I take this project seriously and have devised a strategy to test each of the providers thoroughly, aiming to put each through their paces.
I focus on comparing the main important areas that make the biggest difference between each of these companies to keep it simple.
In order to keep the tests as fair as possible, I make sure that I only use real money, no asking for a free server for a test – that won’t give a reliable results.
Here is my 7 step process for testing ARK server providers:
- Rent an ARK server hosting package from the company using PayPal (I cancel the automatic payment straight away just in case, so I don’t accidentally pay for a second month)
- Set up a new blank world with the default settings
- Attempt to add my top 5 ARK server mods
- Connect to the server from within the in-game server list
- Play on the server for 15+ minutes with friends in Europe as well as the United States
- Fire 3 test support tickets if nothing has gone wrong for real (create my own issue by pretending not to understand something)
- Compare the cost vs. value in my scores spreadsheet, then rank on the homepage
1. Rent an ARK server hosting package
Finding game hosting companies online that sell an ARK: Survival Evolved server hosting package isn’t hard, I have found loads.
The first step of 7 that I perform to review each provider is to rent the smallest package I can, usually 10 slots (a slot is 1 connected player at one time).
I then pay for that with my PayPal using a name that won’t be recognized (not a business account etc.) and wait for the welcome email to come through with my sign-in details.
2. Set up a new blank world
To get a gauge of the control panel that the company offers I then set out using my newly acquired sign-in details to set up a basic blank world to play on.
I sign into the control panel offered, this can be:
- Basic TCAdmin control panel (as it comes from the TCAdmin website)
- Modded TCAdmin (the game hosting company has added their own layer of features and design onto the premium control panel)
- Other control panels (the provider has rented a different control panel to TCAdmin or found a free one – not very secure obviously)
- Custom control panel (the game hosting company has built their own – with varying success)
I make sure my ARK server has a unique name, is switched on and the basic settings are correct.
I get the IP address and port of my server and make a note of it, just in case I can’t find it in the server list (annoyingly this can happen across a lot of games, not just ARK).
3. Attempt to add mods
Playing vanilla ARK isn’t to everyone’s taste and I’m sure you, like me, find the original a bit boring and lacking some important quality of life improvements.
So, once a basic world is set up on my server I add my top 5 ARK server mods using the system that the game hosting company has put in place.
Usually, this system can be as simple as an FTP uploader with a config file editor all the way through to a fancy one-click install for the popular mods straight from the Steam Workshop.
I test the offered method of adding mods to my server and use this to evaluate a score for that company, its not super important but an important feature for mod’ers.
4. Connect to the server
This is the big moment when I attempt to connect to my new server from within the server list inside the actual game itself.
Ideally, I want to find my server by name, it’s so much easier than having to type out the IP address and port.
If the hosting company has everything setup correctly then my server should show up in the list within minutes, they definitely earn points for this being the case.
5. Play on the server
As long as I (and my buddies across the world I play ARK with) have managed to connect successfully to my new server we can begin putting it through its paces for real.
We set out to do the usual ARK tasks we enjoy, hunting, taming and building without making it easy for the server – adding loads of new items to the map (annoying for slow servers) and engaging in fast-paced battles.
I keep in touch with my friends through Discord the whole time, checking in with them to see how their experience really is, no sugar-coating allowed.
6. Test support out
What sort of thorough test of a game hosting company would miss out on the support? Its something you won’t want to have to use but we need it to be there for us, so it needs testing,
I raise 3 support tickets asking for help by pretending to be confused by certain aspects of their control panel.
I obviously don’t raise fake support tickets if I actually have problems, which is the case in 3/10 of the companies I test.
Problems occur and even the best providers can’t help that, it’s how they deal with those errors that are important.
7. Compare the cost vs. value
Then it all comes down to this, comparing the cost of the packages with what you get in order to work out the value for money.
I assign scores for the support, control panel and the speed/lag experienced out of 10 in my spreadsheet with other useful information.
I share these findings on the homepage and summarise the top 10 so you can easily flick through and find the company that fits your budget/needs.