Funding and accounting for servers

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Mac_Fife
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Funding and accounting for servers

Post by Mac_Fife » Fri Dec 26, 2008 1:41 pm

As it seems increasingly likely that any "reasonable" server setup will mean leasing hardware, then a few things need to be considered.

I think it'll be up to individual operators/groups to sort out exactly how they raise the funds, but it may need some careful consideration of Cyan's licence, once we see it, to see what additional processes/controls/accounting are required: I fully expect that the licence will include a clause preventing anyone from making a profit out of Cyan's work (both the code and the creative IP), so there may be a need to be able to demonstrate that fees/donations collected are commensurate to the actual operating costs.

This could be tricky to manage, as there won't be a linear relationship between the number of users and the per person costs.

Any experience from other environments that could benefit the community here?
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Re: Funding and accounting for servers

Post by Chacal » Fri Dec 26, 2008 7:15 pm

Here are some models I've seen in my experience as GSP/admin/hoster:

Subscription: the Gametap model. Full access to paying users, possibly limited access to guests. Special rates for 1-year subscriptions. This works only if you can maintain a constant user base. Fraught with legal perils. For Uru, this will work only if we can keep adding new content at a good rate.

Voluntary donations: This usually doesn't work on the long run. Perspective for Uru is bleak as enthusiasm wanes when the player has explored all Ages.

The patron model: Servers are provided for free by a patron such as a commercial hoster. Possible motivations include PR, advertising space, starting a community for drawing in customers. This model works if there is a clear understanding of expectations and limitations from everyone. This model was used successfully for years at East Coast Gaming Network (now PowerVS.com) and several other communities I've been active in.

Limited ownership: The UU model. A limited group of people pool up their money and buy/rent the servers. They are the owner group and make all decisions. The rest of the community play for free and usually can voice opinions and suggestions. This model has been used successfully in several places, the "Glory of War" community is a good example.

This model works because of the synergy between two groups with different motivations who bring different benefits:
- the owner group provides money and other resources. They need a community of players so that they can enjoy their game. They are players themselves, not an aloof, mysterious entity far removed from the ordinary player like Cyan was.
- the community provides good players and am enjoyable playing environment. They need a free server.

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Re: Funding and accounting for servers

Post by DarK » Fri Dec 26, 2008 9:35 pm

Chacal wrote: Limited ownership: The UU model. A limited group of people pool up their money and buy/rent the servers. They are the owner group and make all decisions. The rest of the community play for free and usually can voice opinions and suggestions. This model has been used successfully in several places, the "Glory of War" community is a good example.

This model works because of the synergy between two groups with different motivations who bring different benefits:
- the owner group provides money and other resources. They need a community of players so that they can enjoy their game. They are players themselves, not an aloof, mysterious entity far removed from the ordinary player like Cyan was.
- the community provides good players and am enjoyable playing environment. They need a free server.
I like the ideas behind this one, makes sense that money be pooled into an owner group and work towards getting gear in that is well connected, and well suited to run servers from.

For game quality and playability it seems the best option, and I would rather be able to assist in getting the right servers/connections for Uru, than spend money myself on gear that will only do half the job.

In addition to been used for renting/leasing servers, it could help people get their hardware collated, I know some people do have some nice kit at hand, but lack decent connections to use it, collation could be a option for them.

While every penny counts in an environment like this, it would be a strong suggestion that a minimum payment be required to prevent issues coming to light.

Remembering that servers are hundreds of dollars per month and if the group is dealing with 5 servers over a monthly period at $150. Over a 12 month period we are looking at $9,000. It is a lot of money to have random people deal with, and rightly should be managed by the people who submitted it

I understand this makes the owner group an “exclusive paid club” and that it excludes people, but it needs to be like that to maintain the environment.

Running services such as this require strong trusts, commitment, leadership and planning.

Owner group members, who are willing to give the minimum payment or more on a regular basis, show they have a strong commitment to the game and the owners group.

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Re: Funding and accounting for servers

Post by Mac_Fife » Fri Dec 26, 2008 10:48 pm

Mod Note: Probably want to try and keep discussion of server packages in the Assets: Hardware/Facilities thread. Use this thread to discuss how we pay, and what obligations the server "operators" may have to meet. ;)
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Re: Funding and accounting for servers

Post by Nalates » Fri Jan 09, 2009 1:07 am

#1 The Minor Admin Plugin – I go with Chacal on this one. I’ve met too many jerks with money. Selling power is not a good idea, IMO.

Mac_Fife is right. The license is key. Until we see it, we cannot know where we are going. I suspect there is going to be some kind of allowance made to fund servers. Or maybe it will just be something in restricting Cyan’s visual content and storyline from use for profit. I hope.

Where money will go is a can of worms… Pandora. I can anticipate disasters ahead down that road. But at least it is something each server operator can decide. So, a single solution does not have to be agreed on. I think the micro payment systems of other games are a freedom based way to handle most of those issues. But, that could change the style of Uru and most are not down for that.

Chacal’s post (viewtopic.php?p=274#p274) makes some good points. I’m curious about his “Fraught with legal perils” comment for the GT model.

Voluntary donation – I see this working in RPG’s where there is ongoing interest. A couple of RPG’s publish their monthly financial data. A large portion, if not all, of the operational cost is paid by donation. With Uru the interest is exploring and puzzles. Without those I see interest dropping off. The hunger for content is ravenous. I believe age writers won’t be able to keep up. A post on what we could add to reduce boredom in Uru is drawing lots of negative heat. So, I don’t see donations only as reliable for Uru.

Limited ownership – in combination with donations – I see that working well in several RPG’s. Plus I like having a known team responsible for the server and making the final calls. I can deal with them disagreeing with me as long as they make a decision and move ahead. The ownership team has the most say. Those donating might be allowed some say. All the rest can settle for voicing an opinion. Money talks and is a good measure of commitment.

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