My kids both have exposure to Minecraft through school projects, but im a novice at it (i have another game that saps my time heavily). They are to the point where they'd like to start experimenting with using and creating mods, so i would like to host a private server for them. Im savvy as far as hardware, networking, and VERY basic java commands, and am pretty sure i have the hardware to handle a sub-4-player server (i7 860, 16gb ram, 128ssd for OS and MC, three gigabit connections, 24-port dell managed gig switch, whole house hardwired at 1G speed) and the kids' computers easily handle the windows 10 demo on high settings at a steady 60+fps. SO, i guess what im hunting for is: what do i need to download/install/manage on the server, and what version of MC do they need to start out with? From what i've seen on some forums ive found via googling, it appears that the server and mod version of MC is the java version and not the win10? I just want to be sure im heading in the right direction before throwing money and time at the project.
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Java Edition is the Edition people use and create mods for, not Bedrock (Console, Phones, Windows 10), if you want tutorials for modding on Forge or Fabric try documentation (like wikis), forums or Youtube videos I can recommend some.
I can't say for servers or hardware that is suitable but the video above and those on forums/Discord servers can help with setting up modded servers if need be. I only know that with Forge you would need to install server instead of client with the installer and putting mods in the server folder, can't say for Fabric.
In terms of which version to go with, I'd say it depends on what modloader and what versions they support when making mods, but when playing with mods what version can be determined by the volume and the types. 1.14.4 is the more recent (not counting 1.15 as it's too new and many mods are getting use to porting and documentation for it while similar to 1.14 for both Forge & Fabric, I'd still recommend earlier) but 1.12.2 is more popular and has many that could be asked for assistance with. Modloaders change based on either what Mojang does to the game or what the Modloader team decides to do, so keep that in mind (which 1.13+ changed a lot due to how Mojang changed the game and because the Forge team wanted to make their own changes). Some versions like 1.7.10 have people still developing for it either because they want to, the community is still there, hardware reasons if they haven't upgraded their computers (or are comfortable with 1.7.10 in general) or because 1.8+ modding changed a lot and those that develop for 1.7.10 do because of the changes to Forge.
I'd start with a singleplayer world and LAN first then move to servers if need be.
Some sources I recommend for modding/datapacks are these:
huge thanks guys, this is exactly what i was looking for. my oldest is really geared up for this, so now that my questions have been answered, we're gonna start going. i did see the server version download, so ill put that on the rig i have set aside for it, and ill install the java version on their machines to let them start getting comfortable with the game. im hoping this will sort of open their eyes into how this stuff actually gets created, because writing software can actually be a career these days, and this is a great segway into that. again, thanks, and maybe we'll see you folks online sometime.
Also remember that they each need to have their own separate account. You can install Minecraft on different machines and use the same account on both but if they want to play together they will need separate accounts.
I ran a server for my daughter and her friends off a computer that is quite a bit less powerful than what you are describing and it worked just fine, even with me playing Minecraft at the same time as the server was running.
Some other things to remember: in a multiplayer world, all players need to sleep at the same time to get through the night unless you have a datapack installed that allows only one person to sleep. There is a pre-made data pack available at Vanilla Tweaks.
I find that some other quality of life improvements provided by Vanilla Tweaks are invaluable on a multiplayer server.
Just a heads up. Internet download speed is not onerous but it is the UPLOAD speed which is the real bottleneck for a home private server.
Also, as you won't be home all the time and your son/daughter will be home more so, you need to have a turn key system for them to restart the server in case you are not around. They need to be able to identify your IP address to communicate to their friends.
And you need to set a time limit every night so that you may do necessary system backups. Yeah they won't be happy about that early bed time but on the odd occasion you are asked to do a roll back - they will be truly thankful!
Mostly they'll play cooperatively as they are acutely understanding that they and they alone are plotting the destiny of THEIR world and no stranger on some remote internet server can take that away from them. But... disagreements occur and sadly you may be required to mediate to prevent unfair exclusions and to, alas, do the odd roll back when someone goes crazy with TNT.