What I’ve Learned About Minecraft Servers

by steve on January 29, 2020

Minecraft.

Minecraft image

Game of the Decade?  Quite possibly.  I’d mostly ignored it for years as I had other things to do.  Then my little girl and her friends started diving in.  I’d watch Chloe and the other kids start up and start worlds from scratch on their individual devices over and over again and finally I decided enough was enough.

These kids should be able to have a persistent world and also be able to play together online even if they weren’t in the same room.

It took longer than expected to sort out the options as the way the Minecraft creators talk about it is confusing.  As it turns out, there are really only two options depending on the devices you’re playing with:

  1. Playing on a version of MS Windows (but not Windows 10), Mac or Linux?  Then you want the Minecraft Server found here.  This is referred to as Minecraft Java Edition.  You have two sub-choices:
    1. Run the Java based server – or –
    2. Run the Windows or non-Java Ubuntu server
  2. Playing on any of the other devices that run Minecraft?  Then you only have one choice: Minecraft Realms.  This is your only option for these devices.

Here’s an important clue:

The Minecraft version for Windows, Mac and Linux will not talk to any of the other versions and vice versa!

Took me a while to quite get this, as isn’t the Android version written in Java?

Here’s the other important clue:

  • Minecraft Server for Windows, Mac and Linux is free. 
  • Minecraft Realms is a cloud-based service and is $7.99/month (at the time of this writing)

Who doesn’t like free?  I do. So that’s where I started.  Here’s what I found:

First I got it up and running on one of my Raspberry Pi’s (actually, Chloe’s Piper).  This worked fine for letting the kids play together on our home LAN (one Mac, one pre win10 PC), but I wanted more.  I want the kids to be able to play even if they aren’t in the same building.  So I spun up an Ubuntu instance on Dreamhost’s Cloud service.  Hey, this worked fine!  However…

Most of the time the kids only have access to Minecraft on tablets.  The tablets cannot connect to my otherwise perfectly fine personal Minecraft server.  So results?

I threw down the eight clams and now we play together on Minecraft Realms on our tablets.   When Chloe is at my place she sometimes prefers to play on the desktop version because it’s got more features and the mouse/keyboard make it easier to control where you’re going.

At the end of the day Minecraft Realms is a pretty good deal.  To run a “free” private server I’d either have to configure port forwarding on our network to let outside people reach it (and deal with crossing the residential network) or pay for a private server or cloud hosting service to run it on.

So far Realms has been great.  Chloe and I just played for a good hour together, even though we live quite a distance apart.  It’s a pity we can’t get all the devices to play together, but that’s just the way it is.

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