OpenVPN for Gaming
How I got it set up
I’m no expert, certainly not in networking, so this isn’t so much a HowTo as a HowIDid. I’ll show you how I set up OpenVPN to allow my friends and I to play old ass games that only work on LAN (in our case, Titan Quest and a spot of FlatOut 2, both via Wine in my case, of course). This solution works for games which rely on UDP broadcast (i.e. games where you can’t just enter a direct IP, you have to look for games on the local network).
Bear in mind that this approach will expose your entire local network to any clients you invite. They will be able to see any shared resources on your local network — essentialy it’ll be as if they are connected directly to your LAN. This is only for use with friends whom you trust.
You can use any security measures you like, you don’t have to use keys. I’ll be using keys though.
I’ll be using the same keys for all clients. This isn’t generally advised since if one of them leaks their key then, in order to remain secure, you’ll need to revoke and replace the key for everyone. In a big organisation this would be a terrible idea but for a handful of friends I think it’s easier to just have one key for all of them. Which approach you take is up to you.
I used netctl to make the bridge since it seemed simplest. You can use any method you like but I’ll only be covering netctl.
I’m using Arch so examples will be Arch-centric and I’ll be using Systemd to manage services, adjust to taste.
Stuff you’ll need:
- OpenVPN installed, obviously. It’ll be in your repos.
- rsa-tools to generate the keys. Again, check your repos.
- A wired internet connection on the server machine (I believe it’s possible to bridge a wifi connection but it’s more complicated so you’re on your own with that).
- If the machine you’re going to use as the server has a dynamic external IP then use a dynamic DNS service to get yourself a hostname that people can connect on, otherwise you’re going to have to give your clients new configs every time your IP changes. If you have a static IP then you can just use that if you like.
- Some friends to test it’s working.
- Hedgewars — handy for testing. Throw up a LAN game and see if others can see it.
I am the keymaster
We need to make an assload of keys.
I followed these instructions exactly so there’s no point repeating them here, they’re excellent instructions.
The only changes I made were to use
server where the example uses
elmer and to use
client where the example uses
bugs. So when generating keys for my server, in the common name field, I used
server and when generating the client keys I used
client for the common name. If you want to stay matched up with me then do the same.
When you fill in the defaults in the
.vars file, just put sensible things in each of the following fields:
Follow the instructions using the default values for all fields except when it asks you for common name where you should use
client as appropriate.
When you’re done, inside the
/root/easy-rsa/keys/ directory, you should have (amongst others) the following files:
As root, copy these files to
/etc/openvpn/. Copying the client files as well as the server files will allow us to run a client locally to make sure we’ve not done anything catastrophically wrong.
If you mess up the key making process at any point, just run
./clean-all and start again.
OpenVPN server configuration
Before we go any further you should forward UDP port 1194 to the machine you’re going to run the server on. This will vary depending on your router and/or software firewall, I’m sure you know how to forward ports: do that!
We’re going to base our OpenVPN configuration on one of the examples because that sounds like a sensible thing to do. The location of the examples will vary per distro but you want to copy the example called
/etc/openvnc/. So on Arch that’s:
$ sudo cp /usr/share/openvpn/examples/server.conf /etc/openvpn/server.conf
/etc/openvpn/server.conf (as root) in your favourite text editor. And edit the settings as follows. I’m only going to include the lines I changed; anything not listed here should stay as default.
dev tap0 ca /etc/openvpn/ca.crt cert /etc/openvpn/server.crt key /etc/openvpn/server.key dh /etc/openvpn/dh2048.pem ;server 10.8.0.0 255.255.255.0 # i.e. we comment this line out server-bridge 192.168.1.254 255.255.255.0 192.168.1.100 192.168.1.200 client-to-client duplicate-cn tls-auth /etc/openvpn/ta.key 0 user nobody group nobody
We put the full paths in for the key files to allow for flexibility when testing.
Some of those lines need comments and caveats.
server-bridge 192.168.1.254 255.255.255.0 192.168.1.100 192.168.1.200
… will vary depending on your network. My router assigns IPs in the
192.168.1.x range. If yours assigns them in the
192.168.0.x range then you’ll want to change that first value to
192.168.0.254. The second value is the netmask which should usually be right as it is and you’ll probably know if it’s not.
The last two numbers are the range of IPs OpenVNC will assign to clients. Adjust these as appropriate. So if your router assigns IPs in
192.168.0.x then you’ll want this line to be:
server-bridge 192.168.0.254 255.255.255.0 192.168.0.100 192.168.0.200
… allows clients to ‘see’ each other on the network. For gaming you will most likely want this.
… allows multiple clients to connect with the same keys. If you’re going to give each of your clients different keys then you can leave that commented out.
And that’s it. The server configuration is done.
We need to create two network devices. The first is the tap0 device that OpenVPN will use and the second is a bridge to connect that tap0 device with our ethernet connection.
There are many ways to do this, I’m using netctl since it seemed simplest. So, as root, create the file
/etc/netctl/tuntap and put the following in it:
Description='tuntap connection' Interface=tap0 Connection=tuntap Mode='tap' User='nobody' Group='nobody'
That one’s straightforward. Now let’s make the bridge device.
Create a file, again as root, at
/etc/netctl/bridge and put the following in it:
Description="bridge connection" Interface=br0 Connection=bridge BindsToInterfaces=(eth0 tap0) IP=no ExecUpPost="ip link set dev br0 address $(cat /sys/class/net/eth0/address); IP=dhcp; ip_set" ExecDownPre="IP=dhcp" # # Ignore (R)STP and immediately activate the bridge SkipForwardingDelay=yes
There are two instances of
eth0 there, replace these with the name of your ethernet device which you can find by executing
ip link show in a terminal (it will likely be the one that starts with ‘eth’ or ‘en’).
This file could be simpler, what this line…
ExecUpPost="ip link set dev br0 address $(cat /sys/class/net/eth0/address); IP=dhcp; ip_set"
… does is ensures that the bridge has the same MAC address as my ethernet interface which was necessary for port forwarding on my router. If this is not necessary for you then there are simpler examples here.
And that’s the bridge done and ready to go. Just the clients left.
This is very similar to the server configuration. First copy the example file to
/etc/openvpn/ as root like so:
$ sudo cp /usr/share/openvpn/examples/client.conf /etc/openvpn/client.conf
(Again, paths may vary on other distros)
/etc/openvpn/client.conf as root in your text editor. As before I’ll only include the lines you should change, everything else should remain the same.
dev tap0 remote YOUR_HOSTNAME_OR_IP 1194 user nobody group nobody tls-auth ta.key 1
Only one line to adjust here:
remote YOUR_HOSTNAME_OR_IP 1194
Just replace ‘YOUR_HOSTNAME_OR_IP’ with… yeah, your hostname or IP. The one you want your friends to connect to over the internet. So if you’re using dynamic dns and the hostname is hello.noip.com then this line would be:
remote hello.noip.com 1194
If you’re using your IP instead which is 220.127.116.11 then the line would be:
remote 18.104.22.168 1194
Ok, that’s the client config file done.
On Windows, the
client.conf file will need to be renamed to
client.ovpn so you may as well make a copy now:
$ sudo cp /etc/openvpn/client.conf /etc/openvpn/client.ovpn
You need to send your client files to your clients, how you do this is up to you, I made a zip file which I sent to each of them. The files they need are:
- client.ovpn on Windows OR client.conf on Linux
So bundle those files up into a zip file or whatever you like, we’ll come back to what clients should do with them shortly.
Let’s start the server
First we need to bring up the network interfaces that OpenVPN will use, so in a terminal we do:
$ sudo netctl start tuntap $ sudo netctl start bridge
And then we start OpenVPN itself:
$ sudo systemctl start openvpn@server
(This assumes you called your server configuration file
server.conf like I did. If you called it
myserver.conf instead then this command would be
sudo systemctl start openvpn@myserver)
To stop these services just issue the same commands with
stop instead of
start. If you want it so that it all happens automatically at boot then issue the same commands with
enable instead of
And that’s it, the server should be running. You can use
ip link show to check those interfaces are there if you like.
Here’s a link to my configs in case they might be helpful.
You’ve distributed those client files to your clients as described above and they’re ready to go. Here’s what they do.
They just need install OpenVPN from their repos and put all the files you gave them in
/etc/openvpn/. Then they can do:
$ sudo systemctl start openvpn@client
And they should be connected. Since you already have those files in place you can issue that command to see if it works. It won’t be very meaningful since you’ll just be connecting to a LAN you’re already on. If you want to see whether you’re successfully connected, do:
$ sudo cat /etc/openvpn/openvpn-status.log
That’ll show any connected clients.
Windows users need to install the OpenVPN client. Once that’s done, they need to navigate to the program’s install directory and then put the files you gave them inside the
config folder. So their config folder, when things are set up correctly, should contain the following:
They then need to run the OpenVPN client which will put an icon in their system tray. Then, if things are set up correctly, if they right click on the system tray icon, they should have the option to
connect, which they should click.
They should then connect.
You can test for a successful connection by getting them to ping an IP on your internal network, such as your own machine, and you can try pinging the IP that OpenVPN assigned to them.
If that works then throw up a LAN game of Hedgewars and see if they can see it.
Metrics on Windows
Windows clients may need to mess around with metrics in order to see games. I’m not sure this is necessary; I got my friends to do this before I hit on the working solution. So here it is just in case.
In Windows 7 (should be very similar on other Windowses) open the start menu and enter:
In the search box. Press enter.
Change adapter settings on the left, this should bring up a list of network interfaces. Choose the OpenVPN one, right click it and select
On the properties window, in the box in the middle, first of all deselect/disable
Internet Protocol Version 6 since this is useless to us for gaming.
Now highlight the
Internet Protocol Version 4 entry and click on the
Properties button lower down.
On the next Window, click on the
Advanced button near the bottom.
Finally we’re there. Windows instructions are absurd.
Ok, so on this window, near the bottom, untick
Automatic metric if it’s ticked and then enter
5 in the
Interface metric field.
Now OK your way back out of everything. This may need a reboot to take effect, who knows; it’s Windows.
You may want to mess around with the MTU size which may or may not improve performance in certain situations. I did it and noticed a minor reduction in pings. I did exactly what this section of the wiki told me to so there’s no point repeating the instructions.
Cesi n’est pas une LAN
I have no idea whether LAN is masculine or feminine.
As I said up top, I am not an expert as I hope was evident in my writing. I just stumbled, after a lot of fumbling around, on something that works. If you have any technical questions, please don’t ask me; I won’t know the answers. Ask some people who might know instead.
If you have any corrections or improvements to my instructions then please do tell me. Either email me via the link up top or do a pull request on the repo (also up top), whichever you prefer.
Once I’d got my config up and running I decided to copy it over to my Raspberry Pi rather than use my desktop PC. That way it’s always available, whether my PC’s on or not. The RPi handles it fine alongside its day-to-day task of being a little media server. It’s a pretty cool thing to do with a Pi you have lying around.
Again, here’s a link to my configs in case they might be helpful.
And lastly, here we are, me and my friends playing Titan Quest by harnessing the vast power of Linux, OpenVPN, the Arch Wiki and (in my case) Wine.