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The foundation of a good game hosting company is its control panel. Once you have paid, you will be at the mercy of whatever the company uses to allow you to manage your game server. There are plenty of choices available both free and paid for on the internet. You can tell a lot from what control panel your GSP uses and this is our rough guide with reviews on the subject.
This guide and its reviews are liable to changes as the platforms evolve over time and we hear more user feedback about them.
We hope that this will become the first choice for new game hosting companies looking for help choosing the control panel they will use. This guide will also be of use to people renting game servers or dedicated servers that they will then use as game servers.
Game hosting control panels have come a long way over the last 20 or so years but you would expect them to at least provide the following features:
A lot of modern game hosting control panels are adding the ability to do more advanced functions, such as moving your game server to other machines worldwide with a few clicks. Some game hosting control panels also allow for mods to auto update themselves to avoid the game server being out of date with clients games.
The software is installed onto a dedicated server by the game hosting company and then receives a signal from the billing platform they use. Once it knows you have paid your bill it will then create the files needed and set them up according to your instructions during purchase. Once this process has completed you would then get an email containing the sign in information along with details of how to connect to your server from within the game.
So now you know what a game server control panel does and how it helps you want are the options?
As an example to show what a game hosting control panel does we are going to explain a world without any. Say for example you started renting an Ark Survival Evolved game server from a company like Survival Servers, you would pay your money and then wait for the email telling you your server is ready. Usually with Survival Servers you would get access to a custom made control panel that they built from scratch themselves (explained further below), but if they didn’t have a control panel you would have to wait. You will be waiting for a technician to install you game server and set it up by copying files and editing them and opening ports, this process could take anything from half an hour to several days.
Now that the technician has set up your game server manually, unless you had access to an FTP account as well you would have to contact the company to change settings. Changing the settings and managing your server can be a right pain without a gaming control panel, altering files and server settings. Not only would this process be difficult but would open the machine that the game server is being shared on to security flaws and easy hacking opportunities. This method of running a game hosting company manually works for VPS and dedicated server suppliers but definitely not for game hosting. We would not allow this kind of provider on CompareGameHosting and cant imagine a company operating like this ever getting past its first few customers.
TCAdmin is the game hosting control panel that about 95% of the game hosting companies we know of use. If a successful game hosting company doesn’t offer TCAdmin as their control panel for a game that isn’t Minecraft then they have most probably built their own at great expense.
The TCAdmin control panel is a fairly easy install for anybody who know enough to run a game server hosting company. After you have signed up and paid for your first month or lifetime Master Server license you will be able to install the files and activate the platform. Once the platform is live and connected up to a billing platform you can then start adding game configs. The game configs are essentially blank ready to go versions of the game server that are in template form, these can be copied and edited by TCAdmin to build a game server.
If you are a customer of a game hosting company that uses TCAdmin as their game hosting control panel then you will only see the front-end. After signing in using the account details you have been sent by email from the GSP you will be shown a list of game server IP addresses. From this list you can then go into each game server and manage the settings for it as well as start/stop or reinstall to wipe the current game and start again.
TCAdmin has so many functions that we just don’t have the space to go into them here. You can find out a lot more about the platform from a clients point of view or as a game server provider on the TCAdmin’s Official Website.
There are a few alternative game hosting control panels that aren’t TCAdmin, both paid and available for free. Here is a list of them and a basic description of them from what we have found around the internet:
The game hosting control panel Pterodactyl is far from being pre-historic. Its modern, simple and good looking front end trumps over TCAdmin’s visuals by far. The panel feels solid to use with movement around it being very quick, usually control panels are slowed down by the mass of tasks running between pages.
Pterodactyl is free to download and use however you want as its an open source project ran by a team of coders. The support documentation is excellent and the community of helpers are there to make sure you can get it installed. This is extremely useful as panels like TCAdmin rely on the support of the staff who made it for serious issues.
As a private panel installed on your own dedicated server this looks like the best choice for those trying to save money without sacrificing quality.
The project leader Dane spoke to us about the original content we had written about Pterodactyl and asked to add some more info (thanks Dane). We had originally written about Pterodactyl being a security risk as its open source software thats out in the open and accessible by anyone but he assured us that:
While it is easier for someone to browse open source software and actively hunt down vulnerabilities that might exist, saying that a closed system is inherently more secure is just wrong. An open codebase allows others to search through to find issues, and many times those are actively reported. In addition, it allows companies to perform their own auditing, and fix parts of the code base as they see fit, or before an official patch comes out. Doing that with a locked down platform like Xenopanel or TCAdmin is not as feasible.
He also went on to explain that when it comes to security we need to consider:
Pterodactyl’s use of Docker to enforce limits and isolate processes, something that is not standard on many hosting panels. I know for a fact that TCAdmin doesn’t do this, and as far as I’m aware most other major panels out there do not, at least not by default.
Dane also brought to our attention several interesting factors concerning the information we knew about other game hosting control panels, so we have updated those. The passion and bullishness from the developers is a great sign that Pterodactyl is worth testing out.
A paid for control panel that comes out a lot cheaper than TCAdmin (about a third of the cost) if you are using it commercially. If you are planning on using the control panel for personal use (up to 3 servers) then you can get it for free.
XENOPANEL boasts a huge list of features that rivals that of other control panels with support for many games straight out of the box. This is crucial for game hosting companies who want to get selling as quickly as possible and paying the bills for the machines they rent.
Unlike TCAdmin the front end is simple and looks great, much like Pterodactyl which can help keep customers trust in you when things go wrong. In the features section of XENOPANEL’s website you can see that they describe the front end as being “open source” (but this means that its easily editable and not free to download).
A feature that sticks out is the mod/plugin support that ships with this panel. Easy management of the mods/plugins for games (especially for games like Minecraft) can save hours of stressful work for both the customer and support team of a GSP. Many complaints that we see about game hosting companies revolve around the support for mods. Unfortunately for some providers, the third party software issues can also earn them negative feedback, made worse by a hard to use control panel.
After speaking to the creator of XENOPANEL (Liam) he has informed us that he frequently gets told that his platform is easier to use than TCAdmin. He also wanted to add that TCAdmin usually gets picked as a game hosting control panel by companies due to the lack of knowledge of the competition. Liam also added that he welcomes people to try XENOPANEL out for themselves to see why he believes its the better option of the two.
A paid for solution that is cheaper than TCAdmin but more expensive than XENOPANEL is GSP-Panel. This game hosting control panel has plenty of features according to its home page that would be of massive use to a GSP. They have a thorough wiki section full of information to keep you running with an active forum available to ask for help.
GSP-Panel has one click updates which can be a live saver for any company with a book full of clients. When a game is updated by the developers and most of your customers are asking you to manually update their servers it can take up a huge chunk of your time.
We have come across about 5 or 6 others that appear to have not been updated in years. A good list to check up on is available on the WebHostingTalk website but going to the actual websites themselves of the panels show websites that are clearly 10 years old. The contenders above are enough to make a choice based on your circumstances. We chose not to include a lot of the solutions we found as they looked horribly out of date, if they cant keep their website up to date it doesn’t say much about their product.
A few of the companies that we compare prices for have created their own control panel. The main 3 reasons they would want to do this instead of using a pre-built over the counter solution are:
As well as the main 3 points raised above, a custom control panel can be a big selling point to potential customers. A GSP that has the ability to build their own system surely has the ability to deal with any support query you throw their way.
The big downside to having a custom built control panel for your game hosting company is the price. The work required to take do everything that TCAdmin does and then keep it updated can go well into the tens of thousands of dollars initially. Unless you have the ability to do the work yourself cheaply as well as the time to dedicate to the work this is usually a large investment.
As far as we know the only game that has been graced with a custom control panel is Minecraft. This is due to Minecraft being so popular year-on-year and the fact that it needs a lot of additional options that other games don’t. With the number of mods and other customizability options Minecraft boasts a custom control panel makes the game hosting companies job a lot easier. If their customers had to manage all of this through a normal control panel they would get stuck and send a barrage of support requests constantly. We have written another review page purely about the Minecraft control panels available to GSP’s and thus used by their customers.
Choosing a winning game hosting control panel isn’t as easy as we thought when we set out to create this guide. The options that we came across (at least 10 completely different solutions) all have various pros and cons that we have decided to split out the winners into categories.
Even though Pterodactyl is free to download and open source, it still packs a punch when you look at what it can do. The control panel is ideal for anybody wanting to run some game server for themselves on a VPS or dedicated machine they are in control of.
When you look at the features, supported games and the visuals of the control panel straight out of the box in comparison to price then XENOPANEL comes out top. The control panel is less than a third of the monthly cost of TCAdmin which seems to have the same level of features with the addition of better Minecraft mod support. XENOPANEL also looks a lot smarter than TCAdmin and is said to be easier to use and set up.
We believe that XENOPANEL should also win this title. If you take a look at the screenshots on the front page of their website you will see that not only is the panel simple, it also looks great straight away before any branding is added.
TCAdmin remains the most feature-ful game hosting control panel that we are aware of. A lot of game hosting companies choose their solution as they know that it has everything they need to run a successful company. We aren’t saying that you shouldn’t test others though, as many other panels could still offer the features needed by your company.