Cloudfrag Is An Interesting Idea


So Mike Ryan from Cloudfrag got in touch to tell us about his service, which is coming soon. His plan is to provide gamers with dedicated servers, but only for the time they want to play on them. “Instead of paying a set monthly fee you only pay for the number of hours you are actually using the server,” explains Ryan. “I think this will save a lot of players a lot of money, and make dedicated servers accessible to people who do not want to pay a monthly fee.” Yep, he’s planning to charge for a dedicated service by the hour, which should work out a lot cheaper than a 24/7 server if you’re just playing a few hours a week with chums. There’s a beta for the service coming up soon, and there’s a sign-up email on the site for interested parties. Possibly worth a look.

72 Comments

  1. The Army of None says:

    Ooh. I can totally see me and some chaps renting a server once a week or so, when I’m not at college and thus don’t have access to a wonderful net connection.

    • cloudfrag says:

      It sounds like you are exactly who I had in mind for this. It just doesn’t make sense to pay monthly if you are only going to play once a week.

      Mike @ Cloudfrag

  2. Ysellian says:

    This sounds to good to be true, It all comes down to pricing though. Still worth keeping an eye on it :) I can see myself and a couple of mates doing this.

  3. Zanthoroctu says:

    I must say this an interesting, if potentially flawed idea. Would love to able do some impromptu dedi-sever hosting. Can’t say I am really interested in the beta since I long ago stopped playing TF2, L4D and not really all that into Minecraft, though.

    • cloudfrag says:

      @Zanthoroctu – What games would you like to play? I’m open to suggestions!

      Mike @ Cloudfrag

    • GeneralERA says:

      Personally, if you could host games along the lines of CoD4, BF2, BF2142, or BC2 on this I would definitely be quite interested. I like this short term dedicated server idea quite a bit…

    • cloudfrag says:

      Thanks GeneralERA. I’m going to create a poll to find out which games people are most interested in. I’ll make sure these are on the list!

    • tomeoftom says:

      This sounds like a great idea for obscure multiplayer games with dead communities that you want to resurrect for a night, but when no-one can run the server on their machine. Would their be some kind of extra cost for installation of a new game? (I’m thinking forgotten Source mods and the like)

      EDIT: Oh, I see there’s no charge. This looks fantastic!

    • slight says:

      Damn your eyes man. I had this idea 3 years ago and even started on an implementation but regular paying clients needed too much of my time :(

  4. Navagon says:

    It does sound good. But I suppose the question is how do you balance the prices so that it’s not dramatically more than regular monthly fees when used regularly. If he charges too little then it could go under fast. Too much and most people would probably prefer the one off charge (per month). Balance is key.

    • cloudfrag says:

      Thanks Navagon – I’m still working on pricing details, but I will post them as soon as I can.

      Mike @ Cloudfrag

    • LegendaryTeeth says:

      It would be nice if you had a pay-as-you go sliding scale sort of deal. First hour of the month costs X, next hour costs X * .9, keep going up until you hit some reasonable maximum that gives you a server for the month.

      I bet there are a lot of people that would find themselves in for servers all the time if you give them this nice chance to get their feet wet. Then they can stick with you rather than having to jump ship to some other company in order to get a more permanent server.

    • Kdansky says:

      Yeah, if the server costs about the same as just renting it for a month, but is cheaper otherwise, this would be ridiculously good value. Assuming you can run it on Amazon Cloud or some such, this might even be possible. That would be so awesome!

  5. zreaperz says:

    I feel like somebody´s going to be rich.

    • cloudfrag says:

      If so, I shall buy a horse and name it Notch.

    • crainey92 says:

      I said the exact same thing over Ventrilo to my friends, I’ll be sure to let everybody know about this. I’m on the same boat as everybody else on the pricing though, you gotta nail that. As for the Horse name, I like it.

  6. skinlo says:

    Not a bad idea at all actually, it all depends on the prices and where the servers are located.

  7. Deston says:

    There are no extra charges for changing games. Each time you start a server, you can pick which game you want to play.

    That sounds like a fantastic idea alone to me – game servers can be a right pain in the arse (and costly) to manage, particularly if you’re playing multiple games or switching between them every few weeks / months. This seems like it’ll make things a whole lot easier.

    Look forward to hearing more about the pricing and games available.

    • Zyrxil says:

      That sounds like a much more important feature. A clan could rent a virtual server by the year, and then try out a hyped multiplayer games as they come out, without any risk of having a 6 month rented server for a game that fell out of favor too quickly.

    • cloudfrag says:

      You’ve both hit the nail on the head. Getting stuck with a server for a game that has fallen out of favour (very nice way of putting it) is exactly what inspired me to build Cloudfrag in the first place.

      I also have some plans for clan-specific features in mind which will make it easier/cheaper for clans to pool resources.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Hate to burst your bubble but most game server providers have supported switching the game hosted on the server for the last decade. This isn’t some sort of new revelation.

  8. Khann says:

    Surely this limits control quite a bit? How do you go about running custom maps/rotations/mods/etc if you’re only renting a server a few hours a week?

    I guess people requiring those options would just rent a dedicated server.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I assume they’re building on top of AWS and EC2, which works the same way billing-wise. You can set things up however you like, but when the server is “turned off”, you don’t pay anything.

    • Recidivist says:

      The same way as always, maybe?

    • cloudfrag says:

      @Khann – you will still have full control over all of the server config files, so you can set it up exactly as you like. In terms of server control, there is no difference between Cloudfrag and a traditional host.

      Mike @ Cloudfrag

  9. Toby says:

    This is perfect! I can see myself using this.

  10. chickdigger802 says:

    if it’s intuitive and what not I’m sold. Allow schedules and what not

    ie: me and my friends game friday sat sunday at 9pm to 12am.

    If we have to login paypal or input credit card EVERYTIME we need a server, that might be annoying.

    • cloudfrag says:

      Don’t worry, I’m really lazy and hate clicking on buttons too – there will be as few clicks as possible to get your server up and running.

      I am planning on adding schedules soon after launch, although if there is big demand I can put them in earlier.

      With regards to payment – you deposit money in your account, and each time you start a server the cost is deducted from your balance. Whenever you run low, you just need to add some more funds to your account.

  11. Heliosicle says:

    Is this aimed only at the people wanting a server for a bit? Or will it still be a good host to use if you want one 24/7?

    • cloudfrag says:

      This is mostly aimed at people who are not running a server 24/7, although I would like to cater for the 24/7 market in future.

  12. pakoito says:

    Would you keep static data like Terraria maps?

    • cloudfrag says:

      Yes, data like Minecraft/Terraria maps will be saved so you can use them again the next time you start a server.

  13. skurmedel says:

    A very good idea, sadly I’m low on chums though.

    • cloudfrag says:

      Awww… it’s ok, I like your avatar, I’ll be your friend. But no saluting, ok?

  14. Crimsoneer says:

    Might I make a suggestion Cloudfrag? A budget airline type price scheme.

    Eg – charge very cheaply if you book very early
    Charge very cheaply if you book massively off peak
    Charge more if you book later, and peak times.
    Also, maybe have a “standbye list ” kind of option? Eg, if one of our servers is free, right now, book it at discount.

    It seems sensible to encourage people to make full use of server time really.

    • cloudfrag says:

      Interesting idea, thanks – I’m not entirely sure it would be feasible for this site, but I’ll definitely keep it in mind.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      That may be very dependent on what timezone you play in, though. If it’s not feasible, it may be better to pay the same regardless of when you want to play.

    • Crimsoneer says:

      It just seems, fundamentally, you’re going to have a lot of fixed costs that are essentially going to waste – your UK servers aren’t going to be used between 1am – 11am for instance. Off peak pricing would really encourage people to make use of them, and it would allow to to price discriminate. Granted, then you’d need to code something to determine pricing, but I think it’s a cunning plan :P

  15. Duality says:

    The issue is that if people wanted to use this for league matches and stuff like that in competitive games, the rules and regulations surrounding anti-cheat procedures and streaming organisations may render such a service unsuitable for such uses. Unless they somehow had an agreement with leagues and anti-cheat organisations.

    For the casual user though, this is a brilliant idea.

    • cloudfrag says:

      Thanks for the comments Duality. I am planning to get this working for competitive games (in fact, I have some competition-specific features planned), although the rules/regs are going to vary on a game by game basis so it not be included in the initial beta.

    • Duality says:

      Cheers for taking the time to reply :)

      I really hope the service takes off – it is a great idea and frankly it deserves to do well.

  16. bitkari says:

    Wonderful idea!

  17. Sparvy says:

    I’m surprised this so new to people, I have used services like this for 5 years. Its a great way to play with friends or getting a match server if you like playing competitively.
    Good luck with it though

    EDIT: should perhaps add if you haven’t thought of yourself yet, the service I used to use let you pay for the server by sending a text. Was great back when I was one of those annoying teenagers playing counterstrike and didn’t have a credit card. Ah, those were the days

  18. Premium User Badge

    colinmarc says:

    get some webfonts on that front page, stat! For some reason, Cufon is rendering all gross.

  19. ShawnClapper says:

    I understand it makes good advertising sense to use the word “cloud” for anything dealing with an online connection, but I really do despise everything being “cloud” now. Reminds me a bit of “Web 2.0”. For instance amazon’s “cloud” servers, which are just servers, no different than any other non cloud labeled thing.

    I prefer the term “online” over “cloud” any day :).

    • Premium User Badge

      colinmarc says:

      Cloud computing is actually very different… the servers are not ‘just servers’, they are virtual and use the resources of a bunch of servers, distributed abstractly. And I’m guessing that this guy is reselling EC2 or Rackspace, so that he can free up resources to other virtual servers and not pay when you don’t pay.

  20. WebFusion says:

    Yeah….while it’s certainly an interesting idea, there is a BIG difference in performance between a TRUE dedicated server (one in which you control the resources of the entire box), and a rented “slot” server (which, in reality, is just one game server among many – usually too many – installed to a physical server).

    When you see gamers complaining about lag, stuttering, etc…..9 times out of 10 it’s because they’re playing on a rented slot server that is overloaded (which they were sold using the word “dedicated” as a marketing tool).

    Again, while this is certainly an interesting idea, calling the game servers “dedicated” is far from the truth. I’d put one of your “dedicated” servers against those on one of our dual-quad core boxes any day of the week.

  21. westyfield says:

    Hmm. I like this idea, especially as the community I play with is shutting its BF2142 server soon due to inactivity when organised games are not on. I’ll have to show the server admins this.

    • cloudfrag says:

      Thanks westyfield, please do. It sounds like you could also be interested in the scheduling idea that someone else mentioned earlier? If so, I might need to push that up the priorities list.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    Wouldn’t there be spikes between 20:00 > 23:00 & in the weekends while the servers are just idling outside these hours?

    • rareh says:

      Maybe rates can be cheaper on those “outside” hours.

    • GeneralERA says:

      All he has to do is use Amazon EC2 for his processing power and he won’t have servers to sit around when they’re not needed. A bit more expensive if used constantly, but the whole point of this is that people don’t want to buy a constant dedicated server, right?

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      I highly doubt using Amazon’s EC2 will be a good solution here. Game servers require low latency for anyone to want to use them & EC2 isn’t optimized for latency in the UK or Europe seeing as the majority of their bandwidth is located in the US or Asia

  23. rareh says:

    Awesome idea.
    Will there be support for urban terror ?
    The big names in dedicated game servers have it like gameservers and multiplay.
    Its a mod for quake 3 arena that already has several competitions and a sizable community.
    urbanzone
    clanbase
    ucyberleague
    nationalesl
    ftwgl
    etc
    I am curious as to what locations there are ? UK, Portugal, France ?
    I would like to know if you have to say that u want to play from A time to B time
    or you can start playing at A until whenever you decide to stop so that way it won’t count time you aren’t playing.
    For example
    I have 2 hours clocked in my account
    if i say i want to play from 9-11 pm and i stop at 10:10 i have to pay 50 minutes i am not using.
    While in the second method i can tell the server to close and i still have 50 minutes to play another day.
    Anyway, good luck with the Project.

  24. augustl says:

    So if I pay for 4 hours of minecraft serving, I get to store the minecraft map for free on a cloudfrag server infinitely without additional payments?

    Can a group of people manage the server, i.e. turn it on and off? Would be even greater if the server turned on itself as soon as someone connected, and likewise turned itself off when nobody was connected to it. So that I don’t have to turn the server on when someone else wants to play.

    Also, HL2: Deathmatch and CS:S please :)

    • cloudfrag says:

      > I get to store the minecraft map for free on a cloudfrag server infinitely without additional payments?

      Well, for a given value of “infinitely”. As long as you keep using your account and the maps regularly, they will always be there waiting for you when you want to start a server.

      > Can a group of people manage the server

      This might be included in the beta, otherwise it will be coming soon after (along with a bunch of other features for clans/groups).

      > Also, HL2: Deathmatch and CS:S please :)

      I will set up a poll soon so people can vote on which games they want first. If you sign up for the mailing list on http://www.cloudfrag.com I’ll let you know when I post it.

  25. MultiVaC says:

    Sounds ideal for Minecraft. I’ve really been struggling to find a decent server option for my friends and I lately.

  26. CSEoin says:

    One of my customers sent me to this thread.
    I run ClanSlots game servers we were the worlds first ‘cloud based’ game host, we experimented a lot initially with this sort of setup, but it can’t work.

    The main reason being that during the day you end up with a ton of servers that do nothing at all, and those servers cost power / depreciation / money. So you’ll end up having to charge more for the normal periods, making it come to the same cost.
    and it’s impossible to balance out due to the fact that all your gamers from one geographical region will all connect at the same time.

    The other option is that you are hoping to run this on VPS or someone else’s cloud service, if so I would highly not recommend this due to performance TF2 etc is taxing enough on dedicated, let alone virtual servers.

    But from your competition, we would like to wish you the best of luck !

    • Baines says:

      That’s the situation that I was wondering about. Demand for gaming time isn’t even. I would guess that the greatest demand would be for weekends, with some demand for weeknights, and machines mostly sitting idle during weekdays.

      If that theory holds true, then unless you can find someone else to sell weekday time to, it seems like a losing proposition.

  27. Premium User Badge

    Sinomatic says:

    Where are the servers based? Sounds like this could be perfect for me and my overseas mates.

  28. MrSpandex says:

    This is definitely just Amazon EC2 instances. Not difficult technically. They will look like virtual servers in that they have guaranteed RAM, but they are virtualized. If so, see link to aws.amazon.com for guesses on the server locations, prices, etc.

  29. Dana says:

    What are you waiting for Valve ? DOO EET !

  30. TheBeefiest says:

    Well I hate to rain on anyones “brilliant business model” But anyone with the technical skills to setup a home router can basically set up their own amazon cloud server in minutes, and they have a system called “spot instances” which means they sell off unusued servers for like $0.03 to $0.06 cents per hour, (plus you pay bandwidth and io fees at a couple dollars)

    Read up on it, and try it out its easy.

  31. AdamK117 says:

    The low-usage PAYG concept seems pretty cool for people just wanting to have a random CS:S week or something.

    Another cool Idea might be to have a monthly paid account wherby you can change the game of your searver on demand during the subscription. Could help for pesudo-LAN parties or w/e.

    I’d guess it would be highly dependant on how easily you could automate closing/opening gaming servers (which i’m guessing would need a bit of server-side file-open type scripting to get rolling).

  32. Malibu Stacey says:

    Telewest/Blueyonder used to do a similar thing for their subscribers. You could book a private gameserver for an hour or 2 & subscribers had a certain amount of hours per month I think (I was in an NTL area but had plenty of gamer friends on Blueyonder).
    Was excellent for arranging practice matches or league games for Half-Life 1 mods back in the day.

    As other people have said there are 2 things which will make this a success, convenience & pricing. If you can beat Multiplay’s pricing for TF2 servers you might be able to take a large chunk of the private server market for europe. We use our server around 2-3 hours an evening during the week at most but it’s running empty & passworded 24/7 which we have to pay a flat fee for the priviledge.

    • cloudfrag says:

      I had not heard of the Telewest/Blueyonder thing, that is pretty cool.

      > We use our server around 2-3 hours an evening during the week at most but it’s running empty & passworded 24/7 which we have to pay a flat fee for the priviledge.

      You are exactly who I am building this for! I was in the same boat, which is what pushed me towards this idea in the first place.

    • frymaster says:

      actually bygames was not limited to blueyonder subscribers; anyone could sign up.

      Though perhaps the number of people who thought it did might explain why it didn’t last… I was a TFC server admin I had the “I’m a Customer” / “Really? What’s your forum ID?” / “I’m not on the forums” / “Then you haven’t paid for this service” conversation with any number of banned idiots….

  33. Sunjammer says:

    What the fuck does “Frag” mean. What year is this, 1997?

  34. Faxmachinen says:

    I really like the idea augustl mentioned, that the server would auto-start whenever someone connected to it. You could run a micro-server at a specific IP, just to advertise its existence, and as soon as the first player connects to it, you would scale up the resources available to that server.

    Many less popular multiplayer games go fewer players -> fewer servers -> fewer players -> fewer servers. If this service works as advertised, there will be a threshold where there are so few players that it’s cheap enough to rent a public server.

    • cloudfrag says:

      Hmm, that’s an interesting idea. I can see some potential problems with timeouts, i.e. the game tries to connect to the server but gives up before the server is ready, so I’m not sure it would be possible with all games but it is certainly something I can look at.

  35. Loix says:

    This is one of those ideas that makes me think “That’s so fucking obvious, why didn’t I think of this and make millions!?”

    Sounds great though, definitely something I’d look at using if the price is right.

  36. stonedturtle says:

    It sounds like a great idea. My only concern would be whether or not you’d have a way of keeping levels in a database to be accessed the next time a user pays for a server for games like Minecraft. Due to the fact that creations take some time, I don’t think people would really bother paying for a server for a few hours if the next time they wanted to use it they had to start from scratch.