AC, Interview

Test servers and ordinary interviews

Today we’ll listen to bigbawmcgraw, one of the founders and admins of  ALOOG, a league of ordinary gentlemen. If you every visisted the multiplayer server  list in Assetto Corsa, you probably have seen one of their famous ALOOG-servers.

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CatsOnSlicks: Please introduce yourself and ALOOG. Who are you, where did you originate from and what was your motivation to start out in Assetto Corsa?

Bigbawmcgraw: There are 4 original founding members of ALOOG: myself, Horus, speedemon and GBH.
We were all Race 07 players and admined several servers of that game. When AC was announced we knew it would be the next big racing sim and started renting our own dedicated server to host it on release.
We now host 7 AC servers and an Arma 3 server, plus a popular Teamspeak server too.

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CatsOnSlicks: In my memory, your server ALOOG-0 became famous with the release of Spa and the Ferrari 458 GT2 in the end of 2013. It seemed this server was populated 24/24 all the time for years. How did it feel when you realized it was that successful?

Bigbawmcgraw: Haha, well the funny thing about that server is it was only ever meant to be a test server. We wanted to stress test our box and picked what we thought would be a popular combo, and it got more popular than we could imagine.
It attracted a lot of good people to our community and many of them became admin, doing an excellent job of keeping all of our servers clean.

CatsOnSlicks: This is funny indeed. After all this “test” server ran so many driver-hours. Do you have any statistics, like how many hours have been spent, or how many different drivers join per day?

Bigbawmcgraw: We only have statistics since around November of last year. Since then there have been over 8,500 unique players to that server who have driven over 6.5 light seconds (approx 300,000 km per light second).
On a slightly negative note, our admins have added over 1000 bad drivers to the blacklist which is shared across all ALOOG servers, since online went live almost 3 years ago.

CatsOnSlicks: Do you have identified elements of your success you might want to share with other server administrators?

Bigbawmcgraw: Being able to identify and separate people who make mistakes from those who are out to spoil other player’s fun is key IMO.
Permanently banning someone for making a mistake is silly, and would just earn us a bad reputation. 99% of those who’ve asked to be unbanned have been removed from the blacklist. Unfortunately there is 1% who we think shouldn’t be playing online racing games.
We have a dedicated section on our forum for ban/unbanning where people can ask for another chance. There we can assess whether or not they are genuinely apologetic.
In short: be fair to everyone and don’t make hasty assumptions.

CatsOnSlicks: How much do you listen to driver’s feedback? Do you think they know what they actually want?

Bigbawmcgraw: We do listen to driver’s feedback, but you’ll never keep everyone happy all of the time, which is why we have a variety of servers offering different types of racing. Some like hardcore (no assists, full damage, low grip) and others prefer the opposite.
We find that the most popular public servers are running the most ‘forgiving’ settings. Hardcore settings should be reserved for leagues, or certainly restricted player access such as MR-AB.

CatsOnSlicks: A word to the story that recently was published on reddit? ALOOG admins are accused to overreact here.

Bigbawmcgraw: I’ve spoken to the admin concerned and he has told me that it was an accidental kick. He was testing a new admin/spectator app and it kicked the wrong person due to a bug with ID0, which has now been identified and rectified.

Please refer to my 6th response: “…don’t make hasty assumptions.”

Had he come to our forum as others have done and asked a civilized question, he would have received a civilized response. He may even have been educated in Python a little.
But posting that on reddit in a deliberate attempt to cause hatred toward a community will only end in one way.

Also refer to my 5th response, particularly; “Unfortunately there is 1% who we think shouldn’t be playing online racing games.” If this guy thinks the best decision is to make a hate post on reddit rather than a civilized post our forum after being kicked from our server, then he is not the kind of person we want on our servers. It is children like this who should not be playing online racing games and expect to be taken seriously. Indeed, they spoil it for everyone. A mature person would have found our website and either PM’d me or any admin, or simply made a post in our public forum like may hundreds of others have done.

So thank you for bringing this to my attention. So now, instead of just being temporarily kicked (by mistake), he is now permanently banned from all ALOOG servers, not for any on-track incidents which may or may not have occurred, but rather for his childish behaviour and attempt to stir hatred toward an online community of which he does not belong.

There are 700+ other servers where he can ply his ‘skills’, may I suggest he treats this a learning curve of how not act like an adult.

CatsOnSlicks: Coming back to ALOOG-0: You never changed the combination of 2 GT2 car models at Spa for a very long time, although it was considered boring. People made fun of “let’s drive GT2 at Spa” – why didn’t you react and cycle cars and tracks on this popular server?

Bigbawmcgraw: Simply because it was still very popular and full every night. We did change the track for a week and got very few hits, so we changed it back to Spa and it was full again the next day.
We had 6 other servers with a variety of different cars/tracks (all with the same settings) but they never became as popular. We just provided what the majority wanted and they kept coming back for more lol.

CatsOnSlicks: Interesting. According to some analysis tool of GCJaye called Edwin, there are 2.7 available servers per driver in average. Assuming it takes some money and effort to run a server: Why are there so many of them?

Bigbawmcgraw: Hard question to answer.
Not all servers are rented. Some are run from individual’s PC’s and perhaps only pop up for a few hours each day when friends decide to get together for a few laps/races.
Others (such as our own) run 24/7 and are sparsely populated for the majority of the time, but can be full at peak times such as weekend evenings. Because we rent a dedicated server, it costs us the same to have 1 AC server running as it does to have 7, so they are all just left running all the time.
One of the good things about AC’s servers is that they use very little computing resources compared to other games such as ARMA 3 etc, so they are relatively cheap to host, both in monetary and resource values.

CatsOnSlicks: Coming to the end, some short ones: How does Assetto Corsa feel from a server administrator point of view, both technically and online?

Bigbawmcgraw: We have been using the software for so long now it’s second nature to us. In the early days it did take some ‘practice’ but official support was just a pm away.

CatsOnSlicks: What is a favor the average driver can do to you when visiting an ALOOG server, let’s say if he’s willing to honor your efforts?

Bigbawmcgraw: All we ask of visitors to our servers is to respect others and have fun.

CatsOnSlicks: Last question. Who is responsible for the fonts and colors on your website?

Bigbawmcgraw: Kalabaleek! He is a professional art designer and did this as a favour for us.

CatsOnSlicks: Thank you for your time.

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