Everything is against you in Ark: Survival Evolved, from spiteful players to technical problems. But we can overcome. We must overcome.
“These are the stories we will tell our grandchildren about the dawning of interactive entertainment. Someone dropped a dirty protest in my house.”
I was hungry. Starving. I needed to eat or die. These were only my early hours in Ark: Survival Evolved so I grabbed handfuls of berries to eat, snatching them off every plant within staggering distance.
I shoved them all in. Gulped them down, as you’d imagine Early Man would discovering sweet fruit for the first time. Grunting with satisfaction.
But I didn’t check the type of berries I was necking. As well as the one’s the game told me were “tasty” I stuffed in a bunch of narcoberries. As the name suggests, these made me sleepy.
Knowing I needed to sleep but not for how long, I headed somewhere safe to avoid dying while outside from a drop in temperature, starvation or a roaming beast. I made my way back to my shack, so shoddy that it didn’t yet have a roof. I had at least learnt to build a fire, and one was blazing away on the floor. I settled down next to the safety and comfort of the roaring flame.
My vision reduced and I was unable to move as enforced sleep crippled me right there. I went and made a cup of tea in real-life. I came back and watched through my half-vision and then it happened. Another player crept into my house. He had a look around. And then he took a shit on my fire and left.
These are the stories we will tell our grandchildren about the dawning of interactive entertainment. When players first began the exodus to online worlds to escape the drudgery of real life; of work and bills and the cruel police state.
These are real campfire tales. Not clunky stories you’re forced to follow as an excuse to frame the extreme violence in a shooter. Or the scraps of notes and audio diaries logged on space station computers to build a background sense of horror. This is the unpredictability of players without boundaries, where stories develop naturally. Someone dropped a dirty protest in my house.
There’s a lot wrong with Ark: Survival Evolved. The most notorious of which is the shocking framerate, which at times makes the game unplayable. We’re spoilt by the technical skill of other developers. Studio Wildcard’s limitations seem primitive by comparison. How apt.
For some it will be too obtuse. As with all the best survival games, crafting can be hit and miss. You’ll use all your resources on something that actually isn’t much use, and you’ll suffer because you should have made that instead of this. You die and learn from it. But what could me more appropriate for a game with a prehistoric theme? You wake on a beach almost naked and certainly alone. You need to progress quickly or become food for something else.
I knew what I was getting into. I knew my £30 was buying a half-finished game (and then some) but I could also see there were over a million other people curious enough to explore a broken world. I saw that Studio Wildcard was adding servers and content to the game at a decent pace and that reassured me. And besides, who doesn’t want to fight or tame a giant dinosaur, whether that’s at 20 frames per second or 60?
I see the settlements other players have built and I’m jealous. The spiked fences and rows of neat plants, the tame Parasaur lined up outside a comfortable and formidable building. I want that. I want land and property, clothing and weapons, a tribe full of like-minded survivors. I’m willing to put the work in, battling the game and its technical problems.
There’s a real thrill here, of discovering the simple rules and systems that keep you alive and one day, maybe, to thrive. There’s no real guide beyond limited text notes in-game. Advice from other players is better. It’s raw and blunt but practical. Or it’s malicious, spiteful and downright mean. It’s survival of the fittest.
But it turns out that random stranger taking a crap on my floor did me a favour. I can use human feces to fertilise and grow plants, which I can then harvest and eat. I’ll just make sure I lay off the narcoberries.
Ark: Survival Evolved is out now on Steam and Xbox One as a work in progress release. It’s official release is due in the summer, alongside a version for PS4.