If you’re already running a server, whether in Minecraft, Rust, Counter Strike or any other online PC game, you know that while it takes an investment of time, it’s actually not as tricky as some people might think. This post is for people who aren’t yet running a server but would like to, and it looks at what you need, what you need to know, and how you go about setting up and monetizing a PC game server.
Fairly obviously the first thing you’ll need is a computer and an Internet connection. The fact that you’re reading this means you’re already online, and you don’t have to own a powerful computer to be able to set up and manage a server. The first decision you need to make is whether to run the server from your home computer, or hosted externally by a professional service. Our advice would be to do the latter.
Even with a very fast connection and a powerful computer, there are a few drawbacks to hosting a server from home. In terms of keeping your server accessible to all, having your PC running day and night with an open internet connection is vital, unfortunately that also leaves you somewhat more vulnerable to hacking and online attacks. The more pressing issue is that compared with every other player your ping rate will be tiny, and that can lead to accusations of unfairness that tend to upset the delicate social balance of a new server community.
Another consideration is ease of use. Setting up a server on your own PC is reasonably straightforward, but doing it via a server hosting company such as our friends at Bisect [link to Bisect hosting], is even simpler. You can have one spun up and ready to play in a few minutes, with none of the headaches involving day to day maintenance, up time and security that you’d otherwise be taking on at home.
The idea that you need to be a bedroom coder to get involved is simply not true. Setting up and running a server needs a computer, but it’s something that can be achieved without a lot of prior tech knowledge, let alone an understanding of coding. Spinning up a server, adding friends, and paying your hosting fees are all straightforward tasks that require no specialist knowledge to undertake, just time and a desire to do it.
As with any new undertaking there will be moments when you need help or have questions. Fortunately there’s a huge range of how to guides and tutorials, both written and in video, that you can access completely free of charge to get you started, and to get you over any hurdles with which you may need a helping hand. Those come from PlayerLands, the server hosting company you choose, and from generic YouTube channels that are available to all.
The next step is finding people to play on your server. If you’ve been thinking of starting a server of your own, the chances are you’ve got friends who are into the same games as you, and that’s an excellent place to start. A group of likeminded friends make an excellent foundation for a server community, and they’ll also be on hand to help pay hosting fees, not that these sums are particularly large.
Once up and running with a small group of players, there are plenty of ways to find more. Reddit has some great server game communities, and posting there is absolutely free - it’s a useful way of finding other players who may want to join. It’s also well worth setting up Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts for your server, all of which you can use for free to create a buzz around it and foster broader interest in joining.
Starting out, a great many servers just aim to cover their own costs. That normally means taking donations from your players to pay hosting fees and any other month-to-month costs incurred in hosting the game. Typically that’s no more than a few dollars each, and is intended to break even rather than turn a profit from your server.
For a lot of server owners, especially in times where job prospects can be uncertain, a logical progression from breaking even is to grow your server into generating a reliable monthly income. You can do that by selling in-game items to your players using a PlayerLands store. If you haven’t got one, you can sign up here completely free and get started today. But what are you going to sell?
In most games there’s a range of pre-existing cosmetic adaptations for avatars and weapons that you can tap into for your store. The reason to keep it cosmetic rather than gameplay-enhancing is that selling in-game advantages to players almost always causes bad feeling. Accusations of being “pay to win” are never going to create a happy, sustainable server community. In the case of Minecraft at least, it’s also against their EULA to sell any item that might be perceived as giving one player an unfair advantage over another.
After that, you may find yourself expanding into add-ons that are more uniquely suitable for your server, whether designed by you, or generated by your users. Running competitions to come up with fresh designs is useful to add more stock to your store, and an excellent way of creating community involvement. You’ll also quickly start to get a feel for the sort of things your players particularly enjoy and seek out.
And that’s it. There’s no magic formula, you don’t need $million investment, and you don’t have to have grown up as a computer scientist. You’ll need a few hours a day to manage it once it’s running, but setting it up and making it work is likely to be a great deal easier than you might imagine. Give it a go and see!