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I'm trying to run the offline version of Minecraft (which I'm told doesn't need a premium account?) but the "play offline" button is greyed out, with the text underneath it reading "not downloaded".

Do you need a premium account to play offline?

Note: I've also tried using the assets.minecraft.net/1.8/minecraft.jar but I encounter this (fatal) error: java: symbol lookup error: /usr/lib/jni/libjinput.so: undefined symbol: EVIOCGUSAGE

I'm also a bit worried that what I'm doing might not be allowed - is the minecraft.jar file from assets.minecraft.net legal?

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Yes, you do need a premium account to play Minecraft offline.

The first time it is run the client requires you to log in with a premium account to download the necessary files from minecraft.net.

See the FAQ for Minecraft.

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    The link seems broken... It says: Last Updated: Liquid error: undefined method 'in_time_zone' for nil:NilClass – Universal Electricity May 26 '15 at 13:41
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You can, if you have a account on minecraft.net. You can do this from the homepage. Look for the download button, (below a player with the default skin) and press that to download minecraft. After launching minecraft, you will see a login page, so enter your username and password. It will say "user not premium" and "play offline", therefore you can't get Minecraft player skins offline.

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    nope, without an account that minecraft.exe will not download the required game data – Zommuter Mar 14 '12 at 22:10

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