Dedicated servers are just the latest way for players to interact with a game’s immersive world, but how easy is it for beginners to get one up and running?
Over the past few years, players have gotten more control over the games they play. In-game customization options, skins, weapons, and DLC all speak to this trend. But for a long time, servers belonged to game companies, and players were restricted to playing a title the way its developers wanted them to play it. But with the release of dedicated servers for games like Rust, players have more options than ever.
But what are the reasons why players would want to have their own server in the first place?
It doesn’t matter if players come from Ark: Survival Evolved, Rust, or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Renting a dedicated server is the next step in stepping up a user’s own game. The power that comes with being a server admin means that players can tweak almost everything about a game.
What possibilities does this open up? Maybe someone could create a CSGO, Minecraft, and Left 4 Dead mashup, where players wield $700 AK-47 | Fire Serpents and run from zombies while dressed as a stormtrooper.
At its core, the biggest upside to running a dedicated server is that it gives players total control. Dedicated servers don’t have to be as crazy the CSGO Zombie Escape mod above. Sometimes, players want to change a few small things, or maybe just have a private server where their group of friends can hang out. Dedicated servers can offer that too.
CSGO and Rust offer a bunch of built-in options to change things such as round timers, starting health, and available weapons through their in-game consoles. Tired of getting two patches of fiber every five bushes in Ark? Just change the game’s default resource values available through the menu. Dedicated servers are customizable as much or as little as players want them to be, and that’s a great strength. From a Zombie Escape mod to a simple 10-man scrimmage setup, dedicated servers let players do exactly what they want.
Nodecraft is a third-party provider offering servers for popular games including Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Rust, Ark: Survival Evolved, and the smash hit Valheim. After picking one such game, in this case CSGO, Nodecraft asks where we wanted the server to be located. North America listed Dallas, Chicago, Phoenix, and Miami as options, while Europe featured an equally wide selection. Russian players will be happy to note that Nodecraft has a local datacenter located in Moscow. With many developers slow to bring dedicated servers to the country, Nodecraft should be a welcome addition.
There were also three servers spread across New Zealand and Australia, plus one in Paya Lebar, Singapore. For South America, Nodecraft serves the region through its data center in São Paulo, Brazil.
The actual setup of Nodecraft’s servers is done through NodePanel2, the company’s online interface that provides a simple management screen where users can create and change server settings. For testing, WIN.gg set up the CSGO test server through NodePanel2, paying close attention to how the experience differed from Valve’s own setup utility, SteamCMD.
Nodecraft wasn’t just faster than Valve’s own system, it was also much easier. That alone means NodeCraft is great for players who want a custom server without the hassle. There are still some parts of the install process that require players to have a little experience around networks, but Nodecraft skips the command line interface that can make Valve’s SteamCMD intimidating.
Note: NodePanel2 also includes a CLI. For players used to interacting with servers and clients through the command line, it’s there if players want it. But NodePanel2 makes it so that it isn’t required.
NodePanel2 has drag-and-drop support to load new files onto a server, making switching up modes, mods, and settings as easy as copying a file to a desktop. And with average prices for dedicated servers anywhere between $5 and $20 dollars a month, it’s not expensive either especially when players split the cost between a group of friends.
As for the performance, our test server allowed players as far away as Canada to connect to our chosen host in Dallas without any trouble. A player in Houston logged an average ping of 30ms.
In contrast to SteamCMD’s ancient command line, NodePanel2 laid out important information clearly, with separate tabs dedicated to different parts of server administration. Here, players can back up their game servers, useful for persistent multiplayer games like Rust or Valheim, with the click of a button.
The panel also features handy “start,” “stop,” and “restart” options for the dedicated servers. Nodecraft has done away with every server admin’s most annoying ritual: the early morning restart. Instead of getting up early in the morning to press a single button, an automated system called “Automated Tasks” can be configured to take care of it.
Automated Tasks extends beyond a simple server restart. It also offers management of different tasks that server owners can automate. Players can run server commands such as timed ads or welcome messages through its simple setup process. Upgrading a server can also be a hassle, especially when an admin isn’t using the same operating system as the server. But Nodecraft’s Linux servers played nice with our Windows 10 test machine, allowing us to quickly configure a Sourcemod plugin with a click of an “Add File” button.
Deeper modding might come with some restrictions, but we couldn’t find any when exploring Nodecraft’s feature set aside from a limited amount of drive space at the company’s lower subscription tiers.
Nodecraft’s business mode doesn’t lock down features such as game-swapping or dedicated IPs behind more expensive subscription plans. In fact, its four available plans all offer the same features, with the only difference related to server power. For example, higher tier plans offer access to increased server RAM and faster processor speeds.
At the end of the day, Nodecraft is an impressive launch point for players looking to start up their own servers. The provider’s options can be scaled to a player’s needs, and the wide variety of games available combined with an easy setup process is worth checking out. It’s perfect for a CSGO team looking for a server to practice on, and it’s equally useful for a streamer with a growing following to set up their first subscribers-only server.