Two of the biggest obstacles servers face are longevity and growth. What typically occurs is that servers have one of the two, but accomplishing both is a challenge. This article will examine some key aspects of creating a server that lasts for a long time, but also attracts enough players to the point where it is popular. Moreover, it will also involve an interview with Omicron (who will be referred to as Dan), the founder of Alora which peaked at ~1,160 players. Keep in mind this blog shouldn’t be followed like a recipe, but rather seen as a degree of how well and how much can be done.
A controversial topic in server management and marketing is funding. Funding is generally based on a founder’s ambitions. Money is necessary to ensure consistent numbers of players, even if the majority of the effort has been completed by the team. Dan states the following:
“I’d say that a few thousand dollars can generate some buzz — but it really is a game of chance, with some servers throwing money around but not seeming to get a worthwhile return on it. I’ve seen some servers with a large financial backing do well without bringing anything new to the table (these usually die after a few months of launch hype), but I’ve also seen extremely high quality servers that just didn’t know how to master the marketing element die out very quickly. Striking a balance between the two is key.”
In other words, while marketing is key, it is also important to know what a server target audience is and how to best reach them. For instance, content creators with an audience interested in gambling may bring a load of players for a gambling-targeted RSPS, but it won’t do as well for a emulation with slow experience rates. Some methods where Alora has seen success is through channels such as Facebook and Google to broaden the reach to non-RSPS players. They also try to motivate players to vote each day, as getting high ranked on toplists is a great way to gain traffic. To learn about marketing, read the previous article.
Having a dedicated, loyal and trustworthy team is important to making a RSPS. This can be done by selecting members of the community deeply invested in the game to assist others. However, developers are a different topic. There are developers and freelancers on platforms like RuneLocus, looking for a server to join. But without an investment or passion for the server, they’ll only remain as long as the server generates money. Dan suggests that “it helps if developers have a stake in the profit of the server — not only to incentivize them to work more diligently and ensure the success of the game, but it also teaches them to treat the game like their own.”, which reduces the chance of performing fraudulent activities. My own recommendation is to seek passionate developers before the server is released to the public, as it allows developers to grow fond of it as they create the foundation of the player experience. However, if a server is already public, it may be wise to only select developers with a reputation and repertoire of previous work to ensure player and server security.
One of the underestimated things when it comes to managing a server is developmental cycles. These cycles can be more or less prevalent depending on how many players there are. For instance, for a small-sized group it might be sufficient to have a cycle every week which contains fixes and smaller updates. However, larger servers will often be more demanding. As more players play the game, developers face a variety of demands from skilling to PvM to quality of life updates. Dan claims “ideally you’d want to find a sweet spot to get updates out as quickly as possible that are also thoroughly tested and relatively bug-free. /…/ bonus points if you update on a predictable schedule that players can look forward.“. Therefore, consistent updates are a great way to motivate existing players and attract others who are after a server being updated based on a schedule.
Transparency & Respect
Being a respected server with transparent updates is key to being honest with the community. Ultimately, servers are ruled by the players and guided by its founders. Dan argues that many founders and development teams take it for granted, and neglect feedback and suggestions. Inevitably, it grows a server’s negative reputation by doing so, and causes it to decline. One of the things that made Alora the server it is today, is acknowledging errors, being transparent about moving onwards and being consistent and transparent with the community. It is also important outside the community, to appeal to other players searching for a new home.
To conclude this article, we asked Dan what would be the three points he would spend most effort on if he was to develop a new server.
“1) I would make it a point to ensure that nearly every piece of content is high quality. As we’ve been around for almost 7 years, we have some old code that I dread the thought of, and that can be pretty buggy at times. Unfortunately it isn’t a priority to update that code as players are looking for new content, and aren’t as impressed with an update if we’ve spent weeks on redoing some old content (that they’ve already grown used to, even if it’s a gimmicky version of the OSRS content).
2) Adding some unique features (eg. Automated events in-game) is another point that I’d focus on, to ensure that regardless of player-count on launch, players will have some interesting content to keep them busy.
3) The last point would be ensuring that the server is relatively bug free, with certain systems are in place from the get-go (an enticing PvP system is important, for example) so that the server doesn’t have to fight to get back players that are left with a bad taste in their mouth.“
Hopefully this article combined with an interview with Omicron/Dan has given you some insight into what it takes to create a server that can grow a large population and live for a long time. Thank you very much for reading it, and I’ll see you next time!