Friday, February 3, 2017

Latest Misadventures in Ark Survival Evolved

By Bixyl Shuftan

It's been over a year since I've written about Ark: Survival Evolved, the noted survival game in which players start off with their undies and their wits on a mysterious island populated with dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, and try to avoid dying from hunger, heat and cold, and the numerous predators whom see players as a snack. I first wrote about the game in July 2015, and did so again in August and September of that year. For those brand new to the game, you can read those articles, or watch this video review by "Nooblets" (link).

One of the game's most important news items over the past year was not an update, but a lawsuit. A former member of the development team had been accused of violating a clause of his contract, and filed suit for $600 million USD. The defendant threatened to have a legal notice to take down the game, which caused concerns the game might not be available for sale, or updated for those who had it, for a while. Eventually, the case was settled out of court for $40 million.

Recently, my friends of the "Furry Gamers" group decided to take another look at it, Nydia starting up her server again. She and her friends had previously made a number of bases across the south and east of the island, some along the coast, some a bit inland. Her main base was in the southwest, in the middle of what the map calls the "Southern Jungle." A year ago, it had been a relatively safe location, the only real problems when the occasional carnotaurus, or "Carno," one of the island's medium sized predators showed up. But the island has changed since then, some of which meant complications for us.

To begin with, the island has a couple new biomes. Swampland now covers some territory in the inland south, and a small part of the midwest coast. As you can probably guess, these are not places for beginners, and midranked ones should proceed with caution. The giant dragonflies and ants will swarm after you, the snakes will try to paralyze and eat you, and in the water are the megaphirana and the bloodsucking leeches. One curious but useful crtter are the giant frogs or beelzebufo. They eat the giant insects which can pester players, and can serve as high-jumping mounts. In the northwest and north central areas are icy areas covered with snow. Fur clothing is needed to survive the cold here for long, which will likely mean lingering on the outskirts to hunt for creatures that drop pelts, such as mammoths and woolly rhinos. This is also the home of dire wolves, canis maxdirus. As they hunt in packs, they can be dangerous predators. But they can also be valuable mounts.

There are new creatures outside these areas too. One is the Therizinosaurus, which my friends have dubbed the "killer turkeys." These medium sized dinos are plant eaters, but highly aggressive ones that will attack anyone getting too close. To make matters worse, these creatures sport long claws that would make Freddy Krueger proud, capable of piercing armor and inflicting serious wounds that can quickly take down a player. A group of two to three can be dangerous or fatal even for a player on a tamed carno mount.

Another problem dinosaur is the Troodon. Somewhat smaller than raptors, they are in some ways more dangerous. They have a venomous bite, and combined with their speed will quickly take down a beginning player, and fighting them while I was around Level 20-25, I would end up lasting just long enough to clobber one before passing out, vulnerable to anything else in the area. And as they sometimes go about in packs, this often means other Troodon, who made quick work of any one unconscious. They are nocturnal, making any night run more dangerous, as you may not notice their glowing eyes, until it's too late. That you can occasionally find eyeglasses on a corpse is a little unnerving.

Between the "killer turkeys" and the "sleepers," life at what had been our main base became more hazardous. A new fish, the sabertooth salmon, was easily avoided by us, but did clobber a critter or two of ours that ventured into the water next to the base. Finally when a few of the former managed to break down a wooden wall and kill several of our dinos before finally being taken down, the decision was made to move. So we began moving our critters to the nearby "Footpaw," settling in the plateau in the middle overlooking the rest known as the "Weathertop." We began building a wall to help keep out unwanted critters, though began noticing a few were spawning inside. The decision was made to persist, taming more critters to replace what was lost and to help patrol the place, a lot of dilos designated as "meat shields" as they were more easily replaced. This "Liberty Ship" strategy, so named as it reminded me of the United States having to replace it's cargo ships blown up by German U-Boats in the early days of WW2 with quickly made Liberty Ships until it could come up with better ways of fighting the enemy, was more than a little frustrating as our plans and building was slowed down. But eventually we had our base and fence.

But not everything new was out to get us. Jasmine found some dung beetles in a cave and tamed a group. This meant a source of fertilizer and oil as long as we kept feeding them droppings from our dinos, the oil saving us trips to the sea and its dangers. There was also a new kind of building available: the greenhouse. Building one provides a place for crops to grow faster.

However the greenhouse parts need crystal. In earlier times, this would have meant a flight over to bypass the dangerous critters on the ground. But there's a new threat in the air now. There's a large bird called Argentavis that while usually a carrion eater is aggressive and will attack nearby players. On the plus side, when tamed it has more stamina than pteranodons, and can be used to grip other players (useful for getting someone unconscious out of danger), or critters that aren't too heavy. A leveled-up Argentavis can be very useful for transportation, or getting smaller creatures you want to tame as they can be dropped into an enclosure until you're ready to tranq and feed them.

Exploring around, our journeys took us to "Herbivore Island" in the southeast. Accessible by raft or air, it's a place where players need not worry about carnivores, though the creatures there will still defend themselves if attacked. To our surprise and delight, we found some metal nodes there. This saved us risky trips to the mountaintops, though we still had to go there for obsidian and crystal, and we set up a refining base where we could make and haul back metal. We discovered that besides placing storage boxes on our wooden rafts, we could also place ramps, foundations, and walls. We turned two in to mobile bases, one which had storage space, a furnace, smithy, and a few mortal and pestles, the other which had large holding areas for luring larger creatures on which we were interested in taming. This included one T-Rex which we started taming on it's journey back, and once finished it was just a short walk from the shore to the case.

We've also tried our hand at raising baby dinos a little. Hatching one took a while and was something of a balancing act as the temperature had to be just right, requiring a heat source nearby to be turned on and off. But eventually, the critter hatched (check about 4:10 into the video). Nydia had to imprint on it, and then feed it a few berries. Later on, a special egg hatching area would be build with both campfires and air conditioners.

One recent change to the game was that hair is no longer static, but will grow over time. And after the update, the men in the server found themselves looking like mountain men with bushy beards, and once the hats were off with mops of hair. The women had long hair, but thankfully their legs were spared. Getting rid of the beards required learning the engram for scissors, and with those equipped, press and hold the right button, and a hairsyling screen comes up, in which men and lower the length of their head hair and beards, or cut everything altogether. Women only have the option to cut head hair. As the hair will still grow over time, don't throw away your scissors as you're likely to need them every day or two. They're also useful for cutting the fleece of a new animal on the island: sheep. So once "ewe" get past the "ba-a-a-a-a-a-ad" jokes, the wool can be used as a substitute for pelts, which can make the making of cold weather clothing a lot easier.

One new thing I've heard of but haven't tried yet is fishing. From what I saw in this "nooblets" video (link), one needs either tree sap or leech blood as bait, the latter which more fish will go after. Besides fish meat, one can apparently get a few other items, but high level players whom aren't risk adverse should be able to get most of them faster by other means except black pearls.

And there are other new critters that I haven't mentioned yet, such as giant beavers which do well at gathering wood, as well as being the only creatures besides players that build something: beaver dams, compys, little dinos that are slightly dangerous in packs, but can be tamed to be a kind of shoulder pet, Procoptodon, a kind of giant kangaroo, Paracers, which look like a giant cross between a horse and rhino, dire bears, woolly rhinos, and moose. There's also new items that I have yet see, such as lances for jousting, and high tech armor, which needs players to beat one of the "boss" creatures just to get one of the needed components. The boots would be very useful as they allow players to avoid taking damage when accidentally falling. The helmets provide unlimited oxygen when underwater and night vision, a GPS, and a targeting system that locates other players nearby. The chestpeice has a jetpack, and so on.

I should also note there's a new map available, "The Center," which would be an interesting change for players whom feel they've been on The Island to the point most every place is familiar. Instead of the dinosaurs being easiest on the beaches and getting more difficult as you go to the interior, it's more east to west on this map. The map started out as a mod, but has become an official part of the game. Another noteable mod that's gotten some attention is the Pokemon-inspired mod called "Pokemon Evolved." But as Pokemon is the property of Nintendo, which has demanded some fanworks be taken down before, it's unknown if the mod will be up indefinitely.

There is also a new version of Ark, "Scorched Earth" which takes place in an arid area where water is difficult to come by, sandstorms can damage outdoor equipment and some structures, electrical storms can shut down electrical equipment and disable firearms. This hostile place has many of the same creatures, such as the raptors and T-Rexes. But there are some new ones such as rock elementals, deathworms, thorny dragons, and others. But not everything is big and out to kill you. The place is also home to jerboas, which are really cute companions and useful as weather detectors. Then there are the whips, flamethrowers, boomerangs, and chainsaws. Sadly the game isn't free for those who already have Ark, but an expansion pack that has to be bought in addition to the game. There are also plans for an "Ark Park" virtual reality similator; an obvious take on "Jurassic Park." Hopefully their lawyers got the okay from Michael Crichton.

Earlier I've commented Nydia and a number of the Furry Gamers will have nothing to do with PvP-enabled servers. While there may be some where most of the players are friendly, going there as it's easier to find a place to build, there are some goons whose primary pleasure in life is making others miserable. "Nooblets" made a video commentary about a recent update that made it easier for high level PvP tribes to jump server to server, so they could potentially settle on a new world, wiping out all the smaller tribes and making themselves the only ones on the place, then once it's clear everyone else has fled going to another PvP server and starting over again, repeating the cycle of wiping everyone else out. This in his opinion would eventually be "The Death of Ark," at least for PvP servers.

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Well, that's it for now with the latest misadventures of me and the Furry Gamers in Ark. We'll leave you with this video Nydia did of her ark server. As she would say, "good gaming to you."

Sources: eTeknix, Gamerant,

Bixyl Shuftan