A popular game with my family has been Ark: Survival Evolved, a multi-player dinosaur themed survival game that we have played since well before its official release. Over the last couple of years, we have switched back and forth between a few different server options, sometimes trying to host the custom server ourselves, and sometimes subscribing to various “professional” services. However, each solution has had its problems, and I can’t say that we have an ideal combination.
For a long time, we used CraftandSurvive hosted servers – however, our servers were based in France due to a pricing difference. This worked, but did add a bit of artificial lag to the connections – nothing that ever really made a big difference, but was noticeable. In addition, we had several issues with the updating process of the server – whenever a patch would come out, I routinely had issues with the servers and our chosen mods. Although the servers in general were stable, there was at least one occurrence where an update went bad, and the entire world system was lost (not a popular situation with the family). More recently, there was a situation where despite my best efforts to update everything, the servers were not visible when trying to connect. We run 3 simultaneous worlds, 1 was working, 2 were not, but all 3 were configured identically (except for the specific map). After several days of troubleshooting, the support team was unable to resolve the issue, so I opted to move the servers again. They did eventually fix the problem, but by then I was already migrated. Had this been a business and not a personal effort, I suspect my audience would have abandoned the server entirely.
My second attempt was self-hosting – running all three worlds on an older laptop (my prior main system). This worked, and was trivial to maintain and update as needed, but the system could only handle 1 world well, or 2 worlds passably. A 3rd world simply could not run, due to the limited memory on the system. For a short period, this was acceptable, but quickly my family pushed me to move to a better structure.
So the third and current attempt was to host the servers thru G-Portal, a site apparently used by several of the youtube channels my kids watch. Overall, I am impressed by the interface – it is a big improvement over the prior hosted option, and my self-hosted laptop had no interface at all. Thru the website, you can configure just about any parameter. Unfortunately, since all my parameters are already in the game config INI files, this has been troublesome, since the files keep getting overwritten any time a small tweak is made. It doesn’t actually break anything, but I had to recreate and upload the file several times. The other challenge is that there is no apparent way to script or schedule a daily backup of the game world. The service provides an option to manually create a backup – that works well. But there is no way that I can find to run a backup daily, weekly, or monthly on a set schedule. That makes it problematic, since unless I remember, I risk losing the worlds again.
So far, the worlds and servers appear as solid as any – there has been no downtime – and as a side bonus, the worlds boot up significantly faster than before. On my self-hosting laptop, a startup would run for nearly 20 minutes. On CraftandSurvive, this was closer to 15 minutes. On G-Portal, the startup time is close to 30 seconds. Very noticeable when you are configuring the servers and having to restart frequently. In addition, since the servers are US-based, our connection ping is much lower, resulting in a generally faster experience. It is only a small amount, but enough to be slightly more comfortable in game.
Hopefully this will end up being a long-term home, but I will continue to monitor the environment, in case a new solution becomes necessary.
If you are interested in your own server, for Ark or another game, check them out with my affiliate link, G-Portal