I am wrapping up a course on Udemy on Unreal 4 and the next thing I want to look at is multiplayer. Not interested in doing a full robust multiplayer game as a project, but I want to I understand how it works and make a simple example or two. Now I have seen examples but they all work with OnlineSubSystem = Null or Steam. Null means it is LAN only and that’s not what I am looking for and Steam requires an AppId and all players to be logged into steam as they play. There is a demo AppId but even for just my friends to have to log into Steam and look like they are playing “SpaceWar” to try out anything that seems like a weird limitation.
I hear about other options like GameLift, GameSpark, Photon, and others. Are these alternative online subsystems? Are they different flavors of the same thing? Are they supposed to replace Steamworks API? I basically want to build a dedicated server project for my game, have it sit somewhere in some cloud service that I pay some amount for hosting, and when clients want to play it hits this cloud service and starts an instance of this game or joins one in progress for a match of Deathmatch or something like that. Is that what these services do? Or are they providing social features, cloud saving, analytics, and other side services which I am not that interested in.
Does anyone have any recommendations on what I should look at or where to start? I feel like I am missing something fundamental, not about client-server model and replication concepts, but more like services and hosting. Thanks.