Role of the Owner
Many try to attribute the success of a server to luck, but is this really the underlying reason? In the journey to create a successful server, the first question one should answer is how much of the success of a server is dependent on the owner. I argue that, other than in extreme cases, the owner is the driving force behind a server’s success. The following is advice I learned throughout my 4 years of owning a server.
The Problem With Networks
I’m starting with networks because there is one thing new servers almost always get wrong. They release a network with many servers.
Our gut reaction as server owners is to abandon ship after releasing a new server and to start creating a new one. Once a server is released owners tend to work only on maintenance and never actually improve its quality. The end result is a network with 10 players, but at the same time, 10 separate servers. The player base splits and never actually gets a dynamic gameplay experience with many different players. In other words: the server never lives up to its potential and is never played as it is supposed to be played. This is a major distinction between a successful server and a server that isn’t getting the traction it deserves.
Naturally, this is disheartening for new server owners. They made a bunch of high quality gamemodes yet none of them are growing and many are empty most or all of the time. They continue to make new servers hoping that one of them will end up being a success. Unfortunately this rarely happens.
In order for a server to be fun, it first needs traffic. There is a reason so many hub servers have problems with growth (at the beginning). If you look at smaller servers (5-40 players), an abnormal amount of them have dedicated themselves to one gamemode. Whether it is factions, skyblock, or roleplay, servers that at first dedicate themselves to becoming the best known alternative for an already established gamemode are the ones that end up growing at the start (or make a brand new custom gamemode, hence automatically turning into the best known alternative). Many of the servers you know started off with one gamemode and then started branching out once they had a stable playerbase. My server focused on one gamemode until I had over a hundred players – after that I started to branch out slowly.
What I suggest is making one high quality gamemode that will make players yearn to come back. This way you have an advantage over hub servers – your server will not only be more appealing due to a stronger playerbase but will also be of higher quality. You will further be able to put 100% of your focus on fleshing out this one gamemode and pumping out new features every day. However the greatest advantage via this approach will be your server’s ability to obtain and retain a community