Hyper(-V) Minecraft – Part 0 – Introduction

I’ve never played Minecraft before today. OK, that’s a little lie. I first played it on the 30th March 2015, and while it’s proved to be quite popular with a few people, pretty much every student in school has played it. However, some students have wanted to start a Minecraft club, and this has been given the go-ahead by the senior management people. So, guess who has the fun job of setting up a Minecraft server? I can’t complain too much, though. Being told that I have to play a game while I’m working is one of the best jobs that I’ve been given.

My first idea was to ask some students who play it a lot for a few bits of information with regards to setting up a server. This went nowhere. So I did some searching, which led me to MinecraftEdu. It seemed to do everything that we needed, and was simple to set up (theoretically). It also doesn’t cost too much, and after putting together a proposal for the deputy headteacher, it was passed and just needed to be bought.

A few days later this still hadn’t been bought, but as it wasn’t my highest priority, I didn’t give it much thought. Then one afternoon, a member of staff came in asking about the Minecraft server. One of our students had gone to her and mentioned that we didn’t need to pay for a Minecraft server, and that everyone who would be joining the club would more than likely have an account already. I didn’t mind this information, but it was from one of the students that I had asked for information from the first time!

Anyway, as this was a much cheaper option for the school, it was decided to go down this route instead. The aforementioned student also “helpfully” gave me a modified server program to use, and then went on their Easter holidays. So, after all of this, I was left with a selection of Java files and the knowledge that the server needed to be running after the holidays.

My first idea was to just run the server on my computer at the start of each lunchtime. However, I’m not always at my desk during this time, and while I could set up a scheduled task to run the software, the main reason why this wouldn’t work is that I have too many things running at once. Adding a server on top of this would just be pushing it too much. Therefore, the next logical choice was to use one of our Hyper-V servers and run the Minecraft server in a virtual machine (I’ve chosen Ubuntu, as I’m used to it the most). This meant it could be running all of the time (so the club could run at unexpected times) and powerful enough hardware to look after a large-ish number of clients being connected at once.

Turns out that while this works (I cheered when it did) there is no easy way to administer the running server without connecting to the server’s terminal. There isn’t really anything that is free to do this, remember that I’m trying to keep the costs down, but I did find something that seems promising. Although this is a deprecated program, it did the basic things that I needed (giving health and food), so I’ve stuck with it. Plus, it can be looked after through a web browser, so I don’t need to keep monitoring it, and if I’m feeling generous, I can let other people access it too (the club leaders, of course).

This took about a day to figure out, as most of the time was researching different servers, re-installing virtual machines and generally having to find new download sources[1] for the server software. Also, after getting this to work on a test server, when starting again to write this guide, one of the download sites has stopped working (it may be working again when you read this). Luckily, there was another download location that I managed to find it in.

Over the next few days I’ll try and write up a short guide on what to do if you want / need to roll your own Minecraft server. Once I’ve finished playing testing, of course…

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