Playing on the Colony of Gamers server was always a treat. As all of you know, it is much more fun playing with friends you already know as opposed to playing with random "pubbers". The great thing about a dedicated server is that it can combine random pubbers with friends. When you don't have enough friends for a full server you can supplement it. During the early years of the game the server was full on a regular basis and for the most part during the evenings an admin was always present. It made for quite the pleasant gaming experience as whenever an asshole or cheater would quickly be dealt with, and even if an admin wasn't currently playing it was easy enough to find someone online on our IRC channel who could remotely log in to the server and remove the trouble makers in question.
The dedicated server also gave us the opportunity to try out custom maps and modifications, many of which went on to join the official maps list in the many updates released by Valve. While we didn't run them on the CoG server, I was able to play on several other servers running some fascinating mods to the game, from TF2 Prophunt - where one team spawns as pyros and the opposing team spawns as map props who then must try and hide around the map and avoid the pyros - to the TF2 Popcorn mod, where popcorn spawns in random places on the map providing a random ability to whomever picks it up. Popcorn abilities include one where you spontaneously burst into flames and another called "Easter Egg", which causes enemies around you to jump uncontrollably. I am sure that there are more mods out there just waiting to be discovered upon connection to a dedicated server.
Another benefit of a dedicated server is a consistent ping. Unlike in a peer-to-peer matchmaking game where your connection depends on whomever you are playing with, a dedicated server provides a consistent connection where you always know what you are going to get. Now I'll be honest - this was a double edged sword for me, as I lived in Alaska for a year and unfortunately my internet connection was poor. For a reason that I was never able to diagnose, whenever I connected to our TF2 server I would get a connection drop after five minutes. Oddly enough it was only on our particular server, as I was able to play without issue on other dedicated servers. Not that this would have been solved via matchmaking - whenever I tried matchmaking games on Xbox Live, I experienced severe lag. Thankfully I have since moved back to the continental U.S., and have been able to join my friends on our Team Fortress 2 server once again.
Sources for mods featured in this article: