The state of Official PVP
The original post I wrote on the /playark reddit can be found here. I would recommend you to read the reddit post as all images are missing on this forum post.
This post aims to show all the issues with PVP in ARK which is right now not balanced for a fair PVP experience and to help Wildcard have a better understanding of the problems we encounter as player to better address them. The post is mainly influenced by my experience (more than 1.5K hours) on Official SmallTribes PVP and it is my personal opinion.
I have divided the post by issues influencing the PVP experience with a description and explanation of each issue.
I want first to quickly talk about what I think about Wildcard. While Wildcard can develop and produce amazing content the time they take to fix issues and the horrible balancing of some of the aspects of the game shows for me a lack of process or staff but also care. There are tweets of their CM saying they are not as big as X company so it's difficult for them which is understandable, but they should see that they are in the top 10 played games on Steam for years now, so maybe it's time to find a solution.
GRAPHICS AND INI
Graphics are not balanced for PVP and nothing is done about hacks.
A lot of settings can be turned off to get a PVP advantage, having the game on low give you so much more visibility than Epic. This difference is understandable but the difference is so huge than no other PVP game come close to ARK. Managing the difference of low vs high settings in a PVP game is part of balancing the game and is done in all other PVP games like R6, Battlefield and more. In ARK, you can completely remove shadows, have insanely low view distance, remove ground clutter. Settings like Distance Field Shadowing, View Distance, Ground Clutter and Sky Quality should not be able to be completely turned off. They even allow to run the game with DX10 to remove as much visual effect as possible. Their bloom algorithm is also the worse I have ever seen in a video game, it makes the game almost unplayable with the bloom on.
Key graphical components can be easily modified with a ConsoleVariables.ini file. This file can be modified by any user and give a big PVP advantage (removing underwater vision, plant x and z effects, leaves, shadows and more) and you can get it with a simple Google search. Almost all endgame players use it on official servers, it is not allowed by the CoC. But nothing is done by Wildcard to prevent editing of the file and only YouTubers / streamers using it can be banned because it is the only way for them to know it. This file should not be editable or only non key graphical component variables. The file is currently editable to allow lower-end PC to run the game but this is affecting hugely the PVP experience of PVP players. This exist for more than 3 years.
ORBIT CAMERA OR "K VISION"
A wall hack is available for all player in the game.
The orbit camera allows player to see through the terrain and see things they should not be able to see. This for example makes it easier to see the defenses of a cave or the people attacking your cave. I have no idea how people at Wildcard think this is ok to have in a PVP game. The camera should react like it is with structures, not go through the terrain but slide on it, allowing you to see around you but not through the terrain.
Weapon handling in ARK is one of the worse I have ever seen in any game.
Reload animations are often glitched and are not in sync between first and third person view, start reloading in first person and move to third person you will see no animation. Same for the sound not in sync with what you see. The animation themselves are not in sync with the bullets in the weapon, you can see the clip being inserted in the gun but if you switch to a tool and switch back to the weapon, it will not be reloaded.
HIT REGISTRATION / HITBOX
Hit registration is also one of the worse I have seen in any game.
Shooting fast flying dinos or just fast moving ground dinos often do not register with bow / crossbow or even guns. Using the compound bow on fast player only 1/3 of the arrows register and this is on a low ping server, it makes the weapon barely usable if your enemy is moving because it is not reliable.
Some dinos with Tek saddles can also avoid turret shots and easily destroy them because the turrets just don't target the hitbox even with a clear visible in game line of sight. They plan to fix this point apparently.
INFINITE MUTATION STACKING
Dinos on official can have way too OP stats.
You can mutate almost infinitely a stat on a dino. These breeding lines can take years to get. This produces dinos with insane stats and makes it almost impossible for people to join official PVP without similar lines forcing many players to buy tames to compete. Infinite mutation stacking is likely a bug and should not exist in my opinion and be limited to a certain number of mutation.
DLCs dinos are not balanced for all maps and the game is pay-2-win.
DLCs dinos can almost be used anywhere, this make the game somewhat pay-2-win. A new player joining the game and playing only with The Island (no DLCs owned) has almost no chance to compete with players using Managarmr or OP DLCs dinos. Wildcard knows that some dinos are OP on some maps (Managarmr not usable on Genesis for example). DLC dinos and more generally all dinos should be locked on the maps where they spawn and can be tamed. You can download or unfreeze them on other maps but not ride them to only allow breeding.
I think it will make the game fair for all players and add diversity in PVP depending on the map. A setting like this could be disabled for PVE.
Official PVP is a toxic place everyone knows that and Wildcard allows it.
Players can be anonymous with character names like "123", "Human", " ", "Tribemember 123" and Steam name "123". People can come to your server, grief you and you will never know who this guy is and won't be able to find him except if you are lucky using tools to spy on connected players. Wildcard should here create a Wildcard account (like Rockstar or others game making companies) with unique name for every player. This also makes really difficult to track cheaters and exploiters.
Destroying structure and using C4 does not log tribename or name. Again allowing griefers to do this anonymously.
When a player is using the game in a language not using your alphabet you know nothing about him. You see only "squares" for their name, tribename and chat. It is impossible to know who is who. Wildcard seems perfectly fine with this. This is again something I have never seen in other multiplayer games.
Insults are also not filtered ingame letting very toxic players free of saying what they want. Wildcard should automatically ban these words. This is once again something almost every other multiplayer game do but not Wildcard.
Server performance is often bad.
When a server is full and your base or others base start to get big, the ping can become really high in the server, making the game much more difficult to enjoy especially with some dinos and during PVP fights.
Performance in ARK is a big problem and we will certainly wait years for visible improvements and the promises / advertising they made (DX12, DLSS. Ever heard about this Wildcard?).
The customer support is in my opinion sometimes terrible and even useless.
The ticket status give you almost no information about what's going on. You can report exploiters and cheaters with proof (even reported YouTubers with clear use of INI on official) and see these players coming back or uploading videos with the same character after a ticket is "solved" and "closed".
Insane waiting time for appointments but it is understandable knowing the state of the game and the number of tickets they have.
The GM refuse to give you back your exact lost character with screenshot proof (Ascension, Tekgrams, Chibi levels) even if admin commands exist to do so when a character like that can take hundred of hours to level up and you lost it because of their bad system. Wildcard here is treating the players like sh*t, when you know you struggle with your game at least ensure your customer support is on point and can address problems you have in your game.
MESHING, DUPING AND MORE
Official servers have a high numbers of cheaters. I will be short on this one, if you play official you know.
Wilcard seems to have worked a lot to fix meshing and duping. But it still exists and a lot more still need to be done to address all issues.
I also want to talk about some QOL changes that could make official much better for players in my opinion.
Being able to pickup any structures when you want through the option wheel, of course with a PVP timer.
No timer on upload (after they have a robust Dupe Detection System, right now this timer is a workaround to prevent duping methods).
Allow crop plots in all cave. Some caves can have crop plot (Oil cave) when some can't (all The Island cave). It makes no sense and give some cave a disadvantage.
A smaller resources structure respawn radius. The radius right now is way too big and make it really hard for solo / small tribe players to hide small bases.
Do not hesitate to give your opinion on these points and also share about things not in this post affecting the PVP experience for you. In every game the community feedback is important for improvement. Wildcard are sometimes listening as they seem to fix issues when content creators on YouTube to do a video about it, so share this post if you find it relevant.