Server development hosting

Added by RHorning almost 9 years ago

This is more of a question to the general development community, but if I wanted to help participate in the development of a community developed world, is there anything in the way of server hosting that is available for some experimental work and/or simply hosting a game world?

There is a whole lot that goes into getting a game off the ground, and it might be interesting to see some different kinds of support that could go into creating and assisting the development community. Everything from basic network connections for raw TCP/IP services to billing systems and even working out some sort of royalty system if payments can be made to support development efforts.

For those who need to be reminded, open source does not necessarily imply those developers involved can't be paid for their work. All it says is how the software and content is treated in terms of access to that content. Almost all copyleft is an attempt to reverse the damage done by major commercial publishers over the years who refuse to "give back" to the larger community. It is a political issue and not necessarily an economic issue.

I, for one, think this is one of the areas of open source development that might even be a fairly significant source of income for participants if it is done right. Some standards can be established and it would take some community effort to come up with how everything is going to work, but if done correctly can even attract some new talent that hasn't been involved before in open source efforts of this nature. It does require a change of thinking in some ways, and since money is involved here it would require establishing some sort of infrastructure to put that payment system together.

This is just an initial message seeking thoughts and ideas on the topic in general, and if others might be interested in organizing such a project to set up general hosting services and shaping how to not just pay for those services but to possibly expand this idea into something that could be beneficial to the long terms survival of this community. Certainly if the development community can pay for itself and even earn a bit of money for the major participants, the long-term survival of the whole concept of opening up this game can be seen as a major player in the greater gaming industry.

Keep in mind, the general gaming industry is now as large if not larger than Hollywood and the film/music industries in terms of dollars spent by ordinary consumers. This is something that could be huge and is largely untapped in the open source content community in general.


Replies (18)

RE: Server development hosting - Added by sfb almost 9 years ago

RHorning,

I'll let the community respond specifically to you but I will say that we have considered the possibility of hosting derivative projects through Redmine if the project is not blatantly vaporware. In addition I also have provided some personal spaces and hosting at opennel.org (which is the site and services left over from when the community forked during the previous bankruptcy) in which I could also extend a helping hand.

As far as hosting actual game services I do not personally have the resources to do so but I would gladly be willing to help any project or organization who wants to provide this to our community.

Thanks,
sfb
/s

RE: Server development hosting - Added by RHorning almost 9 years ago

I've given this idea quite a bit of thought, and I do think there is some strong potential to make a difference here. The devil is in the details, and there is a whole lot of even political-type discussions that would have to take place in terms of creating or satisfying a development community. It is even a sort of general commercial venture that has been suggested in other forums, but those who may have been interested in the general idea took a pass on the topic and decided not to pursue any sort of development path on the idea.

Thanks for your support, and I hope others might be interested in this general idea. I am interested in getting something going sooner than later myself, and would like to at least get some sort of experimental world going if possible. I would rather work with a community project than to go it alone and try to put together the whole infrastructure for hosting a game all by myself.

I certainly have a couple virtual world game ideas that have been itching my creative juices for some time that I'd like to try out, but I'm not going to throw it out into the wild until there is an infrastructure to get it properly developed. Sometimes you have to make the tools which make the tools first, but I'm hoping that I don't have to get that far abstract to get the idea going.

RE: Server development hosting - Added by Tom316 almost 9 years ago

I like the idea but the devil is in the details. It's easy / cheap to provide web hosting space to projects. But to be able to provide them with there own mini hosting environment for there server also is a different story. It would be a huge undertaking to get everything setup.

I imagine a dedicated Xeon box and then just shard it off for each different project you offer hosting to. There would need to be some rules / guidelines and such to weed out projects thats never going to go anywhere from the ones that stand a chance. It's just too easy for someone to come on along and say there starting a project one day and then the next there gone. It would be a pain to go through all the trouble to get a shard setup for them only to have them never use it / quiet within the day/week/month.

I use to provide free web hosting to bloggers for the longest time. It would generally take me about 20-30 mins to get them setup with all there account information and everything. The sad thing was that only 1 out of 10 people would ever actually use the provided space and resources. The others would end up quieting blogging within the month or never use the space.

Without sounding like I'm advertising a site here, if you are looking for some good quality, low cost hosting I highly recommened nfoservers.com
For $40 / month you can get a
One full, dedicated HT CPU core (Nehalem or better)
1024 MB of RAM
100 GB of hard drive space
500 750 GB of InterNAP bandwidth transfer
One IP address

That would be more then enough to host a server of 1k or more people. The guys there will work with you to tailor a solution to fit your needs and can scale the servers / requirements as you need them without having to reset everything up.

RE: Server development hosting - Added by grego almost 9 years ago

I like the idea as well and agree - the devil is in the details. As far as the technology to be able to provide people with a hosting environment for worlds - that's less complicated that it may appear at first glance (especially VPS) but the tough part is the SUPPORT of that environment. Remote hands, new server deployment, etc. Actually setting up the infrastructure to provision new servers and handle billing and whatnot has been done innumerable times before and there are "out of the box" solutions to handle it.

I'm very interested in doing something like this to support the community (and at the same time have an opportunity to stretch my own creative juices) to the point of even providing initial server space/funding to maintain. I think there are probably a number of individuals of means who are likely thinking the same thing. The key is getting the level-headed (and committed) people together and hammering out those devilish details.

RHorning - if you're serious, drop me a line and we can start discussing. I'm in total agreement with you that open source does not mean "free as in beer" - there's no reason open source can't make people money as long as a project is done smartly.

-Greg

RE: Server development hosting - Added by RHorning almost 9 years ago

I'm coming from the environment of wiki project administration and community building. There is quite a bit that can come from that environment to be applied to MMORPGs and virtual worlds in general that hasn't been done before.

In terms of my own resume on this idea in general, I'm an old time text-based Mudder who has been involved with both developing and working with on-line content for an embarrassingly long time... actually pre-dating the internet. I have plenty of battle scars that I've built up over the years trying to negotiate with various developers and even gaming companies, and I've established or built up several on-line community groups, including working on fan sites for various games and have become engaged in some of the politics of those gaming worlds too (for good or ill).

What I'm envisioning is some sort of general free-for-all world that can be used for experimentation, a couple of demo worlds, additional themed worlds of various flavors, and then setting up some "gatekeepers" or "administrators" (for the lack of a better word) that could help in guiding a general philosophy for creating a world, and that there would have to be some standards invoked before a new project would be created. I understand that creating a whole new world would not and should not be an easy undertaking.

Some ways to create some "speedbumps" in the process to create a new world could include requiring a formal proposal to include a "charter" to define what exactly is the theme and scope of that world, how what would be happening on that world would be different from other projects that have been tried before, and a list of "sponsors" or people interested in creating content or developing that world. It might even be useful to have it go through some other sort of vetting process, including a "community voting" process that can turn down projects that seem to be one-man-band type projects or something that couldn't be sustained, and rules to shut down projects that fail to meet community standards or have become inactive for substantial periods of time.

Essentially, I'm trying to take the wiki model of content development and trying to see if it can be applied to a MMORPG environment.... where "anybody can edit" but there are just enough rules in place and enough infrastructure to keep things from going wildly off the reservation. So far as I know, that philosophy has never really been tried before at all for any sort of game environment, although World Forge is certainly somewhat close. The unfortunate part of World Forge is that it doesn't complete the circle and the learning curve for participation is also pretty steep. Another near miss is Alpha World (now Worlds, Inc.) that did an excellent job of editing a virtual world but also sort of missed the mark in a number of ways from what can be done with this tool set coming from Ryzom. Trying to come up with tools that can simplify content development and creating a much more shallow learning curve for content should also be a goal of the project.

One of the awesome things about recruiting help for a wiki is that somebody wanting to help out but not wanting to take on a major project can do something as simple as editing a single word. I'm sure there are some players who wouldn't mind getting into a virtual world and perhaps clean up some grammar errors with NPC dialogs, add some additional kinds of interactions to an NPC, extend the kinds of dialog from that NPC, or tweak some of the drop tables a little bit in some fashion or another. There is obviously many ways that somebody new to game development can get involved, and it would be nice to be able to leverage some of the enthusiasm some players have for the game and have them help make it better. For those wanting to dive deeper into process, creating new models, quests, or even whole new areas may be in order. The point is to create a continuum of contributors that hopefully those with limited talents may want to stretch themselves and try to push themselves to greater challenges over time. I've seen some of this done with text-based MUDs but not so much with the graphical ones that are the main staple of the on-line gaming community.

Perhaps a better model might be the MOO philosophy, but even there I'm not so sure. MOOs and MUSHes also have their place but have sort or been left behind in the digital universe too.

I know I'm being sort of nebulous here, and trying to get a feel from others about world hosting at the same time. I'm not even really sure what could be done on this idea in general or how site hosting could work, but I do think that throwing the community to the wolves and having them set up their pet servers on their own computers is eventually going to result in a failed project here other than strictly some minor feedback mechanism to Ryzom and some modest content to supplement their main development efforts. What I'm trying to suggest here is to kick it up a level, and to perhaps see some of the explosive growth that has come from projects like Wikipedia.

I also know from sad experience and numerous testimonials from those who have operated virtual worlds that content is king, and it is easy to overwhelm yourself with trying to run your own world. I would like to have some formal feedback on this point, but my experience with text-based MUDs is that for every 20-50 hours worth of effort that a person puts into developing content, you get about 1 hour worth of playable content for an end-user. For graphical MMORPGs, that ratio may even be as high as 1000 hours of developer effort to 1 hour of game time. That seems overwhelming, but if you can get a thousand people to help develop content every day, that is an extra hour of content that can be created every day for the game. That will be something which will set the entire gaming industry on its head and be able to compete with the major MMORPG games like World of Warcraft.

RE: Server development hosting - Added by grego almost 9 years ago

Content is ALWAYS king in every single consumer entertainment venue, period. No one will argue with that. There's also math involved though - how much content you get for your dollar. For example, people don't expect a ton of content from something that's "free", but something that costs them $15/mo they absolutely demand a certain quality and quantity of content or they vote with their dollars.

This is why micropayment systems are all the new rage - you don't have to worry as much about the introductory content per se -- you need to build the environment (or "system") that is engaging that drives people to want to invest time/money to get further.

Regardless, I'm not sure that a totally open wiki-type atmosphere is the way to go. Some kind of vetting process is needed before people can actually post to a "live" world. Maybe some kind of community voting procedure - new builders (to use the MUD terminology) can post areas/quests/objects/etc for review, they are posted into the community server for vetting by the community and then "blessed". Once a builder is vetted they are allowed more freedom or the ability to collect other builders together and start a new project.

Mind you, all of this is based on the infamous question of "where is the money coming from" since as we all know servers/bandwidth/etc are not cheap (cheaper, sure but not cheap).

I do think that getting community engagement is key to something like this but as you've stated yourself the creative effort in a graphical environment is orders of magnitude higher than in a textual one and people are generally only willing to do that when there is some kind of compensation. I think a single community project could be managed with just die-hard contributors but to go for a scale such as you seem to be indicating will take resources.

All of these are solvable, but probably not in a forum. To be honest, the only way to solve them is to sit down, come up with a framework and then just start plowing ahead with it and make adjustments as you go (a-la the wikipedia project - get it started and then adjust policy/tech/etc as the environment changes).

-G

RE: Server development hosting - Added by RHorning almost 9 years ago

Getting to the raw economics of the whole thing, what would be the least amount of money that perhaps would be practical in terms of charging in terms of a regular monthly amount? For example, Jagex is charging about $5 per month for Runescape membership and is quite successful in terms of a private corporation with a closed source MMORPG server. Could some sort of payment system get down to even the rough equivalent of maybe $1 per month or a single semi-annual payment of just $5 every six months? There are transaction processing fees that can eat up small transaction amounts, but I'm quite certain that lowering costs can increase the number of those willing to put forth some money for general costs of playing an on-line game.

As mentioned above, server costs are at roughly $50 to $100 per month, so to break even you need to be able to have enough content to convince about 50-100 people to pay that $1 per month for the game. Surprisingly, I've seen that sort of cash get thrown around for some other micro transaction games like Evony just for an alliance HQ or even for something like a blog about a game. I don't think this is necessarily completely out of the question, and keep in mind that once you get past this break-even point that those involved with getting the game going and developing content could even start to make some modest amounts of money. I'm not talking a huge amount here, but certainly it would be enough for an occasional pizza or two for the developers. That means something substantial here and I believe to be a big difference over even other open source projects.

Another source of income can be banner advertisements or even in-game advertising. I know that there are problems with this approach, but it is at least a source of income to help sustain the costs involved and is used by quite a few websites that are involved in the on-line gaming industry. Even if it is just a few bucks a month, every little bit can help at least to get something started. Even a flat-out tin cup style of voluntary payments works for some sites.... Wikipedia being perhaps the most famous of those which is able to sustain a multi-million dollar annual budget for servers, network bandwidth, and core professional staff to keep everything running.

My experience with MUDs is that getting about 100 people to be fairly committed fans and even willing to fork over a few bucks to keep everything going isn't really all that hard. It does take some effort to put everything together but not completely out of the question either and a small, largely volunteer development team can indeed sustain such a community and keep things going.

As a general business model here, I'm thinking that a hosting service could charge about $100 per month (give or take some.... I'm just throwing a fee up here for now to start the discussion) that those proposing to start a new world would have to come up with a plan to help cover. Those "virtual world entrepreneurs" would be directly responsible for what happens on that world and would be in charge of helping to establish policies in terms of who creates content or even player behavior rules in general.

In exchange for this monthly "rent" to get a virtual world going, the hosting company would offer some professional staff to help keep things running smoothly and offer payment processing from whatever sources of income you can reasonably consider. It would also be a part of a "community" of gaming sites where those who are interesting in experimenting with new kinds of games could log into and hopefully become a sort of portal to a whole gaming community as well.

If bunch of players have a gripe about some game and how it is being operated? They can "fork" the server (the content will be copyleft) and try some other approach. My experience with open source projects would tend to indicate that projects will not fork and in fact project mergers may even be more common. That an economic cost would happen for those trying to fork a server would certainly keep such a fork from happening too often as well, and would act as a system to weed out those projects that are of lesser value or some project that is just one person's crazy idea that has been abandoned.

A well-run virtual world would have the benefit of many players coming in to check out what is happening and even willing to fork out more money to keep that game going. Ultimately, that virtual world that is well run would even make a profit.... in other words the "membership" fees or income from advertising (perhaps both) would be more than the costs from the hosting service. At that point some sort of "charter" could be invoked in terms of how the money earned from operating the server would be split up, including royalty payments for content and perhaps even in-game moderators.

This is just one idea, one that has been floated around in other circles. Jagex was actually going to do something like this earlier where they were going to have an early version of their Runescape game and have some "private servers" for players that would be leased from the company. The largest problem Jagex had was that they didn't want to open up their software development tools to let outsiders "tweak" the content in the game, and the version of the game they were willing to open up for private servers was the "Classic" version of Runescape from almost ten years ago (very clunky and buggy). I should note that in this environment, there were very serious player groups willing to pay as much as about $300 per month to get one of these servers going.... even in the very limited environment that Jagex was willing to work within. What is happening here with Ryzom going open source is something so much more open that it is hard to describe the greater range of possibilities.

RE: Server development hosting - Added by grego almost 9 years ago

From an economics standpoint there are still some unanswered questions (that I have at least) - specifically what size server is needed to support x number of players or y amount of content. That will dramatically change the numbers depending on the results.

I actually wasn't too concerned about the viability of getting something to pay for itself -- paying the opex for something like this is (I believe) relatively simple. It's getting the people involved and then being able to compensate those maintaining the environment that's the difficult part. That takes time and time is money. Not insurmountable problems but just something to think about. Personally, forming a relationship with a hosting company is probably the way to go about it since they already have that infrastructure in place. Regardless it's getting a little far afield of the original concept (but still important).

I'm not too sure of your idea to copyleft the content. As has been said - content is king and is also what takes the most amount of time to create. However, since Ryzom has copyleft their content with attribution that shouldn't be too hard since almost all the content will likely be based off the Ryzom assets which would mandate the licensing. However, if someone goes to the trouble of creating unique graphic/sound/etc assets they should be able to set the licensing parameters around that.

Depending on how difficult it is to set up and maintain your own world (plural "your" there) will determine a lot of how well something like this works. Obviously your idea of part of the monthly fee or setup cost is access to support that will help a project get off the ground with support/tools/compilations/etc is paramount. There's not a lot of value to just providing the server and billing - most anyone can do that at this point with a couple of open source pieces of software and a little money.

However, providing the tools (billing, provisioning, support, setup, project tracking, etc) does have value as you can see by the different VPS hosting companies out there. They differentiate themselves by the tools they offer. This is similar just with a MUCH smaller market. However, if you can get some kind of critical mass then you have all sorts of marketing opportunities to cross-promote different worlds and whatnot. Something like this, a community of worlds, is best suited for a micro-payment system IMHO since it allows people to play a'la carte and then contribute when and how they like.

I'm sort of rambling at this point but I think its doable - I don't know what the size of the market is at this point but it would just take some time and money (and not a lot at that) to test the market and see who nibbles. I think one of the key pieces is going to be not finding people who want to build games/shards/worlds but actual developers who can work on the code to support/expand Ryzom.

RE: Server development hosting - Added by Tom316 almost 9 years ago

There is good stuff here. I for one would be willing to help out anywhere its need on such a project to help the community. Rather is tossing code into Ryzom or making sure things are running smoothly or just working out a business deal with a hosting company to set something like this up.

If we can put together a setup of a working server, client and tools then I am fairly certain we could easily get nfoservers to work out a deal to offer a Ryzom type package / deal of some kind for those interested. Unless someone here is setting on some solid bandwidth and extra server hardware.

Need to keep in mind though that any servers hosted on said setup is going to have to have a place to post there client up for download.

RE: Server development hosting - Added by RHorning almost 9 years ago

I honestly don't think that getting the developer base is going to be all that hard.... presuming of course other things don't change. The only real "competition", such as it is for those willing to write open source software and participate in open source projects, is World Forge (http://worldforge.org/). Mind you, I think the guys involved with World Forge are dedicated developers and it is amazing how far they have gone. Still, the question that has to be asked is... why has World Forge only gone as far as they have in well over a decade of development? Something is certainly missing there and I'm hoping that this is an exploration of what that might be. World Forge hasn't had a lack of server infrastructure necessarily, but it still is a minor player in the gaming world.... minor even compared to text-based multi-player games.

So what is the problem there and why can't World Forge get out of the rut that they are in? It could be a lack of content in the first place, trying to get a critical mass of "stuff" together to make a different. It could be a lack of publicity, or perhaps even a clunky user interface that drives away all but the most hardcore players. I'm sure multiple reasons could be offered, but what should be quite clear is that the project isn't really going anywhere very quickly. I am arguing that the very steep learning curve for being able to contribute anything at all to the project also is a major problem, and the highly protective nature that the project maintainers have towards content development.

This move to open source Ryzom is a chance to leverage a rather unique asset into something even better, and I certainly don't want to discount what has been done so far.

The potential market for video games is certainly a whole lot larger than the market for on-line encyclopedias, and there are many more people willing to spend money on this kind of entertainment than they are willing to spend on a reference library. I see what would happen here to be more akin to independent filmmaking where some folks working on those films with largely volunteer labor occasionally produce a masterpiece that draws the attention of the public at large and perhaps even the major studios. I don't think we can predict what may be the next "Blair Witch Project" type success story that may come from something like this, but I am suggesting that if it is set up correctly that such a phenomena could happen, or an open source MMORPG equivalent of Wikipedia.

I really don't know all of the infrastructure that would be necessary to get this to all put together, which is part of what I'm doing by even starting this thread. It is certainly firing off ideas in my head and I am grateful for the feedback I've received so far.

RE: Server development hosting - Added by Andrew almost 9 years ago

World Forge does not have player base because they don't have current windows client (it's like 2 years old).

I spent many hours trying to compile World Forge client on windows a few months back. I got close but some library was missing.

When I asked World Forge client developer for help to compile on Windows he essentially told me no because he want to work on Linux version only.

I respect his choice but I don't think World Forge is getting anywhere without current windows client.

RE: Server development hosting - Added by grego almost 9 years ago

As for the client - yes each server would need a unique client IF they didn't work off a client codebase that was the same. If so, and if the content becomes the differentiating factor you can have one client and multiple worlds. Something to think about - combining development efforts on the client to support new functionality that others can then leverage. Again though, compensation becomes an issue but definitely something to think about.

I definitely think a tiered open approach (not specifically wikipedia'ish) is the way to go and would work. As I said in a previous post having folks "vetted" by the community before they can be builders/coders on a more established world environment makes life a lot easier for everyone involved. Wikipedia even has some of this with locked pages and whatnot. The advantage is that you can have some semblance of consistency and quality in the "production" world and at the same time a more open atmosphere in the "development" world (where most anyone can post objects/quests/content/etc).

Again, I'm willing to discuss this being "real" with anyone interested and willing to put some skin in the game (either time, money, resources or some combination of the 3). I'm all for creating a place where people can express themselves creatively and use some simple guidelines to manage the process.

-G

RE: Server development hosting - Added by vikarti almost 9 years ago

one client and multiple worlds...
This looks very much like Multiverse Project

RE: Server development hosting - Added by Botanic over 7 years ago

I could offer hosting to anyone that needs it. Give me a holler if you are interested.

RE: Server development hosting - Added by bristle over 7 years ago

"one client and multiple worlds...
This looks very much like Multiverse Project"

unfortunately it is a dead project now. the only ones left are second life, opensim, realXend, opensim/aurora, and bluemars.

RE: Server development hosting - Added by bennusilme over 6 years ago

I got a question on Ryzom their is now going to be a partial reset. Some players want a full reset of the game to start again. Is their any way for those who want a full reset to be able to host a server shard of Ryzom with the new changes in place with a full reset so those who want to start again from scratch can if they so wish. Their is demand for this I spoke to many people who want the opportunity to start again and it is what made them think of coming back. I have the financial resources to get it off the ground and start and host a basic server to begin with if Winchgate is not going to provide a second server for those want it to start again. How would I go about this. If Winchgate decide to host a second server I wont be doing this but if they do not this is what I want to do.

RE: Server development hosting - Added by molator over 6 years ago

Ryzom Core is a framework.
The source and the assets are open, not the content of Ryzom the Game.
Ryzom Core is only included a demo land.
Ryzom the Game is the commercial offer, and Ryzom Core the open project.

RE: Server development hosting - Added by HadrianKross over 6 years ago

bennusilme wrote:

I got a question on Ryzom their is now going to be a partial reset. Some players want a full reset of the game to start again. Is their any way for those who want a full reset to be able to host a server shard of Ryzom with the new changes in place with a full reset so those who want to start again from scratch can if they so wish. Their is demand for this I spoke to many people who want the opportunity to start again and it is what made them think of coming back. I have the financial resources to get it off the ground and start and host a basic server to begin with if Winchgate is not going to provide a second server for those want it to start again. How would I go about this. If Winchgate decide to host a second server I wont be doing this but if they do not this is what I want to do.

allo bennusilme, please look here for some of those questions:
http://dev.ryzom.com/projects/ryzom/wiki/Getting_Source
http://dev.ryzom.com/projects/ryzom/wiki/ConfigureForLinux
http://dev.ryzom.com/projects/ryzom/wiki/UseWorldEditor

(found here http://dev.ryzom.com/projects/ryzom/wiki)

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