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feedback One server admin’s perspective on how to save Atlas.

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Atlas

One server admin’s perspective on how to save Atlas.

About me, I run a small hosting server for game servers. I mostly serve a small gaming community and a few streamers. Most of my experience on game server hosting started in 2015. However, I have over 25 years of sysadmin experience.

Atlas is an ambitious idea.  I say idea because at this point that is all it is.  As it stands now the game continues to bleed players. Even with new content players are just not returning to the game. It is my opinion that this is primarily due to the complete lack of support for unofficial servers. 

One can’t discuss Atlas without mentioning ARK. Just in case you didn’t know, Atlas, Grapeshot, is made up of ARK Developers and Producers. The game itself has a lot of code ported from ARK as well. This should have made several aspects of the game just work. Many of the features of ARK that work very well have been broken in Atlas. Below are the things that I feel are done right and things that need changes.

Done right:

·         Water system and weather. The water mechanics, waves, wind etc, all are wonderful. I can’t say enough good things about this part of the game. I truly enjoy and most players I know enjoy sailing. It is fun and you can really immerse in this part of the game.

·         Changed stats. The way stats have been changed generally are good. Much of the power creep that has occurred in ARK is negated with several stats not being changeable and others having much smaller changes. This is for both players, animals.

·         Building system. Hands down the building system is a 500% improvement. Every aspect to how building works in Atlas is by far one of the best of any of these types of games. I especially like the multi-part system where a wall can be many different things just by cycling when u place.

Needs Work:

·         Animals. While some aspects to animals are ok, several other parts are not. Either you have a taming system, or you don’t. At this point you have, in my opinion, a dumb system. Same with breeding either make it work or don’t have it. It was stated that animals were not going to be a focus of this game. If that was the case, then why make all the changes that make it feel stupid. If animals are not the focus, then don’t give them a lot of utility. If they are needed then don’t change what has worked before, ARK, to some stupid system that doesn’t work well. If it isn’t broke don’t fix it.  At this point you have gone too far to obviously revert to ARK systems, so you need spend some time and make it work.

Major changes Needed:

These next parts are more about how the current server systems work.

Ini files.

·         Don’t make us guess what works or doesn’t work here. Have someone spend some time and Actually document the current ini file options for servers.

·         Fix difficulty scaling, whatever you did to totally bork this, undue it. Add or go back to how ARK difficulty scaling works. Right now, it’s totally borked up and is incredibly frustrating to players and admins. Either have NO difficulty scaling at all or have it work in a nice linear method JUST LIKE ARK. Why does it have to be this bad?

o   As it stands now, animals don’t gain XP if they are above a certain wild level. Difficulty scaling totally borks Alphas to be unkillable and able to kill everything. Why does having wild 150 animals mean we have level 1160+ Alphas that cannot be killed unless u glitch them or trap them somewhere. 

o   The entire system needs a massive overhaul. In my opinion separate out wild animal levels scaling and alpha scaling. Also break out SOTD and AOTD treasure maps. Some high level AOTD are immune to all damage or only take a single point.

o   Some survivors from high level SOTD disappear after you “claim them”. Again, difficulty scaling problems.

Ship stats

·         I understand that “official servers” need to maintain a balance. However, you should know by now that this game will be make or break on the unofficial servers. ALL ship stats need to be fully exposed in ini files. Servers need an easy way to adjust these. This is an absolute must; mods will never work well for this and it needs to be a priority change.  Many players and servers play a more PVE style and creative style. Without more ability to easily make these changes you lose long term playability. The single biggest complaint I have from players on all the PVE and creative side is this issue. Along with borked animal taming but this one issue is huge. Ships are ATLAS, you have to do better here.

o   Changes needed, exposed stat settings like that exists for player/animal stats.

o   Ini control of ship base speeds, including backup speed.

o   Ini control of each sail type/size.

o   Ini control of each ship type, number of sail “points” i.e. how many points each ship has for sails, larger sails costing more points etc.

o   Ini control for expanding builds outside boundaries or expanding the boundary by X factor. This obviously can’t work in all servers but if I want to have a server where I can build crazy ships then, if this is a sandbox game there should be a setting too allow that.

Server map systems

This is a big topic and I don’t have enough coding experience to know exactly what changes are needed but this is probably the single biggest issue facing Atlas.  As it stands right now you can now play single player or non-dedicated with the full official map. Or try the actual official servers.  However, unofficial servers are basically non-existent for truly large maps.  The game is designed for a large map. The official 15x15 is 225 shards/servers. As it stands now it costs thousands of dollars to have the hardware capable of running a full 15x15 server. So, we have these smaller ones. The problem is that they don’t deliver the full experience because the game isn’t designed for “small” maps. Blackwood attempts to provide this by having a fully custom experience, but that isn’t much better than non-dedicated because it is too small, resources, quests, etc.

I have tried to come up with ways to make this work. I’ve had a 5x5 custom map designed which I can run on a single “server” albeit one with Dual 8core/16t processors and 192gb of ram. That is an extreme example. It highlights the big issue. 

Another workaround that I have been talking with the developer of one of the Atlas Server Utilities about is a hybrid solution. Have a Set number of shards say a 3x3 as a “permanent” online server.  This server is running the 15x15 map. Using a discord integration, a player can send a command to a bot to boot up shards F3, F4, F5, etc. This in turn would have those shards boot up for X amount of time and shutdown XX minutes after no players are detected. Something that could be configured for each server integration.

Some hurdles are when a player logs off on a temporary shard and that shard shuts down if the player forgets what shard they are in, there needs to be a way to see last known location. This is complicated by a bug with Atlas that player locations are buggy. Often players will be shown online in several shards at once when they are not there.  This is likely due to some issue with Redis not sending back data to the shards when a player moves to a new shard. Often this is seen when a “sleeping” logged off player is moved to a new shard on a moving ship. Although it occurs without that happening as well.

Another option is for Grapeshot too develop a better server system that integrates some of the features of the single player/non-dedicated experience. 

Custom maps and the quests. This is got to be the messiest part of having custom maps, trying to integrate the quests and locations correctly.  It can be done but it is so damn messy and when new content gets added it frequently must be done again. This needs to be fixed. A re-write of how quests are tracked internally in the game needs to happen. When a server admin must spend more time on upkeep than playing the game or simply cannot because of IRL things like a JOB, and Family, then the game just gets dropped.

 

In closing, I want to stress that this post is just my opinion, though many parts are shared by the players who have player on my servers. Along with other server admins I have spoken too on the various discord servers.  Generally, the conscious is that Atlas has great potential but as it stands now it just isn’t worth the time, money, and aggravation.

Any constructive opinions are welcome.

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Spot on! i seriously cant agree with your post enough 🙂
Its hard enough keeping players interested as it is. Grapeshots obvious focus on single player/non dedicated modes and not addressing Unofficial server problems is slowly killing servers (i dont give much thought to Official servers as that isnt my focus). 
Things like the whole oh we've added this quest etc would also be a lot less painless if they released the code for it at the same time. If it wasn't for discord channels like Atlas Server Owner Support and others we would still be looking for the code.
 

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Well said and I agree with what you're saying.

You don't have to go too far to see what players WANT to have in this game. A lot of us see the diamond in the rough, and come back to see the changes that are being made, get disappointed, and leave again.

One thing to note is that you will NEVER make content faster than players can consume. Blizzard failed at that, and they are a major player in the mmo world, and others followed that same path have failed as well, but they changed their strategy. We should learn from that and not repeat the same mistake.

It's more about "bringing the player back" to do the same content, in different way, and to hook them into playing more and more.

It's not about making me play for 10 hours a day, it's about bringing me back everyday to do something.

Most of our current players are here for ship battles and sailing and all that, but surprisingly, they spend more time on land than on the sea. From building to taming to farming. How about we give them some content to do while sailing that isn't, whaling, SotD, or flotsam?

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Definitely a few good points. Some are way off base...

Taming is fine... not seeing any issues with it at all. This isn't Ark! We shouldn't be looking at taming and trying to compare it!

While I totally agree that some time should be spent documenting the variables allocated to the unofficial world, making every aspect of the game a variable WILL break the game! Ships don't travel stupid fast because the engine can't manage it. The same holds true for animals. It's released as it is because Grapeshot is held to the fire to produce a solid, dependable game experience. Thet cant happen when people start trying to cross grids at 60 kts!

As far as map size goes, there is absolutely no NEED for a large map. A 4x4 can very easily hold 100% of the game content. Granted that makes things relatively close-quartered, but it's doable. I've seen it done once in a 3x3! Making a server easier to run (lighter per shard load) is obviously going to come with time. Remember... this is an 8 month old EA title! And, if it were too easy then every clown on the planet would be doing it and the unofficial world would be even MORE inundated with crap servers with zero to one player on them. We DONT need more servers!!! We DONT need easier access!! Its already been made too easy for the average fool to build a garbage server. And THAT is what turns people away from unofficial! 

On the good side though... the build system IS amazing! More variations of structures would be nice, but the modding community has already picked up the pace on that. (steer clear of the Total Garbage line!! The POS is on a money hunt and I'm predicting that he will mortally screw server owners that don't PAY in the near future!) 

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7 hours ago, Eviscerate said:

Spot on! i seriously cant agree with your post enough 🙂
Its hard enough keeping players interested as it is. Grapeshots obvious focus on single player/non dedicated modes and not addressing Unofficial server problems is slowly killing servers (i dont give much thought to Official servers as that isnt my focus). 
Things like the whole oh we've added this quest etc would also be a lot less painless if they released the code for it at the same time. If it wasn't for discord channels like Atlas Server Owner Support and others we would still be looking for the code.
 

They aren't focused on single-player at all! They are focused on giving what people are begging for. Official is totally infested with mega alphas and cheaters. Unofficial has a bad rap because of the insane stupidity that goes on with Ark, and Rust.. ie thousands of servers that are poorly maintained by cheating garbage admins. So the only place people are willing to go to play is single player. Crappy, easily attained servers are what created that monster! Grapeshot is just trying to hold on to their biggest group of followers! 

It's easy to throw blame at a developer for the direction a game is going. But the truth is that the unofficial world, and the modding community, are what drives a game's direction in a venue like this. It's up to QUALITY server owners to maintain quality and clean up that tarnished name. And again... making servers easier to host, either by giving us easy access to info or by making them less hardware dependent, is NOT going to help the unofficial world at all! 

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1 hour ago, SteveM said:

While I totally agree that some time should be spent documenting the variables allocated to the unofficial world, making every aspect of the game a variable WILL break the game! Ships don't travel stupid fast because the engine can't manage it. The same holds true for animals. It's released as it is because Grapeshot is held to the fire to produce a solid, dependable game experience. Thet cant happen when people start trying to cross grids at 60 kts!

I disagree with this.  Many unofficial servers are running on way better dedicated hardware, which can handle far more than what official is handling.  It simply then becomes a balance on how much the players can handle on the client side with the hardware they're using.  Devs are tuning for their lowest denominator, which may not be the case for unofficial servers.

There are mods that are exposing settings like the ones mentioned for admins to set how they work best on their server.  The OP is just requesting that the devs just do this with the vanilla game.  If an admin crashes their server because they set these values too high, they can adjust them down.   It will be the admin's responsibility at that point, not GS.

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1 hour ago, SteveM said:

They aren't focused on single-player at all! They are focused on giving what people are begging for. Official is totally infested with mega alphas and cheaters. Unofficial has a bad rap because of the insane stupidity that goes on with Ark, and Rust.. ie thousands of servers that are poorly maintained by cheating garbage admins. So the only place people are willing to go to play is single player. Crappy, easily attained servers are what created that monster! Grapeshot is just trying to hold on to their biggest group of followers! 

 

Steve,

I am one of the players who resides on the Kara's servers. I couldn't agree with her more. Official servers are always going to be infested with Mega alphas and other forms of cancerous aids looking for somewhere to leave a skidmark. That is official. That is the very reason that unofficial servers are so important. Firstly it allows admins to curate the asshats. Secondly it allows us to use far superior hardware to what GS/WC can afford to use for hosting. The Nitrado boxes are very cheap quality hosting solutions this is beyond debate. These things are why proper INI documentation matters soo much. This games overall population has dwindled to the point that myspace may have more active users at once than Atlas has players. This is sad because this game has a great deal of potential.

The taming system is one example. Ark got taming and breeding correct IMHO. It wasn't too easy but it also wasn't too much of a grind once you know what you are doing. Atlas on the otherhand injects an ungodly amount of grind into the process. I should not have to breed different animals in different climates. That is a level of grind that has probably contributed greatly to the issues they have had with continued community engagement. Remember that players who have 6-8 hours a day to play are a minority and should not be catered to.It's your 6-8 hour a week crown that matters the most. They have the highest incomes usually and will also be loyal willing to may 20-40 bucks extra whenever you drop expansions. It's the 6-8 hour a day gamer who usually whines and moans about having to buy expansions because they don't have or won't get a real job. I am aware there are exceptions to this rule as there are a few exceptions in our group that Kara is well aware of. This is however marketing 101.

I'm sure GS has this metric internally but I would guess that around 80% of the Atlas players also own Ark. I know this bothers some people who are ignorant as to how much of the underlying assets and code Atlas borrows from its parent. They need to get over it and accept that Atlas assets are about 90% reused from Ark with a light reskin in a few cases. The SDK for Atlas even still has TRexs and Argent's in it as well as dozens of other dinos and all Ark items. GS would do well to emulate the features such as breeding and INI documentation that have been popular in Ark. At this point they have little left to loose with Atlas.

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21 hours ago, SteveM said:

They aren't focused on single-player at all! They are focused on giving what people are begging for. Official is totally infested with mega alphas and cheaters. Unofficial has a bad rap because of the insane stupidity that goes on with Ark, and Rust.. ie thousands of servers that are poorly maintained by cheating garbage admins. So the only place people are willing to go to play is single player. Crappy, easily attained servers are what created that monster! Grapeshot is just trying to hold on to their biggest group of followers! 

It's easy to throw blame at a developer for the direction a game is going. But the truth is that the unofficial world, and the modding community, are what drives a game's direction in a venue like this. It's up to QUALITY server owners to maintain quality and clean up that tarnished name. And again... making servers easier to host, either by giving us easy access to info or by making them less hardware dependent, is NOT going to help the unofficial world at all! 

ummm maybe you missed the last month or so where their focus has been single player/non dedicated modes? 
To be fair yes there are plenty of unofficial servers that are rubbish and managed poorly but for those of us who do put in the work to keep servers running and making it enjoyable its currently an uphill battle due to the lack of editable options among other things. Too say that its up to quality server owners to clean up Unofficial servers bad "rap" is very much a head in the sand approach to the underlying problem

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19 hours ago, Diesela3 said:

Steve,

I am one of the players who resides on the Kara's servers. I couldn't agree with her more. Official servers are always going to be infested with Mega alphas and other forms of cancerous aids looking for somewhere to leave a skidmark. That is official. That is the very reason that unofficial servers are so important. Firstly it allows admins to curate the asshats. Secondly it allows us to use far superior hardware to what GS/WC can afford to use for hosting. The Nitrado boxes are very cheap quality hosting solutions this is beyond debate. These things are why proper INI documentation matters soo much. This games overall population has dwindled to the point that myspace may have more active users at once than Atlas has players. This is sad because this game has a great deal of potential.

The taming system is one example. Ark got taming and breeding correct IMHO. It wasn't too easy but it also wasn't too much of a grind once you know what you are doing. Atlas on the otherhand injects an ungodly amount of grind into the process. I should not have to breed different animals in different climates. That is a level of grind that has probably contributed greatly to the issues they have had with continued community engagement. Remember that players who have 6-8 hours a day to play are a minority and should not be catered to.It's your 6-8 hour a week crown that matters the most. They have the highest incomes usually and will also be loyal willing to may 20-40 bucks extra whenever you drop expansions. It's the 6-8 hour a day gamer who usually whines and moans about having to buy expansions because they don't have or won't get a real job. I am aware there are exceptions to this rule as there are a few exceptions in our group that Kara is well aware of. This is however marketing 101.

I'm sure GS has this metric internally but I would guess that around 80% of the Atlas players also own Ark. I know this bothers some people who are ignorant as to how much of the underlying assets and code Atlas borrows from its parent. They need to get over it and accept that Atlas assets are about 90% reused from Ark with a light reskin in a few cases. The SDK for Atlas even still has TRexs and Argent's in it as well as dozens of other dinos and all Ark items. GS would do well to emulate the features such as breeding and INI documentation that have been popular in Ark. At this point they have little left to loose with Atlas.

There is a lot of validity there... taming and breeding is not one of them. You're obviously looking at this from an Ark mentality. This isn't Ark. There isn't one island with every biome to easily spread a variety of animals across in an intelligent fashion. Its Atlas.... a potentially VERY large world offered as an MMO. It's not supposed to be you against the map! It's you against elements! The intention of the game is to force travel, to force interaction, to encourage a self-propagating economy! If you don't like that then YOU are in either the wrong game or the wrong map. That's not to say that the server your on is WRONG... it's just wrong for YOU. You would be happier in a biomeless small map where everything is close at hand it seems. Which is FINE!! There are servers like that. But that's NOT what Atlas was created to be. 

Taming is, even at 1x rates, pretty stupid easy! Then take that further to a modified server, mine being 3x, and it's almost pointless. Max lvl elephants being tamed in 20 minutes... that is NOT a grind. It's a handout! Breeding is a bit long-winded at vanilla rates. And I agree totally that few people have the time to be successful there. But... we as server owners do have, and have since day one, total control of that. And most all of us have adjusted fire accordingly. The market has now, even at a 5x overall rate, become inundated with high-end animals in the center of pricing wars. Its become TOO easy to breed at production levels.

And my playerbase all work. Its pretty obvious based on server rank trends. Once its 5 o'clock somewhere people start popping up. Around midnight the servers basically empty again. The great thing is that there are so many options that everyone CAN find a place that fits their play-style.  

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