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.
· 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.
· 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.
· 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.
· 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.