Daily Archives: August 11, 2015

Minecraft and the Hosted Life

The profusion of Minecraft server hosting options out there speaks to just how popular this game has become, and how much people want to play with their friends, acquaintances, and random people on the internet.

Guess what?  Me to!

In fact, I started poking my nose into the idea of a hosted server about a week after my daughter and I started in on the whole Minecraft adventure.

My daughter was also keen on the idea, though she was more about having crazy mods and running her own public server.  My vision was more of a vanilla Minecraft server with some friends able to log in, maybe the instance group, and a whole world to explore.

Sounds easy right?  Nothing special needed, just my home server available to those outside my house.  In fact, my first idea was just to host something locally and use port forwarding and white listing to accomplish this.  However, I had just dumped the only likely candidate, an old Dell CPU, off at the e-waste collection, so my easy option was out.

For a short bit I considered trying to run the whole thing on a Raspberry Pi setup after reading this article.  I still might do that some day, but wasn’t really into it at the moment.

And so I started looking for Minecraft server hosting… and ran into the profusion mentioned in the first sentence.

There is, of course, Minecraft Realms, the official Mojang hosting service.  Supposed to be safe, secure, stable, and reliable, but when you read about what they offer, also a bit dull and limited.  I don’t necessarily need all the bells and whistles, but I wanted a bit more than that.

So I started plowing through various recommendations and forums and blah blah blah looking for who might offer what.

MCProHosting came up a lot.  As a service it hosts some of the bigger servers and has a ton of options.  I recommend just digging through their before-you-order options list to see what is out there.  They offer up various server options mods.

Mod Packs listed...

Server and Mod Packs listed…

I did not know that Pixelmon, a Pokemon themed mod, was even a thing.  It was an eye opener.

They also offer a variety of pre-made worlds in addition to the standard random world options available with Minecraft.

First few choices on the list...

First few choices on the list…

But I also came across more that a bit of hostility directed towards them online.  Not that they do anything bad.  Nobody has anything negative to say about their service.  It was more a matter that they charge more than other services when it comes to the actual nuts and bolts capacity.  They also sponsor a number of Minecraft streams who sing their praises, which caused a little bit of grumbling as well.

In the end I did not go with them.  Running through their sizing, estimating maybe 10 people total playing at the high end of my optimism, they were recommending a plan that offered 1.5GB of RAM and ran $15 a month.  That is the price of an MMO subscription, something I have shown a willingness to pay in the past.  However, I had read a number of places that if you plan to use any mods or have more than a few people playing, you ought to go with 2GB of RAM, which would have booster the monthly cost to $20 a month.

The plan list

The plan list

As a side note, nearly every hosting service I ran across used the same sort of naming scheme for their various hosting plans.  It is just a Minecraft hosting thing I guess.

Anyway, that was more than I wanted to pay per month.

So I started sifting through other options.  As I noted, there are a lot of choices.  My criteria became a hosting plan that offered 2GB of RAM, hosted someplace near the west coast, that had reasonable pricing and no serious dings on its reputation.

That still left me with a pretty wide-open field. Amongst the hosting companies I looked, according to my notes, at were:

It was one of those things where the more I looked at hosting sites, the less sure I was about which site to choose.  There is a not a lot to distinguish many of the sites… how “fast is a fast SSD, does a hosting site in LA necessarily beat one in Phoenix or Seattle, should I pay extra for DDoS protection or go with another service that includes it… to the point that some looked to be sub-tenants of the same larger hosting service with just a logo change over the same interface, while most plans included most of the same features.

So eventually I just chose the one that had a coupon.

I hat put down in my notes that the NetherByte hosting service included a code for 30% off the price of your hosting plan.  Their hosting plans were already at the low end of the price range, with that 2GB server just $8 a month.

Again, same plan level motif...

Again, same plan level motif…

But with the coupon code “30OFF” that price dropped even further.  In fact, a six month run with a 2GB server ended up being $22.50.  That was cheap enough that I said, “Sure, whatever” and ordered it.

So I had a hosted server.

Their control panel was simple enough.  I created a world with the press of a button… there were no fancy world options, just the default vanilla Minecraft settings… then jotted down the domain name/port number and was able to log into the server itself to see what I had wrought.

There I was on a small island in the middle of a deep ocean with no trees, two pigs, and not much else.

Lonely Island

Lonely Island

Yeah, okay, the skin on my avatar is Captain Jack Sparrow, so ha ha funny joke, but it still seemed like a less than ideal start on a new world.  (My daughter made me change my avatar skin right away since she says the default just marks you as the FNG, though she didn’t actually use the term “FNG.”)

I was on the fence about creating a new world anyway.  I hadn’t invested too much time in the world my daughter and I started way back on Father’s Day, but I had grown attached to it.  On the flip side, if I was going to convince friends to join, I thought a fresh world would be more of an enticement.

Then I got a crap starting world.  Yes, I could have just rolled another one immediately, but that was just enough to make me want to move over the world on which I had been working.  After all, a Minecraft world at default size is freaking huge.  The short answer on world size, from the Wiki, is about 8x the size of the surface of the earth.  Plenty of fresh pastures for new players to explore outside of the approximate square mile of the overworld that I have touched.

The control panel has an FTP option built into it, but it is horrible. (The control panel is the Multicraft default which, as I understand it, is what most hosting sites use.)  But most web-based FTP options are horrible.  Fortunately they also give you direct FTP access and I have a copy of WinSCP installed on every system I have to touch regularly, so renaming the original world and moving my own over was a snap.  After that and a server restart I was back in my old world, now hosted remotely.

Then it was time to get somebody else on and playing.  Potshot had shown a bit of interest here during the summer hiatus, though has yet to bite on the whole Minecraft idea yet.  But there was my old pal Xyd, who has been showing up here to comment on Minecraft posts.  He seemed keen to peek in and see what was going on.

After a few hours elapsed from his first attempt to log in, he was able to get onto the server.  As it turns out, while you can “add” players to your server through the UI in the hosting control panel, you still have to go into the console and type “whitelist add <player>” to get them on the approved list.

He spawned in and set off a ways to start his own camp, not too far from my castle, but far enough away to avoid all the holes in the ground I left.

Cubby de Xydd

Cubby de Xydd

So now I have multiplayer online Minecraft.  Only three people play so far, myself, my daughter, and Xyd, but the option is there is the instance group or any other close friends want to come and play.