Is it worth renting a Private Server for Infestation: Survivor Stories (formerly called WarZ)? The short answer is: No.
To explain that answer a little more fully we need to look at what why players might want their own private server and how private servers actually work.
There are a number of reasons to consider a private server. Here are a few:
I’m sick of this PvP shite and being ganked by other players all the time! Probably the number one reason to get a private server is so that you can avoid being victimised by teenagers who think that Infestation is Call of Duty with a zombie backdrop.
I can haz all da phat lootz! Probably the next most popular reason is out of frustration that all the loot you ever seem to get are Bags of Chips, Boonie Covers, Tactical Knives, Flashlights and M9 Helmets.
I want to explore without feeling paranoid about dying all the time. Umm, this is a zombie survival game — you’re supposed to feel paranoid. But yeah, it’s hard to explore certain areas when you get a bullet to the head every time you go near them. See ‘PvP shite’ above.
My clan wants a training ground to hone our 1337 skills. Quite rare but it happens.
There are more, but most are simply variants on the ‘PvP shite’ theme.
How private servers work
The two central themes from above, that I will address now, are access control and loot.
As the administrator of a private server you get to decide who gets in and can kick anyone who doesn’t play by your rules. That’s the theory. In practice it isn’t that simple.
As server admin you can:
- set a server password
- mute characters
- kick characters
The server password is easy enough to understand and does initially limit who gets to play on your server. The problem is that passwords leak, players have more than one character each, and TAB lists the characters not the players. What this means that very, very quickly you will have characters on your server with names you do not recognise and you will continually be asking “who the *** are you?” in chat. It gets really annoying having to do that all the time, and eventually you’ll stop bothering, or create a list and make even more work for yourself. Server administration becomes a chore, a job, and is no longer fun. You’re paying money each month not to have fun. Doesn’t make sense.
Mute characters works, until they log out and back in again. Then you’re back to square one.
Kick characters works, until they log back in again. And since they know the password you can’t stop them from doing that without changing the password and that affects everyone. So, every time you kick, you have to log out, change the password, log back in again, and then tell everyone. But wait, what about those people who aren’t logged in when you make the change? That’s right, they have no way of knowing. So you have to devise some completely different system to let everyone know that the password has changed. Maybe an email distribution list, or a website. Doesn’t matter. It’s more inconvenience for your players and more work for you.
Eventually, your rules (whatever they are) will anger a player. To get revenge, that player will create a new character, with a completely different name, log into your server, and then proceed to annoy the living crap out of you and/or other players. If you have a PvE server the player will snipe and kill other players. You can kick them all you want, and change passwords all you want, but because the actual player is not using their ‘main’ character to get back at you, you have no way of stopping them. No way at all.
So, since Infestation’s access control methods work on character names (as opposed to player accounts), and are not permanent, there is no way to effectively ‘ban’ anyone and, ultimately, that will lead to major problems.
Recent changes to the loot spawning system mean that private servers don’t get anywhere near the loot that public servers do. But even if you are happy with the amount of loot on open private servers, there is a really, really important thing to be aware of: Hibernation.
About 10 minutes after the last character logs out of your server, the whole server will enter hibernation — it will go to sleep. Nothing will change until someone logs back in again. That means that if you clear out Norad just before going to sleep and then come back again the next day, it will (still) be completely empty because, as far as the game is concerned, only ten minutes have passed — not eight hours. (Well, ten minutes of respawning might get you a few pieces of garbage, but that’s about it.)
If you want a private server so you can ‘farm’ a particular location for a particular item, forget about it. You literally need to park a character there and do nothing else with your account in order for spawns to be ‘normal’.
Internally it seems like the map is broken up into different zones and that, if no players are in the zones, the zones themselves go into hibernation independently. So, if you clear the Airport and then go to Boulder for a few hours and then come back you’ll find… bugger all.
No characters in a zone means no loot being spawned.
I was able to get ‘normal’ private server spawning by buying a second account, creating a character, filling their backpack with food and water, and then running them into a cleared zone and sitting them on top of a wall (out of reach of zombies). They then did nothing but eat and drink for hours on end. Their mere presence kept the zone active and the loot spawning.
The problem with this is that characters eat a surprisingly large amount of food and drink a surprisingly large amount of water when doing nothing. You don’t really notice it when you are actively playing a character because you scavenge food and drink along the way. But when you have this other character sitting there doing nothing the food and drink seems to vanish really quickly.
Apart from being able to carry in enough food and drink to last any decent amount of time, there’s another logistical problem as well: You need a second computer to run the second account while you use your main computer to do interesting things (like actually find all this extra food and drink and then travel (and possibly fight your way) back to the other character to give it to them).
Trying to run two copies of Infestation on the same computer at the same time, even inside virtual machines, is fraught with peril and likely to be detected and result in you getting banned. I don’t suggest you even think of trying it.
Assuming you solve all of the above logistical issues, there is the additional problem of how you actually get your character to keep eating and drinking while you are asleep — because if you don’t they will starve to death. Well, obviously you script it and, oops, you’ve just created a bot and broken the EULA/ToS and can expect to see the ban hammer come down really soon.
It is really easy to detect a character that does nothing but eat and drink in the same spot for hours and hours and hours on end. Really, really, really easy.
Unless you have a clan and are looking for a private training ground, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to pay for a private server. The limited number of admin tools at your disposal will make effective access control impossible and will tie you up in administrative duties, making the game less fun for you. The zone and server hibernation mechanics mean that you will have no option but to carry out activities which are relatively easy for anti-cheat software to detect and will likely get you banned if you want to maintain ‘normal’ private server loot levels.
Even if you just want ‘to explore in peace’ there is no fun in doing so when all you get for your efforts are hats and flashlights. From my testing the decreased loot means you end up with few ranged weapons and virtually no ammo, so you end up having to melee 99% of all the zombies you come across. This, in effect, limits your travels to low zombie density areas where controlled pulling is possible… which means you cannot explore the higher density areas. So much for exploration.
About the only individual I see private servers being worthwhile for are hardcore role-players with elite melee skills, fantastic horde control, and complete mastery of the stealth mechanics. The rest of us are better off waiting for the admin tools to improve.
Renting a private server
If you’ve decided to go ahead and get a private server anyway, but can’t work out how, just do the following:
- select a character that is alive (doesn’t matter which one)
- click ‘Play Game’
- click ‘My Servers’
- click ‘Rent Game Server’
- configure your options
- region (pick the region closest to where you think the majority of the players that will use your server are likely to live — so as to minimise latency)
- slots (maximum number of players at one time)
- rental period (in months)
- server name (you cannot change this)
- password (you can easily change this later)
- whether or not to show:
- nameplates (turn off for realism, but if you do it makes differentiating bandits from lawmen impossible in the field; easily changed later)
- crosshairs (turn off for realism; easily changed later)
- tracers (turn off for realism; easily changed later)
- click ‘Rent Server’