The Survivalist: The downside of hosting custom servers for survival games (and why we don’t do it)
After the latest guide introduced even more possible games to sink our survival teeth into, it is understandable that the question cropped up again asking whether Massively OP would be officially hosting any servers for any of these titles. Think of it, life and death alongside your fellow MOP fans! Of course, we think it could be great fun, and we like playing games with ya’ll. However, as much as we love having folks congregate and have fun together, the answer is unfortunately no. Could it happen in the future? You could say there is a possibility, but it is extremely remote. Remote as in you have a higher chance to win the Powerball lottery. (Of course if you do win and want to fund such an endeavor, let’s talk.)
But why, you ask? Didn’t MOP have an ARK: Survival Evolved server? There are a number of reasons that official servers are not in the future, some of which the official unofficial ARK server helped illuminate or reinforce.
A huge hurdle for hosting private servers is the time commitment. Folks may not realize how much time goes into running and maintaining a small server let alone a large one (and you’d want a large server to fit folks, yes?). You need to be on-hand constantly to be able to keep abreast of updates and issues. You need to be available to get updates uploaded quickly so there isn’t significant downtime. If a major update happens late and you don’t jump on it, then all the people who play late nights just have to lose out on playtime for a significant chunk of their day. It’s not just updates, either; the host can switch a server off (yes, it randomly happens sometimes) or the server can crash (has happened way more than I would ever want).
You also need to be available to address in-game issues that crop up. And trust me — crop up they do. Remember, most every survival title is in early access. As such there are sometimes horrible bugs that destroy/lose items and ruin hours upon hours of game play. Sometimes there are wipes. Sometimes wipes or rollbacks are necessary to fix whatever got borked. That is totally no fun, and no fault of the players, so when loss happens because of a bug you try to compensate folks. But let me tell you: Compensating folks for lost items/levels/dinos takes a ton of time and is exhausting. And it is no fun! I’ve spent hours of my own game time doing just that, and then I had to take a break instead of play. My best friend who actually started the server with me stopped playing the game that he initially loved after spending hours upon hours reimbursing people for a major bug. And that was just for under 30 people — can you even imagine doing that for 100 or more?
The time cost may not seem to steep if things outside our control are running smoothly (and that is an if), but let’s add to that multiple servers for multiple games. Heck, between expansions like Aberration and mods like Ragnarok, ARK alone has more than four different map possibilities. That’s not even counting the procedurally generated servers! Add to that all the various games (did you see all those games in all three of our guides?) and you’d have a full-time job — if not multiple ones — to keep things running smoothly.
Unfortunately, you also have to account for dealing with problem people. In a large, open group there are bound to be toxic and trouble-making folks. It happens, and we’ve all seen it. When there are issues of harassment of other players, mods, or admins, you need to be able to address that right away. That can eat up your time as well.
Now, take all of this constant time and attention necessary and ask that of someone as a volunteer. You can’t! No one has the time to do that; they have to also work for a living so they can, you know, live. What if you can pay someone to compensate for all that work? Likely it can’t even be just one, as the primary person will need breaks for sleep, doctor appointments, maybe even family time and that sort of life stuff. No one can do on-call 24/7 forever (I have done it in long spurts, and trust me, it can be murder). So you need at least a second if not a third. Who on earth is going to pay for that? That brings us to the top reason there won’t be official servers: the cost.
Not in the budget
The main factor preventing official survival servers for Massively OP is the cost. Besides the significant cost of paying folks to maintain the servers, there is the cost for each individual server you want to host. Admittedly that doesn’t seem like too terribly much — until you start adding more and more games to the list. That is a huge chunk of change! And it isn’t something MOP can do.
Those who listened to the new year podcast got to hear Bree’s report on the financial state of the site. She noted that 80% of all funds earned go straight to writers for content for the site. After all, that is what the site is! The remaining funds go for infrastructure and other necessities, like tech, hosting, fees, and legal support. There isn’t anywhere in the budget you could carve out a huge chunk to give to someone to maintain servers without removing significant content from the site. And we want more content for the site, not less! Now there may be one exception: Remember back to the beginning statement? If you win the lottery (or happen to otherwise be financially able) and want to fund just such a position or two, well then perhaps we can build a Patreon tier to do exactly that. Otherwise, increases in funding go toward building the site itself with more content. That is the best place for it to go! Hey, I’d totally love to see an animated Mo show, wouldn’t you?
If by some chance we did get an influx of funds specifically earmarked for official servers, now you have to consider the decisions involved. Who would decide which games get the servers? It stands to reason that the person who paid for it would, yes? But if the benefactor declines, would it be the staff, by popular vote, or by whoever donates to/supports the site most? That’s certainly a sticky question. More stickiness: What if the majority of the population wants to move on to another next big thing to come out? What about those left behind — does their game just get shuttered? And what rulesets should be used on these servers? Would we need to pay for separate PvE and PvP servers, doubling the costs? What about accelerated leveling vs. standard? The more the options, the more the costs, not to mention the more the community is split. Who gets to decide all these things? There will always be some who are unhappy with the selections, and some who will be extremely unhappy. And then who deals with the fallout from the unhappy people?
When discussing official MOP servers, occasionally folks will inquire about the ARK: Survival Evolved server that folks played on. Yes, there was one survival server affiliated with MOP, but it was never an official server supported and run by the site. For two and a half years fans had access to the official unofficial ARK server. Why was it called the official unofficial server? Because it was actually my private server that I invited folks to come play on because I wanted the community to have the chance to play together in a game I was having a blast in. All costs — both cash and time — were shouldered by me personally, hence it wasn’t official. It was unofficial, though, because I am a part of the MOP team and I invited the MOP community to join.
That leads to the question about whether there can be other official unofficial servers. And the answer to that is also pretty much a negative. Asking MOP staff to voluntarily commit the cash and time necessary wouldn’t be fair. (Though I admit, if I suddenly become independently wealthy I am totally going for it! Sadly, I sure don’t see that happening soon.) Well, what if someone else outside of the site wants to set one up? We have generously had a few people offer to set up servers for the community to be official MOP servers. That is very kind, but we politely decline while encouraging them to feel free to set up their own and invite folks in. Why do we decline? Keep in mind that anything with the MOP name on it is going to be reflective of the site. Understandably, anything affiliated with and reflecting on the site would need be run by those who run the site. If it isn’t ours, we have no control of it. MOP wouldn’t have — nor would it ask to have — oversight on a privately owned server; the owner should run it how the owner sees fit. Yet with just the MOP name attached, some folks get the idea that the site should force things to be a certain way on that server.
So no, there won’t be official servers, and there likely won’t be official unofficial servers. But that should never stop the community from banding together and playing! If someone sets up a private server and invites folks in to play (it has happened already), we support that and say have a blast! If the group wants to pick an official game server and congregate there, go for it! Use the comments here to get together and organize, or even send in a tip and maybe we can help direct folks there with a tweet or something. Perhaps we can even join you! Just know that these are groups of fans all playing together, not official MOP servers. But that totally shouldn’t diminish the fun.