State of the multiplayer server

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Dave
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State of the multiplayer server

Post by Dave »

Since the release of 1.4, there has been great interest in playing Wesnoth online. Unfortunately, this has stressed our server, wesnothd, to its limit, often causing slowdowns, inability to connect, and so forth.

There are two main reasons why the server can't handle the load:

- Unlike other services such as web hosting, source control, bug tracking, and so forth, hosting a general network server is a somewhat specialized need. There are no free services such as Sourceforge which provide this. Thus we are forced to host the server on a fairly old box, and wesnothd shares the box with other services.
- Wesnothd has not been heavily optimized, yet.

The first problem is fairly likely to be ongoing. By my estimates it could cost between $50US and $150US/month to pay for hardware and hosting for a dedicated server. I'm not sure where or how we could raise this money.

The second problem I am working on fixing. I am optimizing wesnothd substantially, and we will use the optimizations I make for the 1.4 server. The only downside to this is that it might cause some more server instability for a while until I get all the bugs and problems out of my optimizations.

At the moment we can only comfortably host about 100 users on wesnothd. I do hope that eventually we can get this up to 1000 or more, but I'm not sure how long this would take. If anyone has some ideas for somewhere that can host wesnothd and provide high quality modern hardware and service, that would be nice. Thanks to everyone for their patience.

David
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Lim-Dul
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Re: State of the multiplayer server

Post by Lim-Dul »

The first problem is fairly likely to be ongoing. By my estimates it could cost between $50US and $150US/month to pay for hardware and hosting for a dedicated server. I'm not sure where or how we could raise this money.
By raising public awareness of your project and accepting donations? If you are still accepting donations then this feature isn't well highlighted on the site...

I hope I have contributed to the former to a certain degree by writing an article about indie games for a major Polish video game magazine in which I listed "mini-reviews" of many projects, among them Wesnoth (it received 5 out of 5 stars but most games got high scores because I was concentrating on the best ones =).

I believe that getting ~$50 or even $150 worth of donations a month might be a realistic figure - try to contact some people in the gaming press - indie games are the topic of the year and Wesnoth is much more polished now than it was before so somebody might be interested in writing about it - this could lead to an increase in donations.

I mean - Tarn Adams, the creator of Dwarf Fortress, seems to be living off donations and Wesnoth should be potentially more appealing to the general public than some weird (but admittedly brilliant!) ASCII game... Mind you, he has been interviewed by many gaming portals and magazines and Dwarf Fortress got a lot of attention. Do not be scared of the games industry even if you don't want to make real money out of this project - accepting donations to pay for server maintenance and thereby increasing the game experience for players is a noble cause. =)

However, without dropping any names: you should be careful as to whom to choose to manage the public relations work as some devs seem to be, hmmm, very hot-headed. =)
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bert1
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Re: State of the multiplayer server

Post by bert1 »

Dave wrote:The first problem is fairly likely to be ongoing. By my estimates it could cost between $50US and $150US/month to pay for hardware and hosting for a dedicated server. I'm not sure where or how we could raise this money.
There's nothing to be lost just having an annual or six monthly whip-round. Create a thread explaining what you need the money for, how to pay, and promise to post an amusing picture of you with a bucket on your head or something if and when the target is reached. I don't know how comfortable you feel simply asking for more cash.

Maybe even suggest an amount people could pay (voluntarily, of course). Perhaps ask those who play multiplayer a lot to regularly pay 2 dollars a month. I know it's quite a change from the past, but if the game needs money, it needs money.

For people who play the game but don't visit the forums (I don't know if there are many of these) perhaps include an in-game link in the multiplayer lobby to click on to donate a small amount.

If all else fails, is creating cheap multiplayer accounts ($6 for six months, say) feasible? Assuming 100 players sign up that might generate enough. The rest of the game could remain free, of course.

Perhaps some add-ons be sold? Like a nice new campaign for $5?

Product placement:
Delfador: "Konrad, you're looking particularly grubby today. I've been using Whizzo Soap for a month now and I've never had more success with the Shydes. They still detest me as much as ever, they just can't smell me coming until its too late. You should try it!"
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anakayub
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Re: State of the multiplayer server

Post by anakayub »

I support advertising for voluntary donations.

As it is a free game, we can't make it compulsory (am I correct on this)? Besides, not everyone has a credit card account to pay (I wish I did, I'd definitely donate for the game).
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thespaceinvader
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Re: State of the multiplayer server

Post by thespaceinvader »

I'd definitely support advertising for voluntary donations. I wouldn't be surprised if such donations could support a dedicated server financially. I wouldn't support any more than 'Wesnoth needs cash to keep the multiplayer server running, if you wish to donate visit XYZ', though. Advising on amounts, and targetting those who use multiplayer more in the wording of the advertising would be bad IMO.

Advertising in the multiplayer lounge would be fine, though =D

I wouldn't be at all surprised if reasonably high profile adverts in the server and on the site's main page generated enough cash to run the server.
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tsr
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Re: State of the multiplayer server

Post by tsr »

Slightly OffT:
anakayub wrote:As it is a free game, we can't make it compulsory (am I correct on this)?
No, you are not correct, there is nothing in the GPL that prohibits you to charge for whatever you have licensed as long as you (as usual provide the source free of charge).

Otoh it's extremely rare to charge for the software (I can't remember seeing one instance of that :)

Otth, charging for a service is not even very frowned upon, so monthly/yearly subscriptions to connect to a wesnothd is ok imho.

And everyone is free to do it, we don't have to wait for the official project to secure a stable wesnothd (one problem with subscriptions - in contrast to 'simple' donations - is that it will have to implement some kind of authorization).

OnT: I think it's a great idea to allow us to donate to keep a good MP server running.

/tsr

OzorMox
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Re: State of the multiplayer server

Post by OzorMox »

What about volunteers hosting additional servers? My friend is running a Wesnoth server at the moment that just me and two or three other people play on. I'm sure he'd be happy to publicise it. If a few more people can do that, it would take the strain off of the official server.

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Re: State of the multiplayer server

Post by Lim-Dul »

What about volunteers hosting additional servers? My friend is running a Wesnoth server at the moment that just me and two or three other people play on. I'm sure he'd be happy to publicise it. If a few more people can do that, it would take the strain off of the official server.
That would be a temporary solution, I guess. In the end it'd dilute the Wesnoth community as everybody would be playing on different servers and although ~100 players seem to overload the main server this number isn't exactly mind-blowing to start with. In the end going for a more powerful hosting service would be the ideal answer to the problem.

I agree that there should be donation buttons on the site and you could make e.g. an additional menu item on the main screen like "Donate" - of course keeping the style of the other buttons so it wouldn't ruin the interface. ^^

Wesnoth has reached a critical point in its development and I doubt that it can go on without any kind of monetary infusion - even if some alternative, free solutions are found.
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tsr
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Re: State of the multiplayer server

Post by tsr »

I just had an idea on how to solve the economical part of running a wesnoth server without having to rely on donations/begging people for money.

(Unfortunately I can't help much, since I'm not a coder :oops: )

Modify the server to handle authorization and with the new authorization the server can guarantee that paying customers will be able to connect and let the others wait (either their subscription has run out or they are not paying).

If we imagine that 150 people will pay at least $10/year (a very reasonable amount) that is $1500/year to buy hardware and pay for rackspace (for a co-loc server, I don't know what amounts of traffic would be needed but I can't imagine it's that much (eg <10GB/month))

(I quickly found two deals (rack-space for one year and a quite competent 1U server for $1500, so I imagine someone more in the know could find better deals - this is in sweden too, a place I expect to be somewhat expensive)

I think it is quite possible to run it as a donation-thingy and thus not need to involve the IRS (or similar organisation in whatever country will be chosen)

/tsr

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Urs
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Re: State of the multiplayer server

Post by Urs »

Well, how about we begin with a strategically placed "donate" button above "screenshots" on the homepage. And not some boring "donate with pay pal" button, but one with, say, an Elvish Fighter throwing a coin into a box next to a White Mage.

Also, it might be a good idea for donations above a certain value (no idea what that value would be) that one could get a certain Wesnoth-related item (a t-shirt, bumper sticker, mug, boxers, life size troll, whatever) not available through other means.

Just an idea.


I'm really not in favor of making paying for the multiplayer server mandatory, though. That would give us a bad reputation among other OSS games.

I'm not sure about tsr's solution... maybe.

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Unnheulu
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Re: State of the multiplayer server

Post by Unnheulu »

tsr wrote:I just had an idea on how to solve the economical part of running a wesnoth server without having to rely on donations/begging people for money.

(Unfortunately I can't help much, since I'm not a coder :oops: )

Modify the server to handle authorization and with the new authorization the server can guarantee that paying customers will be able to connect and let the others wait (either their subscription has run out or they are not paying).

If we imagine that 150 people will pay at least $10/year (a very reasonable amount) that is $1500/year to buy hardware and pay for rackspace (for a co-loc server, I don't know what amounts of traffic would be needed but I can't imagine it's that much (eg <10GB/month))

(I quickly found two deals (rack-space for one year and a quite competent 1U server for $1500, so I imagine someone more in the know could find better deals - this is in sweden too, a place I expect to be somewhat expensive)

I think it is quite possible to run it as a donation-thingy and thus not need to involve the IRS (or similar organisation in whatever country will be chosen)

/tsr
Thing is, if that happened, people would make there own servers and there'd be 1001 servers out there, making games harder.

bert1
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Re: State of the multiplayer server

Post by bert1 »

I'm really not in favor of making paying for the multiplayer server mandatory, though. That would give us a bad reputation among other OSS games.
I don't know about reputation. It would only be people wanting to connect to one particular server who would ever have to pay anything, and that part would be non-profit making, presumably. The rest of the game remains free. There's no shame in that.

In any case, how realistic is relying on random donations? If there is a regular predictable expense involved in running a server it would be nice/necessary to know there is a regular predictable income to pay for it. Users can't expect the volunteers who run the show to also cough up for shortfalls in revenue.

I like your idea of a flashy donate button.
Thing is, if that happened, people would make there own servers and there'd be 1001 servers out there, making games harder.
Perhaps, but that's better than only having one crippled server.

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Quensul
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Re: State of the multiplayer server

Post by Quensul »

Clearly, the knock against multiple servers is fragmentation of the community. My network coding is rusty, and I haven't looked at wesnothd, but what about extending wesnothd to support a slave mode? The primary / official server would handle the chat room, etc., then when a game was begun, it could transfer the users and game to one of a pool of slaves. That way, the game load would be distributed, but to the user / community, it would still appear to be a unified server. This of course assumes the primary source of server load is managing games in progress.

That being said, this would increase the complexity of wesnothd by a significant degree, and I unfortunately don't have enough time for my work on Wercator, much less to contribute to this, so I'm afraid this may fall into the "all bark and no bite" category.
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pauxlo
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Re: State of the multiplayer server

Post by pauxlo »

Ozor Mox wrote:What about volunteers hosting additional servers? My friend is running a Wesnoth server at the moment that just me and two or three other people play on. I'm sure he'd be happy to publicise it. If a few more people can do that, it would take the strain off of the official server.
The problem with this is that it divides the community, since there is no common lobby. So it will be less easy to find players (which also could hinder MP development (balancing)).

Maybe a better solution could be to divide lobby and game server in different programs, where multiple game servers connect to one lobby server, and the lobby server shows all games running on all game servers.
Who wants to start (host) a game could select one of the connected game servers, or gets one automatically based on availability.

The lobby server then has only to handle the Lobby chat and maintaining the list of games going on, the game servers handle the passing (and storing) of the multiplayer game data, in game chat, and so on.

So some (or even "a lot of") people might donate some spare calculation power (and bandwith) on their game servers - it would be even possible to use your home computer as a server, if you have a good internet connection.

At the same time there is one common MP lobby (two, if you include the development one), so it's easy to find a game.

And, even if we had an dedicated server, when Wesnoth MP becomes really popular, we might need something like this anyway.

A slight disadvantage might be the easier possibility to cheat when you control your own server, then on the official server - I don't know about this.

(Yes, this would need some changes both in client and server(s), I suppose, and I can't help in this, at least not in the next some months.)

Paul

Edit: OK, I should first read the whole thread, then respond ... Quensul said the same with less words.

Lim-Dul
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Re: State of the multiplayer server

Post by Lim-Dul »

Yeah, distributed servers sound good. Only in addition to donations which are IMHO required anyway, of course. However, it'd require some kind of fingerprint checking or something like that - just like you said. Closed source servers are a bit more resistant to tampering with them. I fear that this is a very major step, though - v1.4 was released just a few days ago and I don't see the implementation of such a feature until like v1.5 and we have to cope with the issues at hand a bit more quickly.
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