Well, that was stressful…

Today, I logged into HostHavoc for some routine maintenance on our primary cluster. Removed a couple mods, changed some parameters, nothing major. Or so I thought…

I always start our servers one at a time.  Island first (since it’s primary in the cluster) and Ragnarok second. This isn’t necessary, but I like to watch memory/CPU status during startup for any indication things are off. Especially after a major version update.

Today, I had people waiting so I fired up both at once. This likely didn’t cause the problem because there’s no technical reason I can find that it would, but I’m going to blame that for everything going all pear shaped on me.

First, we couldn’t connect to Ragnarok. “Host connection timed out,” everyone’s favorite error.

Shut down the cluster, checked my settings, and everything was in order. So I went in and deleted all of the data in the “mods” folder and reinstalled the mods.

No dice.  Now, it got interesting. Our server came up with double the slots it normally has, the name of the Island server in the cluster, and “ShooterEntry” as the map.  Oh, and DayTime of 00:00.

Something isn’t right here…



When your server goes all Eeyore on you…
Normal Winnie the Pooh operation…

I could tell the server was crashing because, in the resource monitor, you can watch the processor hover around 12% like normal when booting, but then drop to 0% and the memory drops to


At this point, I contacted Host Havoc support and left them a text wall with lots of details that I’m leaving out here for brevity (and relevance), and they suggest renaming the folder where the server-specific data files (characters, tribes, the map, etc.) are stored so the system is forced to create a new one (from scratch…).s


At this point, I contacted Host Havoc support and left them a text wall with lots of details that I’m leaving out here for brevity (and relevance), and they suggest renaming the folder where the server-specific data files (characters, tribes, the map, etc.) are stored so the system is forced to create a new one (from scratch…).

Panic set in.

World wipe. Great.

That didn’t work, fortunately. That meant our world was saved!

Sort of…

We still couldn’t boot the server, which meant something else was wrong.  I’m thinking somethin on the back end that launches the game with the startup commands (where the server name, map, player count, etc are set) was at fault, and I was entrenching myself for a long day of back and forth with support like we did back on 5/29 when their Chicago data center (where we are hosted) had issues with a migration gone foul.

But, as usual, Host Havoc’s support was amazing and suggested I delete the entire “steamapps” folder where the actual game files (not the player/map data) is stored and run a Steam update to, essentially, reinstall the game on the server.

Once that was done, I fired up Ragnarok and was on the edge of my seat as it was loading.

I watched as memory would rise and fall, practically holding my breath… but finally it came up.  Showed the right number of users and the processor showed normal activity.

Now for the real test… I started my ARK client and the server showed up right.  Score! But the part that worries me… am I going to get a character creation screen? Or spawn in with my character but no inventory, no structures, and no dinos? After 2 weeks of Abby breeding like a madwomand, Zeus and I building like madmen, the rest of our tribe filling in, and some new randoms on the server – I would probably cry.

It loaded for what seemed like forever. It didn’t take any longer than it normally does, but it sure felt like it.

And I popped up right where I logged off last night! I know it’s just a video game, but we’ve been working hard toward that sweet, sweet tek. I would hate to see all that progress lost.

Thank God for the awesome support over at HostHavoc, well worth the cost of their service, they earned it today!

Random thoughts on duping & official server wipes…

I remember when I first started playing ARK. I had read about it and it looked amazing, so I snapped it up the first time it went on sale afterward. I was then invited to join OfficialServer40 with my good friend Jan, and it was honestly the first time I enjoyed myself gaming in a long time. I invited Wayne to join us, and we really got going on this game. Until the transfer raids started… We had our base wiped out 3 times in roughly 2 weeks by Chinese tribes that would transfer in, wipe all the lower level players, and transfer back out. At this point, my entire tribe aside from Jan  and Waybe basically rage-quit. This was about the time that Conan Exiles came out, so they all went to that instead.

I couldn’t afford it and neither could Wayne, not to mention all the bugs it had at the time. So instead, Wayne set up a private ARK server for us to play around on. We really enjoyed it and recently went public with our little server & started inviting others to play there as well. We’ve been somewhat ignorant of this duping bug that people have been exploiting until it became so prevalent it permeated under our little rock in Unofficial Cluster Land.

Now I am reading story after story of large tribes exploiting glitches to duplicate items and tames. I’ve seen screenshots of people trying to trade on official servers with inventories consisting of tens of thousands of Element worth of Tek Behemoth gateways. Tribe war videos keep popping up where tribes are going after one another with hundreds of Gigas… impossible numbers of them.

First off, if you can’t play the game by the game rules and have to cheat to get “on top,” you’re as undeserving of that position as anyone who does the same in politics, business, academia, etc. You didn’t earn it, you stole it. You stole that position from someone who earned it. Not only is that dishonorable, it’s lame. It’s like people who use clickbait titles or pictures to get views on YouTube or sites who just want that sweet, sweet ad revenue but are too lazy to generate entertaining content.

This seems to be rampant on official servers, though. I can’t tell you how many time’s I’ve seen the phrase “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” as an excuse to participate in this farce. That’s a cop out. Plain and simple. We all have a responsibility to behave honorably. There is no dignity in cheating… even if it’s to beat other cheaters.

I feel that WildCard’s response to this has been underwhelming at best, and they should have done more sooner. I’ve read accusations that they’ve spawned in high-level dinos to deal with duping tribes but it’s never been posted with anything to back it up but random screenshots of Twitter conversations and such with no link and no context, so they’re not enough to convince me. Though they are fixing the exploits, though I fear it may  be too little too late.

That brings me to the point… Officials being wiped. Ugly business, that. It’s a balancing act. Just like in the real world commerce, there has to be a balance. When Zimbabwe tried fixing their economy by printing more money, it threw the whole system out of balance. I’m not going into the whole history because it would take a while and this is the internet so you can find it on your own if you care, but they needed to print currency denominations up to $100 billion (which was worth about $0.35 USD at the end of the crisis when they adopted the USD as their currency…)

Sorry, I got sidetracked. What was I saying?

Oh… the wipe. Much like Zimbabwe had to RetCon their currency and adopt a foreign one, ARK will have to take drastic measures to get the cheaters off their throne. They can’t just go and remove the duped items because there simply isn’t a way to identify duped vs. legit items. This means weapons, armor, structures, dinos, resources… everything could be duplicated. They also don’t know who is or isn’t doing it. There may be some low-level server logs, but in my time as an admin, I don’t see the game tracking anything like this. This should have been the first thing they added when they found that these bugs existed was tracking for the methods people used to exploit them, but I digress.

At this point, the system is so broken and so much duplicated content exists that there doesn’t seem to be much of an option. Honest players can’t catch up, and new players can’t gain a foothold. The only option I see is to fix the duplication bugs, add server logging to track the methods, perma-ban anyone who exploits these methods, and wipe the servers so everyone starts anew.

It would suck for the honest tribes out there who earned their position, but those tribes are so ridiculously far below the dupers that they will never catch up, even if all the duping is stopped today. But like so many other times in human history (on much larger, more important scales, I’ll add) the innocent majority will suffer for the actions of the guilty minority who just couldn’t play honestly…

Public community center & New PvP arena!

Here we are, 4 months into this cluster and finally ready to do boss battling… BUT FIRST!

What is the most annoying part of starting fresh on a new server?  DEATH BY DILO! Seriously, at least for me, it’s the grind it takes to get started. Those first 30 levels or so (even on our 5x XP boost) are really grind-y and can get old quick when you’re trying to get to your first smithy & metal tools. Some people enjoy this, some people do not. For those that do not, we have a solution… The community center!

Community center (WIP, but safe and functional.)

We wanted to provide folks joining the server an opportunity to get a quick start, so we’ve built the community center. There is a kitchen with fridges, an industrial grill, and an industrial cooker (a 2nd will be added as needed.). There is also a courtyard with 2 industrial forges, and 3 complete workshops with 2 smithy’s, a fabricator, chemistry bench, and mod crafting stations each. There is a “Pay it forward” storage area where advanced players can leave materials, supplies, and equipment that they don’t need for new players to get a start.

And, we didn’t just “admin spawn” these materials. We harvested all the materials, crafted all the components for the crafting stations (it took a LOT of polymer for the forges and chem benches!) and the structures both. Though the castle is our base for the area (Only OL tribe members have access to this) we keep the number of tames in there to a minimum to keep frame rates up. Normally all we keep there are some harvesters and stuff to give to new survivors on the server.

We are also working on a new PvP area with an arena for tranq battles, a jousting arena, and eventually a challenging maze. You can play these on your own, but we will have events and tribes can compete for prizes like armor and weapons, Wyvern eggs, and equipment!

So, join us on Discord if you’re interested in checking out the cluster or just hanging out!  Or, if you want more info first, visit our cluster info page.

Thanks for reading, see you soon!