It’s hard to imagine in today’s Twitch-driven culture, but computer gaming was once regarded as a deeply unfashionable pastime. Today, the gaming industry is worth $25 billion in America alone, attracting enthusiasts from every conceivable demographic. Its popularity is mirrored around the world, with China spending $32.5 billion a year on gaming. The average Japanese citizen spends $110 on it every year, compared to less than $77 per person in the States. And on average, gamers spend almost six hours a week playing.
In recent years, the computer gaming revolution has been driven by mobile and online platforms. Despite the incredible processing power of smartphones and tablets, mobile and online games rely on central servers to pipe information to individual handsets. You might think your smartphone has the latest downloads stored on it, but these are little more than interfaces for displaying cloud-hosted content. That’s especially true for multiplayer titles like MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games), which unite huge numbers of players from every continent within an endlessly evolving open-world landscape. These settings are far too big to be stored on a repurposed desktop computer’s C drive, plus, the activities of other players constantly alter the game environment, which then needs to be updated for everyone else.
To protect and server
An increasing number of gamers are choosing to solve issues like bandwidth spikes and latency (which we will discuss below) by setting up dedicated gaming servers. These custom hardware solutions are tailored to the preferences of a specific owner, unlike off-the-shelf hosting packages. The latter are often intended for huge MMORPG-style enterprises, but identikit solutions fail to reflect the diversity of modern games. That’s especially true of open-world platforms like Minecraft, where customization is the game’s entire point; a centralized default server might not offer sufficient scope for customization or editing.
One workaround involves acquiring and setting up your own server. A number of hardware companies manufacture off-the-shelf hard drives, though advanced users usually prefer to customize their devices from lists of options. Setting up a local area network enables other participants to join the party, while remote management ensures tech support is available when it’s needed. However, you’ll need an understanding of technical attributes like port forwarding and router configuration.
A simpler alternative involves asking an existing server specialist to set aside a portion of hard drive space just for you. For instance, 100TB has 26 data centers from San Jose to Sydney, and Sao Paolo to Singapore, each serving a specific region or nation. Our discreet data centers have their own independent power distribution units, ensuring the lights never go out. Servers are maintained at precisely controlled temperatures, within heavily restricted buildings protected by digital video surveillance and 24/7 staffing.
Protecting an investment
Here at 100TB, we understand that hosting an online game gives the person setting it up responsibilities, from 24/7 accessibility to the minimization of packet loss. Online game play shouldn’t be derailed by something as simple as a server overload, potentially preventing audiences from logging in. With so many other entertainments competing for their attention, issues like latency are increasingly unacceptable nowadays.
For the uninitiated, latency is a term used to describe the delay between a user instruction being made and a response being received. It’s measured in milliseconds, and a 100ms delay (roughly half the time it takes us to blink) might be sufficient to derail certain online gaming experiences. The causes of latency are numerous, ranging from the server’s proximity and traffic load through to end-user connection speeds and the limitations of client devices. Fortunately, latency is reduced by the use of fiber cabling and powerful server hardware, which is why 100TB employs Intel Xeon CPUs and the very latest solid-state hard drives.
The benefits of using a dedicated gaming server
As well as helping to reduce latency to the point where its impact is insignificant or undetectable, a dedicated gaming server delivers several key advantages:
1. It enables administrators to set their own rules. Existing games may be modified, either by re-rendering 3D models, or by creating new game play environments with bespoke laws.
2. It’s ideal for beta testing. Coders and developers have a secure environment for testing titles and debugging, away from the general public’s watchful gaze.
3. It prevents overload. An administrator could set maximum connection numbers, ensuring the server doesn’t begin to lag under the weight of commands.
4. It creates a private environment for groups and networks. Rather than having to share public space, a private server helps to ensure only invited guests get to take part.
How to create a dedicated gaming server
By this point, you might be desperate to know how to develop your own Minecraft environment or launch a new friends-and-family server for Worms Armageddon. Unless you have limited data requirements and a 300Mbps fiber connection, domestic servers are rarely powerful enough. It’s often better to acquire space in a data center like those run by 100TB. With a portion of hard disk space set aside, it’s then a case of downloading the software required to run a particular title. Some companies – Minecraft and Steam, for instance – make this very easy to do, with a quick Google search revealing the files necessary to set up a new server.
Different titles require varying balances of hardware and software – creating a Minecraft server requires around 1GB of RAM for each handful of players, alongside the latest version of Java. A World of Warcraft install involves a small amount of coding, deleting file contents and naming the realm you’re creating. Message boards and tutorials will provide guidance on the specifics of each installation, with proactive support for newbies encountering difficulties. There will inevitably be hiccups along the way, so all the more reason to ensure your server architecture is up to the job from the outset…