Ark: Survival Evolved Players Not Pleased With Decision To Charge For Early Access DLC [UPDATED]

Ark: Survival Evolved Players Not Pleased With Decision To Charge For Early Access DLC

Dinosaur survival playground Ark: Survival Evolved is one of the most popular games on Steam, regularly ranking among the top 10 most-played games on the whole service. Despite this, it's still very much an Early Access game, something players are worried developer Wildcard is forgetting. Yesterday, Wildcard released paid DLC for their dinosaur sensation. Titled Scorched Earth, it's an entire new world composed of six desert-themed biomes. It has new creatures, items and some seriously harsh conditions for players to overcome. Basically, it's Jurassic Park meets Mad Max, and also there be dragons. Problem: It costs $US20 ($26). Some players are very unhappy happy about this.

Ark is an Early Access game, and while it's already quite a generous offering, it's still in need of bug fixes, optimisation and promised features. People take a look at something like Scorched Earth — which costs money and could've taken resources away from finishing the main game — and suddenly those T-Rex-sized holes start looking a lot more conspicuous. Make no mistake, though: A lot of this comes down to money. Wildcard previously released two other expansion-sized DLC packs for Ark. The difference is, they were a) official versions of community mods and b) free. This kind of outcry? It was much, much quieter.

Still, the situation's a unique one in a few different ways. For one, while people are kicking and flailing about The Principle Of The Thing, a whole lot of them seem to dig The Thing Itself. The DLC's cumulative Steam rating is "very positive", and many people admit that it's gotten blood pumping in the Ark chamber of their heart again. I've even seen a handful admit that, yeah, $US20 ($26) is probably the right price, especially given that Ark has already given them hundreds or even thousands of hours of entertainment. For those people, the DLC is practically a bargain. It's not entirely surprising, then, that Scorched Earth is currently one of the top-selling items on Steam.

Others, however, see this situation as a continuation of an unsettling trend in Ark's development. Initially, it was one of those rare games that did Early Access "right" with frequent updates and community involvement, but it's since branched off in unexpected directions with things like the combat-focused Ark: Survival of the Fittest and now Scorched Earth. At this point, some are finding it hard to pin down where Wildcard's priorities lie, and they wish Wildcard would have saved all this extraneous stuff for after the game's launch. They also don't love that you can bring powerful creatures from the DLC back to Ark's main island. In a roundabout way, some players claim, there's a pay-to-win element to it.

Still though, you have to consider the position Ark's developers are in. The broader Early Access ecosystem has evolved into a strange, tangled web of double standards. Players say they want Early Access development that proceeds in a straightforward fashion until the game is "done", but they don't always act that way. They demand new content that's not just More Of The Same to sustain their interest, and developers feel obligated to deliver because they don't want their games to putter out before even crossing the finish line. They are very literally servicing a live game and completing an unfinished game — or at least, they're fielding both sets of expectations. It's a near-impossible balance to strike, because those expectations are so often at odds.

I've reached out to Wildcard for their response to this situation, but they have yet to respond.

Update 7 September 2016: Days after Scorched Earth went live, Wildcard responded to players’ concerns in a blog post:

Our original vision for ARK always included the creation of Expansion ARKs, along with the infrastructure and technical systems to transfer data dynamically between live ARKs. We determined that it is more sound to iterate on these systems during Early Access than after retail launch, given the significant risks involved if we didn’t ‘get it right.’ While that meant unveiling the first Expansion early, it also means an easier time integrating further post-launch Expansions into the ARK network.
We understand that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and we appreciate the enjoyment people seem to be getting out of this initial view of how Expansion ARKs can work. Now that we have the systems in place to support them, we can ensure minimal integration issues with subsequent releases after ARK: Survival Evolved itself has launched.

They also noted that promised features like procedural Arks and a new breeding phase will be in the game within the next few months.

Players seem to be responding with cautious optimism, though it’s contingent on whether Wildcard delivers its new roadmap in a timely fashion. Some have pointed out that a handful of the features Wildcard mentioned in this update were originally slated to be implemented much earlier, so that’s not exactly a good sign.

Scorched Earth, however, continues to do supremely well. It was the best-selling game on Steam all weekend.


    Got it yesterday. Its high quality dlc and Im happy as hell with it personally. Gotten brilliant value out of Ark so I am happy to keep supporting them. And really the title should be "SOME ark players"

    Last edited 03/09/16 7:56 am

      How much of Ark would still be considered Early Access though?

        Not for me to decide. Its a very stable game and all I know is its in the final process of going to beta atm. Breeding cycles I believe are being finalised and the final few dino types pushed out?

          Balance is totally screwed. Arbitrary hitpoints and damage. Too much scale in player stats.

            Are you playing official server or unofficial? Hit points aren't abitrary at all given animals actually have a HP amount you can find out as well. Scale in player stats is up to the server admin if youre on unofficial. Official, they're well balanced.

            Last edited 03/09/16 9:53 am

              (pointedly looks at giganotosaurus)
              (looks back at Weresmurf)
              (raises one eyebrow)
              900 hours in official. I can punch out a trike or a sarco naked. That's stupid.

                That's stupid, but the concept of dinosaurs living on an intergalactic ark with people fighting pvp isn't? O_o

                We're not talking high art here.. I think some perspective needs to be had. If *real* physics were being adhered to, the game should have higher gravity, all dinosaurs should be half their size and we shouldn't be able to tame most of them ;) Not to mention the bullets should realistically be bouncing off most of the dinosaurs skins...

                Last edited 03/09/16 11:34 am

      I'm one of those who still haven't bought the dlc. I was among the first to buy the original ark so this wreaked of a "course correction" towards a style of content dissemination like marvel universe or doom, both alright games in their own right that have become almost completely about how much money you spend on in game add-ons.

    Finish content for the main game, bugfixes ( like 20 hour investments simply vanishing inside respawned terrain objects after server reloads) , optimisation, gameplay balancing. Thats what they are obliged to do before addin auxiliary things..

    Its like you paid a guy to build you a driveway, but its cheap because his business is too small to do it in less than a week. Then he paves around the pool and presents you with a bill for that, while you still have to park your car in the street.

      However, he gives you the *option* of paving around the pool, if you don't want it, you don't have to have him do the work. He's still got his crew working on the pool *and* the driveway, the assumption is the one guy is the only guy doing the work.

      I do get some people are pissed at the idea of a game in alpha getting paid dlc, however the fact is it is purely optional, not compulsory dlc. Those who don't want it, don't have to buy it and can opt out of it and choose to pick it up later on if they do wish during a sale, or not at all. It's not like this is a pay to win scenario with microtransactions. But your analogy is pretty faulty sorry.

      Last edited 03/09/16 9:35 am

        I think its pretty fair to assume that the vast majority of their resources went to creating this DLC. They were promising a big patch coming September 1 and it had these 3 things attached to it.

        * Cross-ARK travel & Cross-Official-Server Transfer
        * New Structure: Large Ceiling Dino Doors (Stone, Metal, Adobe)
        * NVIDIA Ansel support

        Those 3 features cost me an 8GB download on all my PC's.

        Also people who buy this DLC can bring DLC items back to the base game so If it adds a more powerful tier of items you can classify it as P2W.

        Last edited 03/09/16 10:54 am

        The problem is resources did need to be spent building the DLC. Wildcard only has so much money, staff, etc and some of them were working on extra (paid) content when they could have been working on the unfinished game that we've already paid for.

        This argument usually comes up with day 1/early release DLC and the defense is that 'what else do you expect content devs to work on during the final (optimization) stages of development?' That isn't the case for Ark though, there's still an entire Tier of technology to be added, tons of creatures and functionality before they can even start getting serious about final optimization.

        For example, the very same patch that added this DLC was supposed to include two new dinos, both were delayed until next week. Obviously 1 week isn't exactly a long time but it feels like a bit of a slap in the face to see that they made 100% sure the new DLC was out on time but the actual game update had to wait. Priorities.

        As for pay-to-win, I'll admit that I play on a private server with friends so it hasn't been tested yet but have heard that (if you buy it) you can just transfer the shiny new powerful dinos from the DLC over to old Arks, so there is some 'buying power' element there..

          I guess the question is, where does the money come from? Wildcard did float the idea of microtransactions at one point, but opted not to go that way. They talked about skins etc, but realised that wouldn't be a great idea and would be looked upon negatively. They haven't cranked this out in a month, it's been worked on and hinted at for a long time. It's also a misnomer to think it's every single person working *just* on this. Studios have people working on specific elements of games, they wouldn't work on it if they weren't able to. One false accusation and it is false, against the company is they're slack at patching, it's complete bullshit. There's 1 - 2 major patches a month (slowed to 1 lately due to nearing full release), with hotfixes every few days for said major patch until the next patch. People can read the changelogs for evidence of that if they need to. As for the pay 2 win aspect, it can be viewed that way but I'm yet to find a dinosaur that actually *gives* an advantage over the vanilla ark dinos. They're nice and cool, but none of them are brilliantly revolutionary? Mantis gives polymer? So do penguins. This ones a gatherer? So is the Steg.

          I'd be more open to criticising it as well if the game had been released as a AAA title (and quite frankly the concept could have been), but it's a 20 - 30 dollar main game with 20 dollar DLC. We're not looking at No Mans Sky here (which gets a sickening pass from the Kotaku community for some reason btw) we're looking at a game that's been excellently supported, has a track record and now has a new avenue to increase revenue to increase production, not line the coffers of the production crew so they can pull a John Romero and buy hookers and coke?

          Seriously, shits been blown way out of proportion, sure I am a bit biased, I can admit that, but all I really see is the internet ratcheting shit up to 11 without actually looking into reasons why it happened or without even playing it first.

          Last edited 03/09/16 11:55 am

          I dont think that really applies here. Wildcard has numerous employees with very different skillsets. These DLCs are mostly just content, and thats going to be something the content people do. Fixing up the remaining stability issue and weird bugs like platform saddle glitches are for the most part what the engine coders would be doing., Right now the main game doesnt *need* much new content to be releasable. Its actually packed with content. So this seems reasonable that while the engine coders are doing there thing, the content guys should be able to generate content that might actually pay for them to remain in the company. If wildcards margins are tight as some suspect , they *have* to have a way to keep the doors open.

            But the game is still missing actual content they have announced for final release. Boss Wars, the Ascension system, the entire Tek Tier, the other announced creatures, updates to the original dinos (trike, rex, etc), the story elements, breeding phase 3, diseases phase 2, ect, ect.

            By the usual standards of Early Access games, Ark is great, no real doubt about that. Still seems dodgy as shit to me though to make a heap of new paid content before bothering to finish the actual game people paid for already.

              I dunno, like I said, I look at the value I've gotten out of this, when I got it it was 20 US, (I checked my price list) and in that time hit 1600 hours. I've paid *way* more for FAR less. Assassins Creed Syndicate for example, I'm yet to finish. Paid 50, it's buggy as hell. DayZ? We bought Black Ops 3 for my kid, he loves nazi zombies, and the season pass (for his birthday) and christ what a waste. I mean, again when I consider the value? 20 bucks for the game, 20 bucks for this and the gameplay I got out of it, it dominates everything so far I've played head and shoulders. As for the systems they've been fairly open about the aquatic system being notoriously difficult to implement in the past, stating it wasn't as simply to put into effect as the land system.

              Diseases phase 2 will be interesting, phase 1 turned out to be a non-event honestly, something they really didn't need to include in the game but oh well. Hopefully phase 2 is a little more interesting. But the other announced creatures are still heading out, Tapajira and the other one next patch, (due Sept 9, only pushed back 1 week). They're rolling those out at a speedy rate. I personally want them to flesh out underwater more, I'd like some underwater bases etc. Can't wait for the Kraken. But yeah I heard the same about Ark, that Wildcards running very close to the bottom dollar with the game to pump it out on time, I mean it could be worse...

              They could be like Bohemia with DayZ :O

        So....macro transaction version of p2w?

    I don't own Ark, but I'd be pretty pissed too.

    How would you feel playing/testing an unfinished product, often hindered by bugs and glitches, patiently waiting for a fix, only to find out that the devs had been wasting their time making DLC instead of patching/finishing the original game?

    Just purchased the base game and the DLC today. My pc does not seem to like it much unfortunately as it runs terrible in all but the low/medium settings at 1080p.. And my pc is not that bad, gtx 680, i5-2500k, 8gb ddr3. Ok so maybe it is, I really just need to upgrade I guess..

      The game is unbelievably poorly optimized. This is one of the big reasons people are upset, they spent ages working on this latest content patch and it turns out they fixed almost nothing just released the kind of content you would expect from a well made mod.

      turn shadows, sky and ground details to minimum, makes a big difference.

        Yup done all that. Still pretty bad performance. Textures at high, view at high. Ground clutter off completely and it feels lucky to hit mid 20s fps.. I can put textures at low but it will look like playing a n64 game. Want to play, but not that badly..

          I play this game just fine on Xbox one so and personally optimization HAS come up. I use to not be able to look at my brother's base at all and we don't even have the features to turn stuff off like that. It if lagged it lagged and it's much better now :/ the dlc was definitely worth paying for as well. I love it. You can't blame niantic for your computer's performance so when they gave you options available to better your performance based on what your computer can handle. If it can't handle the high textures and things of the game then it just cant. And the way I see it that's not niantic's problem.

          I did a derp and cant edit bc I'm guest login. said Niantic because I read Pokémon go before this lol meant wildcard but yeah if you want to call a game horrible and untrustworthy go play theirs

    Early access paid DLC.....

    I'm not entirely against the idea, but I can certainly see why people are not happy that an unfinished game is selling content.

    My question is, is the DLC really a choice? Is it standalone or will it eventually be part of the build they continue with?
    We're resources allocated to the DLC from the early access program?
    Does the DLC actually clash with the games development goals?

    Oh dear gamers on Steam are upset about something, is this one of them pesky days of a week, ending in the letters d-a-y?!

    I've never played Ark don't like the look of it. That said, for an "Early Access" game any and all updates should be part of the game's development. "DLC" is just an update patch. I'm surprised this doesn't violate some T's & C's for Steam.

    We're not talking high art here.. I think some perspective needs to be had. If *real* physics were being adhered to, the game should have higher gravity, all dinosaurs should be half their size and we shouldn't be able to tame most of them ;) Not to mention the bullets should realistically be bouncing off most of the dinosaurs skins...

    wait what you think bullets would bounce off dinosaurs skin are they metal dinosaurs? or just magic ones?

    More entitled gamer whining. I think that's a more worrying trend than a company charging money for a product.

    The whole things pretty janky at the moment. I do agree that Ark devs have the right, and maybe its also right from a business side (That recent lawsuit over employee poaching cant be good for the bottom line). But I do also get that people are peaved in a pretty major way. The real reason I suspect is theres a feeling the game isnt quite finished yet, because of poor optimization (Protip: The new GTX10 series cards play this game like dream) for lower end cards. Eh.... I've gotten 1000+ hours out of this game, so I'm happy to pony up. But I do think they've handled customer relations lousily. Especially considering how unhinged some fans can be. People on the steam forum where literally talking about suing. God knows what grounds, but yeah, whacko doodle nonsense. I'm sure the death threats are happening too, because this godddam hobby seems to attract the whackos. tl;dr: I'm buying, because it looks fun, and I want to see Wildcard succeed, but I'm not completely happy about it, and others are straight up bonkers angry.

    Last edited 03/09/16 8:11 pm

    Thats mest up of how much u have to pay when the game cost 30$ they need to make it cheeper or free

    Huge Ark fan here. Well over 200 hours on both Xbox and PC. Now paid dlc beforewhile still in early access just seems wrong. I've been a major backer of Ark since first weeks of release. On PC it is amazing and feels much further along then Xbox so yeah it would be hard to classify it as an early access still when the game is so developed. It's been one of the best performing early access games since day dot. I will happily pay for DLC on PC it seems justifiable with how well the game is built.....
    Xbox though that's another story. Once again was pushing to all my friends specially with monthly updates at the start of the year but that has seemed to stop now, and instead your trying to charge me to get something extra in a game that's far from being finished for Xbox. Something doesn't add up here...
    I'm sure all those Ark fans out there can agree that PC can justify the paid dlc. but Xbox let's just get the game done before trying to charge for more content, happy to miss out on Dlc just do a major update.

    After playing ARK, I don't really think of it as an Early Access game. It's a great game, with tonnes of features, getting new updates and is over all just a joy to play. Does it have the polish of a AAA title? No. Would I think the game was sub-par if they suddenly took the Early Access title off and said "Okay, this will be version 1 as of this build, expect updates to come as usual"? Not really. I'd think it's a perfectly fine point to release. I'd say that about 6 months or so more ago.

    At the end of the day, I think it's a good game, and the EA title is meaningless. It's been out for a while, it's got a tonne of content, and for a DLC this looks like a pretty good one. It's a reasonable price, has a lot of content, isn't just a cash grab. I think this is an example of DLC done right. And I don't think it's fair to blast the developers for releasing it.

    At the end of the day, if you want good, solid Early Access games that maintain updates, add features, takes the time to finish the game instead of just pumping out a half done game then you'll have to accept that many games (like ARK), will either need to get more streams of revenue to keep going or hit the release button to get more streams of revenue. Releasing this DLC seems like a solid option

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