Why you wouldn’t want to run your own (private) Spiral Knights server

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 by spiralspy

There seems to be this funny idea in the wild that, if Grey Havens open sourced Spiral Knights, you could setup your own little toy server. Preferably one with a good drop rate for fire crystals, or even better, without the forge mechanic altogether. If that happens to be your dream come true, allow me to explain why your are signing up for a nightmare.

Spiral Knights builds on the same foundation as Puzzle Pirates. I seem to recall that back in the days, the YPP server instance was a monolithic binary eating up some 2GB+ of RAM when trying to serve some 200 players online (don’t bother asking why I know these things, you should know better by now). The backend got rewritten since then, at least some parts of it are C code now instead of Java and the whole thing is also distributed now. Nevertheless, don’t expect Spiral Knights to go easy on your hardware. It’s not meant to run on your desktop computer.

We might call it “the SK server”, but in reality, “the server” is a conglomerate of various of several different server applications:

  • A webserver/servlet container to host the client, patch files, ticket system, uplink (kinda optional)
  • A database server to persist the game world
  • The billing system (well… you kinda don’t want that on your private playground)
  • The actual gameserver
  • A number of backend utilities (e.g. for level creation/installation, creating patches, …)

Consider all of this well undocumented, coming without a one click installer and most certainly not having a start_sk_server.exe for conveniently getting the show to run. The system is “by people who know what they are doing, for people who know what they are doing” and people who know what they are doing, don’t do Windows. If you don’t know your way around on a Linux shell, don’t bother.

Now, the technical difficulties of running your own server put aside, the far more interesting question would be why would you want to do that in the first place? The most immediate answer that comes to mind here is that you are unhappy with the drop rate of rarities and want to ramp that up. After you do that, you realize that you are an idiot. Just give your account the Game Master flag and spawn whatever it is you want. After you do that, you realize that you are an idiot. If you can simply spawn whatever it is you desire, what’s the point of “playing” the game? You successfully eliminated every goal you could possibly have.

Every MMORPG is actually a social network with an entertainment layer on top of it. Once you obliterate the entertainment aspect, you are left with players who have no reason to log in because there is nothing left to do. Congratulations, you wanted your own SK server and you ended up with the most out of proportions, single user chat channel imaginable.