OPINION: I want to slay zombies while sitting in bed. That's normal, right?
I wouldn't call myself a serious gamer, but I have taken a liking to Minecraft. The frustrating thing for me about getting into desktop games is that I tend to jump between computers during the day. That's fine for work, thanks to the cloud, but it creates a problem when it comes to games that like to run on one computer.
After experimenting with a few of the notebooks around the house I ended up installing Minecraft on my Windows 7 media centre PC so I can play it with my kids. Turning it into a "sometimes food" family activity seems to work well because, as I said a few weeks ago, I can be a bit obsessive sometimes so I need to keep games in perspective.
I'm pretty busy these days, which makes it easier to keep my Minecraft habit in check. But sometimes at the end of the day I think I'm entitled to play on my own for a while. That's obviously not practical if my Minecraft world is locked away on my media centre but someone else is using the television. I experimented with using the cloud to sync the Minecraft data folder between multiple computers, but my games started corrupting.
Eventually I decided that the easiest option was to set up the media centre as a Minecraft server, which I could connect to from any computer in the house running the Minecraft software. I could still play on the media centre if I wanted to, using it as both the server and client.
I thought I might be in for a world of pain, but in the end setting up a Minecraft server wasn't that hard. You simply need to download and install the free Minecraft multiplayer server. One issue that I ran into is that, the first time you run the server, you need to run it in administrator mode or it won't install properly.
Once you've been through the initial setup you should be fine. You'll find a server configuration guide at Minecraft Wiki. With the server running, you simply launch Minecraft on any computer connected to your home network. Select multiplayer and it will scan your network for Minecraft servers, although this doesn't always work (it might be a Windows security thing). You can also manually enter the IP address. It's possible to expose your Minecraft server to the internet for playing from afar but I don't need to go that far. As that Minecraft Wiki entry warns, take care opening up ports if you don't know what you're doing or you could create security problems.
The Minecraft developers recently added an "Open to LAN" server option to the single player mode, which is a great way for letting other players join your game without the need to run a separate server. The problem with this is that you can only use your Minecraft login on one computer at a time. If I run a single player game on the media centre and try to join it from my notebook, the media centre session shuts down. I don't really need two Minecraft accounts, so creating a Minecraft server seems more practical.
The final step was importing my single player Minecraft world into the server, which again wasn't that hard. It might be possible to point both the Minecraft server and client at the same game data folder on my media centre, but I didn't want to over-complicate things and risk data corruption again. Instead I copied my single player saved world from here;
into the same folder as the Minecraft server application. You then edit the server.properties file so it loads your world when it runs. I also made of a backup copy of my game folder, just as a safety precaution. I haven't run into any problems playing Minecraft this way from notebooks around the house, but I can't make you any promises so proceed at your own risk.
One limitation is that if you want to create multiple worlds there doesn't seem to be a way to choose which one to load (without editing the server configuration files). There are third party servers and plugins that seem to support this kind of flexibility, but I'm trying to keep it as simple as possible. I found it was easier just to create two copies of Minecraft server on the media centre, in different folders, which each server designed to launch a different world.
I still need to set up an easy way to launch the Minecraft server remotely. Using remote desktop tools obviously starts fights when someone is watching a movie on the media centre. It's a work in progress, but I'm getting closer to my dream of Minecraft on demand.
Have you set up a Minecraft server or other gaming server? Was it smooth sailing?
Adam Turner is a gadget guru who contributes news, features, reviews, blogs and podcasts to various publications
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