From Pong to Ping: A Retrospective

37.000. This number reflects how many private G-Portal servers the multiplayer hit “V Rising” needed at its peak to fulfill the ever increasing demands of its players and proves that it was one of the most popular games of 2022. Not only was it unique in its settings and a high quality product but the team behind Stunlock Studios realized that, if given the opportunity, players would create incredible things on their own, personalizing their worlds, thanks to persisting servers.

This persistence might be one of the major factors when it comes down to what makes multiplayer great, how can a community strife and, in the meantime, create valuable content for every party involved. G-Portal made sure that the team behind V Rising could solely focus on the overall games quality whilst we provided all the structure needed to create nearly infinite vampire playgrounds of all kinds and sorts. In a recent interview for gamediscover.co, Stunlocks community manager Jeremy Bearson had this to say:

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Profiting of this culture as well as nurturing the soil the community grows on has become even more important in recent history due to the sheer number of released video games every year. G-Portal has been hosting video games for 20 years. Thousands of players use our services and take advantage of 18.000 hardware machines in 14 data centers around the globe.

During these two decades of game hosting, we learned a lot and saw even more, which we’re going to talk about in our next articles. We saw (V)rising online stars and had to come up with solutions to fulfill the ever increasing needs of our customers.

These are all good reasons to talk about how the game hosting market grew throughout the years in our new series “From Pong to Ping”. Our goal is to provide an in-depth look at how the industry of server hosting arose, always in tandem with the gaming industry and their requirements.

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Not only are we going to share a brief overview of what could be called the history of hosted online gaming but also answer some common questions about a market that is still considered niche. We’re looking for synergies between server hosting and video game creation that will lead to improved gaming experiences and financial success at the same time.

The initial motivation of this series is to make our work more transparent and, while we’re at it, raise the awareness for different hosting types. If you’re familiar with setting up your own server structure, self hosting is of course a viable option. It offers a maximum of freedom for those who understand the technical details but also comes with all responsibilities attached. However, the process of creating your own server can be as easy as some mere mouse clicks when you’re choosing managed hosting.

Back in the 90s, playing on a server felt like a chore but, measured in technical distance, is miles away from what we use today. It takes less than 5 minutes for players to get a server with a full panel, offering loads of modding options and ddos protection. This raises accessibility for everybody and opens up any online game to a broader audience of interested gamers, may they be pro players or just casually gaming for fun.

It’s painfully easy to forget that videogame server farms as we know them today weren’t a thing just some mere decades ago. Half a century made the difference between playing on a split screen and waiting a split second to join a new server in your closest data center, minimizing the ping for an online match with 100 participants.

The advantages of dedicated servers as well as their differences to peer 2 peer cannot be explained without understanding the history of online gaming and are closely intertwined with the rise in technology, not only in power but also its demand. Just look at the phone you are using today. Imagine developing a game on this device 20 years ago and I’m sure you’d call it a powerhouse with unlimited abilities.

In 1961, the game spacewar was created by a group of MIT students. Although basic in essence, did this creation mark the beginning of an era that would try to make video games an activity for multiple players at the same time. It is possible that gamers around the globe wouldn’t try to find a server for Valheim, Ark Survival or Minecraft today if these past videogame pioneers hadn’t looked for ways to connect each other with networks and the big invention that was the internet.

Our next articles will deep dive more into different aspects of the online gaming history, shining light on G-Portal as well. We will have a look at the rise of games that made Mods popular, a key aspect of how and why today’s online games will always profit of private game servers, make some quick steps through the era of lan parties and the creation of some of the most influential games in recent gaming history like Quake, Half Life, Counterstrike and Minecraft.

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The impact of Early Access on both video game studios as well as server hosters will be discussed alongside the rise and fall of Battle Royales. By the end of our series you’ve hopefully read lots of useful information and possibly found ways to incorporate them into your thought processes when you plan your next multiplayer online experience.

Join us in the next article that focuses on G-Portals history, our first steps into an unexplored market, our journey and technological improvements which eventually lead to major events like the rescue of Funcoms Conan Exiles and the incredible story of V Rising as one of the most played and successful games of 2022.

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