With their first person shooter Section 8
, TimeGate Studios strove to offer robust multiplayer options to their consumers across all platforms. In a new Gamasutra feature
, CTO Denis Papp describes the obstacles the team had to overcome to offer user-hosted dedicated servers for the console versions of the game.
Papp explains that TimeGate wanted to implement 32 player battles in the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game, though accomplishing such a feat was easier said than done.
"Traditionally, shooters on the PC support both "listen servers" (where one of the clients is also the host) with up to 16 players, and "dedicated servers" supporting upwards of 32 players," said Papp. "However, the majority of shooters on the console support only listen servers."
"Supporting a dedicated server to allow larger scale games requires hosting your own bank of servers in an approved XLSP environment (Xbox Live Server Platform), which can be very expensive in terms of hardware cost and management overhead," he explained.
Papp said that in order to make dedicated servers for consoles a reality, the team had to recieve Microsoft's blessing, which they luckily obtained using workarounds with the Games For Windows Live service.
In order to manage matchmaking, TimeGate came up with solutions to find specific servers. "Matchmaking support was straightforward, but we needed a way for a user to find a specific server. If someone was going to go through the effort of setting up their own dedicated server for Section 8
, they needed to be able to join that server from their Xbox 360," said Papp.
The team implemented search features that allowed users "to search for a server by the host name (i.e. their GFWL Gamertag) or by the Server Clan," thereby allowing easier matchmaking.
Papp also discussed how the team implemented the feature on PS3, noting that "the process was easier the second time around, given our experience with working on the Xbox 360, and also that we were not required to send the PS3 server build through a certification process."
In the end, Papp notes that, "Despite a number of challenges along the way, we ultimately consider this endeavor a huge success."
For more on TimeGate's efforts to implement user-hosted dedicated servers on consoles, read Gamasutra's extensive feature
on how the team got past several major obstacles to make the feature a reality.