Hosting a server in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive lets players control almost every part of a CSGO game, from the players involved to the game modes being played, but it can be complicated to set up if you’re not prepared.
Dedicated servers are one of the best parts of CSGO, with users able to host their own maps, provide other players with wacky game modes, and generally have more control over their experience. The instructions below aren’t too difficult, but they do expect players to have a general understanding of port forwarding, command line tools, and scripts.
We’re going to be installing CSGO’s dedicated server on Windows. Linux users have a a fair number of options as far as distros go, and as luck would have it there’s a recent guide located right here. For the majority of CSGO players running Windows, here are the steps!
The first steps are pretty easy, mostly because players probably already have two out of the three. A CSGO dedicated server requires SteamCMD, a command line program from Valve. This is the tool that will download the program that will manage the server and handle updating it when CSGO is updated over on Steam.
If players want to interface with Steam, they’ll also have to have actually bought CSGO. Those who haven’t won’t be able to generate the code they need to tie their server to their account. It’s not needed, but having it offers owners more options than it limits. We’ll cover those limits later on under the GSLT section.
Finally, players have to create two folders. Names are up to the user, but we named ours steamCMD and csgo_ds to keep it simple.
Download the official SteamCMD.exe from the Valve Developer Wiki, put it in the steamCMD folder and run it with Administrator privileges. Players should see SteamCMD updating itself. When this is finished, the tool will send users back to the SteamCMD prompt.
Now players should log in. For the first download, we recommend logging in through SteamCMD anonymously. Enter the following into the console:
This command will log players into Steam’s content servers. While players are in the tool, they should also set the install directory for CSGO’s actual server files. They’ll have to tell SteamCMD whereto put the server’s files by “use force_install_dir” to set the directory. This has to be done before downloading the server.
For example, if you created a CSGO dedicated server folder on the C: drive, the command would look like this:
Step 3: Install the actual CSGO dedicated server
Now that players are logged in and have told SteamCMD where to place the files, it;’s time to actually download the server. SteamCMD uses the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Dedicated Server AppID as a request. The download clocks in around 26 gigabytes.
“app_update” is the command for downloading the server for the first time as well as updating the server when CSGO is updated. The “validate” flag is SteamCMD’s version of “Verify CSGO’s files”; it just makes sure everything is where it should be. Note the Steam’s forums have had some reports of SteamCMD failing to install.
The workaround is setting a custom DNS in the player’s network settings. Instructions on how to do that using Google’s public DNS servers can be found here.
Step 4: Register a GSLT in order for your server to appear online
GSLT stands for a Game Server Login Token, and Valve requires it to reveal the server to the internet. The token comes with some restrictions, the largest being that players cannot install or host any mods that change player skins. The token comes directly from Valve, and players will have to log into their Steam Account and go here to request their token from Valve.
This is an important part of the process, so we’ll let Valve explain it here.
This is a secret token and it can only be used once, and if a server breaks the rules, it’s done for good. Players can find the full list of restrictions at http://blog.counter-strike.net/index.php/server_guidelines/. Valve can and will revoke the token for not following the rules. If players don’t need internet access for their server, then Valve has a hands-off policy.
Players can start their server up after they forward some ports and their server using the commands below. These startup tasks can be automated with tools made by the community or by the player themselves.
Here are the base commands for starting a barebones CSGO server, with “scrds” the actual command entered into SteamCMD that starts the server. Players can think of the rest of the arguments as launch options, with most of them coming from two text files in the CSGO server folder called “game_modes.txt” and “gamemodes_server.txt.example” inside their server directory.
Valve’s dedicated servers are a blast, with the game’s community creating a ton of mods and new game modes for players to experiment with. While it isn’t as out of control as Garry’s Mod, it’s still a great time for players that put in the time and effort to set up CSGO’s dedicated servers.