Game server hosting explained

A game server is usually a dedicated hosting server used by game clients. Any video game played over the internet generally requires a connection to a game server.

How it works

Data is sent from the game client to the game server, from there the game server processes the data and sends it back out to the client or clients. Game servers often require large amounts of bandwidth due to the amount of data that has to be sent between the server and all the clients who are connected to it.

Types of game servers

Game servers can be classified as listen servers and dedicated servers. Listen servers are run on the same machine as the game client. When the client disconnects, the server is shut down, as the server and host client are run together. Listen servers usually cannot support many players, due to bandwidth and CPU requirements. The software running the listen server typically limits the number of players for this very reason.

Dedicated servers are set up on a separate machine, often hosted in a data center; thus they have high bandwidth and do not have to share CPU with the client's game. In general, dedicated servers are more preferable for large game servers and/or 24/7 up time.

Dedicated servers are used by game server providers to host individual game servers or Massively multiplayer online games.In general Massively multiplayer online games are all run on dedicated servers usually hosted by the software company that developed and owns the game title, as this allows them to control and update content. In many cases they are run on clustered servers to allow for huge environments and large player counts.

Listen servers are mostly used by individual players in a LAN party setting.

Game server hosting

Best hosting companies lease dedicated game servers out for a monthly fee. These companies are often referred to as Game Server Providers (GSPs). Often each member of a gaming clan will donate to help defray the monthly costs which can reach hundreds of dollars.

Game server providers often offer many game titles, primarily in the first person shooter genre. There are two main types of game server provider, those based on Windows operating systems, and those based on Linux or FreeBSD. Game server providers often offer web based tools to help control and configure the individual game servers and most allow those that rent/lease to modify the games being leased.

Player Behavior

There are usually two sets of rules on any game server.

Firstly: those set out by the game developers. Secondly; those set out by the person who owns, leases or rents the game server.

In most cases these days the first set of rules are enforced by an anti-cheat program such as VAC or Punkbuster. These programs catch those using deliberate cheats to gain an advantage such as, aim bots, wall hacks, chams, modified skins, and many others. Also in the case of Electronic Arts (EA) they have now enforced the locking of some parts of the server config if the server is to be used in their ranking system. EA then uses the ranking system to spot stat padders (people who try to get more points by cheating or using underhanded methods to get more points).Anti-cheat software is also re-enforced by ban lists such as Punksbusted, PBBans and Steambans. These lists are streamed between any game server that has joined and thus bans anyone on the lists from all member servers with in seconds of detecting a cheat. The lists also allow admins to submit cheat demo's to help catch those that manage to beat the anti-cheat software and thus help develop the anti-cheat software.Anti-cheat software such as punkbuster and VAC kick players for small infringements e.g. incorrect CVAR's, and globally ban players for life for straight up cheating. In the case of VAC that includes deleting their steam account.

The second set of rules are enforced and made by the person who is paying for the server and can be enforced by themselves or by anyone they wish to give server administrator rights to. Server admin can kick and ban players for life from their server if they wish. There are many tools available for admins to use to help them do this and most game server providers will provide or help set up anti-cheat tools and lists at no extra charge.

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