Running a TF2 server has always been one of my dreams, as weird and nerdy as that sounds. I was thankful to have this dream fulfilled back in 2014.
I've learned and experienced a lot between now and then and I would like to share my experiences.
As mentioned in the intro to this entry, I've always wanted to run a TF2 server or community. I was lucky to be able to do this back in mid-2014 when I started it with an old friend. Since I love playing on 100% crits orange servers, that is what the server would become.
I'm not sure exactly what it is about running a server that felt nice and satisfying. Could it be seeing everyone having fun with something you built up? Was it having something to do with my previous game server administration experience? Was it having a place to play on that was 100% catered to what I like in TF2? Trick question, it's all of these!
The community has also given me an opportunity to further hone my web development skills through the community website. It has gone through many iterations over the community's life and the latest is truly the greatest. The current version was created to encourage the community to engage with eachother through the various tools on the site, such as the bulletin board and the suggestions system. This also helps to bring the community to a singular area as to avoid fragmentation.
I was also able to meet many great people whom I am still friends with to this day because of the community and it was always nice to hop in the server and be greeted by a majority of the players ingame. People also, in a way, look up to you and sometimes will needlessly kiss your butt. Speaking of which…
Center of Attention
I get anxious easily. It has plagued me through my childhood and it is only within the past few years that I've managed to control it well. It doesn't seem like it because I tend to talk without much emotion when speaking to community members or speaking officially. However, I like attention, just not when it is from a lot of people at once. Sometimes it is a bit overwhelming when everyone is talking about you (positive or not) or trying to get your attention among many others doing the same. It's for this reason why I rarely responded to ingame messages while in the server and preferred private messages via Steam. It's a minor thing, but something nonetheless.
Players are the most important part of running a community. But not all players are nice and you will be crushed if you go into server administration thinking that way. People are going to hate you, send you abuse, threaten you/people close to you, and just generally do what they can to ruin your day just because they don't like you, don't like what you stand for, and don't like how you want to run your own community. I've had my fair share of these types of players and I try not to let them get to me, sticks and stones. With that said, it is still not something I like to see. I'm a real person with my own hardships, and my own good fortunes. Would these people really say the things that they do to me if we were to know eachother in real life? I think some would and that's scary to think about.
You also have to deal with a group of players I like to call asshats. Though less common than the aforementioned, they get on my nerves far more easily and frequently. They are the self-righteous, egotistical players who think that they are exempt from some rules and will break them behind your back or when they think you can't see. They claim admin abuse if they are punished and like to spread false info to get people on their side, even going so far as to say that any changes made were because of them or their actions. If you are a regular on the server, you may know a couple of players that fit this description.
Clash of Interests
While you might say that the players are always right, that doesn't mean that they should be calling all of the shots. It is my community after all, but I don't quite rule with an iron fist; I allow users to suggest changes to the community and vote on the suggestions they like most. But that is what they are, suggestions. I am in no way obligated to implement suggestions even if they are highly upvoted. I also can and have changed things that didn't go over well immediately because I was confident that what I was doing would eventually be beneficial.
I've been called stubborn (by my own staff as well) and accused of trying to kill the server just because things aren't seen as I see them. Maybe the minimal communication has something to do with it? People could at least think about why these decisions are being made before jumping to conclusions. It was so overwhelming at one point that I took a week-long hiatus from everything related to the community and it was surprisingly tranquil...
Late last month I was made aware of an incident that had happened on the server. One of my staff accidentally banned a decently-popular TF2 YouTuber because they thought the player was cheating. The staff member involved mentioned that they were on-edge and acted too quickly with their judgement. People aren't perfect so these things happen and I do not think differently of the staff member who did it as I've done it too. But, I didn't know about this incident until that YouTuber posted a video of their side.
The video was in a comedic context and didn't appear to have any ill intentions. His fans, however, had a different idea. One look at the comments of the video shows that a majority of the fans were not happy. The retaliation wasn't as big and scary as I thought it could be. I got the occasional abusive comment on my profile that I promptly deleted and had one user take to the Cyan.TF website to abuse the suggestions feature.
Early this month, the website suffered a DDoS attack as kindly pointed out by a user responsible contacting me on Discord through a throwaway account. This was a pretty piss-poor DDoS attack that only lasted about 10 minutes and wasn't seen again. But what can you expect, I'm sure renting someone else's stresser is expensive! However, something happened afterwards.
Later on in the day after the attack, I noticed some features on the website that got info from the game server just straight up stopped working. I thought the web server was a bit shaky from the attack so I gave it some time to "recover", but it never did. I saw that Cyan's Discord bot that I made also couldn't get info on the game server. It was then that I thought that the game server, or the provider NFOServers, temporarily blocked requests made to the game server from my web server due to the attack. I contacted NFOServers's support and the following conversation took place:
Not only were requests made to the game server blocked, but requests made the opposite direction were too. This is incredibly troubling as the game server uses SourceBans to manage admins, donors, and punishments such as bans. With requests being blocked both ways, SourceBans could not contact the database to verify users, rendering moderation completely nullified.
NFOServers's support staff said that this block was not caused by the recent DDoS attack, but it sure is a damn good coincidence, isn't it? The block still remains at the time of this journal entry and I'm not confident that it will be lifted any time soon.
I got in touch with Digital Ocean and explained the situation with the DDoS attack and how the block is having a huge, negative impact on things. They said that it was NFO who started blocking Digital Oceans' servers and that I would need to contact them if there would be any chance of a whitelisting.
I told DO thanks for the info and said that the issue is resolved, implying that I would contact NFO about a potential whitelisting. However, DO replied again saying that they have spoken to their engineers are are investingating the issue.
It is beginning to seem like we may actually get somewhere!
The future of the community is very much uncertain. My interest in keeping it up is at an all-time low with the recent block put on the web server. Is it worth it to just buy a new web server dedicated to hosting the new SourceBans database? Donations are very rare in the community, they always have been. I know players are obviously not obligated to donate, but those donations do help immensely. It has been too often that the community was barely standing because of a kind user donating during the tailend of the 3 week grace period that my web server provider gives me to make my due payments.
Why don't you use your own money to support the community more? is something I would be asked. It's as simple as that I'm not as interested in the project as a whole as I used to be. I have a few active projects, and most are what I consider as "low priority". By this I mean that if the project is not self-sustaining, then I do not believe I should put money into it since I'm not as interested in it. Self-sustaining is what Cyan.TF is not. In fact, there has rarely been times of having a nice cash reserve dedicated to the community that I could use for new features or just save for times of low donations.
But Cyan.TF is different from my other projects. It is a place that many love, a place that many play on every day no matter what. Would killing it off be worth it to have those players lose something they really enjoyed? And to play devil's advocate, wouldn't it be worth it to kill off something that has brought you a lot of negativity in the form of crappy people, threats, and illegal attacks on my servers? It's a tough decision that has been on my mind way before the recent incidents. I'm still going over my choices and I will see how things go over the next month or so.