Chat

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On civ servers, chat is managed by the CivChat2 plugin (source). Chat messages are not global by default, in contrast to most minecraft servers. Instead, messages are sent to the local chat, which is only visible to people within a certain radius. Messages can also be sent to Namelayer groups, which bypasses the distance restriction.

Mechanics

When sending a chat message to the local group (the default), only users within a certain radius of you will be able to see the message. This radius differs from server to server, but is generally around 1000 blocks. You can increase your range by sending messages from a high y level - again, the exact values depend on the server, but you generally get around 1 extra block of broadcasting range for every block you climb above y 100.

You can also switch your chat group from local chat to a Namelayer group with the /g <group> command. Messages sent to a Namelayer group will be visible to anybody in that group with the read messages permission, regardless of how far away they are.

Direct messages will also bypass the distance restriction.

Global Chat Group

Some civ servers have a Namelayer group for the sole purpose of providing a global chat. This group is usually called ! or g. It is used to effectively bypass the local chat restrictions and send messages which are visible to anybody, regardless of distance.

In earlier civ servers such as Devoted, this global chat group was entirely player-owned and managed, requiring players to join the group manually before being able to talk in it. Some later civ servers like CivClassic cemented the global chat group as a gameplay mechanic, automatically adding new players as members to the group and having the group be admin owned. However, not all civ servers do this.

Commands

The first line is output caused by typing /g Circleblob. The second and third line display a message that was types as-is. The fourth line, in yellow, is the output of typing /g. The fifth line was typed as-is.
Command Alias Function
/g <group> [message] /groupchat /gchat /gc Changes chat group to group. If message is included, it is sent to the specified group. If neither group nor message is included, this command changes your chat group to local chat
/tell <player> [message] /message /msg /m /pm Changes chat group to a private message with player. If message, is included it is sent to the specified player
/tell /message /msg /m /pm /e Leaves active private message
/exit /e /g Changes chat group to local chat
/reply [message] /r Changes chat to private message with last player that has messaged you. If [message] is included it is sent to specified player. Use with caution, as another player may message you just before you send the command.
/ignore <player> /i Toggle ignoring a player
/ignoregroup <group> /ig /igroup /ignoreg Toggle ignoring a group
/ignorelist List of ignored groups and players
/afk Toggles afk (away from keyboard) state. Automatically replies to dms with an afk message when on