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I am basically looking for a cheap hosting provider to host a Call of Duty game server in India. But this is not a localized question actually as you will see when you go through the complete question.

Essential Features

  • The server must be physically located in India otherwise gaming experience is very poor due to the large delay/ping. Your enemy does not get killed even if it looks like your bullet hit him. For more details check my question http://gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/15803/good-public-dedicated-call-of-duty-servers-list-for-players-in-india-please

  • The game needs a windows platform.

  • The game should be running all the time.
  • Not a big issue if the hosting cost is not low. But it should allow me to set up user authentication later so that I can allow only paid users to play and recover the expenses or offer paid gaming services.

Further details
This is basically an effort to solve the problem of absence of dedicated-public multiplayer game servers in India. This is not a problem specific to India but to many geographies of the world where gaming culture is not mature yet. For more details check this question and see if you can help there -

http://gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/20233/ideas-or-solutions-to-resolve-the-issue-of-absence-of-local-dedicated-public-mult

Even http://www.gametracker.com does not have any listed dedicated servers in India, nor does it offer hosting for one.

Questions

  • What is my best option here. I have no idea what kind of interface I will get if I purchase a windows hosting. I have only worked on Linux hostings, interacted using cpanel etc.
  • Is it possible to just purchase a windows hosting and then install games myself, do any authentication I want?
  • Additionally, I am also looking some web space to host my personal projects. The projects may go live in near future and I may need to scale up resources. But right now I am just a beginner with no live websites. I basically work on LAMP projects (Linux Apache Mysql PHP). It would be nice if one hosting solves all my requirements. I am very new to hosting fundamentals and it sounds as difficult to me as investments. I checked a lot of questions here like -

How to choose between web hosting and cloud hosting?

What should I consider when choosing a hosting provider?

But I am still clueless. Is Amazon EC2 hosting a possible solution? As per http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/faqs/#What_operating_system_environments_are_supported Windows server as well many linux OS are supported.

Thanks

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3 Answers 3

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Q. What is my best option here. I have no idea what kind of interface I will get if I purchase a windows hosting. I have only worked on Linux hostings, interacted using cpanel etc.

A. You will need a dedicated server or VPS. most will come with a control panel but you may be able to get a "vanila" install. you will administer the server by remote desktop.

Q. Is it possible to just purchase a windows hosting and then install games myself, do any authentication I want?

A. Yes. with remote desktop you can install anything you want. As you will be administering the sever the support from your hosting company will likely only extend to doing a reinstall.

Q. Additionally, I am also looking some web space to host my personal projects...

A. If you take a server with a control panel you will be able to use it just as if it were traditional hosting. just make sure anything you do via RDP does not conflict with control panel operations. Having said that configuring IIS with no CP is not difficult.


Your goal here is to run a server were people in India can get a consitantly low (<100ms) ping for responsive game play. As few hops in the network route is also good as there are fewer places for problems and a smaller chance the route will be changed. Ideally a host based in India will peer traffic directly with the ISP of your users. If traffic is not peered directly it will be sent via a transit providers who will not always the fastest route, it will be the cheapest. Even a fast international route will add 100ms to your ping, you need a host in India. For web servers a low ping would only be one of many factors to consider which is why people have advised internationl hosts, but for gaming it's all that really matters. We can't be certain all India hosts peer with all Indian ISP's, they will certainly try to as they save transit costs by doing so but you really need to test the routes. There is a tool called mtr or winmtr (shows you everything pingtest.net would show + lots more) that combines ping and traceroute you need to get as many people as you can who might be using your server to run mtr against a prospective host. You will see the average ping response at the bottom and the name of each node the packet passes through. It's not an exact science and dont panic over one strange result, but looking at a few of these mtr reports will give you a good feel for how the traffic is routed and quality of the hosts network infrastructure. For even more detail you can look up a hosts AS number by doing a whois lookup on the ip, then using services such as this to find out more about their routing. Again use this only to get a feel for quality, it's really more useful for looking at international routing which your less interested in. Private peering agreements will not be shown.

Check forums or ask current server admins for the specifications needed by COD, I dont run game server but from what I have seen a $60/month VPS should do it. I searched and found several VPS providers in India, get a rolling monthly contract so you can move quickly if needed do no sign for a year or longer. CPU resources on a VPS will be hard to gauge unless you try before you buy and may change as they add usrs to the node. Get as much ram in the VPS as you can afford. Check here that your host is a member of nixi I would be very concerned about a host who is not.

Cloud hosting can work out to be expensive and is not a fixed cost, if you go down this route then check your calculations, also this is unlikely to be hosted in India so you wont get the ping you need. Longer term you should consider moving to a dedicated server for stability and power. Better still would be to Colocate your own server. Gaming servers have different requirements than web so you will get more suitable spec for much less money in the long run. Having a goal (the outright cost of a server) may also make it easier to get donations from players.

If your game server application has no authentication built in then you could just use a firewall to control access add and removing ip's as needed.

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Thanks. Your answer is very helpful. I have put your sample IP point in my mails to local server hosting providers. Lets see what happens. –  Sandeepan Nath Apr 25 '11 at 9:02
    
I just tested 3 India ip's from my London based server. I was seeing latency of 130 - 250 ms on the link between UK and India, so this would be your cost of hosting in the UK, not insignificant for gaming. I don't think you should write of an entire continents IT industry, as long as you test first you should be able to get a server with 50ms response, great for gaming. –  ollybee Apr 25 '11 at 14:36
    
netmagicsolutions.com look good they have a DC in India with VPS or hourly cloud options. Importantly claim peering with last mle providers netmagicsolutions.com/carrier-neutral-data-center.html –  ollybee Apr 25 '11 at 14:55
    
@ollybee I really appreciate your help. The bounty is almost certainly yours :). Since you tried pinging to Indian IPs, please let me know what is the result of your network quality in pingtest.net I am doing these surveys to practically prove that physical distance can be a hindrance in gaming (especially the real time shooter games like Call of Duty). All this is part of my plan to setup a self-sustainable gaming network in my region. You may go through this question –  Sandeepan Nath Apr 25 '11 at 19:14
    
@ollybee another thing. Most people advise not to host in India, just like @Arjun Bajaj in the other answer. What things would you advise to check with the hosting company before taking up. This will be my first hosting so I don't have enough experience. I am a software developer by profession and have worked on client's servers, but all were hosted in US/Europe. Also, those were all web applications related hostings. I guess gaming has its own requirements. I see that you work in a datacentre, so I expect some good suggestions from you. Thanks –  Sandeepan Nath Apr 25 '11 at 19:22
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It seems most things were already mentioned by @ollybee.

But I thought I would put my 2 cents in based on my experience. I used to manage dozen game servers in the past and with FPS, latency is unfortunately a major issue.

I'm afraid @Arjun Bajaj's suggestion to use cloud hosting/CDNs is not really suitable in your case. Hosting inside a cloud is good for reliability, scaling and the like, but not for things like gaming. What you want is a dedicated server (in the short term a VPS should suit you well too) that has a decent connection (from the perspective of your players) and enough hardware juice to support your game/player load combination.

I don't know CoD specifics but for Half-Life Dedicated Servers we used a rough estimate of 20 MB of RAM and 50 MHz of CPU speed per slot. I doubt CoD 1/2 is much more demanding.

As long as you have enough processing power, the game quality is strictly limited by the connection between the server and the players.


Things you should look at are:

  • raw latency (ping)
  • packet loss/reliability
  • variations in latency (ping spikes), routing issues etc.

Basically what you want is a strong server with enough uplink. If it's a serious data center this shouldn't be an issue as long as you're not talking about thousands of concurrent players. Add to that low ping for all players involved that doesn't fluctuate too much. In fact a higher latency that is stable (little to no jitter) can provide a more seamless playing experience, so pure ping measurements may not be the best judge.

Ping spikes and packet loss can strongly degrade your playing performance, so your best bet is testing the connection from multiple points at multiple times of day/week for a prolonged period (at least a couple of minutes). The bad thing is sometimes ICMP traffic (especially small packets) gets prioritized, so you may not be really seeing what your real world situation would look like.


I don't know the hosting market in India, so I won't help here. But I can tell you how it looks in Poland. For top grade servers we're talking about stable < 20 ms RTT (raw ping) for cross ISP connections and < 10 ms for operator network/peering through local exchanges. Cheaper servers hosted in Germany are around 40 ms. For some games this makes no difference, for fast shooters most players complained about the cheaper servers performing sub-par. We used to host around 100+ slots at a dual Xeon/2 GB RAM setup, but it was getting a bit tough on resources when at full load.


And the last thing - I think you can also look for CoD dedicated server for Linux if you're not comfortable with Windows VPS.

If you have some more questions, I would be happy to share my experiences here. You have to know though that looking for a good game server provider is mostly a matter of trial and error as it's a very specific and demanding usage scenario.

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thanks a lot for all your points, especially the jitter related one. I need 4 more reputation to upvote your answer. I have been doing multiple ping tests on some sample IPs and ping values to a nearby city are coming around ~65 to 150 ms, including some different ISPs. So, I guess I need to check some more hosting providers and do some more ping, jitter tests. By uplink of a server do you mean the upload speed? How much do you suggest for upload and download speeds? –  Sandeepan Nath Apr 27 '11 at 14:47
    
I know you don't know CoD specifics but in case looking at the specifications helps you may check gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/20937/… –  Sandeepan Nath Apr 27 '11 at 14:49
    
Once again I can only say for hlds setups, but in actual usage scenario we had max 10KB/s per slot pushed to the clients. Theoretical max throughput (due to server design by VALVE) is 20KB/s, but you won't really see transfers like this. Cut that in half for downloads. In short a 1 Mbps uplink should serve well for 10 players. In good data centers you get plugged into the backbone by a 100 Mbps port, so this won't be your problem. What you need to look at is bandwidth usage. Running 24/7 even a medium server can generate quite a bit of traffic. –  Karol Piczak Apr 27 '11 at 15:03
    
I guess CoD stats won't differ much in here. The problem is one slot at 10KB/s is equivalent to around 25GB/month. This means a 20 player server with an average 25% load (low to medium popularity) needs around 150GB of traffic quota per month. We had an unmetered connection at time, but on average a 20 slot server churned out 250GB per month. So we needed 1.5TB-2TB for a couple of game and voice servers. Your mileage may vary (especially at start), but you should be ready for this in the long end. That's why game hosting ain't cheap. –  Karol Piczak Apr 27 '11 at 15:22
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It looks like you need to go with cloud servers. That's Amazon or Rackspace. Don't choose any other company.

I would recommend Rackspace, after knowing that if your server crashes on Amazon, you have a chance to lose data. Also Amazon charges for customer service while they give it free.

Rackspace provides scalability, and charges per hour rather than per year or month. So if you think your servers have too much load, you can increase the number of servers within minutes to let your users play without interruption.

When i talked to one of their sales person, he told me that they just give a base OS install. You can choose between many distributions of Linux and Windows server. Then you can install whatever you want. Their support is also amazing. Also if you want them to install take the managed cloud plan. Their unmanaged cloud servers are for about 1.5 cents per hour, that's $10 per month and their managed plan starts from $200 per month.

Then I would recommend you to use linux rather than windows because of its stability. If you cant run those games on linux and have to use windows, still no problem, you can host a WAMP Server there.

As with rackspace, you can install anything, so you can install your own control panel whichever you want.

Last thing is please don't host it in India. I also live in India, and have used one hosting company in India which was absolutely crap. I would recommend you to go with cloud servers and provide Content Distribution Networks for faster response.

One note: the company I had hosted with was 2GBHosting.com. Please dont host with them even if you want to host it in India. Also don't host with GoDaddy.com cause they are also bad in hosting. I'm experiencing problems with them too.

One thing: I'm just making suggestions for you, not marketing for any company, and this is based on my experience.

Have a talk with with Rackspace before you choose your hosting.

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Rackspce is really expensive and I don't think they have India based data centres. You recommend a CDN which is nothing to do with the main question of hosting a game server. –  ollybee Apr 24 '11 at 16:54
    
@ollybee I think it will be difficult to find good providers with India based data centres. –  Sandeepan Nath Apr 25 '11 at 9:04
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