Jarate Chop!

Australian & NZ TF2 Hosting

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Being a network & datacentre nerd I wondered who hosts the multitude of game server providers in Australia.

I took the most recent 72 hours of Australian & NZ TF2 data and mapped the server addresses to ASNs using Team Cymru's IP-to-ASN service which gives us a rough idea of who the underlying network providers are. Keep in mind that "networks" in this post refers to the underlying IP networks, not the game networks (e.g. 3FL, GamersUN, games.on.net) that most players are most familiar with.

It's important to note that as this table aggregates servers based only on their IP-to-ASN mapping it hides a lot of the relationships. For example an end user might rent a server from provider X, provider X may in turn be renting the servers "wholesale" from provider Y, who in turn may be leasing datacentre space & bandwidth from provider Z. We're viewing things here mostly from the viewpoint of the Z providers.

The main purpose in generating this table was to get a broad picture of network diversity as it's clear from the length of the Whirlpool list that not every provider could be large enough to justify running their own datacentre and/or routing.

CCNetwork NameServers

By far the largest network in this context is Servers Australia. If you expand their row you'll see that GamersUN is the bulk of the servers hosted there (117 of 167). My understanding is that GamersUN uses Hypernia, and Hypernia hosts with Servers Australia.

One interesting quirk about Servers Australia is that they apparently run a gaming specific network separate to their regular network on which their mostly business customers reside. This seems to be about isolating their business customers from DDoS attacks targeted at their gaming customers.

Back in 2009 iiNet and Hypernia announced a partnership but sometime in 2012 Hypernia migrated many of their customers to Servers Australia. This Whirlpool thread suggests at least some are still at iiNet though as you see from the servers at iiNet today the vast majority are 3FL and games.on.net. However, note that Hypernia and iiNet host many game types, and we're only looking at TF2 data here.

As you go down the list there aren't too many surprises - Telstra hosts mostly GameArena servers, Internode mostly hosts the games.on.net servers, Primus hosts iPGN. These are all game networks owned by the respective parent ISP. However the handful of servers that don't belong to one of these game networks are all customer run servers - presumably either on a DSL or Cable connection.

Who's noticeably missing from this list of ISPs? Optus. They show up as Microplex being the name on the ASN. They killed their games network in 2005 so the handful of servers on their network are presumably run by customers.

Outside of Hypernia and the ISP networks DEDICATEDGAMING.com.au has a nice chunk of the independent community servers.

I couldn't find much out about the mysterious "2 Grantham St". It belongs to Yatcko Data Solutions whose customers include CLOUDCUBE.com.au.

One question that crossed my mind is how big the TF2 server rental market is in AU & NZ. If we take away the ISP run servers: 3FL (32), games.on.net (46), GameArena (31), iPGN (10), Orcon (7) you're left with about 350 servers.

Most providers charge in the realm of $35-50/month for a 24 slot server making the monthly value between $12,250 and $17,500, and the annual value between $140,000 and $210,000. Of course someone like GamersUN would not be paying such prices given that they have 117 servers so this is an overestimate.

Community Made MvM Maps & Missions

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The stock MvM maps & missions are fun but I guess a problem with MvM as a game mode is that your opponents (the bots) only do what they're told to do. In PvP much of the fun and longevity comes from playing with other hoomans who individually improve over time, and develop strategies & team work.

As a quick intro how MvM works is that besides the map which provides the game environment each mission is defined in a population file which have a .pop extension. The population file defines the waves, i.e. what bots get spawned & when. To get more variety from a MvM mission you could change the map, or the population, or obviously both.

Even though the game mode is barely a month old there are already quite a number of community made maps, and many missions! Too many to actually review in one post so I'll mention just a few highlights and link to useful repositories.

Probably my favourite missions so far are LittleBigWorks, a mission for MannWorks, MannWorks Garden War and Sleepy Coaltown. They're all reasonably easy but some of the bots are absolutely hilarious. I won't say anything more so as not to ruin the surprise but strongly recommend you try these missions.

MvM DeGroot Keep is one of the funniest maps around. As with traditional DeGroot Keep it runs in Medieval mode so most classes can only use melee weapons with the exception of Demoman, Medic and Sniper. In it's default config it's quite easy but still fun.

MvM Manndarin is probably the most polished of all the custom maps I've tried – it's about on par with the stock MvM maps advanced difficulties, you'll need a decent group of 6 to finish it.

MvM Gateway is a very challenging map. I've only finished it once and failed many, many times on it's final two waves.

There's plenty more custom maps at Gamebanana. This facepunch thread has a good list of maps & missions too.

One thing to note is that the community made maps are quite buggy and will crash your server regularly. But on the whole they are good enough to be playable, and fun!

Standin’ Around Like a Bloody Idiot!

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G'day mates!

It struck me recently that although there are global TF2 stats and graphs there's precious little data available about the Australian TF2 community, especially data about servers .

About a week ago I began polling all the Australian TF2 servers I can find and I hope to share whatever interesting tidbits I discover via this blog.

Feel free to ask any questions, and also share anything you think may be of interest to the Australian TF2 community.

One quick note is that I'm not so interested in the competitive scene - the OzFortress folks have that covered.  I'm more interested in stuff would be of interest to the fun-having Aussie TF2 crowd.

Hello World

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Yesterday I started collecting data for all TF2 servers in the Australian region as returned by the Steam master servers. This includes NZ but misses some Aussie servers which don't have a region setting (I might look for these based on latency and contact the server owners later).

There's lots of questions I have about the Aus TF2 player & server base but by happy coincidence Valve released an update around 7am this morning (Sydney time, AKA Australian EST) so here's a simple graph of total players && servers starting at 2am and ending at 2pm (7 Sept 2012).

The total number of servers hovers around the 470 mark. Within 5 hours we're back to over 400 servers and during a time when most operators are probably at school && work. No doubt auto-update scripts and server rental companies help here.

And at 2am in the morning each player could have their own server, forever alone! :)

Random factoid: the player base last night (Thursday) peaked at ~2,800 around 7:30-8pm. Raw data here.