After you have developed your initial game, you need to test it to discover features that can be improved or eliminated. Since your Indie development company likely lacks the resources of large studios like Bethesda and Square Enix, you should use the available hosting options to test your game's online features. Your main options are:
- Renting a server from a host
- Creating a server
- Using a free server
These options have various strengths and weaknesses. Before you select a hosting option, you should consider your budget and your game's testing needs.
Renting a Server: Remote Hosting
Remote hosting options come in various packages. Many hosting companies offer options for small and large operations. When selecting a hosting service, you should think about the particular demands of your current development process. For example, if you're creating a fairly simple MOBA that is still in the alpha stage of development, you may only need a basic hosting package that offers just the essentials. Remote hosting is ideal for indie developers who do not have the time or resources to create a server. Hosting companies take care of most maintenance and update needs. By renting a server, you also do not need to worry about local latency problems and physical storage issues. Recent innovations in cloud-based technologies can also give you the flexibility that you need when working with a hosted server.
There are many hosting companies that offer credible services to developers. Some of the top companies are GreenGeeks, JustHost, and A2Hosting.
GreenGeeks - https://www.greengeeks.com/
GreenGeeks offers dedicated hosting and unlimited storage. This company's services are ideal for both simple single-player platformers and large-scale multiplayer games. Many users of GreenGeeks servers have had a successful experience with testing demanding games with high framerates. This company also offers VPS options. Because of VPS' secure and stable characteristics, this is ideal for testing and limiting interference from outside factors. Indie developers can use this service to run scientific tests and optimize their game. The comprehensive dedicated hosting package by this company is $170 per month. GreenGeeks is also known for providing reliable customer service.
JustHost - https://www.justhost.com/
JustHost's main option for Indie Developers is a VPS service. This is ideal for both in-house testing and high-performance gameplay. Many developers enjoy JustHost's east-to-use control panel. This allows developers to control factors and optimize settings for certain testing situations. This company also offer a $100 Google advertising credit to help developers market their games or websites.
A2Hosting - https://www.a2hosting.com/
A2Hosting is one of the most flexible hosting companies on the market. This company caters to both single-person developers and entire data centers. A2Hosting hosts virtual private servers with regularly update security protocols and privacy tools. This will allow you to work out all of your game's bugs before you move along the development process. This company also offers dedicated server services for indie development companies that require 24/7 testing. Shared hosting options are also offered by A2Hosting.
Strengths of remote hosting:
- Minimal latency problems
- No storage space issues
- No maintenance issues
Weaknesses of remote hosting:
- Monthly fees
- Limited control
Building a Server
If you have the technical knowledge or willingness to learn, building and hosting your own server for development may be a reasonable option. Before you even consider building a server, you need to ensure that you have high speed internet and a basic understanding of computer parts. Building a server is a fairly low-cost alternative to using a hosting service. By owning a server, you can avoid monthly fees and contracts that can diminish your development company's profits. After you spend time and money on the initial setup process, you can test and develop your game without worrying about the actions of third parties.
Owning a dedicated server will also ensure that your multiplayer game can operate even when the owner's machine is not connected to the Internet. Dedicated server software is also simple to install; Steam offers numerous tools that will allow you to develop code for servers.
Select a Method
Implement Server Logic
In order for your server to become functional, you need to write server logic. This logic will direct HTTP/S ports to process the plain text data by using the POST method. For this to work, you need to specify which kind of text data you are using.
Select an Engine
After your initial code is written and your server is installed, you need to use an engine to power your game. Some of the most popular engines currently used by Indie developers are:
- Unreal Engine 4
- Unity 4.6
- ShiVa 2
Once your game is live for testing, you should make sure that all of your players can find the server. Some developers distribute IP addresses to testers, but this process is often riddled with confusion and errors. You can make finding your server simpler for players by hosting a dynamic IP at a domain address. Instead of sharing a string of numbers, you can distribute a web address. Fortunately, there are several free DNS services that will help you cut down on confusion and costs. DtDNS, DuckDNS, and EntryDNS are among some of the top free services on the market.
Advantages of creating a server:
Disadvantages of creating a server:
- Technical knowledge
- Manual updates
- Limited storage
Free Hosting Options
There are limited free hosting options on the Internet. One of the best options for free hosting is Itch.io. In addition to basic hosting, Itch.io offers database, file storage, and sales options. Developers can use this service for games based on HTML5, Java, Unity, and more.
Depending on your needs, you can use a free hosting service, build a server, or rent a server. Budget-mindful developers who need flexibility will appreciate the freedom of building a server, but developers with time constraints may prefer remote hosting options. Because of this, each of these hosting options is suitable for certain situations.