What is the ideal Go server?
I have played Go on the Internet since 1998. I have tried many Go servers: IGS, Cholian, Hitel, Mgame, Neostone, Play361, Cyberkiwon, Livebaduk, Lessonbaduk, IBS, Dashn, Orozone, Cyberoro and KGS. In this list you can see many Korean servers and servers that have since disappeared.
You might say that KGS is almost ideal, and I cannot disagree with you. That said it would be even better if we had more players and a solid rating system.
Even such a powerful server as KGS could be improved. Here are my suggestions.
1. Audio lessons are very pleasant, but it’s even more interesting to see the face of the teacher, using a web camera. As far as I know, it was first tried in 2000 by Livebaduk. Video lectures delivered by Kwon Kapyong, 7-dan and his students (Kwon has the largest Go school in Korea and has produced many professionals, including Lee Sedol and Choi Chelhan) made the server popular within a few months and increased the number of visitors from 0 to 1500-2000 members in rush hours.
2. Almost every Korean Go server has virtual currency. You may spend it on watching lectures and live broadcasts (with pro commentaries). It’s also possible to bet money on the outcome of top-level dan players’ games, as in real-life totalizator ( In Russia we can bet money on results of football/hockey matches and even try to guess the final score) . Of course you can play for money, even in bangneki style (http://senseis.xmp.net/?BangNeki ). I don’t know a server where you can take the money home, exchanging virtual currency for real cash. It would probably make the situation with government regulations and taxes easier. You would have to have virtual money in your account if you would like to use the services described above. Of course, it would be very profitable for server owners.
3. I would like to see live translations, especially from real pro tournaments with short time controls, like the Nongsim Cup. It would not be very expensive for server owners. Considering the will of Asian Go Federations leaders, who wish to make the game popular in other countries, they could easily accept the system, where only non-Asian players (it’s not a hard task to block Asians by IP) could watch the translations. Asian users would still pay for translations on Tygem or Cyberoro, so these servers would not lose any profit or popularity.
4. It would be nice if we could see the total score of games played with a single opponent. It’s always a pleasure to see that you can beat someone who was always beating you a few years ago.
5. The option of using pictures in KGS profiles is a great feature, but considering that there are not only lazy users, but also users who for various reasons cannot use Adobe Photoshop ™ or other picture editor programs, it would reasonable to give them the chance to select an avatar from a list during the registration procedure. Later they could change it to their own pictures, if so desired. Dashn offers avatars from Korean history. On Livebaduk they used pictures based on star signs.
We could take the pictures from fairytales or movies, Lord of the Rings, for example. In my opinion it’s not honest if one player has a beautiful avatar while the other one hasn’t got one at all.
6. I meet this problem by reviewing KGS games for commentary section on Go4Go (http://www.go4go.net/v2/modules/alex/ ). It’s hard to find the recent game records of 7-9 dan players who play on KGS infrequently. If you wish to find them it’s necessary to input players’ nicknames and check them one by one: Tartrate, sariyu, fondle, mymy, yukisuke … Maybe one of them has played a game? I suggest keeping a list of recent games played by 7-9 dan players or of games that attracted more than 100 observers.
7. And finally, there is one feature, which is not important at all. If you save the game on disk, you load the observer’s kibbitzes as well. Probably, it would be better to have a choice: to load the game with comments or simply as a clean sgf record.
I suggest you to discuss my ideas on the pages of our magazine. Maybe you disagree with me or would like to add your own opinions?
I will send the discussion to William Shubert, the owner of KGS. Probably we can make our favorite server better! Even Chinese, Korean and Japanese servers might follow our ideas!
Please send us your thoughts to qp(a)omen.ru
Comments by Tamsin Jones, Goama expert:
You make some interesting suggestions, Alex. Video interaction would be great fun, not only for lessons, but also for playing ordinary games and for chatting. Perhaps there are bandwidth issues, which might be resolved in the future?
As you may know, last year some American states passed laws greatly restricting online gambling. It could be that online money would run into legal issues (remembering that KGS is operated from the USA). Also, using online money might make online go dangerously addictive. Play money of some kind might be useful though, so long as it can only be used on the server (to avoid legal restrictions). For instance, getting sufficient points by promoting or winning a tournament to earn a lesson or gift could be very motivating.
I know that IGS Pandanet charges its Japanese users. That said, would it really be necessary to block Asian users from accessing English translations? Surely most Koreans, for instance, would be more interested in getting their comments in Korean, after all! I am uncomfortable with the idea of discriminating against users based on location, and I don’t really believe the big companies would stand to lose significant money anyway.
It would be great to have win-loss statistics and opponent-specific statistics to look at.
I like the KGS avatar feature very much, and it would be useful to offer preset avatars at registration as you suggest. However, it bothers me that you think people should be stigmatized for not having a picture. Personally, I couldn’t care less…in fact, some people’s pictures are even a bit disturbing.
The KGS website (http://www.gokgs.com/) keeps lists of the 100 best players and offers an archive of games, but I agree it could enhanced further.
Finally, if you look on Sensei’s Library (http://senseis.xmp.net) you can find the accumulated suggestions of hundreds of players on “KGS wishlist” along with Mr Shubert’s responses and plans. I should also mention that Benjamin Teuber, a former insei, is currently working on an “Ultimate Go Server” project, which he describes at Sensei’s Library. Perhaps there is scope for collaboration here?
Go lessons [breakfast.go4go.net
Разобранные партии [www.go4go.net
Журнал "Гоама" [gogame.info
Новости с серверов Го [GoSensations.com