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Monday, 20 May 2013 00:00

How can 4 kids play together on the same computer?

What is Multi-Seat Gaming?

The point is very simple: let a number of users share the same computer at the same time. This can stop lots of fights between kids about whose turn it is to use the computer, or allow you to play together with a friend, without asking him to bring his own computer.

Shown below,a home gaming system, with 4 users playing BeGone at the same time:


Set up: hardware

Asrock H77M motherboard (2 x PCIE-X16 slots).Intel I5 2500K (3.1GHz) with gigantic Arctic cooler.

Ram - 8GB.

Video Card#1: Nvidia GTX-560.

Video Card#2: Nvidia GTX-570.

SSD - Intel 80GB for OS and program files only.

HDD - 500GB for user files etc.

PSU - Seasonic 850W - i started with 550W, but the video-cards become power hungry when pushed hard during games.

Additional chassis fans - Noctua.

Per each user: monitor, keyboard, mouse, webcam, USB Audio-adapter. I have applied a dedicated USB hub (self-powered type) for each user.



Set up: software

WIndows-7 64 bit. In Windows I created 4 user accounts, and changed all users file-locations to dedicated folders in the HDD drive - this is highly important if you don't want to clog the little SSD.

Anti-virus: I used Avast!, mainly thanks to its "Quiet" gaming mode.

Multi-Seat software: SoftXpand 2011 - this version allows different Windows sessions, without using the sluggish Windows RDP protocol (as in other virtual-desktop applicatios).

Device mapping: SoftXpand allows mapping individual devices (keyboard, mouse, webcam, etc) to individual users or as "shared" by all users. If you connect a new device (etc USB Flash Drive) you need to map it first before you can use it.

Sound: I use USB audio adapters for each user. SoftXpand allows you to dedicate any audio device to any user, or have one set of speakers as "shared" by all users.

Multi-Seat isolation: some applications, such as Steam, do not allow multiple instances. Sandboxie overcomes this limitation. In addition, many applications are installed multiple times, in separate folders (e.g. Minecraft etc).

Additional notes on gaming: users are required to have unique login name for all gaming platforms (Steam, Minecraft etc) - do not login twice with the same user.

Note about Minecraft setup: make sure to place a copy of Minecraft Executable, in each user's file folder. Also make sure to turn on Open GL under Video-Settings, so as to reduce CPU load. 

Multiple monitors: It is possible to use multiple monitors per user.

GPU sharing: if you connect two users' monitors to the same video-card, you may need to play some games in Windowed mode (e.g. BF3, Dota2 etc). A better option is add a dedicated video-card per user. This will prevent "starvation" of GPU resources by certain gaming applications. In my case this would mean limiting number of users to 2, so we play some games in Windowed mode.

DVD burning: I use IMGBurn, as it seems to be trouble free with this configuration.

Printer: I had some issues with Printer Spooler crashing. SoftXpand knowledge-base has a solution for this.

Power saving: SoftXpand does not support Sleep Mode, or Monitor Shut-Down, so I set a screensaver to blank individual screens after 30 minutes.

Check the following video showing SoftXpand 2011 installation with 4 workstations using as a gaming machine 



    Another picture of 4 kids playing on one computer at the same time:

    4 kids play together on one computer

Multi-Seat gaming: HowTo

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