So, no one is joining your Kart server

by AJ "Tyron" Martinez @ • April 9 2019

Hey! This post was intentionally delisted for being boring, inaccurate, outdated, or any combination of the three. I've left it up for archival purposes, but keep the context in mind!

Dubious value, some outdated technical info. Also, Ring Racers is on the horizon, and I’d like to write some proper docs for that!

Continue at your own risk!

Games that use community servers are cool, because you can host any style of game you want and cater to whatever crowd you desire. But maybe you’ve been sitting in your empty server for half an hour, wondering where the thousands of players are and getting kinda disillusioned with the whole process. Here’s what you can try to fix that.

The bare minimum

These are the basic requirements for hosting a netgame at all. If it’s your first time hosting, you want to start here.

Make sure your server is reachable.

Just because you can join your game doesn’t mean everyone else can. There are many different reasons this might go wrong, but two are more common than any other.

If you don’t see your server on the SRB2 Master Server, make sure you have a room selected, either under the Room option in the Multiplayer > Internet / LAN menu, or by using the -room argument in your dedicated server’s start script.

If your server does show up on that list, but is listed with an Unknown game type and a red X for the ping, your server isn’t reachable, most likely because you haven’t correctly forwarded port 5029; until you do that, no one will be able to connect.

Make sure people can download your addons.

If you’re hosting with addons, make sure downloading is enabled, either from Options > Server Options > Allow Add-On Downloading, or by setting downloading On for dedicated servers. If you’re using large addons, you may also need to raise Max. File Transfer Send under Options > Server Options > Advanced Options, or setting maxsend on dedicated servers.

Make sure your connection is stable and your hardware is adequate.

If your local connection is unplayably bad, your computer can’t handle hosting, or you simply don’t have access to your router to port forward, you can host a 24/7 server using a service like Vultr or Linode if you’re willing to learn a little Linux.

Okay, the server works, but no one is joining :[

Alright, let’s get down to details. This section has less to do with the technical aspects, and more to do with how you run and present your server.

Have a vision and a niche in mind.

Think about what kind of game you want to host and why. If your server doesn’t do anything special, no one has any reason to play on it over other servers; having decent hardware, a decent connection, and animechars+C4 isn’t enough.

Use an interesting combination of gameplay addons, or host in a region that doesn’t have many nearby servers, or show off some characters and tracks that don’t see frequent play, or create some addons yourself and show off the previews in your games, or mess around with item tables and game speed, or host a server entirely without anime characters, or run high-tension 1v1s with a bunch of spectators cheering them on, or use numlaps to run ironman endurance races on Vanilla Lake…

The possibilities are endless. Think about how you want to play, and make it happen; if there are players out there like you, you’ll find each other fast.

Make sure your addons aren’t too extreme.

The in-game downloader can be very slow, so if you’re hosting a massive custom pack or hundreds of characters, players without those files will be waiting a very long time to join; most of them will just go somewhere else. At the most extreme, packs above 50MB simply can’t be downloaded in-game.

If you do have a valid reason to host tons of files, provide an alternate download so players can bypass the in-game downloader if they need to—but remember that anyone joining through the in-game server list won’t know where to find it.

Bring your friends!

If you can keep a few people on the server with you, even for a short time, it can be enough to attract players browsing through the list. No one wants to join a ghost town, but even a handful of players can quickly balloon into a full house.

Announcing your netgame in the Kart Krew Discord’s #netgames channel is typically welcomed as long as you aren’t spammy about it. A brief description of what you’re hosting, where the server’s located, and how many players you currently have can also be useful. Begging people to join, or flooding chat channels with your server name/IP, is more likely to make people avoid your server than join it.

Use a memorable name, and keep it consistent.

First rule of advertising; brand recognition matters. Keep it short, snappy, and descriptive.

Remember that this game has a fairly small playerbase.

People are often busy doing other things, and active players often favor servers that they know well. Them’s the breaks; try not to get too down over it.