One of the greatest ways to add interactivity to your channel outside of chat is to play games with your subscribers. I can tell you that as a Twitch “viewer”, being on the fence about whether I should become a subscriber to a channel has often been being able to play games with the channel owner and others in chat.

There are 2 major options for this, and it obviously depends on the game itself –

  1. Games like League of Legends, DOTA 2, H1Z1, and Grand Theft Auto V have their own public servers owned and operated by the game developers themselves. Although they are typically fair-enough (GTA for example), often times it’s a challenge to properly organize a session you can play with your subscribers.
  2. Games like Call of Duty, Minecraft, 7 Days To Die, Counter Strike, DayZ, and so on have allowed their multiplayer server functionality to be run on servers they don’t manage.

In this post I’m going to concentrate on #2. If you haven’t seen my other posts, I used to own a hosting company. We offered primarily shared web hosting and dedicated servers. Shared web hosting was nothing more than dedicated servers with a lot of clients on it. I.E., sites like our very own StreamerSquare don’t require a lot of CPU power to serve up the great content, while other sites that are constantly interacting with on a database to serve content, or take up a lot of resources like CPU or RAM, often require dedicated servers.

You have 2 other options –

  1. Rent a per-slot server from a game server hosting company. The going rate for Minecraft is about $2 per slot, while Rust is about $0.50 per slot. Why the drastic difference? Every game requires different resources from the server hardware, which means as a game server hosting company, I have to pay the datacenter where my dedicated servers are hosted. Another drastic difference in price is if the game server software. If it runs only on Windows, it’s more expensive because datacenters are charged a fee for Windows licences. If a game server can run on Linux, no license fees are required. Game server hosting companies often oversell their resources and it results in poor performance. I.E., as an extreme example to make my point, I could sell 10 64-player Minecraft slots and put them on a dedicated server. In the meantime I’d be praying that those 10 customers don’t use it at once, otherwise the server would run out of resources very quickly.
  2. The other option is to have your own cloud server which for most streamers who play games with their server included is the absolute best choice. Cloud computing isn’t a marketing buzz-word, it’s literally transformed the way server hardware can be utilized. Think of it as a ginormous apple pie – you could just have a bite, or 2 slices, or the whole darn pie. 🙂

Cloud server hosting companies like Rackspace, Amazon, and Google offer a control panel which allows you to not only “spin up” an instance of a server with allocated resources, but spin it down when it’s not utilized. One of the absolute best things about cloud computing is that you’ll only be paying for the resources you use on an hourly basis. I’m a huge fan of this pay-for-what-you-use model.

Let me give you a real-word example so this makes more sense, and I’m going to reference Minecraft a lot, but you’ll get the idea 🙂 –

  • Streamer spins up a cloud server with minimal resources to install Minecraft, 7 Days To Die, and CS:GO. Then turns it off. Total bill: about $2.
  • Streamer spins up the server and starts the Minecraft server with 8 players (512 MB RAM allocated) and plays with viewers for 2 hours. Total bill: about $6.
  • The next day, streamer spins up an instance of 7 Days To Die with 4 players (1GB RAM allocated) and plays with viewers for 2 hours. Total bill: about $6.

After every stream, the server should be shut off. The greatest thing about having a cloud server is the resources available – you’re only paying for the resources you use instead of paying a game server hosting company monthly for resources you aren’t using.

I hope I didn’t get too technical with this post. 🙂 As always, your comments are more than welcomed!
DJ