Some of the more popular websites I’ve come across are MUD sites. And by MUD, I do not mean the water soaked soil or soft wet earth we used to play in when we were kids.
MUD in this case refers to Multi-User Dungeon (or Multi-User Dimension), a cyberspace where, according to Webopedia, users can take on an identity in the form of an avatar (or character) and interact with one another.
Originally, MUDs tended to be adventure games accessible through Telnet to a computer that hosted the MUD. Nowadays, they’re better known as 3-D worlds and chat worlds, and as such, are managed by computer programs and often involving a loosely organized context or theme.
There are a number of variations on the MUD. Some are ongoing adventure games, some are educational, while others are simply social. These include MOOs (MUD Object Oriented), MUCKs (Multi-User Chat Kingdom), and MUSHes (Multi-User Shared Hallucination). They vary mainly by the programming language used, server programs they’re associated with, and the capabilities offered.
MOOs are most popularly used in education because they have sophisticated built-in programming languages. MUDs, on the other hand, nearly always refer to a game with some form of combat, while TinyMUD and its descendants, TinyMUCK, TinyMUSH, and TinyMOO, all refer to more socially oriented MUD.
But since, popular MUDs are usually of the gaming variety, we will focus on key considerations when planning on hosting/running one.
1. Cost: You need money for:
* Development and/or game packaging, distribution, licensing etc
* Servers – depends on what kind of game you’re hosting; you can buy or rent one
o If you buy: Upside: you have full control on how it operates; Downside: expensive because you need lots of redundancy, the ability to hot-swap parts out; a hefty RAID array; tape backups, etc.
o If you rent: Upside: cheaper; a number of companies will allow you to set up game servers on their equipment, using their bandwidth and you just pay a recurring fee; Downside: lack of control; you are limited to the games and mods that your server company hosts.
* Bandwidth – you need sustained (not bursty) and dedicated bandwidth; you cannot achieve low latency and low ping.*
*Ping is the amount of time it takes for a packet of information to leave a network device (your PC), bounce off another networking device, and arrive back at its originator. The lower the ping from a game client to a server, the better the online playing experience is.
* Tech Support – to make sure that the network stays running; to do backups, monitor things, fix whatever goes wrong, 24/7.
* Customer service
* Ongoing development – you need to fix bugs that crop-up, and add new content
Aside from the above considerations, you also need to make sure that the players’ gaming experience on your servers is fun. Joel Durham Jr. offers the following suggestions in his article Microsoft.com – Hosting a Game Server.
1. Gauge players’ level of enjoyment by playing on the servers yourself and be a part of the community that forms on your server.
2. Talk to other players. Ask for their preferences and needs. Take suggestions for maps and mods to host.
3. Deal with unsavory players diligently. Warn abusers not to be disruptive, and if they persist, boot and/or ban them from your servers. Use anti-cheat software.
4. Password protect servers and only allow players whom you invite to join, particularly when hosting clan matches or ladder tournaments, to prevent players not involved with your competitions from wandering in.
With all the things that you need to consider and keep track of, you’re probably asking, will it be worth your time? The WebHosting Talk forum thread Game Servers? Profitable? offers some ideas:
* may open you to Denial of Service attacks (due to hostile players, software bugs etc)
* Dedicated server is a must (since load is high), so it can be costly
* Server number depends on player count and overall usage
* Requires excellent connection with no latency
* Slim profits (due to high overhead)
* You need to fill a niche in order to be profitable
* Customers are fickle and you have to deal with endless support tickets requesting sponsorship
* Need to constantly work on persons game servers
* Keep communication software on a server separate from the game server
* Ping times are important
* Games to host: Counter Strike; Day of Defeat (Half-Life add-on), Natural Selection, Ventrilo, TeamSpeak