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guide *Guide* Host Xbox servers via PC Windows 10 Store Version of Ark

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Posted (edited)

Guide on how to host xbox servers via PC using the windows 10 store version of ark.

So you have decided to move beyond hosting ark servers via another xbox console because you can't make ini file changes and save files eventually corrupt. You are left with two options if you wish to host an xbox ark server beyond another console. 

1. Host via the only xbox 3rd party provider called "Nitrado". Expect to pay around $70/month for a 70 max person slot server per map. The version of hosting is equivalent to steam ark hosting if you ever done that, with all the available bells and whistles provided by the devs. 

2. Host via a windows 10 PC using the windows 10 store version of the Ark. Cheap to run per month (electricity cost), but comes with some major limitations as discussed below. 

 

First some up front information regarding current limitations before you go down this rabbit hole. Feel free other windows 10 hosters to provide further information and I will add it. 

1. There is no graphicless/headless option like Nitrado or Steam Hosting. You need a basic gpu to host. Intel integrated gpu or ryzen APU will work. 

2. You can't run more than 1 map at a time or cluster maps (I have only ever seen one person get around this via custom discord bots that literally copy/paste/cut the character files between maps running on virtual machines, but it is buggy/flaky and not a perfect or easy solution to implement compared to hosting via Nitrado or Steam).

3. The server will not instantly appear on the ark server list under "player dedicated". Expect to wait around 3-7 days of hosting 24/7 for it to appear. If the servers crashes within the time period, expect the clock to reset. Nitrado servers will appear instantly on the server list by the way.

4. You will always have a max person slot number of 70, no higher and no lower. Even if you edit the ini files to reduce this, it won't matter. So if you want a tiny intimate 10 person server, you should enable white listing/password protection. Probably won't matter though because there is a slim chance the server appears on the ark server lit to flood your server with people anyways.

5. Not all the ini commands work. Most of these are the command line arguments. If the devs gave us command line access this wouldn't be an issue. Things like autodestroyold structures, active events (events still happen but only if devs enabled them during that time of the year), etc don't work because there isn't a place for command line arguments.

6. You can't host and play on the same machine at the same time without running some type of virtual machine which is not recommended. 

7. Crossplay is enabled by default, eg xbox console players and windows 10 store PC players play together. Use to be an option to turn this off but now enabled by default. Pretty much the entire purpose of the windows 10 store version is for crossplay otherwise you would buy the steam version of ark if you wanted to play on PC and not with xbox players. 

 

So after reading your options and limitations, you are still determined to host an xbox server via windows 10 PC because you are too cheap to pay Nitrado like me. Here is that guide:

Basic Requirements:

1. Ark Windows 10 store version of the game.

2. Xbox silver account (this will be the host xbox gamertag account, doesn't need to have xbox gold subscription). You can use your gold account to sign into the windows store version to download the game and sign into the xbox app with the silver account to host/run the game. 

3. Windows 10 PC with a GPU. intel igpu or ryzen APU is fine, it barely requires any GPU power to host but it does require some. 

            Recommended PC Specs:

CPU: Intel desktop 6th gen or Ryzen APU or newer.

The fastest single threaded performance CPU you can find/buy. Ark’s now old game engine is heavily single threaded coded and thus faster the single core performance of your CPU the faster the server will run without lag. Nitrado’s tend to lag because they host multiple servers from the same machine via intel Xeon processors which don’t have as high single core performance compared to consumer desktop CPUs, but instead a ton of cores. I recommend an intel desktop 6th gen or newer or Ryzen APU or newer. You can use a laptop CPU but bare in mind single core performance, desktop PCs tend to have higher clock speeds (ghz) than equivalent laptop CPUs of the same generation. Back when the Devs hosted ark tournaments, they used i7-6700K for 70 person servers for reference.

RAM: 16GB for single map (includes windows/PC overhead).

 Rag will use the most RAM. More players, more RAM will be used but 16GB has been enough for me on Rag with 70 players.

HDD/SDD: Normal Ark download size

As far as running on SSD or HDD, SSD provides quicker restart and initial load along with slightly faster world saves if your world save files are large but not a requirement. SSDs also tend to be more reliable than mechanical HDD but neither affects in game server performance once the server is actually loaded/started.

Internet Upload Speed: 10 megabits/second is enough for 70 people.

Open NAT connection, you can test this by using the xbox app under settings and doing a network test to see if your NAT is open. Most people can get away with running upnp in their router to get an Open NAT. This isn’t a networking guide if you can’t figure out how to get an Open NAT, you will have to google that.

How to Start the Server

1.      Launch Ark on the windows PC

2.      Go “Host/Local”

3.      Select the Map you want to host

4.      Configure your server settings with the sliders and check boxes (you can do more custom configurations via INI file edits, later talked about in this guide, this is equivalent to Nitrado’s expert mode)

5.      Click “Run dedicated server”

6.      Set an admin password. Without one, anyone could cheat on your server

7.      Name your server under “Session Name”, character limited unlike Nitrado

8.      Optional: Set a server password if you don’t random people joining. Someone will have to enter the server password in order to join the server.

9.      Click “Accept”

How to Join the Server

1.      The most reliable method is if you add the host silver xbox account as friend and the silver account accepts the friend request. You can then join the server through the silver xbox account by clicking on the silver xbox account and clicking join game.

2.      The least reliable method is hoping the server appears on the ark server list and finding it there, more than likely it won’t appear on the list. If it does ever appear on the server list, it will be listed under "Player Dedicated" filter. 

How to do “expert”/ini server configure options

Ini files are options given by the devs that allow you make more server configurations beyond the sliders and check boxes given by default. You have to edit the two ini files types, save, and restart ark for the changes to take affect. If you want to do stack mods, custom drops/etc, ini files are how you do it since there are no mods allowed on any type of xbox server.

Ini files are located here:

C:\Users\*Username*\AppData\Local\Packages\StudioWildcard.4558480580BB9_1w2mm55455e38\LocalState\Saved\UWPConfig\UWP

One for game user settings (GameUserSettings.ini)

One for game (Game.ini)

You can find all the ini options here:

https://ark.gamepedia.com/Server_Configuration

All the ini files options work for GameUserSettings.ini and Game.ini sections of the gamepedia artricle. Some of the Command line arguments ini edits don’t work because there is no command line access for windows 10 store servers. Some of these commands were added by the devs and are part of the GameUserSettings.ini file.

If you want to do custom drops I recommend using Beacon App or something similar that can create the long ini file for you. Then you simply copy and paste them into the respected ini file type, save, and restart ark and the server.

How to Backup/Look at Ark Data Save files

Ark server data files are saved here on your drive:

C:\Users\*UserName*\AppData\Local\Packages\StudioWildcard.4558480580BB9_1w2mm55455e38\LocalState\Saved

...\Maps has the server map information, including character, tribe, and map save here. This is what you want to back up regularly if you ever get file corruptions/hard drive crash/etc.

            Under the \Maps folder it will create a new folder name based on which map you selected. Each map will have its own folder. You can only have 1 map of each type at a time. 

…\Clusters\SoleCluster is where data related to anyone uploading dinos or items to obelisk/drops.

 

FAQ/Troubleshooting:

1. Joined failed when someone tries to join

    Could be numerous things but first thing to check is make sure you have the latest version of Ark installed (windows store > downloads and updates) and the latest windows 10 updates (windows search > updates). If you confirmed you are completely up to date, next check to make you have an Open NAT. Open the xbox app on your PC, go to settings, test network settings, and makes sure everything passes and it shows you have an OPEN NAT. If you don't have an OPEN NAT, the easiest option is to enable UpNP on your router. If that still doesn't work, then you will have to google search specific to your router/ISP setup.  

2. Ark version mis-match between client (xbox) and host

    This is often because you haven't downloaded the latest version of Ark through windows store PC. Go to the windows store and update Ark. You will need to restart Ark for the changes to take affect. Sometimes this is caused because the devs push an update to xbox but the update is a little behind being pushed Windows store version. Nothing you can do here but wait. 

 

 

Edited by Juggernaut

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, BetaLeaf said:

Great write up. Extremely detailed. Well done. I have a question for you. Is there an easy way to start the hosting server when the computer reboots? If not, I will build my own solution.

There isn't sadly since we don't have command line access or option to run headless like nitrado or steam. I talked to one guy who said he was working on it by using pixel identification script, eg a macro of some sort. Let me know if you figure it out please.

Edited by Juggernaut

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Posted (edited)

Already found a way to launch the app from a script. Working on the automation. Probably won't get done with it today, but I'm working on it. Using AutoIt3.

 

Edit: Color search isn't working. It doesn't find the correct color. I know a different way to search colors, I will try that tomorrow. If that fails, I may just mouse click based on a percentage of the window client (50% = half way on the screen)

 

Launching the game is pretty simple. Start >> Run, Type "shell:AppsFolder" and click [OK]. Right click "ARK: Survival Evolved" and create shortcut (to desktop). Now you can launch the app by running "%UserProfile%\Desktop\ARK Survival Evolved.lnk". You can also move this shortcut anywhere you want and launch it from there.

Edited by BetaLeaf
Updates and clarification

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I can't seem to get my ini settings to work. I start the UWP App and try to host a server, but they don't seem to be loading from the files and instead just use the defaults or recreating the file with none of my options. Any idea what's going on?

 

My Ini files: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EJYe8w2YDf22LecBdOJ70qqYRIIwt_B4/view?usp=sharing

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Posted (edited)

Your link is broken, but normally when I first create a server, I use the in-game server settings to get my baseline but using the in-game sliders and check boxes, and start the server. I then return to main menu so it creates a save state. Then anything the in-game server setting can't control, then I go and edit the ini files under here: C:\Users\*Username*\AppData\Local\Packages\StudioWildcard.4558480580BB9_1w2mm55455e38\LocalState\Saved\UWPConfig\UWP

For ini edits to take affect, you have to close the app, make the edits, save the ini files, and then restart the game/server. You can't make real time adjustments. 

 

Also any progress on auto-restart server script/macro? I might just try to do a screen capture macro but it isn't ideal and could easily fail. 

Edited by Juggernaut

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Use Windows Task Scheduler to start server on windows start:

https://www.howtogeek.com/123393/how-to-automatically-run-programs-and-set-reminders-with-the-windows-task-scheduler/

I also use it to to run automated backups:

Ark-Backup-Schedule.png

Arguments are running a .ps1 file (e.g. -ExecutionPolicy unrestricted G:\ArkValgueroBackupFiles\BackupArkValgueroServer.ps1)

Contents of .ps1 file:

 $date = Get-Date -Format "yyyyMMdd HH_mm_ss"
 New-PSDrive -Name "Backup" -PSProvider Filesystem -Root "G:\ArkValgueroBackupFiles" 
 $source = "C:\Users\magnu\AppData\Local\Packages\StudioWildcard.4558480580BB9_1w2mm55455e38\LocalState\Saved\Maps\Valguero_P\Valguero_PSavedArks" 
 $destination = "backup:\$date" 
 $path = test-Path $destination 

 if ($path -eq $true) { 
    write-Host "Directory Already exists" 
    Remove-PSDrive "Backup"   
    } elseif ($path -eq $false) { 
            cd backup:\ 
            mkdir $date
            copy-Item  -Recurse $source -Destination $destination
            write-host "Backup Successful" 
            cd c:\ 
  
 Remove-PSDrive "Backup"   
 }

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The devs are aware of the map save files being erased upon ark app restarts. Temporary work around is to go the map save folder before closing down Ark (if ark crashes, you should be making backups of the save folder to begin with) and copy the map file outside of the save folder. Then restart ark, copy the map save file back to the folder and restart the server. Obviously if you are on xbox console you can't do this since you can't access the ini or save files.

Ark devs are aware of the issue:

https://twitter.com/ComplexMinded/status/1154082777525977088

 

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On 7/24/2019 at 1:09 PM, IDreamInCode said:

Use Windows Task Scheduler to start server on windows start:

https://www.howtogeek.com/123393/how-to-automatically-run-programs-and-set-reminders-with-the-windows-task-scheduler/

I also use it to to run automated backups:

Ark-Backup-Schedule.png

Arguments are running a .ps1 file (e.g. -ExecutionPolicy unrestricted G:\ArkValgueroBackupFiles\BackupArkValgueroServer.ps1)

Contents of .ps1 file:

 $date = Get-Date -Format "yyyyMMdd HH_mm_ss"
 New-PSDrive -Name "Backup" -PSProvider Filesystem -Root "G:\ArkValgueroBackupFiles" 
 $source = "C:\Users\magnu\AppData\Local\Packages\StudioWildcard.4558480580BB9_1w2mm55455e38\LocalState\Saved\Maps\Valguero_P\Valguero_PSavedArks" 
 $destination = "backup:\$date" 
 $path = test-Path $destination 

 if ($path -eq $true) { 
    write-Host "Directory Already exists" 
    Remove-PSDrive "Backup"   
    } elseif ($path -eq $false) { 
            cd backup:\ 
            mkdir $date
            copy-Item  -Recurse $source -Destination $destination
            write-host "Backup Successful" 
            cd c:\ 
  
 Remove-PSDrive "Backup"   
 }

This is nice. I like powershell but not a huge fan because I can't just run the script like I can a .cmd (batch file). Too much security xD

On 7/24/2019 at 1:12 PM, IDreamInCode said:

I just realized that using task scheduler wouldn't actually start the server.... only the game... my bad! AutoIt would be a good way to handle this!

I'm waiting on the below bug to get fixed, so I can load the ini config. Otherwise I will have to build a system to set the settings in-game. I hope they fix the bug, because tbh it would be an absolute pita. I'm thinking the easiest way to set the ini in this instance is to ocr the screen (game) and see what options are present, where they are on the screen, and then set them using the position of where they are on the screen.

On 7/25/2019 at 9:47 AM, Juggernaut said:

The devs are aware of the map save files being erased upon ark app restarts. Temporary work around is to go the map save folder before closing down Ark (if ark crashes, you should be making backups of the save folder to begin with) and copy the map file outside of the save folder. Then restart ark, copy the map save file back to the folder and restart the server. Obviously if you are on xbox console you can't do this since you can't access the ini or save files.

Ark devs are aware of the issue:

https://twitter.com/ComplexMinded/status/1154082777525977088

 

Cool. Would you mind letting me know when the bug gets fixed? Then I can continue working on the script.

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Hey Juggernaut

I need your help, so wanted to add some custom code to my windows 10 Ark, I followed your instructions and i added some custom code. That code being

Custom Drops

Abberation dino spawns

Stacking mod

auto unlock engram

Once I added it, i saved the file and then re lauched the game and the changes i made have not saved at all.

What am I doing wrong? Thank you for your help in advance. 

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50 minutes ago, ninjakiller563 said:

Update, I have managed to get the gameusersettings changes to work. For example global stacking is now 10x however the game.ini section that controls autounlock emngrams and all that is still not working. 

I close the app, make the changes and save it and then i relauch the app

If you don't put it under the correct script header it won't work. Make sure to read the gamepedia server wiki carefully.

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Posted (edited)

Juggernaut I have used Nitrado before and I am familar with the headings. I have followed your steps in regards to getting it work on windows 10 and I still can not get it to work.

Would you be able to show your game.ini file as mine is not working and I have feeling that if I see what you have done I can then find my issue. Thanks 

Addtionally all my game.ini codes work on my Nitrado server but not on the windows 10 as discussed in this thread. 

Edited by ninjakiller563

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On 9/26/2019 at 12:04 PM, bertrob2 said:

I have a question. Do you know What was the method used for to host the two servers that was buggy for the windows 10 store version. Do you have a link to it?

To cluster maps with windows 10, there isn't an official/easy method. 

1. You need to have a dedicated machine or virtual machine per map with its own downloaded version of the game and unique xbox gamertag hosting it.  

2. You cant officially link the clusters together through command startup access since windows 10 doesn't have access like Nitrado/Steam. 

3. What I have seen in the past is using a Discord bot, users say a command to transfer maps in discord, and the discord bot copies and cuts the player data from one map file folder and pastes it into the other map folder but it would sometimes break/bug out. The users can't go to a drop/obby and actually see the other servers listed like typical cluster maps. 

There isn't a simple link to this method, it is all made custom setup but that is the gist if you want to try it yourself. 

Edited by Juggernaut

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On 11/5/2019 at 2:33 AM, sandiegolif3 said:

when i try to host from my laptop and join on my xbox my xbox always says host connection timed out im not sure what im doing wrong

i have the same problem, i do have a open nat. me and my  roommate can join my server. but every one outside of the network can't join. wenn i host a deticated on my xbox they can't join.

Edited by kareldekoe

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