Need help setting up a home gaming server, if that sort of thing exists
August 31, 2007 3:03 PM   Subscribe

Need help setting up a home gaming server, if that sort of thing exists

Inspired by some AskMeFi threads I read on old-school PC RPGs, I installed Fallout 2 on my home computer and am all excited about playing it. Ideally I would like to have the application reside on my home office PC and be able to play it on a laptop that cannot (for various reasons) have the game installed. I understand I could do this through VLC, but are there any other ways to have my home PC 'serve' the game but play it on another computer on the network? My problem with VLC is that if my wife needs to use the PC I don't want to take it over from her. Instructions pitched to the level of a brain-damaged 3-year old would be best for my level of technical ability. Thanks!
posted by mattholomew to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
This is going to be tough, because (for performance reasons, and so that your wife can use the computer as well) you really want to run the app natively on your laptop -- but you can't install it there.

So what you're looking for is a solution that does one of the following:

1. Allows you to boot from a CD that has an OS and the game(s) you want installed, so that you can run 'em from there;

2. Allows you to load the application, along with any DLLs and whatnot that it needs, to your laptop when you're ready to run it.

The first solution is not only more likely and less complicated, but the slowdown from running off CD is *nothing* compared to the slowdown from running off the network.

I don't have specific instructions beyond this, but hopefully this will get you looking in the right direction: for a CD-based OS that can be booted with the game(s) you want installed.
posted by davejay at 3:11 PM on August 31, 2007

to clarify, #2 in my first comment refers to loading the application and DLLs and whatnot FROM ANOTHER COMPUTER IN YOUR NETWORK. forgot that part.
posted by davejay at 3:12 PM on August 31, 2007

Running games over a network is unlikely to work for any game that wasn't specifically designed for it. Games generally require fast, low-level access to the graphic card to do their magic, and there's no simple way to just haul that over a network wire. That said, I'll try to give you a couple of ideas that MIGHT work, but I make no guarantees whatsoever.

Fallout is an old game. Even if your machine is 1/10th as fast at graphics as usual, it might work out okay. The first thing I'd try would be Windows Remote Desktop. You need to download the free client from Microsoft, but your desktop should have the server part built in, as long as you're running XP Pro. I'm not sure how well Remote Desktop will work with DirectX graphics -- it may crash spectacularly -- but it's worth a try.

If that doesn't work, you could try to run it under virtualization on your laptop. You could build a custom OS and game image using the free VMWare Server on your desktop, and then actually run it directly on the laptop using VMWare Player.

VMWare Server does allow for remote control of running machines, but its graphic emulation is extremely slow; you'd find Fallout unbearable. If you actually run the virtual machine on your laptop, it might be fast enough to be playable.

If Remote Desktop will work, it'll probably run a lot faster, but whether or not it will be stable and crash free is questionable. Under virtualization, IF the VMWare drivers are good enough to offer basic DirectX support, the game will probably run, but it will update the screen slowly.

It is entirely possible that neither approach will work at all. What you're trying to do is extremely unusual.
posted by Malor at 3:32 PM on August 31, 2007

Thanks to both of you. I guess I should say that I'm not stuck on the idea of running it over the network, virtualization would be OK as well -- however, I can't install any type of VMware either. I know that QEMU can run portably, but wouldn't I then have to do a full install of windows inside of that?
posted by mattholomew at 3:43 PM on August 31, 2007

Do you mean VNC or VLC? I've never heard of playing a game through VLC, which is more of a media player.

You could theoretically play games through an VNC/RDC (Remote desktop connection) connection but you'd be limited to windowed games. You might be able to play turn based games like fallout in windowed mode. The lag for redraw would be a pain though. You will take over the PC that you are trying to play the game on though.

I'm just gonna say no. Find a game that will install on your laptop and play locally. You're just asking for trouble.
posted by mphuie at 3:52 PM on August 31, 2007

Yes, you would need to install windows to a QEMU disk file. Does that mean that you are on linux/unix? That opens up some other ideas as well, like WINE and it's variants.
posted by philomathoholic at 4:03 PM on August 31, 2007

You could run DOS / Windows in VMWare on the home machine, then use VNC on /that/ so that the parent machine isn't affected. So it's theoretically possible to do all you're saying, but it'll be really slow.
posted by wackybrit at 4:21 PM on August 31, 2007

How about booting a separate copy of Windows off a USB drive? Unless you are locked out of the laptop's bios, this would seem to do the trick to run whatever you want locally.
posted by SpookyFish at 4:27 PM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

If your laptop can boot from CD-ROM, you *MAY* be able to get away with using a 'live boot windows' environment that has the game you want to play pre-installed.

Haven't done a ton of research on this, and it's probably not for the technically timid (and may be a dead-end), but I think it is a more likely solution then trying to play via a remote-connection (which yeah, ain't gonna work).

BartPE purportedly can help you create a live-boot windows disc (if you have an original XP install disc).

Here's what I'm envisioning:

1. build environment on home computer.
2. boot environment from cd-rom/dvd on laptop
3. play the games that your dirty sysadmin doesn't want you playing.
posted by fishfucker at 4:34 PM on August 31, 2007

the article spookyfish linked looks like it has a pretty good description on actual use of bartpe.
posted by fishfucker at 4:35 PM on August 31, 2007

A thought I just had: buy another notebook hard drive, if the bay is easily accessible.

Normally, you'd need another copy of Windows, but if you can get the exact model number of what you're running, you can order an identical drive and create an image.

I'll give you a super-quick overview: if it sounds too intimidating, you can just skip it.

Basically, you'd make a network share on your desktop, making sure to have quite a bit more space than the total size of your laptop drive. You'd burn a Ubuntu CD and boot the laptop from that. From there, you'd mount the network share, and run the dd command to create an exact bitperfect image of the hard drive. Then you'd shut down, swap drives, and do the same thing in reverse, copying from the network image onto the hard drive. Then you could make any changes you want on your personal drive, including replacing the sysadmin password if you need to. You'd just have to remember to swap in the work drive when approprate.

This would only work if you got exactly the same model of hard drive, but will only cost you the drive. If you can't get that exact model, you'll probably have to buy an image tool that knows how to resize to new drives. The dd command is extremely stupid: it just copies bytes. It doesn't understand anything about drive layout.

If you want to go that route, I can give you more detailed instructions.
posted by Malor at 5:52 PM on August 31, 2007

Fallout 2? The CD of the game that I have doesn't require the CD to run. I'm assuming you're running windows on the laptop? Why don't you share the fallout 2 directory and see if you can just run it remotely from the shared drive? If I recall correctly there aren't really any registry settings that are too important for the game.
posted by unvivid at 6:29 PM on August 31, 2007

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