No matter how great the game is, if it has unstable servers that are not able to cope with the natural load, it is going to fail and be forgotten. Gamers can still put up with bugs, but bad network code, constant FPS spikes, and high ping - these are factors that can easily negate any benefits. Dedicated server for gaming is optimized differently for the specific task - to provide comfortable gameplay to all the people who are connected to the server in real-time. In this article, we will talk about how to choose a game server and what aspects to consider first.
Hosting providers who offer a service of leasing gaming dedicated servers, usually in advance provide a list of games they support. For example, a client says that he needs a server for Minecraft or Rust - then the provider selects the optimal configuration, sets it up, and provides access to ready-made hardware. On the server will already be the game pre-installed, and the server owner has only to send invitations to everyone who is allowed to connect.
There are also cases where a dedicated server is rented from the hoster without the appropriate specialization. In this case, the customer gets access to the hardware but needs to configure the operating system, the security, and the control panel himself. Also, he has to pay more attention to the choice of the server configuration.
Uptime is the time of continuous operation of the computing system. Simply put, it is a measure of fault tolerance. The higher the uptime, the better for the dedicated game server, because it does not have to be rebooted several times a day - so the game process will last uninterrupted, and the players will not feel discomfort due to scheduled or unscheduled outages.
Generally, uptime is important for any server, but for gaming configurations, its importance cannot be overestimated. Optimal uptime is 99.9% and ideal uptime is 99.99%. In the first case, the time when the system is down will be 44 minutes per month. In the second case it is 4 minutes per month. It is worth noting that servers with 99.9% uptime are quite capable of working without reboots for months or even years, while maintaining 100% uptime. It depends on such factors as the presence of a backup power supply, multiple uplinks, etc.
Also, the indicator of reliability includes regular backups. If you have ever faced the situation that your hours-long progress in some video game was lost for some reason or another, you understand how unpleasant it is. Regular backups are extremely important because they allow you to save the progress of all players on the server in case of any unforeseen errors or problems.
Unlike static websites and web projects, video games require a lot of system resources - and the more players connected to the server, the greater the load on the hardware increases. Before renting a game server, it is important to make sure that the hosting provider provides access to modern configurations based on the latest generation of processors.
A 2010 Intel Xeon E5 4-core processor on the Nehalem core is not the same as a 2016 Intel Xeon E5 4-core processor. There will be a performance chasm between the two due to differences in process technology, power efficiency, architecture, instruction set, etc. The newer the hardware used on dedicated servers, the better.
After all, to ensure high performance for all players connected to the game server, it is necessary to properly calculate the power of the hardware. The optimal configuration can be calculated by means of synthetic loads, or you can check everything in real conditions, directly during the gameplay. Fortunately, the capacity of dedicated servers is easy to scale if necessary - any hosting provider does it in a matter of hours after the filing of the client.
As a rule, a dedicated server for games is equipped with a special control panel, which allows you to collect detailed statistics on the status of individual components and their degree of load. How much CPU cores are loaded, how evenly the load is distributed between them, how much RAM is used at peak loads, how much free space remains on NVMe-drives, etc. Here are three of the most popular control panels for game servers:
You can find a lot of options, and you do not have to choose some "gaming” CP, often you can quite comfortably go with the standard cPanel, Plesk, VestaCP, ISPmanager, etc.
Generally, the gaming dedicated servers can be equipped with any convenient operating system, but people most often choose Linux because it is more stable, consumes fewer resources, and with all that it is completely free. The administration of the server on Linux is much easier and more convenient, and a large quantity of high-quality and free software only strengthens this thesis.
As practice shows, the game server is best to launch on the operating system that is better known by the system administrators, which has a suitable LTS release, suitable native software builds, support from the hoster, and so on.
We can recommend using CentOS with well-configured iptables (or ufw firewall as an analogue). From DDoS and injections, you can be protected by configuring Nginx since it is used as a proxy.