Minecraft Realms are so easy it’d make your head spin, and so useful and fun that if you’re even remotely considering it – it’s worth the bother.
As this site is about the 3D web, and as Minecraft isn’t a web thing, I often draw parallels between the two. In this post, I’m gonna begin by rattling off any number of similarities between Minecraft and the Web.
Imagine if you had a website in your computer. And you can view your website in your computer. Sound boring and useless, or what? The only reason a website is of any use is because people can visit the site. This leads to the distinct possibility of having more than one person visiting your site, and interacting with your site, in such a way that those two visitors can interact with eachother. And if not with eachother, with eachother’s content. And if not eachother’s content, how about yours? The magic of hosting your website on a webserver is that it becomes available to the world. Imagine how fun Facebook would be, if we didn’t all get to go into the same server/cloud and interact with all the stuff our friends and family post.
Minecraft is in exactly the same boat. When my kids started playing Minecraft, they’d play “local”. Their world, their creations, in their computer, where they can see it. But without any sharing of that content with the rest of the world. No interactions of any sort with other people.
When you want to share your website with the world, you need a webserver. Or do you? Have you ever tried to set up your own webserver? Install Apache, get stuff running, wrangle IP addresses and routers and firewalls and nameservers and, well, forget it. Most people who want the functionality of a webserver just pay a few bucks a month for a hosting account. That’s a little slice of a webserver somewhere. The people who run the webserver have to deal with the operating system and the daemons and the backbone and the nameservers and the hard drives and the databases and all that. Then, for a modest fee every month, you get to piggyback on all that network administration stuff that’s going on. This allows you to bring your website to the world.
Exactly the same issues are in play, with regard to Minecraft. Until recently, the only way you could put your Minecraft world out there for anyone to see was to set up a Minecraft server. And that involved much of the same network administration as setting up your own webserver. I tried it once. I didn’t find it fun.
The answer came by loosely following the “web hosting” model found on the web. Mojang, who created Minecraft, came up with Minecraft Realms. a “Realm” is kind of like a “website”. It’s one chunk of content. It lives on a server. You access the server with a “client”, in this case, the Minecraft program, rather than a web browser. And you, the site/realm owner, don’t have to concern yourself with firewalls and nameservers and IP addresses. None of it. You just sign up for the account, and your stuff is worldwide.
In a lot of ways, setting up a Minecraft Realm is easier than setting up a website. When you sign up for a website, you have to find a company, get in touch with the company, make payment, get login information, access your server, stuff like that. With Minecraft, it’s a complete and utter no-brainer. The Minecraft program overtly drags you through the entire process. You click the right buttons on the Minecraft interface, authorize payment, and the next thing you know, you have a little piece of a Minecraft server doing your bidding. You have a Realm.
Seeds for Interesting Terrain
The one thing I’d really advise before you forge ahead at warp speed – look into “seeds”. If you don’t use a seed, your Realm may not do much for you. And if you build a whole bunch of stuff in a Realm that doesn’t turn your crank – well, you gotta decide if you wanna keep the lame Realm, or if you wanna keep all the cool stuff you’ve built there.
“Seeds” are the basis of the terrain that appears in your Realm. Comparing again to websites, using a seed is not unlike getting a “template” for your website. It defines the look. It underlies every piece of content. (As a self-deprecating note, look at this website – no template. No look. No feel. Just a stock WordPress with the 2016 default Theme. That’s the moral and ethical equivalent of using the “Superflat” option setting up a Realm.)
At first, my first Realm used Superflat terrain. Which is to say, the entire world existed on an infinite, perfectly flat plain. That was simply not going to cut it. So I tried what’s refered to as the “default” terrain. While not flat, it lacked the charms to soothe me. I wanted a big beach, mountains, oceans, islands, grasslands, rolling hills, and a wide assortment of critters roaming around. Just my taste – but without the magic of “seeds”, I wasn’t going to get that.
So, I Googled “Minecraft terrain big beach”. And was pleased to discover that there’s a wide array of “seeds” that yield terrains that include a big beach. I looked at a couple of dozen – tried a couple – then eventually settled on one that had everything I wanted, and more.
A “seed” is nothing but a phrase, or a multi-digit number, that you enter into a box when you’re setting up your Realm. The one I liked was simply the number 3145708. That’s it. That’s all. Big beach, mountains, forests, islands, rolling grasslands, an insane amount of variety and things to explore, all “generated” from that 7-digit number. It’s an incredibly powerful way to make a virtual world that you’ll love as much as the stuff you and your family and friends create within it.
(If you’re curious, my Google search wound me up here, and this is the “seed” that I settled on. And we’re all quite pleased with it.)
So I really wanted to share that with you today.
Not like a website at all
In conclusion, having outlined a number of the ways in which a Minecraft Realm is similar to a website, I’m going to outline a few of the ways that it is different.
A Minecraft Realm is not “open”. Unlike the open web, it’s not available to anyone in the world who might find it of interest – it’s a by invitation only setup, where you can only share you stuff with people you personally invite, and even then, only up to 10 of them at a time. One cannot “link” effortlessly from one Realm to another, the way one can with websites. And there is certainly no “Google”, or anything like that, where you can set out on a search for something you’d like, get a mountain of results, and pick and choose which satisfies you. You only get to share with people you invite – or people who invite you.
The other big difference is content. The web, and websites, are for general content. Words, pictures, videos, and stuff like that. Minecraft realms may put your Minecraft stuff out there for others to see – but that is all it will put out there. Still, that’s plenty good enough.