What exactly is a gaming server?
A gaming server is a specialized, high-performance computer designed to host and manage online games. Typically provided and maintained by third-party services, players connect to these gaming servers remotely to participate in the game.
Key components of a gaming server include the CPU (processor), RAM (memory), disk space, network cards, power supply, motherboard, and fans.
The CPU is particularly important as it processes the game data, with a faster CPU allowing for more calculations per second. Network connectivity is also crucial to support simultaneous connections from players.
How does a gaming server work?
There are two main network models used in multiplayer games: client-server and peer-to-peer.
In this model, players interact with the game world and each other through a dedicated server. The server holds the game state, serving as the authoritative source for all game information. Each player’s device communicates with the server to send and receive game data. The server periodically updates the game state and sends it back to the client, which is then displayed on the player’s screen.
Client-server architecture is ideal for real-time, fast-paced, and resource-intensive games such as first-person shooters and MMOs. It enables handling large numbers of players, ensures a reliable and fair gaming experience, and protects against cheating. However, it can be costly to set up and maintain servers, and players may have less control over game configuration.
- Handles large numbers of players.
- Provides a reliable and fair gaming experience.
- Protects against cheating.
- Costs of setting up and maintaining servers
- Less control over game configuration for players
For multiplayer games that require low latency, the client-server model is the standard choice.
The peer-to-peer gaming model, also known as ‘peer-to-peer’ or ‘P2P,’ allows players to connect directly with each other to create an online network for playing games without the need for a dedicated server.
There are two common network structures used in peer-to-peer gaming. In the first type, a single player acts as the server for all other players, relaying data to everyone connected. Alternatively, in a public lobby, the game automatically selects a host based on the best internet connection.
In the second type of P2P, all players in the connection contribute to maintaining the network. Once the connection is established, computers in the network send messages to distribute and manage the workload required to keep the game running smoothly.
The peer-to-peer model is ideal for slower-paced games, single-player games with a lobby shooter component, or multiplayer games centered around lobby shooting. Successful P2P games include Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Red Dead Online, GTA Online, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
- Cheaper and easier to set up, with no maintenance costs
- No reliance on a single server
- Less secure than other models
- Requires a strong internet connection; issues with the host’s connection can affect all players.
- Host has a competitive advantage, not suitable for real-time competitive games.
- Easier to cheat in P2P games.
- Limited capacity, usually up to around 10 players depending on the game.
- Players should be geographically close for the best experience.
Peer-to-peer or dedicated gaming server: Which is the better choice?
When it comes to the best gaming server setup for you and your game, there are a few factors to consider.
If you’re on a tight budget or your game is meant to be played with others in close proximity, then peer-to-peer may be the right option. It’s often more affordable than dedicated servers and can support local play.
On the other hand, if you’re a developer looking to address performance issues like lag, slow loading times, mistimed shots, and crashes, a dedicated gaming server model is the way to go. This reliable infrastructure setup offers:
- A powerful platform for high-performance game hosting that can scale
- Consistent low latency for players around the world
- The opportunity to reduce infrastructure costs for your baseline CCU
- The ability to easily scale up or down as needed
If you choose dedicated gaming servers, it’s important to partner with a hosting provider who can work with you to design, provision, and launch a server infrastructure that meets your specific requirements.