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Case Study

Private servers vs other solutions

Damian Reed
26. March 2020
10 min

What is the best server solution for online play?

Laaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggggg: we’ve all experienced it at some point. This article will look at why lag happens and how we overcome it. Now it’s not always that important: for instance, if you are playing a turn-based strategy game, the tolerance will be a lot higher; however, if you are playing a game that relies on twitch gameplay — IT’S ALL THAT MATTERS!

Looking back at my own online gaming history, it’s littered with lag moments. I can recall playing Modern Warfare and seeing players glitching across the map or them shooting first — only to then watch the kill-cam which shows I never got a bullet off.

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How many times have you played a game where you’ve run into a building only to rubber-band back outside again? And it always happens when someone is shooting at you or zombies are chasing you!

I play a lot of online racing games, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen an opponent’s car glitch across the track, disappearing then reappearing, knocking everyone out of the way.

As gamers it is something we put up with, but why should we?

To understand how to overcome lag, first we need to know why we are getting it.

Firstly, we need to talk about ‘ping’. In multiplayer video-game terms, ping refers to the network latency between a player and a server, often shown in milliseconds — the lower the ping, the better the experience will be.

You’ve picked a game where your ping is low — perfect right? You’ll have the best gaming experience ever, without issue! The short answer to this is no. It won’t be perfect and here’s why: all you need is to be playing against another player with high latency, and everyone else’s experience could (and usually would) be ruined.

With a lot of games (mainly console), you as the player have no choice in which game you join and with what amount of latency. Often the game’s software will search for servers with a low ping, but if there aren’t any, or they are full, the software will look for a slightly higher ping.

What causes high latency?

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Internet speed and stability, bandwidth congestion and location vs server are all things that can cause lag. What makes this worse is that a lot of studios rely on a network solution called ‘peer2peer’. This is where one or more of the connected devices share the resources of the game without going through a separate server. This is fine if all players are regionally close to each other, they have good internet speed and stability. However, you as a player have no control over this and are dependent on the game’s software management.

If there are so many potential issues with a peer2peer solution, why do studios and developers choose it? The simple answer is cost: this is the cheapest way to allow players to play against each other.

To get the absolute best — the supreme cream of the crop, the king of sting — a dedicated server is needed. Now, having a dedicated server does not guarantee that lag will no longer exist, but it’s a giant leap in the right direction. All the issues mentioned before are still present — internet speed, stability, bandwidth congestion and location — but they vary on a player-by-player case. Dedicated servers can take on most of the heavy lifting, keep all players in check and be placed all over the world. However, as good as dedicated servers are there’s a cost that comes with them; smaller studios simply cannot afford them, and larger studios often don’t want to pay for them.

The Solution and the holy grail: private servers

If studios allowed players to host their own servers, players would receive all the benefits of a dedicated server with the bonus of having complete control over who plays on that server. The downside being that players would need to pay for this themselves — if this was the only option to play online. Now, to rent a server with GPORTAL is relatively cheap, and we have servers located all over the world. If a game can be modified with GPORTAL that’s fine too as we have a control panel that’s built right into our website.

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A lot of players will feel that they shouldn’t have to pay for a server, and the great thing is that there are ways to play on private servers without paying a penny. Most games have forum communities, and a lot of these communities rent their own servers so they can control their online experience. Search the web for your favourite game, and I’m sure it won’t take long to find a community where you can play for free or, at the very least, a heavily discounted price.

So, there’s your three options: peer2peer, dedicated and private servers. Now, if I oversaw the release of a title that relied on twitch gameplay, I would choose a combination of dedicated and private servers. I wouldn’t be the first to do this: if you’re playing a game now where you can choose which server to play on, there’s a good chance this is an option already.

With this option, players can jump straight onto a dedicated server and have a great online experience. Players can also rent their own servers, giving them complete control and providing them with the absolute best experience.


Damian Reed

Damian is a business development manager at GPORTAL, who provide private and official game servers to game developers, studios, and gamers.

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