This is very in depth and look at individual settings for servers and what they mean. How they affect your game play and your wallet.
As a server administrator at www.HostedGameServers.com (HGS) I spend a lot of time looking at and analyzing the best possible game server configs, tick rates, prices and server fps levels. As I look at other companies, especially the big guys and I see so many flaws that I wonder how people get literally suckered into buying servers from them.
Let’s start with source servers. Source servers are one of the most popular server types and they allow for a lot of tweaking, but two things that are very important to having good registration in source games: FPS and tick rate. Many people don’t know that source games start with a base configuration of 33 tick 100 fps. The game will run fine at this setting with good registration.
Let’s look at how other companies are selling you servers. A lot of sites give you words instead of numbers: “CSS EXTREME”, “CSS SUPER AWESOME!!” or whatever. What exactly are they selling? There is very little detail on what FPS or tick rate these servers are actually running. Lets take a look on Google at the top GSPs. For starters, www.UlitmateGameServer.com doesn’t tell you what any of their settings are. There is also the companies that tell you the FPS like www.ArtofWarCentral.com for example. What they don’t tell you is what their base settings are, but you can increase the FPS. Their servers could be running at 33 tick but you don’t know until you buy one, so you will be spending more money and not knowing what you’ve actually bought. There is also the just plain WRONG information on sites like this… For example CSS recently transferred over to orangebox engine, which only supports up to a 66 tick rate… yet there are companies which still insist on selling 100 tick servers. www.GameServers.com, www.DCHservers.com and www.ArtofWarCentral.com are just a few companies that have the wrong settings on their order pages. I hate to break it to you, but with the new orangebox engine, 66 tick is better than 100 tick! I’m leaving out the fact here that you have to install a server mod to have it even set up to 100 tick. There are many reports from gamers that the 66 tick registers BETTER than 100 tick now!
All of this goes for server fps as well! Server FPS only deals with how often the server checks for game packets. With the standard FPS of 100, the server is doing these checks 100 times a second. This actually increases your ping, but more on that later. Lets break server FPS down in how it all works. With 100 FPS the server is checking every 1/10th or .1 of a second. To give you a perspective of how fast that is, the average human being blinks as fast as 250-300 ms (.25 and .3 seconds respectively). Now lets go with 500 or even 1000 fps. You are getting 1/500 or every .002 of a second… 50 times better than the standard rate. This is great, but you don’t need to go any higher than that. 1000 FPS is only 1/1000 or .001, which is twice as fast, but completely unrecognizable to the human eye. This means you wont see any improvement. It’s physically impossible. There are even companies with 10000 FPS or crazier yet 20000 FPS I am still confused on why people waste their money. Source servers are limited to one CPU core, but even the most powerful CPU available for purchase cannot run this on a single core. For a 66 tick 1000 fps, a 10 slot server on a 2.6GHz core takes an average load of 60%. One of the largest cores you can get at 3.5GHz still uses about 45% (these are very expensive!). This means the core average will undoubtedly be at 100%, so you will never get the true FPS.
Where I am going with this is, you don’t need a very high FPS server because it does not really determine registration… if that is what your after. The only thing you’ll gain from anything past 1000FPS is CPU usage slammed to 100% all the times because the engine is spending all of its time rendering useless frames instead of doing actual useful work.
Okay enough about server fps, what about the tick rate. During each tick, the server processes incoming user commands, runs a physical simulation step, checks the game rules, and updates all object states. After simulating a tick, the server decides if any client needs a world update and takes a snapshot of the current world state if necessary. A higher tick rate increases the simulation precision, but also requires more CPU power and available bandwidth on both server and client. So if you have a high tickrate, your server is pingboosted and is running at high fps, none of this is of any use to your clients (the players) if you do not change your servers rates, specifically the sv_maxrate and sv_maxupdaterate variables. I’m not going to go into choke and loss. The point I’m making is: forcing a server to go beyond its native tick rate it will actually be detrimental. With the latest installment of orangebox engine, the rules have changed to stop all this stupidity.
Enough of number crunching, back to how these other big guys word these servers on their site. First, lets go with the biggest game server company: www.GameServers.com. Their site states “Top of the line Dual Intel Quadcore servers”, but when does this mean for source? As I went through above it doesn’t matter how many cores your server has. In fact, having more cores is worse than a few big ones. The server with more cores can hold more overall servers, which is better for the gsp… not you. Your game server is limited to using one core at a time, remember?! Beyond that, GSPs have the bad habit of overloading their drive arrays. A drive can only read and write so much, then your server starts getting IOwaits. This causes major lag by having the CPU wait for the disk drive or memory. All this core talk is just a ploy to get you to believe they have better servers than other providers. How they are wording their services is mostly to get you to waste money on what you think would be better. There are even companies that go so far to charge you to get their branding off of your server.. www.inx-gaming.com actually does this.
Don’t be tricked by the big guys… we’re real gamers who test these servers as gamers. We actually understand the numbers and we actually care about gaming… instead of just profits. HostedGameServers.com gives free web and voice hosting with every order and our staff will often time play on their customers servers just to check in and have some fun. Try finding that somewhere else!