18+ slots is just not feasible (or fun) in the current build
Server admins/owners hear me out -
In order to give people the best playing experience you possibly can with the current patch and the foreseeable future, you should really look into lowering the slot count on your server(s) until big performance increases are put into the game. This will help keep the current player base active, and it will also create a much more fun atmosphere to get people back into NS2.
I have been collecting stats on server performance from May of 2011 until now and the current level of performance is on par with what it was nearly 10 months ago. Instead of fighting with the performance, we can make changes to make the game better *right now* by lowering player count to a more reasonable level - Just because 18 slots worked in the past doesn't mean we have to stick to it now.
I have been doing some testing and have found that the jump from 16 slots to 18 slots puts a huge amount of extra strain on the server which leads to the very low tick rates. The jump from 14 to 16 isn't as bad but there still is a noticeable performance drop. The sweet spot for a core i5 2500k 4.4-4.5 Ghz server seems to be 15-16.
Before build 196, most operators ran with 14-16 slots but then performance improved a little bit so most servers increased to 18 to even 20 slots in some cases. However, since performance has been lacking the past few builds, it would be most beneficial to the community if the popular servers would lower the player count to keep the server tick rates at a more reasonable level.
Not only is this in the best interest of the community, it is probably in the best interest of both the server operators and any new players who's first impression of the game may be tarnished by the current level of server performance.
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