Help me help my kid play Minecraft
August 27, 2022 12:34 PM   Subscribe

My kid loves Minecraft, and I would rather that he play Minecraft than watch YouTube videos of other people shouting about Minecraft, which is what he usually does. Please help me figure out what we need to do this.

We do not have any game consoles and are not currently planning to get one. Hence, we will be playing on a computer. The available computers are:
  • A 10-year-old Lenovo X1 Carbon laptop with a Core i5 3427U CPU, 4GB of RAM, and no discrete GPU, running Linux. Probably this is too anemic to run the game well.
  • An early 2015 13" MacBook Pro with some i5 chip (not sure which generation), 16GB of RAM, and no discrete GPU, whose battery swelled up but which is otherwise usable with an external keyboard.
  • A homebuilt desktop with a Core i5 6500 CPU, 32GB of RAM, and no discrete GPU, running Linux. This is my work machine.
As you can see, we have no discrete GPUs, nor do we run Windows. There may be a new computer coming, but for now, this is what we have.

I see that there are multiple editions of Minecraft (Java, Bedrock), although it now appears that if you buy a non-console version of Minecraft then you get/are forced to buy both editions together, so at least we don't have to make that choice.

My main question is, if I buy the combined Java/Bedrock editions of Minecraft, can I only download the installer for one platform, or could I (say) download the macOS version, try it out on the old MacBook, and then download the Linux version to try it on my work machine if the macOS version is too laggy? (I tried looking this up on the Minecraft website but it wasn't clear to me.)

Is there anything else I should be thinking about here?
posted by number9dream to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It seems like you can download a free trial of Java Edition for Windows, Mac and Linux, which should allow you to check performance in the manner you outline.

For reference, if new device purchase does come into the equation, my kids are super happy playing Minecraft on Kindle Fire HD 10 tablets ; tons of lava or mobs make things a bit laggy, but otherwise I've been amazed how well it runs. This option comes in at about €155 in my region (FR) for the tablet plus Minecraft app purchase.

P.S. re. "Youtube videos of other people shouting about Minecraft", I absolutely share your pain and send you bonne courage ;)
posted by protorp at 12:58 PM on August 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's been a long time since I made my made my Minecraft account, but my understanding is you make a account and then can use that to log into and play Minecraft on any number of different devices and platforms. I bought it once and have run it on Linux and Windows on different devices since, with no problems.

Performance wise, there are a lot of knobs you can adjust in the settings to make it easier to run, and it can run on some pretty low-end computers if you turn the render distance and other graphic options down. I think the settings you want to look at are (in order of how impactful they are, as I remember it):
  • Graphics: Fast
  • Render Distance: Lower is faster
  • Smooth Lighting: Off
  • Particles: Decreased or Minimal
  • Entity Shadows: Off
  • Clouds: Fast or Off
Additionally, there's a mod called OptiFine which is quite popular, and can make the game run significantly better on low-end machines (the website claims that it can often double the FPS). I've used it to run Minecraft on devices probably close to as old as your X1, although that was years ago and I don't know how much heavier Minecraft has gotten since then. If you want to run it modded, I'd recommend doing that via MultiMC, it's simple, stable, pretty easy to use, and open-source.
posted by wesleyac at 1:22 PM on August 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My kids are current power users of MC on multiple devices. Their experience matches wesleyac's. As long as you're using the same credentials that you used to create the original account, you can download different versions on different platforms with no extra charge.
posted by cocoagirl at 1:41 PM on August 27, 2022

Best answer: Can confirm what wesleyac has said. One thing to be aware of at the moment is that there is a launcher bug preventing a lot of older linux distros from playing. Specifically, if your distro uses a GLIBC older than 2.29, the launcher itself won't launch.
posted by bricoleur at 1:42 PM on August 27, 2022

Best answer: For what it's worth, I bought Minecraft back in 2009 or so, and have downloaded and re-downloaded the Java version for MacOS and Windows over the years. I can't remember if I've ever run it on Linux, but I'm pretty sure the gateway is the account, not any specific piece of software.
posted by Alterscape at 1:46 PM on August 27, 2022

Best answer: I play Minecraft on an old Mac, 2015 MB Pro, and it plays just fine. Bedrock and iOS work fine but you lose right and left click, which are frequently used to manipulate items in your inventory. Bedrock also has a marketplace attached to it, which contains items one can buy with real money. The Java version does not, if that is an issue. Bedrock can be modded and has its own resource and texture packs, but they don't install as easily as the Java versions do. Windows is slightly easier to mod/pack than Mac, but optifine, mentioned above works great on both. If they watch youtubers, they will probably want to try out mods.
posted by headspace at 1:50 PM on August 27, 2022

Best answer: Not really answering your question, but as you mention shouting YouTubers, which i totally get - they sound like microphones are not invented, and their artificial hyperness truly grates my nerves, but my son found one , Grian, whom he actually enjoys watching and, equally important, this guy has a soothing and very pleasant voice which i can totally relax to.
posted by 15L06 at 2:10 PM on August 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A 10-year-old Lenovo X1 Carbon laptop with a Core i5 3427U CPU, 4GB of RAM, and no discrete GPU, running Linux. Probably this is too anemic to run the game well.

I used to run Minecraft on a Lenovo X1 Carbon, with no discrete GPU, running Linux. I think it was a few years newer than yours. Seems worth a shot, though.
posted by bfields at 2:27 PM on August 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Minecraft is more CPU than GPU bound, so definitely grab the free trial and check performance on the laptop. There are a number of client side mods you can use to improve performance without changing gameplay at all, so your kid would still be getting the authentic Minecraft experience. I highly recommend installing the Fabric mod framework, Lithium (game tick optimization), Sodium (rendering engine optimization), and Starlight (lighting engine optimization).
posted by MagnificentVacuum at 2:59 PM on August 27, 2022

Ugh, sorry, hit post too soon and don't want to abuse the edit timer. With performance mods installed over Fabric I can boost the FPS in my very elaborate base with a lot of redstone mechanisms from 25 to 120.
posted by MagnificentVacuum at 3:01 PM on August 27, 2022

IMHO this not as hard as it sounds. Don't worry about mods and Bedrock and optimizations. There is a LOT to do with just the basic package.

You'll need to create a Microsoft account. To get started, you almost certainly want the Java edition for iOS. They've done a nice job of reducing some of the system demands - it used to really tax my old MacBook Air but now it runs just fine.
posted by nkknkk at 5:45 PM on August 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

I still play Java edition on a 2012 MacBook Pro with no issues.
posted by candyland at 8:48 AM on August 28, 2022

Best answer: I am not going to weigh in on the tech aspects of MineCraft other than to say that we play as a family on a wide range of elderly computers, successfully. I was just popping in to offer some YouTube start-up recommendations that are non-shouty.

As mentioned above, my kids loved Grian, too. Pixelriffs has two great seasons of MineCraft Survival Guide where he walks you through the progression of making your first world, surviving your first MineCraft night, finding resources and progressing to great buildings and complex game-play. I highly recommend the first season, as it really holds the viewer's hand, but I note that newer versions of the game have slightly different redstone and mob spawning mechanics, so some of the details are out of date. His newer season is running in the current game version.

Supporting my kids' gameplay eventually interested me in playing MineCraft and we now have two family MineCraft nights a week. What started out as one child's obsession has become a fun* family activity.

*"fun" here can mean soul-wrenching frustration as the kids insist on carrying all the most valuable loot in their inventories only to promptly die in lava and lose everything. Again. You can select "keep inventory" when creating the world so that items are not lost when the character dies, which can increase family harmony.
posted by Sauter Vaguely at 9:01 AM on August 28, 2022

Best answer: Seems like everyone has the hardware/install side covered, but I will suggest in addition to Grian's Youtube, you check out the various Hermitcraft channels. Hermitcraft is about a dozen or so Minecraft YouTubers working together in a single world. Each has their own set of videos but they also interact with each other. GoodTimesWithScar is another Hermitcraft I can wholeheartedly recommend.
posted by neilbert at 10:23 AM on August 28, 2022

Response by poster: OMG I love you guys! And Grian, I love Grian too.
posted by number9dream at 6:14 AM on August 30, 2022

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