Saturday, June 29, 2013

Server Funding Tutorial


One of my biggest problems with finding a Minecraft server is that most of them don't seem to last very long. The owners will start off expecting the server to be around for a long time. But they run into the problem of not having enough money and after a few months it has to be shut down.

The main method of paying for server costs seems to be through donators. While this is a legitimate method, it's not the most reliable. There are several other ways to pay for a server. It seems to come down to advertising the server and showing people it's something worth donating to.

Before starting a server with all the costs that might result from that, you should first ask yourself if it's really feasible for you to have one. Let's face it, if you're 13 years old with loads of free time because it's summer, you're probably not going to start the next MindCrack or Hermitcraft server. That takes a lot of commitment, not to mention cash. That said, if you're feeling bold enough to set up a Minecraft server and want to keep it running for a while, there are plenty of things you could try.

Getting Funds
  • Have money prepared: launching a server right off the bat, with no funds on hand, is a bad idea. Make sure you have enough money on hand to pay the bills in case there is a slow month. I would recommend having at least 3 months' worth of cash for the server on hand.
  • Parents or roommates pay for it. You might be living with your parents or roommates, and they could be able to cover the costs for running it. If they can do that long-term (6 months or more) then you're pretty well set. Even so, you might want to try something else listed below to lessen the burden on them.
  • Find a sponsor. This might be a parent, roommate, or friend. Or it might be someone else. This is a person who volunteers to pay for the server, at least for a certain amount of time.
  • Job. Perhaps you have your own job and can pay for it yourself. Great! If not, and if you're of working age, a part-time job might be in order. Not only would it help pay off the server, you gain valuable work experience and money for other things. (To work solely to pay off a Minecraft server would be strange, but I suppose it's acceptable if you are really devoted to it.)
  • Online work. Related to the last post. If you have something you're good at, like writing, programming, or building stuff in Minecraft, then you could join sites like Fiverr where people will pay you small sums of money to do simple tasks. There actually are people out there that will pay five dollars for you to build an impressive spawn or redstone contraption on their server.
  • Server hosting: there are companies out there that will host Minecraft servers for you. I don't know what their costs are. That's something you will have to research for yourself. Or if you can afford it, set up a cheap server computer in your house.
  • Work with others. If the server you want to start up is a private one with no more than a handful of people being on at once, then it's possible you can run it by yourself. But if your goal is to have a bustling community then you can't do it alone. Just like running a server, funding a server of that size needs multiple people. Pool resources to fund it.
  • Donators. Although not likely to keep a server alive indefinitely, this is a standard method for getting funds. Allow people to pay via PayPal or whatever other kind of sites there are. When a person donates, reward them in-game somehow. It could be a special title, rank, their own world to build on, a certain set of armor, etc. It's part of making it worth their time and money to invest in the server.
  • Ask for donations on social network sites. This might be seen as low by some but if you're really in need of funds it might work. Before launching the server go to places like the Minecraft Forums or Planet Minecraft and ask if someone would chip in a few dollars to start up a new server. If you're asking after the server is established, present to them some pictures or videos showing the most impressive parts of the server.
  • Funding sites: going to sites like Kickstarter or Go Fund Me, where people donate to what they see as a worthy cause.
  • Spreadshirts: you could design a t-shirt for the server specifically or something related. I don't think this would be very viable, personally.
  • Paid products: for example, if the server has been around for a while and has a lot of good builds on it, a download link to it could be provided on the server website for a small charge.
  • Donation plugins: things like Buycraft, Enjin Minecraft Plugin or Donator Express where people can donate and receive rewards more easily. Don't forget to give them stuff worth buying!
These previous tips were mainly about ways where you yourself get the money. Another important aspect of funding a Minecraft server is advertising it. If nobody knows about it, they won't go to it. And if they don't go to it, how can they help pay for it? Here are some ideas for increasing the publicity of your server, and how that can help raise funds.

Getting Attention
  • Social networking sites. I'm talking about having a Facebook page for the server, a Twitter account to mention the latest happenings, posting on one of the many Minecraft-related Facebook pages, posting on the Minecraft Forums, Planet Minecraft, Reddit, etc.
  • Server listings: I find most servers by looking up server lists. Find sites like these and submit your server to them. Also relevant is /r/mcservers.
  • Make a website for it. This could include things like a widget showing who is online, a live map, a forum, pictures of the best builds, features, and so on. Even if it's some silly site, it's better than nothing.
  • Create content for people to see: run a blog showing the latest and greatest creations, a let's play YouTube channel, and so on. It gives a people a taste of what's on your server and could draw them to join it.
  • Podcasts: talking about the server's events, interviewing members, general joking around.
  • Livestreams: playing live on the server via is quickly becoming popular. Streaming to raise donations could work.
  • Ad revenue: if your server has a website, blog, or YouTube channel, you can put advertisements on the site or video which (hopefully) aren't annoying. May not pay out much but it could bring in a little bit of income.
  • Stand out: find something that nobody else is doing, and focus on that. Give your server a unique aspect.
  • Interact with other servers: this will also get your server more publicity. The point isn't to try and get members of the other server to yours, although it might happen. Rather, it's all about getting word-of-mouth advertisement by them.
  • Link exchange / Affiliate links: on a website or wherever, offer to have a link to someone else's website or server in exchange for them linking to your server on their page.
  • Special events: open the server to special events like Race for the Wool, Ultra Hardcore, Survival Games, etc. Or hold events which aren't public, but rather for your server's current users.
  • Modded server types: perhaps launch another server dedicated to one of the bigger game-changing mods like Feet the Beast, TerraFirmaCraft, Tekkit, etc. Or it could be things mentioned in the previous point.
  • Run the server well: this is a field all of its own, but a person might not want to donate if the server is overrun with a chat being spammed or immature players griefing everything and claiming to have slept with everyone's mom. A crappy community could hinder funding.
  • Stability: it is very annoying and discouraging when a server is consistently offline. It also makes me not want to return to a server when its IP changes all the time. If you need to go offline or change the IP, let people know ahead of time. Don't forget to update your server listings when you're back up!
  • Build community: another field all its own. Make it possible for people to interact. This can be done via forums, a voice chat system like Ventrillo or XChat, an IRC channel, and so on.
  • First impressions matter: you may want to hold off opening a server to the public until spawn and other key areas have been created. An incomplete server will not attract people. An elegant spawn will.

Server funding is often one of the least-planned and most easily forgotten parts of running a server. Although a donator system is popular, it's not always enough to keep things running. As I see it, the two ways of getting server funds is by getting money from donators and advertisements, and spreading word that the server exists. By doing these things you should have a greater chance of keeping a server alive.