There are a lot of ways to go about hosting a Minecraft game but it’s tough to beat the simplicity of buying a server directly from Mojang, the company behind Minecraft (and now it even comes with a free 30 day trial!) Read on as we show you how to purchase and configure a Minecraft Realms server.
Why Do I Want To Do This?
Minecraft Realms is, hands down, the easiest way to set up a multi-player server online for you and your friends, for your children and their friends, or for all of you to play on together. (And by all of you, we mean up to 200 other players if you’re so inclined to invite your entire extended family and all the kids from your kid’s elementary class). If you’re looking for a way to host games without worrying about your local connection flaking out or not being fast enough to host multiple players it’s a great way to set up an always-on server that all the people you want to play with can connect to.
RELATED: The Parents' Guide to Minecraft
It supports multiple worlds (which you can backup and save to your computer), mini-games, player white-lists so only friends and approved players can join, and you can manager the entire server experience from right within the Minecraft client in a way that is both kid and parent-who-doesn’t-play-Minecraft friendly alike.
We’ve mentioned Minecraft Realms in several previous Minecraft articles including The Parents Guide to Minecraft and How to Select a Remote Minecraft Host, but we’re revisiting it today for two reasons. First, it was and remains the best way for parents and people who don’t want to wrangle with managing a more advanced partially-or-fully DIY server solution to set up an online server. Second, Mojang recently introduced 30 day trials as well as lowered the price. A Realms account now runs you $7.99 a month instead of the previous $9.99 and you can try it out free to see if you (or your kid) really get use out of it.
With that in mind let’s look at how you can take advantage of the free trial, how to configure and manage your Realms account, and, most importantly, how to invite friends to play.
What Do I Need?
To set up a Minecraft Realm you’ll need a few minor things (which, if you or your child is a Minecraft fan you likely already have). You’ll need a premium Minecraft account (e.g. you have a Mojang/Minecraft username and can play online), you’ll need an updated Minecraft client, and, should you choose to extend your Realms subscription beyond the free trial you’ll need a credit card.
The account you activate the trial with and subscribe with becomes the administrator of the server so if you wish to be the administrator of your child’s server you’ll need your own account, otherwise you can simply use their account to activate the process.
If your kids are younger and you don’t necessarily trust them to handle the responsibility of not deleting their worlds and otherwise managing their Realm, you may wish to make yourself the administrator or, at minimum, tell them that you’re the only one allowed to change the server settings.
But as long as your child is old/responsible enough to understand the basic configuration settings and what not, we’d encourage you to have them be the administrator on their own Minecraft Realms account. It gives them the flexibility to make adjusts to the server on the fly (like switching it between their creative world and mini-games without bothering you) and they’ll certainly get some street cred with their friends if they are the captain of their own Minecraft ship.
Activating Your Free Trial
You can take advantage of the new lower Realms price no matter how you set up your Realm (via the Mojang website or via the Minecraft client) but you only get the 30 days free if you sign up for Realms via the Minecraft client. Given that you’re going to be doing most of your Realms management through the client anyway, let’s just hop right in. Take a moment to launch your client now.
On the main screen, seen above, you’ll find a button labeled “Minecraft Realms”. Select it.
You’ll see a simple summary of the Realms system with a button for “Get a trial!” and “Buy a Realm!”. Select “Get a trial!”
Give your Realm a name and description. Although your Realm is private we recommend not putting personally identifiable information in here. Both of these options can be changed at a later date.
Here you can create or upload a new world on your Realm. Let’s break down the different options:
You can select “New World” to generate a brand new world, just like if you had created a new single player map on your personal computer. You can “Upload world” to take an existing world from your computer and upload it to share with friends. If you and/or your child has already invested a lot of energy building things with their friends this is a great way to take the local map they’ve been working on and share it remotely. If you need help locating your Minecraft map in order to upload it to the server check out: How to Backup Your Minecraft Worlds, Mods, and More.
The “Adventure maps” option allows you to choose from a variety of adventure-style maps. These maps differ from plain Minecraft maps in that they are carefully designed and use command-blocks (a type of in-game programming used by map designers) to create puzzles and a more structured play experience. Finally you can select “Survival spawns” to select a survival map from a list of existing maps with a pre-built spawn zone. You can always skip this step and deal with map selection later, if you wish.
Because most people are familiar with what a brand new Minecraft world looks like and uploading a map is just taking a copy of a map you already have and copying it to the Realms server, let’s have a little more fun with this tutorial and showcase a “Survival spawns” map.
“Raider’s Refuge” looks intriguing. We’ll go with that one. Don’t stress too much about your selection process here, you can always delete a map if you don’t like it and pick a new one from either the survival map list or any of the other options like creating a new world.
Once you’ve selected a world (or outright skipped it in the previous step) you’ll be taken to the main Realms selection screen, as seen above. The Realm icon is the head from the skin of the Realm creator, the name and description of the realm are listed beside the player head, as well as the name of the player who owns/administrates the Realm.
On the far right side you’ll see a traffic-style light that indicates the Realm status (green means it is online, gray means it is offline, and red means the realm has expired and required your attention). Beside the traffic-light indicator there is wrench where you do all the configuration for your Realm.
Before we do any configuration let’s hop into the Realm just to confirm it’s up and running. The first time you join the Realm you’ll be prompted to accept the terms of service.
Look at that: a pre-built spawn site with spooky areas to explore and, just by chance, the map started in the middle of the night with the rain pouring down. Not a bad introduction to our new Realms server.
Now that we’ve confirmed the server is up and running let’s take a look at how to change settings, swap worlds, and so on.
Configuring and Managing Your Realms Account
Back at the main Realms screen, the one we looked at just a moment ago with the big white wrench, you can manage a wide range of settings. Return to that screen and click the wrench next to your Realms account.
Here you’ll find more than a few options to tinker with. Let’s work our way right through the configuration menu starting with the Worlds selection menu in the center of the screen and then looking at the sub-menus.
In our screenshot above you can see that there are four world slots. The first slot is occupied by the survival world we just created. The second two slots, marked “empty” have not been filled with worlds but are currently serving as place holders. The final slot is reserved for the Minigames.
Although you can store more than one map at a time in your Realm, your Realm can only host one map at a time. This means you can load the first, second, or third world to the Realm or, in turn, you can unload the survival/creative/adventure map and load a Minigame instead.
There are tons of minigames pre-loaded in the Minigame section so, if you want a break from working on a creative map or grinding in survival, you can play around for a bit and then jump right back into your old world. (If you’re not sure which minigame to start with we highly recommend “Missile Wars”, seen above, as a ridiculously fun game that gets better and better the more players you add in).
Do note that switching worlds doesn’t delete anything from your worlds, it’s merely a pause button. You can switch between the worlds at will. Also note that only the Realm owner can switch the worlds. Players logging in to play on your Realm don’t get to pick which of the three worlds or minigame they play in; what the Realms owner has selected is what is loaded.
If you select the “World options” button you’ll get a spread of options for the currently selected world. These options include changing the name of the world, toggling the difficulty level and the game mode, and switching a wide variety of settings that impact game play.
You can, for example, turn on a “spawn protection” zone which creates a safe zone around the spawn point (or starting point) of the map. Only the owner of the Realm (or a person they have promoted) can edit the blocks in this zone. If you wanted to build a castle, for example, that everyone started in (but you didn’t want the players to be able to destroy the castle or alter it) you would want to set the size of the spawn protection large enough to encompass the castle or other structure located at the world spawn.
Speaking of hostile mobs and spawning, you can turn on and off the spawning for animals (neutral mobs), monsters (hostile mobs), and NPCs (the villagers) in the World options menu as well as enable or disable PvP (Player versus Player).
If you’d like to keep things less violent and more creative, for example, you can turn the game difficulty to peaceful (which automatically turns off hostile mobs) and turn PvP off (to keep siblings and friends from beating up on each other).
Finally the last two settings are “Force Game Mode” (which forces the player into the set Game Mode upon joining even if they had, through server-based commands, been put in a different game mode during their last play session) and “Command Blocks” which allows you to toggle the use of command blocks on and off. Command blocks are an article topic in and of themselves, so if you’re curious about that we’d recommend you check out our article The Beginner’s Guide to Command Blocks in Minecraft.
Under the “World backups” sub-menu you can review world backups, restore world backups, and download them to your computer. These commands apply to the currently loaded world.
When would you use these functions? Let’s say you and some friends are working on a large project and things go terribly wrong in some way (creepers blow up a difficult to construct portion of a machine you’re building, a friend accidentally burns the roof of the castle off, or so on). You can hop into here and revert to the last backup to undo the damage.
You may also wish to archive worlds that you worked hard on but no longer wish to play. Let’s say you spent a lot of time building a really cool castle but no longer wish to play in the world the castle exists in. You could click “Download Latest” to download the world as a save file you can open on any computer as a local Minecraft world.
This section is simply a place holder for how much time is left on your free trial (or remains on your paid plan until you need to make another payment) and will direct you to the appropriate Mojang web page to update your payment information or make an additional payment if need be.
Remember when we said you could change your Realm’s name and description?
Under the “Settings” sub-menu you can rename your Realm as well as change the description. You can also toggle the Realm on and off by selecting Close/Open Realm at the top of the screen. This has the same effect as shutting down the server and will restrict all outside access to the Realm (you, as the owner, can always turn it back on at any time).
Just like it sounds, the “Reset world” button resets the selected world back to a blank slate. When you select “Reset world” you’ll be prompted to pick what goes in that slot via the same screen you used to select the first time around (with the added red warning that “This will delete your Realm’s current world!”).
This step is not reversible. If you wish to reset a world that has anything in it you may wish to play with again, use the “World backup” function to back the map up first.
Inviting Players to Your Realm
Now that we’ve gone over the configuration stuff, let’s jump right into the thing you really want to do with your Realms server: invite your friends to play.
To do so, select “Players” from the main Realm’s configuration screen, as seen above.
By default there are no players. Select “Invite player” and input their Minecraft username when prompted.
Once you’ve invited one or more players you’ll see them in the “Invited” roster (names blurred here to protect the privacy of our helpful Realms testers). Note the red X and the gray badge icon beside their names. If you click the X it will revoke their invitation and take them off the server white list (without an explicit invitation nobody can join the server). The small badge icon indicates whether the player is a “normal” player or an “operator”.
Operators have special privileges and access to special commands on the server. If a player needs access to in-game materials and the like it is better to set their game mode (or the server game mode) to creative rather than give them operator status as operator status allows them to do radically more than just give themselves raw materials and items. You can read more about operator commands in our previous article How to Run a Simple Local Minecraft Server With and Without Mods as well as by referencing the Minecraft wiki server command list.
Finally, from this menu, you can select “Player Activity” which simply gives you a chart of when players were on the server. While mostly a curiosity, this activity chart can be useful for checking up on how much Minecraft server time you’re logging as well as checking to see who might have been responsible for any hijinks on your server (e.g. if some time in the middle of the night a player’s home was messed with you can look at the log to see who was on at that time).
Where To Go From Here?
At this point you have your Realm up and running. All that’s left to do is invite more friends to play with you and enjoy yourself. Even though Realms might not support mods and such like third-party server platforms do that doesn’t mean you can’t do some interesting customization.
Remember, there are thousands upon thousands of vanilla maps out there (including vanilla maps with impressive customization via command blocks) that you can upload to your Minecraft realm. To find more maps for your Minecraft Realm we’ll recommend two map sources we previously recommended in our HTG Guide to Minecraft: Downloading and Installing Custom Maps article: Planet Minecraft and Minecraft Maps.
Have a question about Minecraft? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to answer it. Want to invite people to check out your cool new Realm? Jump into the forum below and make some new Minecraft friends.