Why should game developers offer dedicated game servers to their players?
12 Jan 2023
We all love multiplayer games, and we can’t get enough of the thrill they give us. However, we also can’t ignore all the troubles they pose for developers and players. For most teams, creating a top-tier multiplayer experience requires years of dedication, as well as a larger team, with more comprehensive knowledge.
Today, we would like to discuss how developers can offer a simple solution to players, improving their gaming experience and their safety, without excessively increasing their production costs: premium dedicated game servers. Over time, dedicated game servers have changed from being the only option for playing games to being an option only players interested in avoiding public servers would use. As a result, the games scene has evolved, and not always in a positive way. Unfortunately, the level of exposure the players are subjected to often means they are subject to harassment and trolling as well as psychological and physical threats. As a result of these behaviors, a very negative image of games can be projected onto parents all over the world. This is also a huge deterrent for many prospects when it comes to choosing the games they want to play. It also disrupts the benefits of playing multiplayer games. Even though several games offer dedicated server capabilities directly, the majority (>90%) of game servers currently rented by gamers are public servers (i.e. not password protected).
Moreover, players’ profiles changed significantly, with more players interested in understanding the inner workings of their favorite games, as well as having more control over their gameplay experiences. Players moved from their passive roles as mere spectators to being part of an active community, interested in being heard, respected, and sometimes even influencing design and business decisions.
With the current state of the games industry, it is not advisable to alienate your player base. Therefore, offering private dedicated servers for your community and informing them about their benefits is not only simple but also a monetization opportunity for developers and publishers.
Private dedicated game servers can be a helpful tool to help fight harassment in online games. This is because they can provide a more secure and controlled environment where the community itself can enforce rules and policies. For example, dedicated servers allow players to block or filter out toxic or harassing messages, and they additionally can ban players that violate the rules. When done properly (i.e. using server-side input validation), cheating can also be prevented quite effectively. It is also imperative for game developers and administrators to have clear policies in place. This will enable them to educate players about appropriate behaviour and how to report harassment when it occurs.
Why not use ONLY peer-to-peer servers?
Although the peer-to-peer configuration allows for fast development iteration and its operation is cheap and requires zero maintenance, there are an array of issues that would need to be taken into consideration:
- As servers are temporary, there is a lot of bookkeeping involved (i.e. lobbies, friend lists, matchmaking).
- Any form of persistence must be implemented in separate cloud services
- Networking issues (firewalls, NAT, etc) might be difficult to solve
- Risk of low performance (bandwidth and CPU issues on the host)
- Anti-cheat measures are very difficult to implement
- The game might be blamed for the issues, instead of the host
- Works only for a handful of simultaneous players
Moreover, peer-to-peer hosting limits the options for game design, including the number of players and persistence. To work around those limitations, game developers are faced with complex workloads. Even though it is a cheaper solution than dedicated servers, there are ways to decrease costs by working with server hosts.
Why use dedicated servers?
Although developers can use peer-to-peer mode (local network) as a base, there are several additional reasons why game developers should consider deploying dedicated game servers once in production:
Dedicated game servers can provide a more stable and higher-quality experience for players due to devoted resources like CPUs, memory and bandwidth (headless). In addition to preventing rage quitting, this will improve game retention and increase gameplay time. Dedicated game servers can improve game performance in many ways:
Dedicated game servers are dedicated machines specifically designed to run the game, which means they are less prone to performance issues such as lag, dropped connections, and other disruptions. There are no networking issues, as clients connect to the server with exposed and stable IP addresses or domains.
Dedicated game servers are often equipped with more powerful hardware than a player’s personal computer, which can result in a smoother, more stable experience for players.
Optimised network infrastructure
Dedicated game servers are typically hosted in data centres with optimized network infrastructure, which can help reduce latency and improve the overall performance of the game.
Dedicated servers give developers the option to offer a more extensive level of customizability to players, such as the ability to mod the game or change certain gameplay settings.
Many games allow players to create and install mods, which are custom modifications to the game that can add customized features, change gameplay mechanics, or alter the visual appearance of the game. Dedicated game servers can make it easier for players to install and use mods because they do not have to worry about compatibility issues with their personal computers.
Custom game modes and maps
Dedicated servers can allow developers to offer custom game modes or settings that are not available in the official retail version of the game. For example, a developer could create a “hardcore” mode that increases the difficulty of the game, or a “creative” mode that allows players to build and create without the constraints of normal gameplay.
Dedicated game servers can foster a sense of community among players by providing a central location for them to play and interact. Additionally, it encourages players to do the admin work on their own servers, reducing the workload for developers.
Some other ways in which dedicated game servers can contribute to community building include:
Many games with dedicated servers include an in-game chat function that allows players to communicate with each other while playing in a more private environment. This can help foster a sense of community and encourage players to form friendships and connections with one another. Dedicated game servers also offer the option to use TeamSpeak for communication, creating a more private environment for discussion.
Clan or guild support
Some games with dedicated servers offer support for clans or guilds, groups of players that come together to play and socialise. This can help players feel like they are part of a larger community and give them a sense of belonging.
Some dedicated game servers may host special events or tournaments that are only available to players on that server. This can help bring players together and create a sense of community around the server.
By hosting their own dedicated game servers, players have better control over their experience and can manage difficult and/or disturbing situations in a safe and fast manner.
Dedicated game servers allow developers to fine-tune the game’s balance, ensuring that it is fair and enjoyable for all players.
Dedicated game servers can help prevent cheating by giving developers more control over the game environment. If done right (i.e. server-side input validation) cheating can be prevented quite effectively. This can create a more fair and more enjoyable experience for all players.
Dedicated servers can help attract more players to a game because they offer a more stable and smoother gaming experience, compared to playing on a shared server. Additionally, dedicated servers allow for more customization and can handle larger player capacities. This can make the game more attractive to players who are looking for a more immersive and scalable experience. It can also keep them engaged for a longer period of time
Another benefit of dedicated servers is that they can provide a more secure environment for players, which can be especially relevant for games that involve in-game purchases or other sensitive information.
Cloud services vs. Server Hosts
As explained previously, the use of dedicated game servers can lead to a more stable, high-quality gameplay experience for players. And happier players mean better retention, more spending, and longer gameplay sessions.
Although cloud services in general offer dedicated servers, using server hosts not only decreases operational complexity exponentially but also allows developers to avoid a surprise increase in their expenses. This is because most hosts have fixed pricing.
Additionally, the server hosts:
- Are experts in hosting game servers
- Handle all the extensive work of deploying updated versions of the server
- Typically have specialized web interfaces and APIs for setting up game servers
- Most have built-in DDoS protection (not an easy task as most game servers use UDP which is difficult to protect)
- Take care of all GDPR issues
- Are much cheaper than cloud services as the infrastructure and pricing models are specialized in 24/7 server operations
- Work for many simultaneous players
- Typically provide support for (Admin-) mods
- Most allow gamers to rent their own servers (bringing in that community character)
Are you developing or publishing multiplayer games and would like to offer premium, dedicated game servers to your players? We would love to support you in this! Our product, 4NetPlayers, offers VIP dedicated game servers, powered by a global network, including TeamSpeak server and SinusBot.
Additionally, we might even be able to help you monetize your dedicated servers. Yes, you can earn money working with 4NetPlayers!
Interested? Let’s talk and take your games to the next level together.