For much of the Internet’s history, online multiplayer gaming has been a cherished pastime for many. The first multiplayer game is believed to have been played as early as 1978 – less than a decade after the birth of ARPANET. Technology has come a long way since then, but suffering from lag and latency has remained a constant struggle for gamers everywhere. While modern networks are far more efficient than our dialup modems of decades past, games have evolved as well, requiring vastly larger amounts of data to be transmitted between participants.
When looking for a solution to host your online gaming server, how can you minimize lag and latency in order to provide your players with a frustration-free online gaming experience? The key is choosing the right server and hosting provider.
Choosing The Right Server
Gaming has been a driving force behind many areas of technological growth — from computer graphics to AI. Games have been pushing hardware to the limit more than just about anything else since the dawn of computer gaming.
When exploring options for setting up a game server, it is easy to be lured in by one of several game hosting companies offering tantalizingly cheap game servers and hosting services. Keep in mind the old but true adage: You get what you pay for.
There are a number of ways these companies are able to offer such low prices, and for all but the least demanding games, they can negatively impact your players’ experience. Shared hosting gives you a slice of a single server to share with other people hosting their own games. Resources are shared and often can be oversold, banking on the expectation that the majority of their customers won’t be playing games at the same time. Avoiding shared hosting can still disappoint if you are given a dedicated server with substandard hardware that can’t keep up with your games’ demands.
To offer the best online gaming experience, host your games on a dedicated server to avoid shared resources and inconsistent performance. Select your server to compliment your game’s unique profile — some games demand more IO, others need more RAM or processor speed. A good dedicated server host can help you find the perfect server for your needs.
A couple of the critical hardware elements to consider:
The CPU, or Central Processing Unit, is essentially the brain of a server. Since most game server applications are CPU-intensive, this is a vitally important choice. Unfortunately, it’s not as straightforward as applying the good old faster-is-better rule because of a programming feature called multithreading. This allows the application to send more data to the CPU at once, all to be processed in parallel.
Modern CPUs come in two flavors, fast with fewer cores or moderately fast with more cores. If your game server application is written to take advantage of multithreading, you will get the best performance out of the multi-core, but slower CPU. Otherwise, go for the CPU with the fastest single-core speed.
Storage is a little more straight forward. SSDs, or Solid State Drives, are more expensive than traditional hard drives, but luckily SSD pricing has been dropping. Games that store a large amount of data on the server, such as Minecraft, can benefit greatly from the increased IO speeds of SSD storage.
What To Look For in a Game Server Hosting Provider
What is outside of a dedicated server can be just as important as what’s inside. In addition to finding a hosting provider that can offer a dedicated server to suit your needs, consider these additional factors.
Network Latency refers to the delay experienced sending data through a network from one point to another. In terms of online gaming, it is the time between when you initiate an action on your local computer and the time when that action is recognized by the game server. The lower the network latency, the more in-sync the player’s actions are with each other and with the server. For most types of online games, this is vitally important for immersion and to create a level playing field.
When it comes to network latency, not all hosting providers are created equal. Look for one with optimized routing and quality peering. How can you determine a hosting provider’s network quality? Many providers offer a looking glass that allows you to test their network latency.
DDoS Protection may be another important factor to consider, depending on your player base. It is not uncommon for disgruntled players or competitive rivals to launch a DDoS attack against your server. Positioning yourself with a hosting provider who can help defend your server against these attacks can mean the difference between hosting a playable game, and not.
Support is something that shouldn’t be overlooked, even if you are technologically adept — but especially if you are not. A good support team can alleviate much of the frustration of setting up your online game server and maintaining it. Look for 24/7 direct access to a support team with the credentials and experience to keep your server running at peak performance. Explore management plans if you need assistance on the technical side, as default hosting plans typically limit support to just the basics — keeping the network up, hardware replacement, and basic OS installation.
The key to successfully hosting an online gaming server is finding the right host to partner with. Finding one that can tick all the boxes for premium service can be a tricky proposition, but here at GigeNET, we have you covered. With our Internap optimized network, DDoS protection services, and SSD’s available by default in most of our dedicated server lines – we provide a solid solution for your game hosting needs.