF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39370327)

But there are mounted mobs, try using a saddle on a pig, you can hop right on it.

Re:ASTROTURF (1)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361915)

More or less because the worlds in minecraft are generated uniquely on each server, and I do believe endless on any direction, the further out you explore, the more resources you are using on the server, ad infinium. Unlike a normal game where you have say 8 GB of a map that is permanantly cached, minecraft may have less detail per inch, but it essentially can have infinate space.

Re:ASTROTURF (1)

omglolbah (731566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362001)

You CAN however avoid loading the blocks that nobody is around, so the infinite map is not the limiting factor, number of players usually is.

Re:ASTROTURF (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362833)

It isn't quite infinite distances in Minecraft, even if effectively it is. When the software starts to have number overflows (exceeding maxint distances and such) the generation code gets screwy and produces some weird terrain that is all but impassible. There are some players who have either "warped" out to those distances just to see what would happen or have taken the time and effort to get out to those parts of the map just to see what it could be.

See also the Far Lands [minecraftwiki.net] article on the game wiki that even has some snapshots of what happens in those distant areas.

Except for issues dealing with altitude, it is possible to have 1:1 scale maps of entire continents like Europe or North America put into Minecraft. I have played on a 1:16 scale Mercator map of the whole Earth (it is a huge map file). With the new map format, it is possible to include biome data as well. That was something missing from the map that I saw as the biome info was arbitrary and misplaced on the earlier versions of Minecraft. As I said, while not infinite, it is effectively so or at least as large as even a fairly huge group of people would want to have.

Re:ASTROTURF (1)

yotto (590067) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361917)

Minecraft has (at least) 2 things going against it. First, it's hard to optimize because every cubic meter can be any of ... a lot of blocks (128? 256? dunno). Plus, the world is 256 blocks tall. If you want to render a square around the player that is 256 meters from the player (which is pretty small) you need 512x512x256 data points which is 67 million blocks. You can do a LITTLE optimizing (Most of the space above 128 is empty, for example) but as players modify the world those optimizations could actually end up hurting.

Secondly, it's written in Java. Nuff said.

Re:ASTROTURF (2)

omglolbah (731566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362037)

256 types of blocks (unless it is an 'anvil' map which has a 4096 limit of block-types).

The world is segmented into chunks 16x16x256 blocks which are grouped into "region" files.
They are stored zipped but seems to be stored in raw structures when running the game.

Each block does not only have a type, but a damage/data value. There is probably also quite a bit of overhead...

The game is overall lacking from optimization and just 'work' on getting things streamlined only a tiny bit better.
Focus seems to be on new features and not stability or optimization so we'll see how that evolves.

Re:ASTROTURF (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362463)

At the very worst case, a 16x16x256 chunk of 256 types could be compressed as a 256x256 8-bit PNG file. Since most of the map would be repetitive (either empty space or vast quantities of "ground" or "wall"), it should compress quite well. To keep the world consistant during play, you'd only need to send regular cumulative delta's and an occasional fresh full image.

Since I don't play the game, I don't have a good idea of the damage/data/etc values, but I dare bet most of them would have a similar repetitive nature (mostly zeroed out data for empty space/ground/passive-blocks).

Re:ASTROTURF (1)

Magic5Ball (188725) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362679)

The 16x16 chunks around each player are also loaded for each player, so the minimum static data per player would be 256 256x256 8-bit PNGs, or 16MB.

But memory to store the blocks is hardly the main problem, even considering that players can move across a chunk in 3 to 4 seconds unassisted, or much faster in ever-popular powered minecarts. Memory to light and shade (and determine the occlusion of) each block is far more challenging when things other than sun emit light, and many blocks occlude or alter light. Much of this work has been off-loaded to the client in recent releases.

The other big challenge is calculating all the permissible and ongoing block-block, player-block, player-player, entity-block, entity-entity, and entity-player interactions, and keeping them consistent across all nodes. This is not trivial; there's enough game logic to support player-made in-game ALUs from blocks. The Minecraft world updates all of the above at 20 Hz. Unoptimised, this would mean reading 300 MB of block data, processing it, and writing it back, per player per second. (There are tricks to not process everything, at the cost of calculating which blocks need not be updated...)

And then, some blocks also have pointers to other data structures like orientation, box contents, processing completion, etc., plus rules imposed by mods, such as protecting blocks so that a lava pit is not dug immediately below the spawn point, or anti-griefing measures that require every player-block interaction to be logged to a database.

Re:ASTROTURF (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363449)

The damage values and data are used for more unusual block types or minor variants, like the material types for stairs or the contents of a chest. Much of that could be put into a custom chunk in a PNG file though that could be expanded or restricted depending on how much detail has been added by players in the area.

Most chunks in Minecraft are pretty ordinary and mundane, used as a filler to connect one area to another. If you have some very busy players on a very active world with a large number of player-built structures, the level of detail for a particular chunk could get quite high though. Then again, such data density would be expected in those situations as well.

I like the idea of the PNG file though... it has established standards and can make for some interesting visualizations too.

Re:ASTROTURF (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365115)

PNG uses the same compression as the Minecraft chunk data, actually.

It's stored via ZLIB (DEFLATE algorithm). The "damage/data/etc values" are 4-bit arrays, and the chunks are split into 16x16x16 slices that are only stored if there is any meaningful data within.

Pretty good ideas - that's why they used them!

Re:ASTROTURF (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365073)

I am working on a home-grown Anvil map tool, so I have some insight into how the world is stored.

Chunks are stored as 1D columns of 16x16x16 3D slices, of which there may be up to 16 vertical slices per chunk, and each slice has several additional 3D blocks of data representing 4 bit data values such as sky/torch lighting, enhanced block IDs (those extra 4 bits that get you from 256-4096), damage values, entities, etc. Some of these additional data blocks are only stored if they contain anything. Each chunk also has a 2D 16x16 array for biomes. The game does not store empty vertical slices.

The chunks are individually stored within their containing Region file as a GZipped (using the DEFLATE algorithm) NBT entity. The Region file itself is not compressed, but each chunk is. Think of each region file as a self-contained file system with an allocation table and everything.

Each Region file represents a 32x32 chunk area, which may or may not be fully populated. This represents a 512x256x512 world coordinate area.

When things are in memory, I believe the tradeoff has been made such that things are stored uncompressed in memory for the benefit of low-latency access.

You can check out the data for yourself with a tool called NBTEdit. It's pretty slick. (It's also not the tool I'm working on.)

Re:ASTROTURF (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 2 years ago | (#39365499)

Shoot, I meant to say ZLIB, not GZip.

Re:ASTROTURF (2)

omglolbah (731566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361993)

A medium sized server eats 2 gigs of ram easy... if you have a lot of players expect anywhere from 2 to 6 gigs of ram depending on the size of the world.

Network-wise it eats bandwidth like a fat kid on cake.. (I love mah cake!)

It is extremely sensitive to latency.. to the point that anything above 100ms makes it extremely dangerous to fight mobs like creepers as they will have blown up by the time you have hit it a second time with your sword.. So in MP it is almost always a 'bow and arrow' thing unless you have a local server.

When placing blocks any latency will cause you to "fall" through the block you placed if you are above it, until the game catches up and you're on top of the block again... Quite scary at times when building far up ;)

Re:ASTROTURF (1)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362059)

Java. need more details?

On a more serious note though, Minceraft (at least the beta's I was playing and I think the server sw was in alpha) were recource hogs. If you had more than 10 active users and a lot of activity you could easily fill 2GB if not more..

And that is only the server RAM, not OS not JVM.

Re:ASTROTURF (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363669)

But please explain to me; what could be so resource intensive in minecraft as to justify a server for just 5 players?

It's written in Java.

Stop laughing, I'm being serious!

Clear Advertising (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39361469)

Can I post advertisements here too?

Re:Clear Advertising (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39364347)

of course you can. Like here's my minecraft server mc.bongaming.com

Reminder to Slashdot admins (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39361481)

Commercials aren't articles. Thanks loads.

ASTROTURF CRAP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39361495)

Make them pay to post a crappy ad like this, what the fuck editors?

Y'know what... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39361527)

...I think I'll just stick with the $3 a month server costs I'm paying right now. If my buddy wants to play on another world with his own server, he can pay them $3 as well.

I don't see the point (4, Insightful)

flimflammer (956759) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361623)

Giant advertisement notwithstanding, this whole thing seems a bit pointless to me. First of all, I can't for the life of me find out what the individual specs are for the servers. It certainly matters for Minecraft. Second, you can get a decent enough server for $6-8 a month. Good enough to cover 1-5 players, with the details of the hosting plan plainly laid out before you.

They only support the stock server which in many ways is inefficient and frustrating. They do mention their intent to support bucket, but that's not available now.

If the prices were tweaked and they elaborated a little more on the kind of hardware they're offering you for your server, I think this could be an interesting addition to the many many companies already offering minecraft hosting. But right now it just does not seem to interest me.

Re:I don't see the point (4, Insightful)

omglolbah (731566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362043)

A server without bukkit is mostly useless for anything but 100% trusted players... Which there are few...

Being able to control griefing and do rollbacks alone is a critical feature of bukkit that NEEDS to be there for a pay server..

Re:I don't see the point (1)

s0nicfreak (615390) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366629)

Even with 100% trusted players it is useless. I run a server for my family (so basically, if they don't act right, I can walk over and slap them and then take their computer away, 100% trusted), and we very quickly realized bukkit is a MUST.

Re:I don't see the point (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362237)

I use . They have decent starter packages. The $35/month package (which comes with a free Mumble hell YES) is perfect for that medium-sized server of a dozen or so people who play whenever. [mossycobble.com]

The service is usually pretty good. More importantly, though, is that you pretty much have full access to your server to install mods or however you like. There's no "approved" and "unapproved" list or anything of the like, nor are you prevented from backing up or tinkering with your files however you may need to.

Re:I don't see the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39394805)

another vote for mossycobble, they are really great

Re:I don't see the point (1)

matazar (1104563) | more than 2 years ago | (#39364329)

Exactly. Not that I would switch because I PREFER to do all of the administration myself, but there is a lot left to be desired from what they are offering and considering the price ranges, it's definitely not at a point where it would be worth it for your average users. Interesting take on things though.

I died a little inside reading the post (2)

Turnerj (2478588) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361643)

I like my advertising subtle.

Doesn't add up. (4, Insightful)

GuruBuckaroo (833982) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361707)

So let me get this straight: I can pay gameservers.com $14.95 for a 16-player server, or my group can pay a total of $80 to Minefold for the same thing. This is what passes for innovative these days?

Re:Doesn't add up. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39361815)

But you get a server FOR minecraft...
Those other hosting services host all kinds of stuff. It's not for minecraft only. Minecraft only services are way better than anything else when it comes to the awesomeness that is minecraft. You won't want to use some generic hosting for minecraft. It's just wrong to do so.. You need a minecraft server and a minecraft pc and a minecraft chair and a minecraft tablet and a minecraft house! It's meta! You simply must buy minecraft only hosting services or you're doing it WRONG!

(They built a service to cater to the better idiot that got built. It's genius. It's going to rake in the cash. You watch. Wish i'd thought of it. Maybe i'll start selling the minecraft chair. )

Re:Doesn't add up. (2)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362593)

Funny thing is, without support for popular plugins, it's not even a good minecraft host!

Unless you are playing with a circle of 100% trusted friends (and even then, being able to do a rollback when someone makes a mistake is good) .. this is going to be mostly useless (in addition to being an insane ripoff).

Re:Doesn't add up. (3, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361943)

So let me get this straight: I can pay gameservers.com $14.95 for a 16-player server, or my group can pay a total of $80 to Minefold for the same thing. This is what passes for innovative these days?

If you and your friends have several different servers (more likely when they expand this to include more titles), it doesn't take long for this to actually be cheaper.

Re:Doesn't add up. (1)

yotto (590067) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361945)

Sounds pretty innovative to me!

Re:Doesn't add up. (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39362505)

They're probably expensive anyway, yes, but you can't consider all the games alike - a player on Micecraft probably eats way more resources than a player on your average FPS.

In fact, you can see that in their site: a slot for CS Condition Zero is 0.61E, but for the same game at 1000 fps it's 2.71E.

Re:Doesn't add up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39362551)

"1000 fps" is a scam anyway - and only idiots that do not understand basic stuff buy such crap.

Re:Doesn't add up. (2)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 2 years ago | (#39363021)

This. Somehow, WoW had a similar arrangement: you paid for whichever server you were running and you played with your friends. Yet, this is innovative?

FUCK YOU SLASHDOT EDITORS -- SPAM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39361973)

This is absolutely and completely 100% fucking spam. Fuck you, slashdot editors. There are countless Minecraft hosting services out there and there are countless "everyone pool your money together and we do the processing" features out there for communites/guilds/clans/etc. They exist for Minecraft, Counter-Strike, BF2, BF3, Red Orchestra and *many* other games.

Absolutely nothing about this is new AT ALL. This is just the cunts remaining at Slashdot making bank after Taco has abandoned the ship, every chance they can. Fuck you guys and fuck Timothy's "video advertising" attempts with that jacket before (that you guys swore was totally not at all advertising - nope!).

good luck with that (1)

sdnoob (917382) | more than 2 years ago | (#39361989)

sorry. getting money out of random players won't work.. and per-slot for clan servers it's cheaper to get your own.. even if you have to wrestle donations out of some of your mates.

FUCK OFF EDITORS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39362045)

This is spam, pure and simple. Editors, go fuck off.

Condescending summary (1)

Drinking Bleach (975757) | more than 2 years ago | (#39364825)

Apparently hosting a Minecraft server for friends is "drawing the short straw"? The thing is easier to set up than a ****ing HTTP server, how are these people supposed to be enticing admins when they insult the intelligence of said admins?

Silly (1)

s0nicfreak (615390) | more than 2 years ago | (#39366475)

You can already get a minecraft server for $5 per month. I pay $5 per month for a 5-slot server for my family; if we were paying per person, it would be $25 per month. If I were playing with 4 friends and didn't want to pay the $5 myself, we could all chip in $1. Why would people pay more for a server they get less control over? I also help admin another server, 150 slots, and the owner pays for it himself. There are hundreds of minecraft servers out there paid for by other people that will let you play, unlimited hours, for free.

Re:Silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39375243)

Who do you end up hosting with?

Re:Silly (1)

s0nicfreak (615390) | more than 2 years ago | (#39378669)

I use Kerplunc Gaming [kerpluncgaming.com]
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