Pubserver was an online service to host Freeciv games and provided ranking and statistics amongst other things. It went down permanently in 2007. Similar services have appeared since then - this document makes no attempt to describe them.
Servers can announce their presence to clients on a special announcement board, the Freeciv metaserver. This allows players across each other to find each other.
However, having to start up a server before being able to play is quite unnatural for many users, and it doesn't make it easy to build a community. Therefore, some software was developed to keep a set of Freeciv servers running permanently at a well-known, fixed location. This service was operational from 1998 to November of 2006, and was known as Pubserver, after the name of its host, pubserver.freeciv.org.
The Pubserver service is not at all a requirement to play Freeciv, even multiplayer games, but it provides the following benefits:
- a standard location for Freeciv games
- players no longer have to start a server, or connect to somebody else's private host, in order to play
- post-game reporting
- the Pubserver software produces game statistics and graphs, and collects games in a database, both of which are accessible through the Pubserver website
- customized variants and defaults
- the Pubserver servers have special patches, server settings and (sometimes) rulesets that make them better suited for multiplayer gaming and often reflect popular preferences
- among the game statistics are statistics on the players; this makes it possible for players to compare themselves with others they haven't met in games yet
- the Pubserver servers are connected to a player database that supports password-based user identification
The service was operational from 1998 to 2006. During that time, many small enhancements to its functionality were made, both for players (e.g. gradually more detailed post-game reporting, player ranking), and for administrators (e.g. automatic compilation and installation of multiple different versions).
Popularity varied, but always remained low, considering the wide availability of the Freeciv software. The total number of concurrently active servers never exceeded 10, and there were never more than a few dozens of users present at the same time.
Abuse and sabotage were rarely a problem. Owing to the low number of users, pubserver could largely rely on human-to-human communication to deal with it. In some cases, users (or actually, their IP subnets) were banned for some time.
Between 2003 and 2006, pubserver's quality of service slowly deteriorated due to lack of interest/time of its maintainers. In November of 2006, the computer hosting pubserver.freeciv.org crashed. It came back for a few hours in January, but went down again in February, 2007 - see archive.org's latest copy; unfortunately, they do not appear to have archived any game-specific pages.
There are no plans to revive the pubserver service. The code base (a set of scripts in various languages) has been published on Gna!.
Pubserver.freeciv.org was not the only site to offer a set of continuously running Freeciv servers: for example, zhaba.alkar.net also did this for several years.
The mechanism for multiplaying that pubserver supports has a fundamental problem: a prospective player must pick a server and connect to it before being able to contact other players, discuss the conditions for playing, setting up game parameters, and agreeing to start. It would be much better to have all the pre-game conversation and negotiating in a global forum. No attempts were ever made to develop pubserver in this direction, although it would be possible in principle.
The Freeciv source code now supports GGZ, which is a technical step in that direction. It is not clear whether anyone is actively using this support.