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Whether your game is CS:GO, TF2, Rust or Minecraft, there are a few common qualities that players generally look for when deciding whether to play on a server or not.
Of course, it takes time to develop a large and stable player base however if your server has been up a while and is little more than dormant it could well be time to take a proactive approach; after all what’s the point in running your own server if nobody wants to play on it?
So, lets look at a few points which affect server popularity and hopefully uncover some points that can breath new life into your server.
This will largely be determined by what you want to get of your server. For example, if you purchased a server to provide your clan or team with a dedicated practice area than of course you’ll want the server to have relevance to an aspect of the competitive game mode; As whilst a team death match server can help improve aim and reaction time, a bunny hop server won’t do much to benefit competitive play.
That being said, some game modes are more popular than others. For example, community team deathmatch servers in CS:GO are always popular, probably more so than competitive rules serves so this could be an avenue to generate more traffic, however you’ll have to find the balance between objectives.
Depending on the game server size can be a huge draw factor. Huge 40, 50 even 60 player servers for games in the Battlefield franchise were and continue to be extremely popular and the same can be said for TF2, Day of Defeat and ground war games in Call of Duty.
The downside is that game server are priced on a ‘per slot’ basis so running a larger server will inevitably cost more money than a smaller server, however if you find a way to monetize your server using a method such as CPC advertising, for example, it may be worth the extra investment.
This can encompass a lot of different things however I’m referring to specific rules set by the server admin which are not used in the official servers or are not common within community servers.
A couple of notable examples would be a TF2 server with random critical hits turned off and a limit on the number of people allowed to play a particular class at any one time, or a counter strike server with a death respawn timer and a limit on the number of AWPs allowed per team.
This can be a difficult one to judge. A lot of people find a favourite map early on and are reluctant to leave it thereafter. This is quite notable on CS:GO and TF2 server lists with the prevalence of dust2 and 2fort 24/7 maps. If you enjoy this type of gaming, then great, this is a popular server configuration and will likely bring substantial traffic.
On the other hand, this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and a lack of map rotation is a real turnoff and this is especially true of competitive, objective based game modes. Again, you’ll have to weigh up your personal objectives for the server and your desire to increase the player base to decide upon the best option.
Ultimately, as the server admin you’re in control, however it can be beneficial to provide players with the ability to influence decisions which can help promote a positive playing experience.
For example, a vote system to determine map rotations and to mute/kick/ban individuals acting in an inappropriate or abusive manner ensures players remain engaged and ensures your server doesn’t become the battlefield for a toxic flame war.
A sure fire way to kill the popularity of your server is if blatant cheaters go unpunished. Fortunately, some games feature an inbuilt anti cheat system such as valve anti cheat (VAC), however for those that don’t a third party program or dedicated moderation is required.
The popularity of any game server will always be partly determined by the total player population of a game and the popularity of community servers compared to the official. Clearly, these are beyond our control and so aren’t worth focusing on too much. With that said, the above factors can and do influence server popularity within the player population however whether you make any changes to your server set up will ultimately depend on the reasons you purchased the server for in the first place.