[BB], 2020 in review

2020. The year of Corona and the impending end of the Trump administration. What a year it has been!

Generally I don’t look outwards in these blog posts but I feel it’s worth highlighting that not only the world felt serious changes and impact upon it, but so did [BB]. I feel I can firmly state from the top of this blog post that 2020 was an incredibly great year for us and 2021 is actually shaping up to be all the better.

There’s plenty to chew through this year so some things unlike previous years are condensed or dropped. If you want to know more about any specific topic, feel free to ask in Discord or on the Forums!

Donations

Wait what? We’re starting with donations first? What gives?!

This internally at [BB] has actually been the biggest change for us, namely the conversion of Platinum being a lifetime ($15) option to a monthly ($7.99) option. Many players who pass through assume that we get huge turnover and our community is a cash-cow. This couldn’t be further from the truth. BB has personally cost me (at least) $11,000 through the lifetime of its existence and continues to do so which is why we changed the donation model. What I didn’t expect is how much impact this seemingly redundant and worse-for-value change would bring

In 2020 [BB] has gone from rarely getting even one or two donations a month to this year covering the main server expenses for 8 of 12 months this year. In the remaining 3 of 4 months we received enough donations to cover at least 50% of the server expenses each month. Again, to clarify: The only thing we did was change one donation system (Platinum) from $15 (lifetime) to $7.99 a month. Previous lifetime holders kept their lifetime Platinum.

This is huge.

Don’t get me wrong here: we’re not suddenly making boatloads of cash. The main server costs $99 a month which is exclusively for [BB] alongside a Webserver ($20 a month) that I use for my own projects (so I eat the cost for that) and our GitHub Teams membership (3 seats x $4 = $12) so any excess goes towards these fees and then rolls over to the next month.

It’s been a strong lesson in business for all of us really, especially the fact that if a service can’t wipe its own arse – someone eventually has to pay (that person being me). We believe in providing an experience rather than catering to the higher payer and we’d prefer to remain that way. If this model (maybe with a few tweaks, annual membership anyone?) can sustain us then I think everyone on the team will be more than happy with that.

There are other changes that do also factor in such as improved awareness (we’ve been slightly more imposing with promotion, sorry!) and with everyone being home due to covid but so far the biggest factor in uptake does seem to be the price change.

What would be nice is if we generated enough of a surplus to upgrade the machine. It’s over 10 years old at this point and while it’s still going incredibly strong hardware has come leaps and bounds at this point but I digress.

Branding

We changed from bbroleplay to bbservers. This was a change that had been pending for a while but ultimately I wanted / needed the association of bbservers being a hosting company to drop from Google and other search engines. We haven’t been a roleplay community since 2013 and honestly, these days RP communities have (understandably) bit of a bad reputation.

If roleplay ever returns we might specifically brand it with the bbroleplay moniker. Until then, time to move on!

Server Changes

Earlier this year I turned off Escape and about a month ago I turned off BBuild. Escape needs some love and fundamental gameplay changes and until those are done it doesn’t make sense to keep it online in its current format.

BBuild (Sandbox) only really ever existed back in the day to compliment our roleplay server (people building shacks / shops) so they could build without constraint and being disturbed. The reality is very few people use Sandbox to purely build these days and those that do have dedicated, niche communities designed for it. Due to how we change some internal GMod functions to harden against exploits it also meant things like Wiremod also regularly broke.

If there’s appetite / demand for it in the future we can easily bring it back. Until then, rest easy sweet prince.

Servers as a whole

Other than the servers we shut down as per the last paragraphs all of our other servers have seen a notable uptick in player counts. Deathrun may not yet have a consistent playerbase but across the past year there are players on it! Likewise the Surf T2-6 server is seeing low averages of player counts on it with very spikey overall player counts. This is up from 2019 where the average was often 0.

Surf

It goes without saying that Surf is popular as ever. If anything it’s popular more than ever as competitors have closed their doors. We still aren’t quite catering to the more pro players or the more advanced players but we are working to resolve that. Currently for Surf our new focus is the new ranking system that works in a similar fashion to other servers (e.g. rank y/x) which for all intents and purposes is now going through the front-end design. More on this soon!

A focal point for 2021 is the replay system. Work has been done on replays here and there throughout 2020 but much of this was exploratory work to see what was feasible, what we wanted to achieve and so on. I’m hopeful that by Summer we should see an initial version of this floating about somewhere.

BBase

As mentioned in the review last year we felt that BBase was pretty much in a mature position that lets us do what we need to without fighting ourselves. This year this has absolutely rang true and we’ve probably had some of the fewest “sweeping” changes BBase has ever had and yet we’ve also added the most functionality it’s ever had such as the GitHub integration, mass uncrating and so on!

Steam Group Membership

Group membership is back! Two years after it died I finally got around to writing an updated GMod C++ module which supports this. It’s back and gives you 5% bonus cube gain alongside Discord!

Discord

We now recognise server boosters and we gave boosters + Platinum members the ability to create temporary voice channels. The next steps I’m considering at to include a notification system with the sales-bot so it can notify them of specific keywords and / or sales instead of having to actively monitor the channel!

Garry’s Mod player base & S&Box

Last year I mentioned the GMod playerbase seemed to be dwindling and that S&Box was nowhere to be found which was going to make for interesting times. Covid came along and gave the GMod player base an overall boost although it already seems to be globally diminishing again. Internally we’ve been tracking activity on our own servers (with our own tools) and while we’re not seeing the peaks of covid traffic, our drops (and lack thereof) have been far slower and lower than what the wider community is experiencing. In this regard we’re cautiously optimistic and we’ll keep an eye on things. Coupled with donations being higher than ever it’s likely we’re going to be just fine.

Garry has formally started working and shown media of S&Box which is good news. While we have no formal plans here at [BB] as to what we’ll do when S&Box comes out we’re watching it with close interest. While I’m making no promises about moving any of our gamemodes to S&Box it’s something we are certainly keeping open for discussion.

That said, until we’re given actual access to S&Box we have no way of knowing what technical challenges await us and what will even be available. One thing we can tell is that everything will be far more stripped back and unlike GMod which can mount multiple Source-engine games, S&Box cannot. Cautious optimism is how I’d best describe my current stance on S&Box.

Closing Words

As a community I think [BB] is in the best place it’s ever been. We provide an experience that the entire team at [BB] is proud of and we do it while being mostly self-sufficient and in a way that is unique to us. It feels odd that such a trying year has also been our best year. It has proven though that we can succeed where others fall apart and I think going forwards [BB] will only get stronger yet.

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