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DISCLAIMER: I know this question starts to leave development island but it is very game development related and still think this is the best place.

I see many free MMOs/online desktop client games out there. I am baffled at the ability to fund such. I don't mind hosting myself but would at least like to have someone host a matchmaking service. If these indie devs really are pouring money down the server drain then I'm screwed but if some one can "learn me" :) some alternatives I would greatly appreciate it.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 11 down vote accepted

You can host a simple matchmaking service on Google App Engine for free. It should be able to service many users. If it starts being really really popular, you can start paying for the service with what you earn.

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This looks like my best option now. I need free for the development phase. Thank You. –  Jonathan Kaufman Jul 28 '10 at 17:07
    
NooOoOOoooOOooOOooOoooooO.. The key points are: 1) Datastore high latency and extremely unreliable. (Look at the timings there, then consider MySQL can do 20,000 inserts/sec) 2) GAE charges for CPU time used (ie they count how many CPU instructions you do)., vs every other service just lets you rent a CPU core and you use that as much as you wish at no extra charge 3) GQL isn't used anywhere else. –  bobobobo May 31 '13 at 15:34
    
I would highly recommend using Amazon AWS instead. –  bobobobo May 31 '13 at 15:35
    
AWS is a really good option too, but it's a different kind of service (IaaS vs. PaaS). You don't get the elastic scaling that you get with GAE. Also, just because they bill in an unusual fashion, it does not mean that it will be expensive. Do the math. See here for an example of it working out: gamesfromwithin.com/… Obviously, not everyone's situation is the same, and different needs require different solutions. PS: the article you linked to is pre-HRD. Things have gotten a LOT better. –  drxzcl Jun 3 '13 at 21:25
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@bobobobo: The page you linked to does not appear to be functioning at present. Ironic huh ;) –  drxzcl Jun 4 '13 at 19:54

You can also put off some server cost on one of the users after you setup a match. Have one random player (preferably with the best connection to all the other players) become the "host". If this player disconnects, then find the next best host and so on.

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I know this question has already been answered, but especially with the recent release of the elastic beanstalk, Amazon's Web Services are another alternative.

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What you really need to host a game is a virtual machine in the cloud.

A "VM in the cloud" is just an "instance" of an O/S running on some hardware on some server that has good internet connectivity. Multiple VM's can run on the same piece of hardware, (but that isn't a concern to you as the consumer). They promise you availability of certain minimums of CPU power and RAM usage. For all intents and purposes though you just have got a remote machine that you can SSH into (or Remote Desktop or whatever).

There are 2 major providers that I know of (others please feel free to add more) that offer reasonable prices.

1) Amazon Web Services' EC2 (from $0.02/hour). There are a lot of configurations to choose from, but if you don't even have an Amazon account yet, then that's good because you can get free use of a "micro" instance for 1 year (1 year is from the date you sign up, not from the date you kick on your first server).

If you've already had an account for a year, prices are around $0.02/hour. For a Linux "micro" instance. So in one month, that totals about $15 (744 hours/month).


2) Windows Azure (from $0.02/hour) offers both Windows and Linux VM's for the same price. If you want to program with Microsoft technologies, Azure is worth a try (I'm not sure about QOS vs Amazon) but it definitely seems the licensing premium is lower when you go through MSFT directly instead of renting a Windows box from Amazon.

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Steamworks is an option if you don't mind being tied to their platform (not a huge loss since most gamers probably have Steam already).

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the only problem with steamworks is that you need a game. I am looking for a cheap alternative for me to test and develop with. –  Jonathan Kaufman Jul 28 '10 at 16:55
    
I guess big studios get more latitude on those rules :-/ (we definitely didn't have anything for some of our games when I first got SDK access) –  coderanger Jul 28 '10 at 17:02

If you want a very simple thing, you can find "free" stuff on the app engine and such, but also, you can run quite complicated stuff on slicehost.com and start with 20 bucks. You would be surprised of how much you can do with small slices. If you get more traffic than a couple hundred bucks can pay, you should be able to generate money somehow.

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I thank you for this option. This is definately something I will look into but for now in the beginning stages googles free app engine seems to offer what i need. –  Jonathan Kaufman Jul 28 '10 at 16:58

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