A couple of months ago I went to a games festival up north where some pupils and I were fortunate enough to go to a Minecraft workshop where we experienced the Edu version. At the start of this term I therefore decided to buy 25 licences and get Minecraft going at school.
Before I start describing the issues we have been having I do want to clarify that I thoroughly enjoy Minecraft and I buy the concept of it as an enrichment and educational resource in school. As it is obviously still a game which is a work in progress and almost certainly not built for network environments in school you need to think very carefully about buying it. Having access to a supportive and skilled network manager, as I am fortunate enough to have, is also a very good idea.
Onto the actual buying and install process. After having to convince my bursar that paying through Paypal in dollars was ok I ordered minecraftedu and was sent the relevant details. The first issue which came up for me was redeeming the gift codes. Although I followed the suggested process of using email aliases to redeem the gift codes I am still not sure as to why I needed to do this. Surely the purchase agreement should just simply state “download Minecraft client once and put it on 25 machines?”. I lost concentration half way through the process and completely messed up my system of signing up with the 25 aliases. It just seems a time consuming and unnecessary task.
Installing it we also run into issues. Now these issues may arise out of two factors: firstly the game client isn't built for a networked environment like a school and secondly individual schools may have unique set-ups which conflict with how Minecraft wants to run. We use roaming profiles at school which help deliver a consistent desktop experience but also allow saving to network drives.
When Minecraft's client is run it checks to see whether you have the game files and pulls those down. I had to login to the browser version to force a download of the files. Those files are placed in the appdata folder which on our network is cleared when a user logs off. A solution I therefore found was copying .minecraft to the same folder as the client on a machines local drive and then using a .bat to tell the launcher to look in the same location for the files.
This now means we can use straightforward single player Minecraft in school. However a limitation is that we have is that because the launcher and .minecraft are on a machines local drive that means maps created and saved remain on that machine rather than networked. A temporary solution will be to ask pupils to keep a copy of their saves on their personal network drives and then copy that onto C: whenever they want to have a Minecraft session.
In order to fix that I am looking at whether I can use something called symbolic links to create a saves folder on C: which appears to the launcher as if it is a legitimate saves folder but it actually links to a saves folder on the pupils personal network drive.
Once that is working I will then need to solve why the minecraftedu launcher isn't working, set up a server and get machines to talk to each other for a LAN multiplayer session.
A lot to do …