ROAAAAR!! Like a Trex the guys from Ghost Division are conquering all the top rankings on Ark-Servers.net. I was eager to know how this community managed to grow so big after its launch in 2015 and what its current plans are for the (near) future. With a spear in my left hand a gun in my right, I sat down with Kogadins who is one of the co-owners of The Ghost Division and had a little chat about their journey.
Hey Kogadins, thanks for doing this interview with us, how are you doing today?
Hello, I’m fine thank you. The many Ark updates of the past few days were a bit stressful, but that’s okay. You get used to it.
How are you doing?
I’m doing fine, thank you! What can you tell me about yourself and The Ghost Division?
Ghost Division was initially founded as a multi-game clan. They played all kind of games for example Arma and Dayz. Before Ark was added to this list, the founders of the Ghost Division clan already ran other gameservers for games like Arma: Altis Life and Dayz Epoch Mod. It was always a nice community and people played together to enjoy gaming.
When they played Ark for the first time, they quickly noticed that the official servers had several issues: First of all there is a lack of support, second the performance was very bad and third there is no rules at all so people block player and building spots everywhere by spamming single pillars or foundations. At this time, most of the unofficials had unfair admins who abused their powers and a lot of un officials shut down without notice. So unofficials were no option for them.
That’s why some of the Ghost Division guys hosted their own servers and that’s also when I joined the project. At first I was doing some basic support only, but then I quickly climbed up to the head-admin position to improve the project. Since then, I’m one of the head-admins of the project and I contributed to today’s success.
“This was a long and hard way and it’s still requiring a massive amount of work behind the scenes”
I noticed that The Ghost Division has conquered #1 – #9 on Ark-Servers.net! How did you guys grow into such a big community?
I think there is one main reason for our success and that’s the quality we offer to our players. There is different aspects that are showing the quality I mean:
First of all, our servers are online for a very long time. As I said already, a lot of unofficial servers are getting shut down without prior warning or notice and then you lose all your progress that you have spent hours and hours to achieve. This is frustrating when it happens again and again. We are online since 2015 and so people trust in the availability of our servers.
Secondly, we are always offering the latest features. New content is available for our players as soon as possible. For example, the new Ragnarok Map DLC that was just released a few days ago is already available for our players. We set up two additional servers – one for PvP and one for PvE – and both servers are very popular at the moment. We were also one of the very first projects – if not the first at all – that offered the famous cluster system that allows travelling and item / dino transfer between different servers.
Thirdly, we are providing the best server performance that is possible. We are always using the best hardware that is available on the market and furthermore we are making sure that things like the DDoS attacks are not having any negative influence on our server performance. We want that players can enjoy the game as much as possible.
Fourthly, we are providing fast and good support for your players. For example, we are making sure that the Maps are not blocked with structures of inactive players. Players can get fast support in our community forums that is available in German and English language. The support is very important to make sure that players can enjoy playing.
So underline it’s a lot of work that has brought us to the success we have today. This was a long and hard way and it’s still requiring a massive amount of work behind the scenes.
You guys are running 10 game servers at the moment. Which of the servers are most popular within your community?
At the moment, the most popular servers we provide are the two new Ragnarok servers. As I mentioned before, the players always want to test the latest features. Ragnarok was just released a few days ago and therefore there is a high interest in testing it.
That’s why it’s amazing to have the ability to transfer between our cluster servers while keeping your character. You can even transfer your dinos and items between the servers.
Our Ragnarok servers are part of our PvP and PvE clusters and therefore you can just travel to it and start playing.
For someone who hasn’t played ARK (yet, I keep getting invites..). What can new players expect from this game?
Actually the game has different kind of game modes and therefore it’s better to separate them:
PVE – On a PVE server you have the chance to learn everything about building, taming, breeding and get a chance to explore each map in a safer space and at a faster pace because most of the times the community is very nice and helpful towards new players while the only thing you need to worry about are the wild dinos which can sometimes destroy your whole base if don’t take the necessary precautions. You will also have the chance to meet very dedicated builders who create unique and inspiring buildings or very dedicated dino breeders.
PvP – When playing PvP you will notice the same risks like in PvE. You will have tough fights with wild dinos and the beginning at a new server is always very difficult. The smaller the rates (harvesting, taming, XP…) the harder the game. Sometimes Ark can be very frustrating. In addition to the normal aspects, PvP brings the risk to loose all from one moment to another. Other players can and will try to attack you and then you have to defend yourself. As soon as you fully build up your base, you will try to attack others to steal their loot.
Games like ARK are popular amongst streamers and youtubers. Do you guys have a policy regarding youtubers/streamers?
We have no restrictions for Youtubers or Streamers. They are welcome at any time to play on our servers and of course we are always happy to see content created on our servers. We had some smaller Youtubers who played on our servers already and we really liked to see how they were part of our community, how they interacted with other players and how they did their progress in the game. For us it doesn’t matter if a Youtuber or Streamer is big or small. We welcome all of them.
With a big player base comes more work for (in-game) staff members. How is the staff hierarchy set-up and what are the tasks for each rank?
Based on our need, we decided to create a simple hierarchy system with three different ranks. We used to have the same rank for all staff members at the beginning of our project, but our fast-growing community obviously needed more and more support over the time. Therefore, we set up the system that allows our head admins to focus on the backend stuff, while other staff members have a more personal connection to the players to support them. The result is the following:
Server Owner – The top-notch guys of the project. Those guys are making the most important decisions for example if we should add or remove certain mods. If rules should be changed and more. They also check decisions made by other staff members.
Server Owners help with support when time allows and they are also monitoring chat. Of course, they have access to the server logs and can therefore check rule violations even better.
Server Admins – All our admins have admin power on all our servers. They also have permissions to globally ban players from our project. They are usually head of support and check the decisions made by the Supporters. In addition, they are monitoring chat on our servers.
Supporters – They are the main staff members for player support. If a player needs support, then our supporters are the first address for them. The initial idea was that they handle all player requests.
In addition to the ranks that are written, we have some unwritten ranks. Inside the Server Owner group, there are different roles. Calaban and me (Kogadins) act as something like head admins. We were the founders of the project and have the main control of it. We always make team votes though. If we think we should change something, then all team members have a vote. Every vote counts the same. We are a team, no matter who has the most permissions.
Another rank that isn’t written is the rank of the system administrator. If things on the server end need to be changed, then this is my task. I do all the technical part of the project. While it’s the best to have multiple people that are able to restart the servers in case an incident happened, the server changes should be done by one person only to keep the overview
What is your system of picking new staff members and what are the requirements to be a candidate?
We are open for all applications. Most of the time we announce that we are searching for certain positions. We request interested players to write a small application, so we can see who is interested and some basic data like age, name, playing history and a few sentences about why we should choose this person.
It’s very hard to pick the right people, so we reject most of the applications. Not because we hate those people, but because it’s so hard to have trust into people you only know from the internet. Ark doesn’t come with a full command permission system like Minecraft. There is only full power or no power at all. You can imagine what could be done if an admin would abuse his power. We are prepared for those cases with Backups, but we don’t want to test it. New staff members always start as Supporter and can get promoted over the time.
Do you guys host (special) community/in-game events? if so, what kind of events are we talking about?
Yes! – We host events from time to time. For example, we just had two events in this month: Double breeding rates for one weekend and an increased wild dino level for one weekend. It’s very important to us to interact with our community and to make sure that they enjoy playing. It’s all about fun! Our players can even trigger the start of an event by voting for our servers and spending the coins they earn for voting for a certain event. Those events aren’t cheap, but players can pay them together.
In the past, our community collected enough coins to pay for the events and then we decided for a weekend to run the event.
In addition, players can host their own events and we are always happy to help with it.
Any special upcoming events?
Nothing planned by us at this time, but I heard that the players are willing to “buy” another event weekend soon. We will see 😉
Let’s talk some development, It is well known that Ark is highly customisable and can be crafted to a communities liking. Do you have your own developers, or do you hire third party developers?
We currently have 3 developers in our team who are all part of the Ghost Division family. They mostly work on web applications or optimizations for our homepage and forums. While Ark offers a great support for community mods, we don’t create them ourselves. The mods that we use on our servers are all created by third-party developers who published them in the Steam Workshop for Ark. There are very talented people out there in the Steam Workshop!
Are you guys working on anything special?
Yes! We are currently working on something VERY BIG that is unique and isn’t offered by any other servers. I don’t want to leak too much now, because we are currently working on it and there is a ton of work that must be done still. We will probably need another 1-2 months for it, but it will be worth it 😊
A few weeks ago, we started to ask players on our PvE servers to place signs with a certain text on it next to their base and since then they are guessing what it could be useful for. Today I will leak this information: We will have generated interactive maps that will show all bases and you will be able to filter it. But of course, there is muuuch more you will be able to see and do with all the features connected to this huuuuge project.
“I’ve seen many server owners spamming the steam forums with their server information. I highly recommend to NOT do this.”
Do you have any tips for starting developers/people who want to learn programming?
I’m not a developer myself, but I forwarded this question to one of our developers:
It’s important to try out a lot. Even if you believe that this isn’t the best solution and that other ways might be better, it’s still a success. You should set goals for yourself and then simply realize them. The experience you accumulate will lead to better results. There are many open source projects that can help you on your own path and with your own projects. Google is a very useful tool for developers. There are countless explanations, sample codes and tips on the Internet, that will help you.
There is always one questions that a lot of starting ARK servers/communities have and that is : How did you attract new players when starting out?
I’ve seen many server owners spamming the steam forums with their server information. I highly recommend to NOT do this. First of all, the players are getting annoyed by this spammed messages. Secondly, you will probably be banned from the forums.
Instead of spamming the forums, you should add your servers to different toplists and let your current players vote for it. If you get more players to vote, then you will have a higher rank and more people will join your servers. I also recommend to write a quick description about what players can expect from your servers (e.g. mods, rates) and to create a custom banner for your servers. People like to see the most important info in a banner. They usually don’t like reading…
Do you have any tips for (starting) communities besides on how to attract new players in the beginning?
I think it’s important to give it a bit of time. You won’t fill a new server within days. It’s a long process and it will need a lot of time and work. Everyone who plans to create a new community should be aware of this. Players want quality and therefore you should be focusing on this. Always try to improve your servers by looking for new mods, new features and other things like a nice homepage, a free community teamspeak and more.
How do players join your server(s)?
The easiest way to join our servers is to add our server ip to your steam favorited servers. That way you will be able to find the server in the ark server browser under the “Favorites” filter and then you can join with a single click.
All ips of our servers can be found in our forums. Just enter the forums overview and scroll down to the server list. Below each servers subforum, you will be able to see its ip address that you can add to your steam server list.