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I'm making a c++ multiplayer game, and I'm trying to implement a server list, where everyone can host his own server. But I don't know how to start, I've google'd for a while and I didn't find anything about this. I tried to search for a master server specially designed to handle with the server list, so if I refresh it, it will ask the master how many servers it has, and tell the client the servers' informations, and I don't have any idea on how I could make it.

Could you just show me an example, or tell me how could I begin?

Any help is really appreciated.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Building a master server so people can host their own dedicated servers is not a hard task. Once you have setup a tcp/ip or udp server / client structure, you will need 2 basic things:

Heartbeat system: The idea of a heartbeat system is easy. A dedicated server hosted by players sends a heartbeat (just a packet with information) to the master server every x seconds, with basic information about the server (server ip, server port, server version, current amount of players, maximum amount of players, server-side variables such as game speed, game mode etc). The server will save this information in the server structure, for example a List of Server(class) objects.

Request list of servers: Once a player opens the client, it will send a packet to the server containing a command to request the server list. The master server then sends back a serialized list of all the servers that have sent a heartbeat in the last x seconds. This way you always have a up-to date list of all the player-hosted servers.

Also you should have a timer which deletes servers from the master server which have not sent a heartbeat for for example a minute.

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I have build one such "master server" in PHP that can be installed on basically any web server. It's open source: If not for the code, for the ideas. – John McDonald Sep 5 '13 at 20:02
Yes, using a webserver is an option too. It's much simpler than the tcp/ip option, but the system will be alot more exposed to very easy hacks, simply because you don't have to be a professional hacker to visit a website. – Basaa Sep 5 '13 at 20:23
Thank you so much! – Pedro Martins Sep 5 '13 at 21:35
If you are satisfied with the answer, please accept the answer. (the check icon on the left of the answer) – Basaa Sep 5 '13 at 21:39
Done, thank you so much again! – Pedro Martins Sep 7 '13 at 17:48

Unless you're intending your players to all share a LAN or VPN, trying to implement a purely peer to peer game is very difficult; there are just too many firewalls and other obstacles to transparent routing. Plan to keep a public server with a stable IP address as the hub for all communications, and make any idea of a private server a virtual entity mediated by that hub.

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