Running your own little Minecraft server can be a very rewarding experience. Over time, you may build up your very own community of loyal players, which has the potential to grow in popularity if you play your cards right and run your server well.
Although it sounds complicated, running your own server isn’t as hard as you’d imagine. You do not need much prior technical knowledge to get going. Just keep in mind, you should know the Minecraft game itself very well if you are going to attempt this!
Running your own server gives you complete creative control, and there are hundreds of modifications out there which extend the multiplayer experience beyond simple, vanilla Minecraft survival; this is what has made Minecraft multiplayer servers so popular among gamers.
How to start your very own Minecraft server
1. Decide on a server theme and then choose a hosting provider
The first step is to decide on a server theme, and there are plenty to choose from: factions, prison, classic survival, and towny, among others. Each gameplay theme brings completely a completely different dynamic to the game, but you probably already have one in mind.
When you’ve settled on a theme, you need to choose a hosting provider. You can set up a server on your computer, but this is not feasible if you want to have a public server online 24/7. In addition, hosting a server on your computer requires a fair amount of technical knowledge, and it is much easier to go with a hosting provider, where setting up a server is as easy as clicking a few buttons. There are plenty of Minecraft hosting providers out there, but let’s use Nitrous Networks – a UK-based company – as an example.
You are free to use any provider, but Nitrous Networks has good ratings and their prices are reasonable.
2. Setting up your server
When you have paid for your server and it has all processed, navigate to your server’s control panel. It will look like this (most hosting providers follow a general layout):
Press Start, and your server console (where all the timestamped messages are) will fire up, preparing your spawn area. This will take around 10 to 20 seconds – you can see it is ready when no new messages appear.
To join your server, navigate to your Minecraft game client and direct connect to your server’s IP address.
That’s it – it really is that simple! Although, your new server will be very plain… it is what is referred to as ‘vanilla Minecraft’, that meaning it is the basic Minecraft game. Although it is possible to run a ‘vanilla’ server, they are not as popular as servers like factions, a player-vs-player game mode.
3. Installing Bukkit or Spigot
We recommend installing a Minecraft developer API mod such as Bukkit or Spigot – the two most popular Minecraft server modifications which provide
additional functionality and control to Minecraft servers – allowing you to ‘plug in’ additional Minecraft server modifications (called ‘plugins’, such as Factions or Towny) into your server.
Don’t be intimidated by the jargon, installing these are very simple. In your server’s control panel, navigate to ‘Modpacks’ and choose either Bukkit or Spigot, then press Install. That’s it.
At this stage, it does not make much difference which you choose, but Spigot has additional functionality and is further optimized to support larger servers that pull in hundreds of players.
You do not need to worry too much about what Bukkit or Spigot are; they
do very little on their own and are developer tools which expose an API
which can be used by developers to add functionality to Minecraft
servers. This additional functionality is implemented through plugins
(and there are thousands), which can be downloaded freely and added
to your server.
4. Making yourself an ‘op’
An ‘op’, short for operator, is an administrator on a Minecraft server. These people have access to additional commands and abilities (for example, such as being able to kick or ban players using /kick or /ban, spawn items using /give, or fly using /fly.)
As a server owner, you will want to make yourself an operator because this is the top-level administrative level you can have on a server. It is recommended that you give operator privileges only to yourself and trusted people because some of the commands can wreak havoc on your server and cause irreparable damage.
To make yourself an op for the first time, navigate to your server control panel and type ‘op [name]’ in the input box, replacing [name] with your Minecraft name.
In future, you can type ‘/op [name]’ within your actual server to make additional people operators. But, for first-time use, it must be done on the console.
5. Installing plugins
Plugins bring your server alive, and there are thousands of them. To get an idea of what plugins are and what they are capable of, we recommend installing some and playing around with them.
With the majority of reputable Minecraft server providers, installing plugins can be done through the control panel. Navigate to ‘Plugins’ and begin reading about some of the different ones available. We are going to install a plugin which displays a message to players who join your server. In the ‘Plugins’ search bar, type ‘welcome message’ and install the very first one.
Press View then Install and wait a few minutes. Then, restart your server by navigating to ‘Manage’ and pressing Restart. Your plugin will now be installed. Before the plugin will work, you will need to configure it. This is very easy, and most plugins have a user-friendly file called ‘config.yml’ which allows you to modify its settings.
To access a plugin’s configuration, navigate to the ‘plugins’ folder under the ‘File Manager’ tab, open the plugin’s unique folder (which is usually the name of the plugin) and then click ‘Edit’ next to ‘config.yml’ and follow the instructions provided by the plugin’s developer. It is very easy, and requires no special knowledge.
6. What next?
There are many possibilities with running a Minecraft server, and the best course of action is to just go with the flow, play around with some plugins and figure everything out as you go – you can only learn to run a server by running one, even if it’s just you who plays it to figure things out!
Some of Minecraft’s bigger servers and server networks pull in thousands of unique players per month, and if you create a community which appeals to the general Minecraft community, you could find yourself building a name for yourself very quickly.