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THE HOW-TO GEEK GUIDE TO MINECRAFT / HOW-TO GEEK SCHOOL

How-To Geek

Lesson 14: Setting Up Local Multiplayer and Custom Player Skins

Minecraft

What’s better than building and exploring? Building and exploring with your friends and family! Let’s take a look at how you can easily share your Minecraft experience on your local LAN and how to stand out from the crowd in the process.

Building and exploring together in Minecraft is a ton of fun. We’ve logged quite a few hours around here playing together: beating the odds in survival, crafting enormous creations, and otherwise enjoying a whole lot of fun cooperative play.

One of the neat things about playing together is not only that it distributes the load but, because Minecraft is such a flexible game, it allows each player to do what they’re most interested in doing.

When we all play Survival Minecraft together for example, each one of us has a specialty or interest. Some might enjoy roaming far and wide in search of new resources and biomes. Some enjoy building up the base and farming (we have the happiest pigs in the Minecraft universe). Still others enjoys mining and being left to their own devices, completely excavating every last inch of the world.

If you’re lucky enough to have friends and family into the Minecraft experience then it’s silly not to link your games together and share the experience. One Minecraft-loving family has even turned playing Minecraft together into a fun YouTube channel. YouTube user Chrisandthemike has hundreds of videos detailing his family’s experiences playing Survival Mode games, exploring game mods, and otherwise having a really great time sharing the Minecraft experience.

In addition to looking at the multiplayer experience, we’ll also take a look at how to update your player skin so everyone in the game isn’t identical.

Opening Up Your Game

If your friend is on your local network, sharing the Minecraft experience with them is extremely simple. Let’s say that you downloaded the “Mountain Sky Village” map from the previous section and you really wanted to have your roommate, spouse, kid, or other Minecraft buddy take a look at it.

The very first consideration, before all others, is that the other party is also using the same version of Minecraft. If you’re showcasing a version 1.6.4 map, they need to be using a 1.6.4 profile. If your client and the clients of your friends don’t match, they won’t be able to connect.

With that important detail addressed, you’ll need to activate the LAN functionality by pressing “ESC” to bring up the in-game menu and then selecting the “Open to LAN” button.

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Within the Open to LAN menu, you have a few simple choices to make.

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You can toggle the game mode between Creative, Survival, and Adventure as well as toggle the cheats on or off. Cheats in this case, mean whether or not the other player has access to console-level commands like /tp for teleport or /weather to toggle the weather state of the map.

Once you’ve made your selection, press “Start LAN World” to open up the game to other players on the local network.

Connecting to an Open Game

On the opposite side of things, your friend needs to fire up Minecraft and select “Multiplayer” from the main menu.

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Minecraft will automatically scan the local network for available games and list them. If this scanning system hiccups, you can manually enter the IP address and port number of the remote computer hosting Minecraft.

Have your friend select the world and click “Join Server” to hop into your world and find you for a little exploration and fun.

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There we are, as seen from another computer down the hall logged into our map. Now, one thing we haven’t talked about at all so far is skins. See us in the image above? That’s the default Minecraft skin. The skin is known simply as “Steve” a default generic protagonist the player uses as their avatar.

When you’re playing by yourself using the first-person perspective, it doesn’t really matter what you look like as you can’t see yourself. When you’re playing with other people however, it’s nice to customize your appearance. Before we discuss getting on remote multiplayer servers, let’s take a look at how to get a new skin so we’re not one of a thousand Steves wandering around.

Changing Your Skin

Customizing your appearance in video games is a fun way to personalize the game and make yourself stand out in a multiplayer setting.

In Minecraft, it’s simply to customize how you look by swapping out your player skin for another one. Skins are simply image files that wrap onto the player model in the game. The default “Steve” skin for example, when opened in an image editor, looks like this all stretched out:

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Giving the player model a totally new look is as easy as replacing the “Steve” skin with an alternative skin. Don’t worry, you don’t have to manually edit your skin to give yourself a new appearance (although if you have the talent and the time, feel free to do so). Just like there are tons of Minecraft player-created maps, there are also tons of player-created skins.

Before we start looking for skins though, let’s look at where you need to go to replace them.

Skin management is not handled in the actual Minecraft game, but instead is handled via your Minecraft.net account. Visit Minecraft.net, log in, and then click on Profile in the site’s navigation bar. There you’ll find a sub-section labeled “Change how you look in Minecraft” that includes a downloadable reference skin if you want to edit it yourself, as well as a “Choose File” button to upload a new skin.

All you need to do to upload a new skin is to click the “Choose File” button and select the image file, just like you’d upload an image to Facebook or attach it to an email. After you upload a new skin, you’ll need to restart your Minecraft game (if you’re currently running one) for the changes to take effect.

Although you can find plenty of skin websites with a cursory Internet search, MinecraftSkins.net is a great first stop as it not only allows you to easily search for skins in cleanly organized categories but offers easy skin uploading.

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Not only can you can you download and save the skins to your computer (using the “Download” button seen in the screenshot above) but MinecraftSkins.net offers convenient integration with your Minecraft.net account. As long as you’re logged into Minecraft.net while you’re browsing the Minecraft skins website, you can click the “Change” button and the site will automatically kick the skin you’re looking at over to the actual Minecraft website and prompt you to authorize the skin change.

Note: Your skin change will not take effect until you log out of Minecraft servers by shutting down any open instances of Minecraft and the Minecraft launcher, and then logging back in.

So what do we get for a few minutes of deliberating over which skin we want and a few mouse clicks? A brand new look!

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Goodbye Steve, hello Link from the Legend of Zelda! Even though it’s dead simple to kick skins over from the MinecraftSkins website to your account, we still recommend saving your favorites to your local computer for safekeeping.

While there are thousands upon thousands of skins out there, what if you want customize things further? You can open up your skin file in any image editor that supports PNG files and image transparency, and edit it. There’s one downside to such a method however, the skin, as seen earlier in this section, is flat and stretched out. It makes it very difficult to edit the skin if you don’t have a really good sense of how the skin wraps on the player model.

We’ll admit to being terrible at editing when the skin is flat. Despite our best efforts we’ve never quite nailed the sense of where a pixel on the flat skin map will actually end up on the player model. Instead, we prefer to use online skin editors that provide real-time skin mapping to show you exactly the changes you’re making and how they look on the actual model.

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You can find a variety of online skin editors with a simple search, but we’ll offer up our favorite: Minecraft.NovaSkin.me. The editor is fantastic: you can import skins, it has a built in skin database, it supports layers, it supports extras like editing a “helmet” layer to add in glasses and other ornamentation, and it allows you to toggle body parts on and off in the editor. This ensures you don’t miss changing the color of the inner arm or leg.

Whether you’re just changing the hair color on a skin or doing a complete overhaul, the user interface is very friendly and saving your creations is a snap.

Next Lesson: Exploring Minecraft Multiplayer Servers

Sharing Minecraft with someone down the hall (or across the coffee table) is fun, but what if it’s tough to get your friends and family together for a local game? What if none of your friends and family even want to play?

In tomorrow’s lesson we’ll explore multiplayer servers as a tool for connecting with far flung friends and playing with other Minecrafters across the globe.

For homework, the first order of business is getting yourself a new skin. Steve is a handsome boy and all, but this is chance to let our personalities shine through. Grab a skin, tweak it with an editor if you desire, and upload it to Minecraft.net. The second order of business, after you’ve slapped on an appropriate leisure suit, is to help your friend do the same and set up a multiplayer game for you two to run around in.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/26/14