Creating a Dedicated ARK Server on Ubuntu

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This guide demonstrates how to set up a personal ARK: Survival Evolved server on a Linode Compute Instance running a modern Ubuntu distribution.

Supported distributions: Ubuntu 20.04 and 18.04. Recent non-LTS releases like Ubuntu 21.10, 21.04, and 20.10 should also be supported. Ubuntu 16.04 should still be supported, though that LTS release is no longer receiving free security patches or software updates.

You will need a PC client for Steam and Epic cross-play
There is no cross-play between different platforms (Linux and Xbox, for example). For a PC-based server such as this, you will need the PC client from Steam or Epic Games (see more below about Steam and Epic cross-play).

Before You Begin

  1. Create an 8GB or larger Dedicated CPU Compute Instance. This recommendation is based on the system requirements for an ARK server. Other plans may also work. See the Getting Started guide for instructions.

  2. Ark will be installed through the Steam command-line interface (CLI). See our guide Install SteamCMD for a Steam Game Server if you haven’t installed Steam already.

  3. To connect to your Ubuntu Ark server, you must have a copy of the Ark: Survival Evolved game client running on a local machine.

The steps in this guide require root privileges unless otherwise noted. Be sure to run the steps below as root or with the sudo prefix. For more information on privileges, see our Users and Groups guide.

Securing Your Ark Server

  1. For security reasons, do not run your Ark server as root. Instead, create a separate ark user to run your server application. Make sure to take note of the password you assign:

    adduser ark
  2. Configure a firewall, ensuring the following ports are open. See the How to Configure a Firewall with UFW guide for instructions.

    UDP 27015For the Steam server browser query
    UDP 7777For the game client
    UDP 7778For raw UDP socket
    TCP 27020(Optional) For remote console (RCON) server access

Adjusting System Settings

  1. Run the following command to increase the allowed number of open files:

    echo "fs.file-max=100000" >> /etc/sysctl.conf && sysctl -p
  2. Update the hard and soft file limits by running:

    echo "* soft nofile 1000000" >> /etc/security/limits.conf
    echo "* hard nofile 1000000" >> /etc/security/limits.conf
  3. Enable PAM limits by issuing this command:

    echo "session required" >> /etc/pam.d/common-session

Installing ARK Server

  1. Switch your session to that of the ark user, and create a server directory that will contain your ARK server files:

    su - ark
    mkdir server
  2. Create a symlink from /usr/games/steamcmd to steamcmd in the ark user’s home directory:

    ln -s /usr/games/steamcmd steamcmd
  3. Run steamcmd with the following options to install the ARK server:

    If you want to run an Ark: Survival of the Fittest server, replace the instances of 376030 below with 445400.
    steamcmd +login anonymous +force_install_dir /home/ark/server +app_update 376030 +quit

    This will take several minutes to complete.

Creating and Starting the Ark Service

Instead of using a script, we suggest creating a systemd unit file for your Ark server. That will allow it to start automatically after a reboot.

  1. Switch back to your root user session:

    su -
  2. Create a new systemd service file by opening it in Nano (or the editor of your choice):

    nano /lib/systemd/system/ark.service
  3. Copy and paste the following lines to the new file. Replace the customname value within the SessionName parameter on line 12 with a unique name you will use to identify your Ark server.

    File: /lib/systemd/system/ark.service
    Description=ARK Survival Evolved
    ExecStartPre=/home/ark/steamcmd +login anonymous +force_install_dir /home/ark/server +app_update 376030 +quit
    ExecStart=/home/ark/server/ShooterGame/Binaries/Linux/ShooterGameServer TheIsland?listen?SessionName=mumbly -server -log
    ExecStop=killall -TERM srcds_linux
  4. Exit the file and save the buffer.

  5. Update systemd to apply your changes:

    systemctl daemon-reload
  6. Enable your new systemd unit and start your ARK server:

    systemctl enable ark.service
    systemctl start ark

Cross-play between Steam and Epic Versions of Ark

As noted previously, Ark is not cross-platform multiplayer compatible. However, in 2020, Studio Wildcard announced cross-play between Steam and Epic Games versions of Ark. Most importantly, the Epic version cannot use mods, so if you have Epic players joining, be sure to use a vanilla version.

To allow Epic players on to your server, add -crossplay to the command to start the server. This file is the same ark.service from above, but with the -crossplay argument added to the ExecStart parameter:

ExecStart=/home/ark/server/ShooterGame/Binaries/Linux/ShooterGameServer TheIsland?listen?SessionName=mumbly -server -log -crossplay

If you only have Epic players joining the server, you can add -epiconly to keep Steam players out.

Configuring Your Ark Server

Once you’ve started the server, you can add or remove settings by editing the GameUserSettings.ini file under /home/ark/server/ShooterGame/Saved/Config/LinuxServer. Add the following settings within the [ServerSettings] section (near the bottom) of that file, replacing the “example” passwords with your own (don’t make them the same password):

File: /home/ark/server/ShooterGame/Saved/Config/LinuxServer/GameUserSettings.ini

ServerPassword determines the password that users will be required to enter when connecting to your server. You can omit this line to allow access without a password. ServerAdminPassword specifies the administrative password that will be used when issuing game commands.

If you choose to use the ServerPassword option when connecting to the server, you will need to click on Show Password Protected in the client’s filters.

Several options can be configured within this file. See the Server Configuration section of the Ark wiki.

If you make any changes while the server is running, you will need to stop and start it again before those changes take effect. To stop the server, enter:

systemctl stop ark

To start it again, enter:

systemctl start ark

Connect the Game Client to Your Ark Server

  1. On your local computer, open the Ark: Survival Evolved game client.

  2. Click on “Join Ark”:

  3. As the server list populates, you can filter the results using the session filters in the lower-left corner of the window. Select “Unofficial” from the Session Filter pull-down menu and check the Show Password Protected box (the checkmark is somewhat faint, so look closely):

    The ARK: Survival Evolved Session Filters

  4. Enter the server’s custom name (set in the Creating and Starting the Ark Service section above) in the Name Filter at the top of the window. Your server should appear. Click Join and you should be prompted for the password and then click “Accept”:

You should now be connected to the dedicated Ark Server you created within this guide.

More Information

You may wish to consult the following resources for additional information on this topic. While these are provided in the hope that they will be useful, please note that we cannot vouch for the accuracy or timeliness of externally hosted materials.

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