Variety is the spice of life. That statement rings true in the real life as well as our virtual endeavours. So why spend thousands on a top-of-the-range gaming unit, hours setting it up only to be shackled in by the pre-prescribed server offered out the box when you buy a game?
The point of gaming is to break out the box, to escape reality and indulge your wildest imaginations.
You wouldn’t. We don’t blame you. The point of gaming is to break out of the box, to escape reality and indulge your wildest imaginations. Don’t be shackled by an out-the-box game server.
However, such is life, unfortunately any flight of fancy or expression of imagination must at some point be rooted in reality. To really explore the depths of your imagination and push the boundaries of what your gaming platform and game can achieve you’re going to have to lift up the hood and take a long hard look at the pre-prescribed dedicated server. Ask yourself: Can it really deliver?
The problem with out-the-box gaming servers.
The issue with out-the-box servers is game developers build them with the specific job of carrying weight. A successful game, and its server could experience hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people logging in at any given time. Vast outages of connectivity are going to detrimentally affect the perception even if it is the best-written, most beautifully rendered game ever. Therefore developers need to deliver passable connectivity to the highest number of people as possible.
What’s more, in online console gaming there is often no dedicated server but rather the server floats. That means it’s attached to the player that is deemed to have the best connection. This person’s connection will be the server. This means the entire gaming experience for potentially tens of people are reliant on this player’s connection. If a housemate receives a Skype call or decides to turn on Netflix this will have a detrimental effect on every single player’s gaming experience. It’s not ideal.
Beyond the fact that they’re developed with vast numbers of players in mind, they strip the player of any real sense of control. You’re thrown into the game with however many other players, none of whom you know and your team is full of novices. No, this really will not do. A gamer has standards. A gamer needs to pick their team carefully for the best chances of success and internet glory.
They also do not cater towards customization. Developers have spent years, sleepless nights and countless hours creating what they see as the perfect game you’ll love. But what they didn’t factor in is the fact that Skyrim wouldn’t be complete without giant chickens, nor would CounterStrike be quite right if the players weren’t giant Dorito bags. It’s unlikely the devs will see the funny side of these mods.
The benefits of a dedicated server.
Using a dedicated server brings many advantages to the serious gamer. The most important is a cure to the ultimate bane of the online gamer. It is the thorn in the side of anyone who takes joy in raining down defeat on enemies sat on the other side of the world; in one word: lag.
Lag is the ultimate enemy.
Rage quitters, campers, button bashers, underage headset warriors, all have a special place in hell reserved for them. But none will lead the online gamer to the kind of ‘frothing at the mouth’ rage in the way lag will. So what’s the solution?
Enter the Dedicated Server
Three reasons why you should use a dedicated server:
#1. Using a dedicated server can massively reduce the server load as the admin has control over how many players can log in to the server at any one time. This ensures it does not become overloaded and does a good job controlling latency and reducing lag.
#2. A dedicated server can also act as a great way of creating a private playground. Playing in the open and with the general public can be great but it doesn’t quite offer the same enjoyment reserved for playing in the company of friends and online allies (or nemeses) that a private server will bring.
#3. Dedicated servers also allow for unrivalled customization. The rules are the admin’s for the choosing. Want to have rounds of half an hour, where the usual is only 10 minutes? Go ahead. Want to only do battle on certain maps or in certain stadia? Sure thing. Want to restrict the weapons and equipment available? Fire away. The point is, the choice is yours.
Setting up your own dedicated server.
The first port of call when planning on setting up a dedicated server is taking a long hard look at your home internet. Is it up to the challenge? Will there be others plugging into it and stealing your precious bandwidth? Is it hefty enough to handle the game you want to host on it?
If so, you’re good to go. No matter how great your server, if you have a weak connection – your server will seem slow.
The next choice is to rent a server. But again you’re limited by rentals as they do not allow for the modifications and preferences you may want to set up on your very own server.
The preferred option then is to buy your own dedicated server. This is a fairly technical option and isn’t going to be as simple as pressing the on button and playing. It will take a bit of setup and can cost up to £100 per month, but is well worth the investment in time and money if you have a dedicated team that are willing to share that load with you.
Having bought the dedicated server it is then about working out exactly the games you’re going to want to play on them. Rather annoyingly there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to this issue as each game dev will have built their games in a different way thus demanding different methods of patching over your own dedicated gaming server.
Fortunately a lot of games are fairly easy to configure. Below are just some examples:
It’s undoubtedly one of the easiest set ups. All you need to do is head to the Minecraft site and download their server software. And that’s basically that. You’re ready to go and play block-building god.
This command line program allows the dedicated server admin the ability to setup software such as dedicated servers, without requiring you to install the Steam Client. You’ll need to know the app ID of the program you’re planning to download.
The best way to use SteamCMD is to use SteamCMD-GUI to install your dedicated server. From here you’ll be able to pick and choose your preferences and install them all in one simple click. From there on in you’re in dedicated server heaven.
We hope this guide has helped lay out the advantages of running a dedicated server, and has pit those advantages against what can be some fairly heavy dev lifting. The bottom line is: dedicated servers will not be for everyone, but for serious online gamers the benefits can be significant.