The brief history of "Cain's Lair" Game servers:
Why did I set up Game Servers????
Well, I guess it all started when I was playing QuakeWorld fanatically, and then Zoid decided to change the default sv_friction with one of those last patches. It felt like you were slipping and sliding all over the place. I e-mailed him and begged him to change the default value back to what it had been since the first release of Quakeworld. He refused to change it back, and said to me "just get your server admin to set it to the old default value".
OK, that was much easier said than done. How many of you folks have ever actually TALKED to the admin of your favorite server, or even know who that person is?? I decided then and there that the only way I could ensure a good server to play on was to build my own, and put games and maps on there that I knew would be cool, and run it with settings that I knew would be fun and other folks would like.. I also liked the idea of creating a sense of community that arises when a good server has lots of regular players who become friends off-line as well. I met many good buddies in the old ICON Quake Server (located in North Carolina), and stayed in close touch with them for several years.
I quickly discovered that building a server and running games is some sort of "black art" with very little documentation or guides to go by (particularly for id software games, the Quake Series). When I finally got a chance to speak with a server admin in a game of QW, he was too busy fragging to answer my questions about operating systems, and various questions.. I finally found a gold-mine of information when I stumbled onto a Quake 2 Server Admin's mailing list. That list was rich in great info from server admins all over the world. You could post a specific question and get quite a few detailed replies. My first decision was which Operating system, NT, or Linux or something else?? To make a long story short, NT had many advantages Linux did not offer for me. Also, the Quake engine games are designed and run on Win32 engines and some games like Half-Life and later Tribes would not run on Linux originally. (And as of October, 2000 Tribes still does not run on Linux.)
From the start I wanted to make myself as visible and available as possible, so that any up-and-coming Admins could ask me specific questions about running a server, and I could help them out; which was something I sought desperately in my early days of being an Admin, and could not find. I later discovered there is a specific reason most Admins do not make themselves so visible and public. You folks would not believe the crap, and insults and junk you get as an Admin from people who do not know you at all, but assume any motive you have for running a server is evil, obnoxious, and self-serving. If you try to remind them you are doing this all for them, and it is after all your own property, you get called even more names. It really amazes me at times, but hey, I also get lots of thanks and compliments, and I get many "how do you set up a _____ server" questions; which is why I made myself so easy to find in the first place. I've gotten a pretty thick skin to the BS now.
NOTE: No server Admin who runs a busy game server is doing it to simply bully others around. It takes too much time and money for an Admin to do it on a power trip.
Anyhow my first server was hosted on my wife's machine which was running Win95. I decided to learn how to set up and admin a server BEFORE I tackled learning NT. I had an ISDN connection here at home, and a I would host Quakeworld games for my friends, primarily 8Something, Hazmat, FearFactory and a few other buddies. I put the name "Cain's Lair" on that first QuakeWorld server as a joke to make it easy for my friends to recognize in the Spring of 1998, and the name stuck. It was unique, simple and it sounded pretty cool. We had a lot of fun on that server, but the players had problems with packet loss and ping swings at times.
I then decided to build a new machine dedicated to be a game server exclusively. I plunked down about 800.00, and upgraded my NIC card to an Intel Pro-100+ which is the best NIC card out there with the lowest latency. That helped, more CPU, and more RAM, but it was not until I switched that machine to WinNT that it got really sweet. It was like night and day when I put NT on that machine. Much lower pings for all connecting clients, and almost Zero Packet Loss for everyone.
Now to find a public home for my server!!
My old ISP was LogicSouth, located in Columbia, South Carolina. The owner is a very nice fellow, who also enjoys playing on-line games. I had been begging him to put up a QW server for years, and I finally said, how about this; "I'll buy the machine and admin it, etc, if I can tap it into your bandwidth." He agreed.. I took it to downtown Columbia, and plugged into his network. I was his first "co-located" client.
Quake 2 was the first game I ran that was a public game. I assumed if you had a good machine, a fun game, and a good connection that players would quickly jam your server. WRONG! I was pretty disappointed at the less than enthusiastic response I got from players out on the Internet. (Local players loved it though, and that is where I met Geddy, and Anakin and some others.) The problem is/was there are so many Quake 2 servers, and folks already had their favorites to play on since the game had been out for a while. I started to look for newer games, and I had gotten Half-Life around Thanksgiving '98. I loved the single player so I decided to pop up a server. WOW!! That thing took off in a flash, in fact within 1 minute of the first time I turned it on, it had 3 players in there. After we played Half-Life for a few weeks, I was constantly having HL players say "Hey Cain, you the admin??", when I said 'Yes' they would then say, "put up a Tribes server, that game rocks". So I looked into it, and got my buddy "Geddy" all jazzed up over it and he went out and bought it before I did. He went crazy over it instantly called me that night telling me I had to get the game and I had to put up a server, so and I had my wife stop on her way home from work that night and buy me a copy.
Well after we played Tribes for a short while I quickly realized I HAD to pop up my own server.. I quickly found out why you don't see too many 32 player Tribes servers.. The game is a CPU/RAM HOG for a server!! It sucked my HL server dry, so with much reluctance I took the HL server down, and switched to only Tribes, 16 player. I was running a Celeron 300a at the time. I really wanted to run a 32 player Tribes game, AND the HL server, AND a Quake server, so it became pretty obvious what I needed to do. Go out and get lots more CPU horsepower, and RAM. God bless my wife; she never complained one bit when I plunked down another $1,800.00 for a machine that neither one of us would ever get to personally use! Tribes took off like a rocket, so I kept expanding it and it grew, and grew.. Half-Life came and went, and the Quake 2 Server finally faded away.
I later added a Unreal Tournament DEMO Server, but quickly found it was a horrible CPU hog; it makes Tribes look efficient! Then I switched to Quake 3 Arena Demo. It was a blast, but we later got bored with Q3A CTF, because there were so few maps. I have alternated between Q3A CTF and Unreal Tournament CTF. The UT CTF server stayed busier so I stuck with it. The UT CTF server climbed to the point where it was the busiest UT Server of any type any where in the World, for much of two years. I had to upgrade the server two more times in order to allow me to run a 30 player UT CTF Server, which is what I ran for a couple of years.
I will continue to add and experiment with newer games, but I will not allow the quality of play in any server that is still very popular to be degraded by a new game.
I have had to continually upgrade the server to accommodate additional players and newer games, I'm spending about an additional $500-1,800 every 6-8 months upgrading, but if you folks are enjoying it, it is all worth it to me..
I went out and registered the domain name www.cainslair.com
to make it easier for folks to find me, and to meet each other. I also added a Forum where players can meet and share stories and have a laugh.
I hope everybody enjoys playing on the server, it was made to be a place to have fun, and to meet new friends, and it has definitely been that, for many people.
Thank you to everyone who calls "Cain's Lair" home.