Getting game server hosting:
First of all, what are server providers, GSPs, and why do I need one? If, you like to play online games with your friend’s you can play together online. People need a playground that will give you online space. How and where does all that information get processed? There are two main methods.
Peer to peer is a well-established protocol of information sharing between willing computers. In the case of online computer games, this is where one computer acts as the host (master computer if you like). All other players’ computers send their information to the master. This gives the player hosting the game a slight advantage in response time or lower ping and of course. Once that player leaves the game the server no longer exists as it was dependent on his connection. Historically this has been referred to as a ‘listen server’.
Some game companies like Activision and EA provide their own online “official” or “ranked” dedicated servers. Where they have their own machines in their own data center hosting official servers that control by admin. Console generally also have their own dedicated servers provided by the developer’s solutions in some cases as with Modern Warfare 2 and 3. But some servers are provided by individuals who like to have personal control over how their server is setup. These come in two options. Either the individual has a rented or owned machine and hosts the server themselves.
What are online servers?
A server is a machine running in a data center (DC) with a high bandwidth connection to the internet and a redundant power supply to keep things online 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. This allows lots of players to connect to one place to all play together. GSP’s host their servers on machines in a data center.
What is ping?
Ping is just an ICMP command that checks the time it takes for a packet of information to travel from one computer to another and back again. Ping is measured in ms or milliseconds which are thousandths of a second. A game server that is hosted within 300 miles of your physical location should provide you with a good latency to your server.
Full Dedicated Server
You can rent a fully dedicated server, this gives you root access to a Windows Server machine via Remote Desktop Connection. This is for advanced users as setting up a game server using steamcmd and configuring the firewall can be a time-consuming process but for large communities and clans, this is the only option. Full control over your game servers, root access to all of the files, something you will never get with shared game server hosting. It comes with a cost though, around the $100 per month mark so get those donations flowing to pay for the hardware.
Shared Game Server Hosting
Renting through a GSP (game server provider) is the most common and the best bang for your buck way to run a game server. You choose a provider from the many 100’s out there, choosing which provider to go with can be quite a daunting task. Here are the main points to consider.
Price is king in most cases and a lot of gamers would have looked for the cheapest company. The top ten of Google gone with them without even thinking about it. However choosing the lowest price is a haphazard way to choose any service, whether it be a plumber, an electrician, or in this case a game server. You can choose the cheapest and take a punt, go for the most expensive, and hope. That translates into a quality service or if you’re like me go for the middle ground, not too cheap not expensive. I use this practice when choosing everything, from toasters to hotel rooms. But the price isn’t the only factor to consider.
Reputation has an extremely strong influence on any decision on which service provider to use. There are game server companies that seem to of been around since the dawn of the internet age, and there are new unknown companies that have only formed in the past years. The older companies have seen it all before and maybe can get caught not putting the effort into the control panel functionality that modern games and gamers demand. New vibrant young companies can be enthusiastic and energetic in their approach to both new game releases and support but they can also make mistakes and show a lack of experience in challenging support matters.
There are also some other factors to consider when selecting a GSP:
Control Panel Interface
This is a Graphic User Interface (GUI) where you control your game server from. Here you can launch the game, change the rules, add server passwords, add bans, allows, add administrators and add mods. This should be fast and easy to use. The industry standard is TCAdmin 2, but many providers have custom created control panels to reduce costs as TCAdmin can be rather pricy for enterprise companies.
Support staff experience
The support staff has the experience setting up the game to make it easier to play as lots of games nowadays have complicated setup procedures. A good GSP will have a configuration editor already configured in the GSP control panel so that you do not need to go and research all the information to edit the file yourself. The key is the better the staff the fewer problems will go wrong with your server once you have it.
Mod installers have some GSPs where you can, in one or two clicks, completely install a mod to a game with all the required files without the need to upload via FTP. Again this is a setup that your GSP would/should have made themselves.
24 Hour support
I play games into the wee hours of the morning and business hours support is no good to me. I want 24-hour support and I want someone to get back to me pretty quick so I can get on with my gaming. I don’t get a lot of free time and I don’t want it wasted on staring at a broken server, even if I did broke it myself.
Most GSP’s should have instant setup, in my experience. This is not actually an instant, the instant start of the setup, not quite an instant setup. The files need to download and some of these new games can be 20GB or more.
These are necessary for GSPs as many don’t want to give access to the root folders and modify the configurations. And the.ini files as the player slots are generally directly related to CPU consumption. So the more player slots you require the more the server will cost. A good configuration editor will make the setting up of your game server easier. The complicated nature of some of the recent indie games like DayZ and Ark Survival evolved require attention to detail to get running smoothly.
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