Author Topic: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?  (Read 11927 times)

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Offline Michael 'Cruzer'

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Have you ever thought about hosting a server yourself? I've started hosting a Simutrans game server more then half a year ago. With time more and more guys (especially in Simutrans forum and chat) asked me to host a server for them since they don't get it work by themselves or at least don't get it to work as well as mine does. That's why I started to think about a "Simutrans server rental service" like you may already now it from other games.

Why not just host a Simutrans server at home myself?
Running Simutrans as a server isn't hard. But configuring your network to be accessible from outside of LAN is (in most cases) a pain. (It's even not possible with quite a lot of Internet service providers since they don't provide you a public IP or block any incoming traffic.) In addition hosting at home may be expensive (your computer should run 24 hours a day) and you would better have to have a very fast internet connection with low ping, otherwise your friends will have lags and disconnects when playing on your server.

So, what are my alternatives?
You can rent a shared server in some data center. Cheap providers are starting from 5~10€/month. Data centers provide quite good network connection (starting from 100Mbit/s and very fast ping). BUT note that good Linux knowledge is required to host a Simutrans server on a real Linux server. Doing it without good knowledge is a high security risk. Others can easily hijack your server and use it to distribute spam and malware if you don't have enough Linux knowledge. Do not underestimate the complexity of Linux!

I just want to play Simutrans multiplayer and don't want to become a sys admin.
I agree with you on that! That's why I thought about starting this service.

How does it work?
It's really easy. All you need is to sign up for an account. You will get access to a web panel where can you upload a pakset and a map of your choice and you are ready to start. No other configuration or setup required!

Is it free?
No, I'm sorry. For hosting a server I need to spend money on network, power and hardware. So I charge you a little amount of 5,99€* per month (or 4,99€* if you pay quarterly) if you want to use this service.

At the moment this service is in beta testing. While beta testing it is completely free, but you need to apply for a beta account to use it.
The service just got live and you are ready to sign up now.

Please tell me more!
Have a look at http://www.simutrans.ovh/ for more information about this service.



* prices including EU VAT.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2015, 04:41:36 PM by Michael 'Cruzer' »
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Offline DrSuperGood

Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2014, 06:23:09 PM »
Quote
Running Simutrans as a server isn't hard. But configuring your network to be accessible from outside of LAN is (in most cases) a pain. (It's even not possible with quite a lot of Internet service providers since they don't provide you a public IP or block any incoming traffic.) In addition hosting at home may be expensive (your computer should run 24 hours a day) and you would better have to have a very fast internet connection with low ping, otherwise your friends will have lags and disconnects when playing on your server.
Configuring network NATs is pretty simple stuff. The main problem, as you mentioned, is if your ISP uses a large scale NAT (I think its called "provider level", not sure) which is often the case for the cheapest internet providers such as the lowest available packets from providers like BT. If you have an IPv6 address it should be no issue at all unless simutrans does not support ipv6 (which there was some testing for a while ago I recall).

Running costs at home can be minimized by correctly configuring your computer. If you have any old desktop lying around set it up as a Linux server and remove unnecessary hardware like optical drives and graphic accelerators. Cutting back on PSU power might also help. Obviously not everyone has this stuff lying around but with servers you must remember you are also paying for other features so it is not that cost effective I would imagine (servers often are less energy efficient as more power is needed to cool down the high density racks, partly reclaimed only by the scale of operation).

You were also not telling the complete truth about internet speed. Most ADSL connections have more than sufficient download speed to run a server. However their upload (usually 1/20 or worse of the download speed) is the problem. Once clients are connected to your server it actually uses very little upload bandwidth so lag should not be an issue at all unless you have some other system on your network uploading vast amounts. Additionally you can change the client frames behind setting (which clients can personalize with a client side version on top) so that poor and unreliable upload will not disconnect them.

The a actual problem which you neglected to mention is that you need fast upload to upload the game saves when clients join. If you have a broadband package like I do with only 20 kb/sec upload it would take 1.5 hours for people to join if I were to host a server the size of the experimental server which is completely impossible to play with. However nothing stops you hosting tiny servers where the games are 250-500 kb large. Also if you are using any kind of cable or fibre optic broadband connection this is not a problem as the upload ratio is a lot better.

Quote
No, I'm sorry. For hosting a server I need to spend money on network, power and hardware. So I charge you a little amount of 4,99€* per month (or 4,16€* if you pay quarterly) if you want to use this service.
You might want to place some guarantees with that as to the quality of service provided by the deal. Even if you are hosting with proper server hardware in a data centre you can still run into resource bottlenecks which, due to sharing with other servers, could render many simutrans servers unplayable and I am pretty sure people will not be happy considering they are paying. You might also want to explain the server setup to them (how resources are allocated, how much resources are available etc) so that they know exactly how much value they are getting and what potentially causes problems.

You might also consider a "pay as you go" model to servers. Someone who only wants to run a server part of the time (6-12 hours a day) will not be using as much resources as someone who is running a server 24/7 so should be able to get away with paying less. Additionally metering could be done based on server activity since most servers pause with no clients connected (which can be more than half the time) and so consume practically no resources compared with a server that runs 24/7. Further still is the game complexity as a map like experimental server is using consumes far more resources (processor, bandwidth etc) than a tiny map like Fifty hosts over summer and winter. Also you should consider discounts for people running multiple servers maybe.

Offline Leartin

Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2014, 06:49:40 PM »
DrSuperGood, while what you say may be true, it misses the point. This thread is about an upcoming service that is still in free beta, not about how to host a server 'manually', and not really about the price tag either, since it does not cost anything currently. I don't think its really possible to estimate precisly how much different kinds of maps would cost anyway, and not everything can cost extra. Just think how strange it would be for a common user to see an extra Euro charged for trees on the map or something like that.

I think comments about the idea of such a service itself and suggestions for features would be more appreciated.

Offline Michael 'Cruzer'

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Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2014, 07:56:48 PM »
@Leartin: Thank you. You got it covered!

@DrSuperGood: I deliberately not described everything in detail since the post would become to long to read for most people. (Feedback and questions are welcome of course!)

About server specs: I'm sorry, during beta phase I won't release exact specs about the server setup since they may change before official launch.

I've already thought about providing different setups (like limiting by map size) or a pay as you go model, but in most cases this won't bring the benefit you would expect (a lower price I guess). So no, this is not going to happen, I'm sorry.

And I don’t start arguing pro and cons of hosting yourself in this thread since it would become to off-topic. (You of course can start your own thread and I’ll provide some counterarguments of course, since I believe you aren’t right with all arguments you provided.)
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Offline kierongreen

Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2014, 12:47:53 AM »
I wish your business well Michael :) I would certainly say the cost is reasonable for the service provided to non-technically minded users and those with connections that would not permit them to run a server at home.

Offline AK

Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2014, 10:22:25 PM »
Gimme 120rc binary for freebsd64 and i will start few servers.
(I would need some good config and little help with settings,map etc.)

Offline DrSuperGood

Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2014, 10:37:39 PM »
I would advise a nightly over the rc120. There were a number of bugs that have been fixed, some of which were quite critical.

According to Wikipedia any Linux build for the same architecture should work as FreeBSD implements a compatibility layer (with no overhead as well). As such you could possibly get them straight off the nightly build page.

Offline AK

Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2014, 11:22:40 PM »
But it's not working.I tried every confiiguration and every compile settings with gmake and always gets at least several errors.I'm not really programmer and have only basic knowlegde.I dont wanna spend another several hours with no effect.
So if you developers can compile it for freebsd64 please upload binary and i will be able to start 3-4 servers to make that game looks like alive ;).I can only guess that new players start this game,go online,see that there is no servers,close game and never come back.

Offline DrSuperGood

Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2014, 01:20:19 AM »
Quote
But it's not working.I tried every confiiguration and every compile settings with gmake and always gets at least several errors.I'm not really programmer and have only basic knowlegde.I dont wanna spend another several hours with no effect.
So if you developers can compile it for freebsd64 please upload binary and i will be able to start 3-4 servers to make that game looks like alive ;).I can only guess that new players start this game,go online,see that there is no servers,close game and never come back.
You really should start your own thread... You could then post the errors the compiler is throwing at you and we might be able to help (often it is something stupid causing the errors which is easily overlooked and fixed).

Otherwise you could try a Linux server build (Linux programs should work on FreeBSD with no performance penalty). I could even try making you one if you wish.

Offline AK

Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2014, 04:25:32 PM »
Ok i will start new thread and try linux build next week.

Offline prissi

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Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2014, 09:18:25 PM »
If you use a recent svn checkout, you can do:

cd simutrans/trunk
autoconf configure.ac >configure
./configure

Then edit the configure.default to have a backend=posix and put a # before any other line starting with backend.

make
./distribute.sh

Now your simutrans is in a zip file (simulinux.zip) with all translations. Then you are nearly done, unpack this in any directory excepts ~/simutrans. Go there and run ./get_pak.sh. You need to run simutrans then from a directory that contains the pak set and the languages.

Offline Michael 'Cruzer'

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Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2014, 12:00:35 PM »
Some small new features are available since the update tonight. One of the most interesting ones is only available at time of server creation:

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Offline Michael 'Cruzer'

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Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2014, 03:59:19 PM »
A short question: What would be the most appreciated payment method? (like PayPal, Amazon Pay, credit card, bank wire transfer)
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Offline Ashley

Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2014, 08:36:27 AM »
Bitcoin, why not eh?

This is pretty cool though, it'll help remove a barrier to entry for people wanting to host a game server and the cost is really very reasonable (if for nothing else than to remove the faff involved).

From my experience running simutrans servers I found that having in-game management tools available via a web interface (e.g. being able to view the in-game chat log and send admin commands using the nettool utility) was very useful in maintaining a game server without having to log into them all the time. Might be a nice feature to add. Also having an archive of previous savegames is a nice feature.
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Offline Michael 'Cruzer'

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Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2014, 08:46:39 AM »
Bitcoin, why not eh?
You may laugh, but I already thought about that. Bitcoins have 2 great features from my view:
 + zero transaction fees
 + instant automated transaction handling (ok, PayPal and Amazon Payments have that too, but you need to pay for it)

But I guess in fact nobody would use BitCoin as a payment system, so it would be wasted time to implement that.

eing able to view the in-game chat log and send admin commands using the nettool utility

Nothing implemented yet for "nettool" support, but yes this is on my ToDo list since the first line of code was written. Previous savegames are already backed up on a daily basis (stored 30 days) already, but yes making it available for download by the users may be a nice feature. (Maybe we need to change the backup interval, since user may be interested in older backups too. The 30 days have been there for recovery reasons only.)

EDIT: Just finished "force save" and online player display (utilizing nettool). But browsing chat isn't possible as you mentioned (I can't find any way to fetch the chat log using nettool).
« Last Edit: September 29, 2014, 02:22:51 PM by Michael 'Cruzer' »
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Offline DrSuperGood

Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #15 on: September 30, 2014, 06:34:46 PM »
Quote
+ zero transaction fees
I thought there was a transaction fee charged by people acting as transaction servers, although it might be nominal and so as good as nothing.

Quote
But I guess in fact nobody would use BitCoin as a payment system, so it would be wasted time to implement that.
There are other concerns as well. Such as the volatility of bitcoin. It would be awful if everyone paid you in bitcoin just to find that by the time you go to redeem it, it has practically no value.

Offline Michael 'Cruzer'

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Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #16 on: September 30, 2014, 06:40:20 PM »
There are other concerns as well. Such as the volatility of bitcoin. It would be awful if everyone paid you in bitcoin just to find that by the time you go to redeem it, it has practically no value.
See coinbase.com, that's a payment service for Bitcoins which immediately exchanges it to EUR. Implementation would be as easy as using another payment processor.
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Offline Ashley

Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #17 on: September 30, 2014, 08:57:37 PM »
EDIT: Just finished "force save" and online player display (utilizing nettool). But browsing chat isn't possible as you mentioned (I can't find any way to fetch the chat log using nettool).

nettool doesn't do that, you have to parse the log output of the server process - the chat messages have special tags next to them so you can easily grab them using a custom syslog filter (I implemented all this :)) There's also messages for players joining/leaving and so on. See here: http://forum.simutrans.com/index.php?topic=9476.0

There's built-in syslog support so you should be able to do something with it.
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Online Isaac.Eiland-Hall

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Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #18 on: October 01, 2014, 06:29:41 AM »
I'm not a huge fan of bitcoin — but it's not going away soon. It may fluctuate in value, but I'd take it in payment if I bothered to do so. I know some minecraft server providers, for example, take bitcoin. :)

Offline Michael 'Cruzer'

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Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #19 on: October 01, 2014, 02:33:04 PM »
nettool doesn't do that, you have to parse the log output of the server process - the chat messages have special tags next to them so you can easily grab them using a custom syslog filter (I implemented all this :)) There's also messages for players joining/leaving and so on. See here: http://forum.simutrans.com/index.php?topic=9476.0

There's built-in syslog support so you should be able to do something with it.
Logfile is already tracked by my panel. Just need to reuse it with some filter for lines containing "__ChatLog__". Hehe, that's quite easy and seem to work. Below the chat log window a small "say" input box will be added. That seems to become a nice addition. Thank you for the idea!

I'm not a huge fan of bitcoin — but it's not going away soon. It may fluctuate in value, but I'd take it in payment if I bothered to do so. I know some minecraft server providers, for example, take bitcoin. :)
I am still able to add it later. (Maybe once someone will request it.) But at the moment I will focus on main features of the service.
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Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #20 on: October 04, 2014, 10:32:02 AM »
Oh, didn't mean to suggest you take the time to accept it — just expressing the opinion that it wasn't going away. :)

BTW, it'll be probably mid-December before I'm comfortable with finances again, but at some point, I'll be looking to try this out, so whether you're in beta or paid, I won't mind. :) I'll have fun creating a map and seeing what people do with it. :)

Offline Michael 'Cruzer'

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Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #21 on: October 13, 2014, 12:28:31 PM »
Fine. Nice to know that.

Deployed another large update today, which adds date format/timezone handling per user account, password reminders and protection against cross-site request forgeries (via hidden time limited tokens on every request). The website is now also prepared for localization, but there isn't any translation finished yet.
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Offline Michael 'Cruzer'

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Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #22 on: October 17, 2014, 10:19:13 AM »
Beta stage now has been finished and public sign up is now enabled (as long as there is capacity for new servers). Beta users will still be able to use it until the expiry date defined in your account page. If you want to continue to use your server after that date you will need to renew your server by paying with Paypal or SEPA bank transfer.

Everyone signing up gets a coupon valid for 3 hours via email. You can use this coupon to test the server for free before paying for it.

In the event of an failure of your server or if you have any question get in contact with mail support linked on the website of the service.
Please also get in touch with support if you can't pay with Paypal or bank transfer. We will try to arrange an alternative payment method if possible.
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Offline Michael 'Cruzer'

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Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #23 on: March 22, 2015, 10:25:24 AM »
It seems like Hotmail detects the trial coupon mail as spam. If you want to receive the trial coupon don't use Hotmail addresses or at least contact me to resend you the coupon code.
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Offline Michael 'Cruzer'

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Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #24 on: March 31, 2015, 03:21:40 PM »
New button called "Kill" added to the panel. While the "Shutdown" button gracefully stops the server this button will immediately stop it (without saving and so on). But be aware that this may harm your savegame. Only use this button if the server doesn't react anymore since Simutrans fatally crashed.

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Offline Michael 'Cruzer'

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Re: Do you want your own server but don't know how to host it yourself?
« Reply #25 on: June 19, 2015, 06:53:35 AM »
Want to try managed Simutrans hosting? Use the following promo code with a new account to get a free 7 day trial (limited offer):

Code: [Select]
KG3xuKMQVCTy5o9VAF
Attention: The system always asks for a billing address, even if you only want to use a promo code. I'm sorry, but this a legal requirement to determine the person which is responsible for the server. However we won't charge you anything until you manually click "renew server > pay with PayPal" after your trial is ended.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2016, 06:34:54 PM by Michael 'Cruzer' »
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