The running or operating of a game server is rarely as easy as setting up the server in the first place. Many games, like Minecraft, have easy server setup software (and, yes, I do count Bukkit as Minecraft’s server software since Bukkit joined the Mojang team a month or so ago). These tips come from my own experience in both running my own servers and from being part of the moderation and administration staff in other servers. The experiences are both relevant and completely different. Running your own server means that you have a vested interest in seeing the server succeed. As a moderator or an administrator you still want to see the server succeed, but your main goal is to look after the server and its players.
Make sure player slots are set up correctly.
There are many servers out there that have been set up poorly. The owner has not realised that the number of players that he or she has been given, as recommended by the server software, is all that their computer can support. Minecraft, as an example, uses your computer’s RAM to allocate to each user, so you will need to have enough RAM to allow you to have the 200+ users that you require. It is also not recommended to use all of your RAM on the users, although that seems like common sense. You can ignore this tip, but be aware that your server will be extremely slow to respond when you get to the top end of your slot count. The server may even stop responding altogether.
Do you have a decent Internet connection?
There are games out there that require a fast connection and Ship Simulator Extremes, by Vstep, is one of them. If you don’t — or in my case didn’t — have a good connection, your server will lag and cause endless headaches. A “good” connection would be around 10 – 20 Mbps (Mega bits per second) upload — not download — speed. Minecraft, on the other hand, can operate happily on a 0.5 Mbps upload as proven by one of my fellow Gnomies. It proves that doing your homework is always advisable.
Does the server need to be on all the time?
That depends on whether or not the server is public. If the server is a small, private server for you and your friends, then the server doesn’t need to be on 24/7. If the server is public, then it is more than recommended. Users are online all the time and may find your server at one or two o’clock in the morning, your time. If your server is offline, then you’ve just lost users. This is unless your server has an excellent reputation or the users are curious to see what the server is like. However, that won’t last forever, and after three or four failed attempts, they will leave and never come back.
Are there enough users to require staff?
I have been a part of many servers that did not need half as many staff as they had. This is a judgement call on the owner’s part. Are you running a public 24/7 server, like I’ve recommended above? If you are, then it’s certainly recommended to have a moderator online when you’re not. However, if the server you’re running cannot be destroyed by users, then you may not need staff online. It all depends on the game or simulator you are operating. It may also depend on whether or not you have installed safeguards to stop trolls.
Remember that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
This point is something that many owners get sucked into. You have the ultimate power over the server and cannot be kicked or banned, in many cases. This usually starts the server on a downward spiral because you have become a tyrant. I have seen many servers go down in this fashion. However, this all depends on the way the server is set up to begin with. Some servers have a set hierarchy like Virtual Airlines with owners, managers, and supervisors. Some servers are democracies where all moderators, administrators, and owners are equal and have an equal share in the direction of the server. Both of these systems can work, but neither will completely stop an owner succumbing to the fact that they have ultimate power over the server.
There are a lot more tips and tricks to setting up a successful game server, but the five tips above will certainly help you get the basics right from the outset. These tips should work for most (if not all) servers, but bear in mind that I can only talk about my own experiences. I have not played on every game server, and I have not used every piece of game server software on the market. I have run and been a part of many servers for games and simulators, alike. Many have been successful, and many have failed either from the outset due to tip five or from bad management decisions further down the line.
Operating a game server isn’t as simple as “here’s a list of points to cover and you’ll be successful.” Nothing is that simple. People have different personalities and different ways of thinking. It is my opinion that you have to be good at managing people and have a strong personality yourself to make the tough decisions. You may accidentally hire a troll as moderator or administrator and you have to understand that if you fire this person, they will make your life and your server’s “life” difficult.
As a bonus tip: If you hire your friends, be sure that you can fire them again. I know of server owners who start off small with their friends as moderators and administrators. These servers then grow because of the tight knit and friendly atmosphere. Later on, the friends fall victim to tip five and think that they are invincible because they are friends with the owner and therefore can do no wrong. As the server owner, you have to think of what is best for the server — even if that means making the decision to fire your friends. Today’s question is: If you had to fire your friends, for the good of your server, would you?