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  • Community Crunch 159: Winter Wonderland & Dev Diary!

    Hey Survivors! Welcome to the latest edition of the Community Crunch! :Jerbhi:

    Winter Wonderland Is Returning!

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    Have you been Naughty or Nice this year? I've heard whispers from the elves and reindeer that a certain Mr. Claws may be dropping gifts for all of the good survivors this holiday season, and coal for the naughty ones too. ;) 

    We'll have more information on this in the coming weeks!

    Dev Diary!

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    This weeks diary entry is brought to you by Lead Programmer, Chris Willoughby. This weeks dev diary is about Extinction-related game balance and also about the big fixing process of Extinction since it's initial release.

    Quote

    ARK, at its core, is successful because it offers the best and most diverse survival experience that it can to each player who plays it, and the many options that we provide allows that to happen. There are many, many players that play our game over multiple platforms and each of them has a different definition of what’s most important to them, what ARK does well, and what it should do better. Early on we made a decision to offer a vast array of options, modes, maps, servers, and mods to get as close as we could to being the best survival game for everyone. This creates a major challenge when it comes to development however, as each piece of content or change is used in a large number of different ways. The many play modes are likely to be at odds with each other and are competing for the same development resources, so we have to make a number of tough decisions and pick our priorities. This can result in mechanics that feel less than ideal for your setup or bugs that only appear in certain modes. I do believe it’s better than the primary alternative - not offering or supporting these options at all.

    In this industry we need to develop and introduce new content and mechanics to keep our game interesting and relevant. When we set out to develop something with the size and scope of Extinction, we first sit down and figure out what new experiences we could bring to the table. We brainstorm far and wide, documenting and elaborating on ideas before scoring them. We try very hard to introduce features that either have broad reach and appeal across our play modes or add a high amount of depth to one. The things that resonate the most through this process are grouped together into creatures, items, or features that become the key features for the expansion. Generally when we do this we’re intentionally trying to shake up the meta to breathe new life into the game. Often times it’s hard to predict exactly how the new features will be used by players, and just how much they’ll shake things up. 

    On the other side of the coin, testing changes to a game like ARK is quite difficult. Stepping back, it’s really a numbers game. Let’s say, for example, that you have 10 QA testers, and they’re testing 50 hours a week, that’s 500 hours of testing per week. Next, let’s say that you have 3 months to fully test your changes. Multiply the 500 by 12, and you get 6,000 hours of serious, in-depth testing. That can seem like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to the amount of time that players put in. ARK averaged ~50k users for November on PC. If you multiply that by 30 days and 24 hours, you end up with a rough estimate of 36,000,000 hours of ARK played in November. That’s 6,000 times as many hours as in the example above. There were approximately 1,200,000 hours of ARK played in the first day of Extinction. There were 50,000 hours played in the first hour after release. 10 minutes after Extinction released, players had already played 10,000 hours of Extinction, eclipsing the amount of testing done by the 10 testers above. Suffice it to say that when you experience problems when playing a game just after release this is a big reason why.

    Obviously we don’t like it when our game has problems, so we focus much of our testing on critical areas and we test them over and over again and prioritize the issues we find. As you can imagine, this is a lot easier in a single player game with a fixed path through a scripted storyline. Once you start multiplying out all of the options and variables, however, it quickly becomes a monumental challenge. As illustrated above, it’s impossible to test every experience that a player is going to have in a game like ARK within a reasonable timeframe. Our volume of players means that players will always have for more time playing ARK than us. When you combine this with the fact that most of those players are playing competitively you realize that many of them are looking for a way to get a leg up on their competition. Very quickly they’re using things in ways that you didn’t intend or even think about, and it’s up to strong systems and well placed testing to make sure that they stay in a healthy place. Sometimes you experience breakdowns in one or two of the above and you have to turn around a fix as fast as possible.

    When we built the Titans, for example, we balanced them against dinos, items, each other, and bases. We wanted each of them to feel different and wanted them to have roles almost like classes in a class-based shooter. We wanted them to be somewhat slow and predictable, and ultimately squishy when faced with organized and concentrated fire. We felt very early on that they should be able to do a lot of damage to an endgame base, if left unchecked. Beyond countering this strength, we wanted to limit how fast people could tame and transfer in Titans, and make it a difficult decision to make - so we went for cooldowns on transfer and starvation. Of course, players discovered a way around starvation (kibble?!?!?!), so that broke a big piece of their cost completely. Last week we released a patch that brought this back closer to where we envisioned it, but it’s unlikely that it’s the end of balance changes to the Titans.

    Meks were built to counter Titans. Generally, the math that we used when developing the Titans and Meks was that approximately three Meks should be able to make short work of a Titan, and we set out to arm the Meks with abilities (like the rocket pack) that would allow them to take the Titans on. In this regard, our primary focus was on the defensive capabilities of the Mek. Unfortunately, in our efforts to nail the defensive-side of things we overlooked a few issues that could occur on the offensive side; especially related to base raiding. The reality is that this was a mistake. Players discovered within the first few days that they could be used to dismantle bases by bypassing most of their automated defenses. Once something like this is discovered we need to act quickly - we ask ourselves if we feel like the mechanic is overpowered. Then we ask if it fits with the design of the creature. We ask what the counter is and talk through the best way to balance it. Ideally, we’d have all of these discussions and make all of these decisions early in development. When faced with the numbers game above, however, you realize how likely it is that a few of these slip through the cracks to the final game. We work diligently to to step up and resolve the issue the best way that we can, as fast as we can.

    If I were to step back and put on an Idealistic hat, I’d want to reshape ARK such that none of these bugs ever made it through to our players. I’d want to test and retest every interaction, every spot in every map, every scenario that a player could find themselves in. The reality, however, is that it would take a very large team, a very large amount of time to develop something as broad as ARK and deliver it flawlessly. Large enough on both fronts, that the likelihood of success drops dramatically. And even then, that game would have bugs. Yes, ARK is not perfect. However, we enjoy working on a game that delivers a broad, good experience to many players over one that offers a narrow but perfect experience to only a few or takes ten years to make. We strive to minimize the number of problems. We pride ourselves on recognizing and resolving them as fast as possible. As we continue to work on Extinction issues, long standing issues, previous promises, and whatever is next for ARK (stay tuned!), we’ll continue to approach it from that perspective. Our job is to provide the best experience we can to the highest number of players we can reach, as fast as we can. Sometimes there will be bumps in the road, but they’re a necessary part of making the things we make at the scale that we make them. We think it’s worth it.

    PC Patch Tomorrow!

    Tomorrow at 10am PST there will be a PC patch. There will also be another post tomorrow here on the community forums going over some of the changes coming up and things currently being worked on by our development team.

    Mod Community Updates!

    Hello, fellow modders. You'll be happy to know we have a manual devkit update ready that includes all of the extinction content!

    https://forums.unrealengine.com/development-discussion/modding/ark-survival-evolved/62293-12-2-ark-dev-kit-v287-1-is-now-on-google-drive

    I also have a new tutorial ready for you, this time we're finally going to get started on some graphs for this mod. Specifically how to convert our tamed creatures into the sentry crystals that will be used elsewhere by the mod.

     

    Fanart of the Week!

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    Ark Survival Evolved Carbonemys Wallpaper by Malabar!

    Evolution Event!

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    Survivors on all platforms will be receiving a special Evolution Event perk this weekend! It will be active from Friday the 7th of December at 1 PM EST until Monday the 10th of December at 3 PM EST. All Official Servers across each platform will be undergoing this evolutionary change which includes:

    2x Harvesting Rates
    2x Taming Rates
    2x EXP Rates

    That's it for this post guys! As always if you’ve got anything to share you can find us at:

    Twitter: twitter.com/survivetheark
    Facebook: facebook.com/survivetheark
    Reddit: reddit.com/r/playark
    Instagram: instagram.com/survivetheark
    Twitch: twitch.tv/survivetheark
    Steam: steamcommunity.com/app/346110
    Youtube: youtube.com/survivetheark

    All the best,
    Studio Wildcard

    Edited by Jen


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    Ok so first, is there any way to make ARK look better on epic because some streamers (Syntac) have really great graphics 

    and on epic mine looks nowhere near that and secondly do extinction servers wipe on the 6th??

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    So I know that you guys are saying you want to focus on the December update but if you guys are to do a TLC 3 what creatures do you have in mind 

    Also if you guys ever get a chance any way the dodo and phiomia can get a new look and uses like no one uses them and I think they should be more useful as well as the dolphin 

    But what aninals do you have in mind for the next TLC 3

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    basic bugs that you should have tested as core functionality are just passed off as bugs that slip through? your q an a has always been woefully inadequate, it's also hard to defend what you do with development when you literally throw the shortest dev time at projects possible yet hype it up as great things, if you really can't afford more testers ( that should be a team of a hundred considering the 12 million players that bought your game and made you over 200 million dollars in first year alone) then dont release as full dlc, slap beta on it an be up front with the community your meant to service, the ones you know who majority paid for a season pass then waited a year for a broken buggy imbalanced mess, not one word of sorry for also not just delivering a broken dlc but also further breaking core gameplay and game modes on console? what justification is that? scorched earth was meant to be your method of testing how well future dlcs would integrate into the game, that was lies too! at some point despite your good intentions to service vast groups you need to look at the core of your game an realise you alienate more then you drag in by constantly glossing over bugs and issues with such contriteness 3 dlc's on multiple updates an yet again you still cant take ownership an instead blame it on players playing the game an finding bugs FIX YOUR GAME!

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    So basically what Chris is trying to say "WILDCARD DEVTEAM diched the project before its even finished, started working on another hyped game, and let you SIT THERE ALONE to fix SOME bugs and then drop mic leaving us with a game that's broken, while the modding community knows how to fix and polish the game (S+, Builders Improvements, etc).

    Oh and what about Jen and that other "CM"?

    "Buy on switch, buy on your phone, look at this poster"....and "Ladies and gentlement S+ will be implemented"

    Instead we got....Extinction with made the game even worse, and even AFFECT other vanilla features and maps.

    Just say "Wildcard ditched the community, and ran away with the money".

    Edited by BERSERK3R
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    extinction is broken on the xbox . bad graphics major render issues constant dcing . orbital drops above blue and you get 5fps and lag out . artifacts not spawning and the tek replicator being learnt from drops and you cant make it . that's just a small handful  of bugs . stopping adding new stuff and fix what you release 

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    I don't want to sound rude, I think ARK is great, but reading what the lead dev wrote was kind of frustrating because it just seems like a big "don't blame us for not testing our game". 
    Looking forward to the upcoming event & tomorrows patch details.

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    Lost interest part way through the dev diary. Your players have been emphasising the ongoing issues, in game and optimization wise, for years. The team chose to ignore the core issues, and keep pushing forward with a broken game in favor of new content, only for it to bite them in the end. I have sympathy for the players who are dealing with this mess, especially at such a large scale with Titans and Meks. I truly do. However I'm really disappointed that new content outweighed the issues that keep stacking.

    What I'm gathering from this is that they don't have enough testers for QA. I have no sympathy, that feels like an issue that should have been sorted out as the game grew. These new numbers with extinction, sure its impressive and I could understand if there wasn't such a backlog of issues and bugs that have been prevalent in the game for years now. The focus needs to shift and I really hope that it does, finally, after years of your players trying desperately to make these issues known to you.

    Edited by skellri
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    There are servers on Xbox that have been missing for more than a week, for example the EU 680 Aberration Xbox pvp, and they do not even name the faults, they have not said anything, we do not know if the time will count and the autodecay will act or it is all inactive. The lack of communication is a lack of respect to the work of thousands and thousands of hours of many people. Fix the missing servers on Xbox please.

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    Dear Chris.

    I have one major problem in your way to justify the atrociously bad quality of the game and Extinction. This is 60$ fully released game and players should not be your beta or Q&A testers nor should you expect players to become ones. The way you described the problem tells me you want to excuse broken game by few numbers of QA testers. This is unacceptable frankly. Your customers do not care you don't have enough manpower to be blunt. They care about the quality of the product they paid for.  What you had been doing during entire Early Acces was bloating the game up with half-cooked or in some cases redundant content/mechanics. Instead of taking that time to flesh out core gameplay mechanics, do QoL updates, you were adding more and more stuff without polishing it before moving to a new shiny toy. Your game fell into the trap of feature creep that is coming back to you with full force. It seems your team is literally afraid of touching old code, because the whole game may fall apart. The sad part is people had been giving you tons of feedback, but you chose to ignore it deliberately or due to simple incompetence.

    Early Access has ended over a year ago. You earned a lot of money and you can afford more paid QA testers, but you would have to want that to begin with. You would have to have a better quality standard for game development, to begin with. The only reason why we got more regular bug fixes updates and QoL ones was due to BadArt4BadARK. The action was simply too large to ignore. 

    It seems WC hasn't learned anything from EA, to be honest, and ARK would continue to be considered as a game with a great potential wasted by game-breaking bugs and incompetent studio. 

    It's a shame how this game has ended up. I used to love this game, but bugs, lack of any optimization and developers refusing to communicate with the player base during EA was enough. 

    PS: Unfortunate, we players cannot get a simple "sorry" with highlighted steps to improve the bad quality of the game.

    Edited by Lewiatan
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    That read like a laundry list of excuses that barely passes the sniff test. The average bear  (QA tester getting their paws on the DLC)  would want to test Meks against some base defense.  That simple action would've discovered the Mek "base wipe" ability pretty quick. Was everyone just flying gasbags and noting how pretty the map was? Not only do you need to improve your longterm communication and response time, but a better QA strategy as well.

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    I can see that you are working very hard on the game : ) And I loved all DLCs so far. Yes there are Bugs (even very bad ones when it comes to PvP and trolling) but I still love playing your game.

    Maybe you should ask some of the hardcore-PvP-Players to also test your new gamechanges on an higher-rates-servers. I guess this would be a great opportunity to find out about important broken stuff for PvP. I assume you are already doing this but I wanted to mention it anyway.

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    Hello,

    Thank you for talking.

    I agree it is better to push the dlc out than to have it balanced and working.

    We just do not understand what made quick changes and updates in the past possible but now small changes over a huge amount of time.

    No one is more impressed of what you do in short time though. I see the constant work you do. Finish and bottomline is that it, the dlc, looks fastly made starting after the summer break.

    You guys must have done work not yet released. 

    Well you mixed it up and changes can not be removed.

    Regards,

    Ariana 

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    49 minutes ago, jammyjade said:

    basic bugs that you should have tested as core functionality are just passed off as bugs that slip through? your q an a has always been woefully inadequate, it's also hard to defend what you do with development when you literally throw the shortest dev time at projects possible yet hype it up as great things, if you really can't afford more testers ( that should be a team of a hundred considering the 12 million players that bought your game and made you over 200 million dollars in first year alone) then dont release as full dlc, slap beta on it an be up front with the community your meant to service, the ones you know who majority paid for a season pass then waited a year for a broken buggy imbalanced mess, not one word of sorry for also not just delivering a broken dlc but also further breaking core gameplay and game modes on console? what justification is that? scorched earth was meant to be your method of testing how well future dlcs would integrate into the game, that was lies too! at some point despite your good intentions to service vast groups you need to look at the core of your game an realise you alienate more then you drag in by constantly glossing over bugs and issues with such contriteness 3 dlc's on multiple updates an yet again you still cant take ownership an instead blame it on players playing the game an finding bugs FIX YOUR GAME!

    I couldn't have agreed more with you. I'm looking forward to watching your video discussing this dev post. I feel sorry for QA testing team. They can do their best but in the end higher in ranks decide what is getting a fix and when the patch/update is released. The studio may deliberately release a patch with a game-breaking bug and counting on getting away with it.

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    Let's say you only have 10 QA testers because you want to keep millions in profit instead of invest more into the game then yes it would take 500 hours of testing per week, lets assume you put some of the profits back into the game and hire 20 QA testers  BOOM MAGIC LOOK YOU CUT THE TIME IN HALF!

    Give me a break, you guys have made millions in profit the only thing holding you back from having a full crew capable of fixing the bugs and problems with reasonable speed is YOU.

    Let me play the worlds smallest violin while you shed your crocodile tears

    D-U-M-B

    Why  would you work on creating new content instead of fixing the issues already existing only to blame lack of work power later?

    WHERE'S THE MONEY LEBOWSKI?

    Edited by robbydeath
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    Guys....s+ for console. At least for solo play. Tired of watching vids and streams and wishing we had it. Ill freakin pay for it as an addon ffs

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    I love Ark and the complexity of the game!   Like others have mentioned it seems evident that more testing needed to be done before release.  

    A bigger paid QA team?
    A closed Beta?  

    Are you guys looking into that for future projects?

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    Yea ok cool but can we get game balancing or something. A little unbalanced even before extinction with defences taking way longer to create than the effort it is to raid a base with them, Just saying.

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    1 hour ago, robbydeath said:

    Let's say you only have 10 QA testers because you want to keep millions in profit instead of invest more into the game then yes it would take 500 hours of testing per week, lets assume you put some of the profits back into the game and hire 20 QA testers  BOOM MAGIC LOOK YOU CUT THE TIME IN HALF!

    Give me a break, you guys have made millions in profit the only thing holding you back from having a full crew capable of fixing the bugs and problems with reasonable speed is YOU.

    Let me play the worlds smallest violin while you shed your crocodile tears

    D-U-M-B

    Why  would you work on creating new content instead of fixing the issues already existing only to blame lack of work power later?

    WHERE'S THE MONEY LEBOWSKI?

    Exactly

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    Hi!  I really Really enjoy ark and how much diversity there is to experience in the game.  It is really fun to wander about getting high level dinosaurs and creating under water homes.  You guys have done a phenomenal job on the core game along with the extra maps.  The DLCs are extremely enjoyable, and extinction was an immediate hit for me.  Though I still love the game and will play it for as long as possible, there is one thing that bothers me; the building system.  I understand it is more realistic but on consoles such as PC (i play on xbox) they have the mod Structures +. This mod, being one of your sponsored mods, allows players to build freely, without many constraints.  It would be great if you were to implement S + to console, so we are able to experience the same thing.  Please consider this!  Thank you.  For me in particular, I have not recieved any bugs, other than my game crashing out of nowhere.  I suspect this is because i am running on an xbox one, but anyways, it would be great if this was resolved.  There have also been random graphics changes, where the world itself takes away all of the  texture.  This would also be a good thing to resolve.  I know this is a lot of things on your plate, but it would benefit us as a community.  Maybe (just maybe) you can release the patch with the xbox release of winter wonderland 2?.  Anyways, thank you for (also maybe) reading this and keep up the good work!

    Edited by SunbakedPrawn18

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    Alright, I'm going to have to shoot straight here. 

     

    Wildcard, I havn't been here for many of your downs, and Chris, I know alot of these things are out of your control, But even I admit that this is pretty bulldung.

     

    first off, I'm going to assume that the example of 10 you gave was just an example and you have closer to, I don't know, 50. and while even that number you can't even pale on how many people you have playing, but there are some things that are just, really basic issues. Titans being feedable I can forgive, But just basic testing should have keyed you in on how easy it was for Meks to raid bases, Baby managarmers being more hyperactive than a 2 year old after eating a bowl of sugar, and snow owls being really good for trolling. 

     

    If I may make some suggestions. First off, Don't announce any solid release dates until you know you can hit them. Aberrations was Overshot by 2 months, and Extinction has had a ton of issues. 

     

    Second, have a Beta Branch that people can play on. Have a bunch of different server variables, ranging from basic vanilla to 10x everything+bonus carry weight. And while doing this take close attention to what people are saying. This way you can have hundreds if not thousands of people testing your game for you for completely free. 

     

    And third, Try to sort out some of your code as you go along. Your team has gained a metric ton of experience in the 4-5 years of development, And while I know how much of a titanic undertaking sorting out your whole code base would be, Taking small steps and sorting things out could go a long way. For example, better seperation of PvP and PvE mechanics (it is important to note that most of these are stat based, such as the glide suit and Plant species Z nerfs).

     

    And finally, A few issues for you to look into.

    -Baby gachas will try to fill up their entire food bar when sitting down to eat. This ends up causing them to burn through thousands (stack mod) of meat in an attempt to fill up their food when they can only bring it up so high

    -Cryopods are hard set to bring the imprint timer to 8 hours, regardless of the server's timers. (may effect other timers such as breeding cooldown.

    -In PvE mode dinos can damage the "branching" element nodes (the ones that surround the central node). Interestingly, this doesn't apply to the central node itself.

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    Again, another company that completely left its consumer and fan base inside the dumpster... The dont care, they will try and pull something out of their arses like a special event to take people’s minds off the problem they have. 

    Maybe we should do what Bethesda fans are doing theft by deception?

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