Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Logans Lessons #3: Setting up Ventrillo server

Setting up Ventrillo server

The Scenario

You get an awesome new multiplayer game to play with your friends who live somewhere that is not in your house/apt/abode. You discover that you love the game, and that while playing, its useful to be talking together, either for the purpose of the game, or just for fun. Luckily the game of course has chat support built in (text chat). Of course, text chat is awesome, but it takes quite a bit of time away from the game, which slows things down, and with enough people, it gets confusing. So, what do you do?

You could call on a cell phone... but that's lame and is way too old fashioned to be useful while playing a game, especially if its with more than one other person. Next up comes the idea to Skype. Now, skype works, but its a bit resource heavy, and has limitations on the number of people that you call at the same time. You could use a google hangout, but that would require everyone to be on google plus... Which not everyone is on, and not everyone wants to be (yours truly included). So what are you to do?

After looking around a bit, and googling all sorts of irrelevant things in your search for what you were actually MEANING to search for, you learn that there is a free program called Ventrillo. It allows you to host your own server (more of a service actually), that supports up to 8 people with simultaneous voice chat. It is completely free, and has been around for a while. However, for some people, it can be a bit intimidating to setup.

This is where I come in. Since I'm a self admitted nerd, I usually just jump right in. This time, I decided to document the process, and help anyone out there out with getting a server of their own setup. I know there are lots of tutorials on this, but for some reason most of the ones I found on this were videos. And while videos are good, sometimes I don't feel like watching one just to figure out one little thing, when I could have just as easily skimmed a document to the part where I was confused. So here is my primarily text based one tutorial.

Installing and configuring the server

So, first steps first. Download ventrillo server. You can find it HERE. Install it, and then edit the config file. The config file is located in the program folder, which should be under c:\Program Files (X86)\VentSrv. The file is called ventrilo_srv.ini. The main thing that you want to do here, is to change the password. Here is what mine looks like, and you can see how simple this file is. I like that.

After you get it installed, and the ini file changed, then you can start the service. To do that, you literally just run (double click, etc) ventrillo_srv.exe. It fires right up, and should be listening for people trying to talk to you.

Installing/configuring the client

After you start the service, you need to install the client (assuming of course you want to be able to talk and hear people, if not... then I guess you're mostly done?). Here, if you are setting it up on your own network, you can use the internal network IP of the machine hosting the service. If the machine that is running it is the same machine that you're going to be playing on, then you can just type in "localhost", or, or the internal IP address (all will work).

Here is a screenshot of what mine looks like.

If you have it running on a machine inside your network, but not the machine that you're using, then use the internal IP address (if you don't know that, open the command line, and type "ipconfig", and it will tell you what the IP address is for that machine). For your friends outside your network, go to whatsmyip to figure out what you're external IP address is, and then tell them to use that IP in their clients.

Configuring YOUR network

The last remaining thing to do, is to set up your router/firewall to allow the ventrillo service to communicate with the outside world. To do this, you need to set up something called port forwarding on your router. This is likely the part that confuses people the most, because it sounds really scary and technical. However, without this step, no one will be able to talk to you, and you'll be sad.

In reality, it is pretty simple to do once you know what needs to happen. You simply find out where to adjust port forwarding in your router (usually somewhere under advanced). You can see what mine looks like here, and what the "rule" looks like when in place. Just remember that setting up your own, may be different, but that unless you have the worlds lamest router, you should have the setting in there somewhere.

The menu option for"Port Forwarding/Port Triggering as the last menu option visible in the screenshot on the left. You may have to lookup what your router calls it.

(and here is a shoutout to anyone out there that noticed from that screenshot that I'm running a class B network here at casa de logan :).

Once you find it, you put in the internal IP address of the machine running the ventrillo service, and then the port that will be forwarded to it (3784 is the default, but feel free to change it. Just know that if you change it, you'll have to tell your friends what the new port is). You may also have to specify that the ports are for TCP and UDP. Once your router accepts that, then you're good to go, and everyone should be able to connect.

The wrapup

So far my usage experience of ventrillo has been very good. The only problem that I've had so far is that one of my friends couldn't speak for a while. It turns out, the problem was that when we disabled ppt (push to talk. When you disable it, it turns into basically a phone call where it continuously transmits ), his microphone was so quiet that ventrillo wasn't registering that he was speaking. Once we lowered the sensitivity requirement for ventrillo, it worked just fine. Other settings that I've tweaked on mine. I removed the voice things toast notifications (the beep before and after you talk setting... no idea why you would want those).

In an upcoming post, I'll go through the installation and configuration of one of the main competitors to Ventrillo. The one that I actually switched to FROM Ventrillo...

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