Ark: Survival Evolved's long-dormant volcano, situated near the centre of the game's Island map, is about to blow, and developer Wildcard is strongly suggesting that anyone in the immediate vicinity kindly steps out of the way. (But you'll want to go back later.)
As of Ark's next big PC update, called "v257" and scheduled to drop on May 3, the volcano will no longer be a quiet haven for metal farming, or a prime spot for tribes looking to build near-unassailable bases. Instead, come v257, the dusty crater at the volcano's peak will be transformed into a considerably more lethal perpetual lava pool.
As Ark fans might be aware, this transformation is somewhat more low-key than Wildcard's original stated plans to implement a timed eruption cycle for the volcano. According to Ark's lead designer Jeremy Stieglitz, there were two main reasons why the studio eventually opted against having the volcano actually spew lava all over the island.
The volcano fence lets players know where to put any stuff they don't want to be destroyed in a ball of fire.
Firstly, a timed environmental hazard that repeatedly destroyed its surrounding seemed "inconsistent with the gameplay of the rest of the Island map," he told Kotaku. Perhaps more crucially though, the team felt that the cost-versus-benefit simply wasn't in favour of a massive cyclical eruption with convincing progressive lava flow, so close to the game's retail 1.0 release.
Such an event, Stieglitz said, "would have presented some technical and artistic concerns that would have taken critical time away from things which we think will matter most to general player enjoyment of the game in the shipping 1.0 build."
Fancy eruptions might be off the table for now, but Wildcard is keen to remind players that the volcano's activation will still require a major geographical overhaul for the area; as such, all dinosaurs and structures at the summit will be destroyed when the new patch arrives. Wildcard is strongly recommending that tribes with a base or pets in the affected area pack up their bags and find somewhere a little less miasmic to call home.
Post-update, it will no longer be possible to to build structures around the summit on PvE servers. Structures on PvP servers, meanwhile, will take greater damage, as they do in caves elsewhere on the Island.
To help volcano-dwelling tribes move to safety, Wildcard has implemented special in-game markers to clearly illustrate the volcano's new danger zone. Affected tribes will want to make sure that all their valuables have been moved to the safe (green) side of the cordon before the patch arrives.
This fence heralded the imminent arrival of a forest of mighty redwoods.
This isn't the first time Wildcard has broken the fourth wall in Ark. The Island map also received temporary boundary markers when its blandly mountainous mid-section made way for the mighty redwood forest in ye olde Ark update v243 last year.
But here's the intriguing part: Once the volcano has been transformed, it won't just be a slightly toastier place to spend a lazy afternoon. It will also house the entrance to Ark's brand-new Tek Cave.
Caves are essentially Ark's version of dungeons, and this new variant is said to be the toughest yet. It will require Boss and Alpha Predator Trophies to access, and if players can best it, they can "Ascend". This, said Stieglitz, "essentially means 'beating' the game, and getting a higher level cap with more Engrams." However, the Ascension process will apparently have a very different mechanic in the game's 1.0 release compared to v257. On this, Stieglitz would say no more.
Despite all these changes, Stieglitz assured me that the volcano will still be one of the Island's main metal farming areas. You'll just need to be a little more careful when you pay it a visit from now on, unless you're a particular fan of charred quetzal.