Balancing PvP and PvE in ARK: Survival Evolved

I guess I’m not done talking about the proposed map changes in ARK: Survival Evolved. In the first video I published, I spoke about their initial announced changes. They were extending the snow biome, creating a forest biome, and modifying some swamp biomes. They also introduced a new dinosaur, the Purlovia, but my focus was on the biome changes.

ARK allows players to play as a single player on their computer, set up private servers and there are official servers which allow player vs. player (PvP) interaction, meaning, players can combat each other and buildings can be destroyed. Think of sandbox game, like EVE Online or Minecraft, with dinosaurs. The player can be playing as player vs. environment (PvE), but, regardless of where the player is playing, all the players share the same map. Quality game design would mean ensuring that the maps are balanced for both PvP and PvE. Also note, ARK is a survival game, meaning the environment is hostile.

firstmap

The Problem?

The controversial part of these changes was an area called Hidden Lake, which is heavily protected naturally due to game map design. The game developers created the area with stone walls that cannot be destroyed. Being generous, it’s naturally 80% defended with the natural walls the developers created in the map design.

defenses

Hidden Lake is not a big deal on PvE servers or single player. However, on official servers, there are tribes in this area that cannot be removed because the base is so heavily defended due to the walls that cannot be destroyed. Not only is Hidden Lake itself ridiculously defended, but the areas around it have a huge boost to defense because of the map design. I’ve been told there are tribes that have held this area for months and there is no end in sight of them being defeated for the area. That is not fun on a PvP map.

This is not an area for new players to get started then move on as they grow stronger in the game. This area shines for high level players who can make metal bases and turrets.  Add aggressive dinosaurs to the mix…I’m sure you get the point. When the developers announced this area was turning into a snow biome, the challenges of living in a cold environment was a fair trade off for an area this heavily defended due to map design. Hidden Lake being in a cold environment would cause the area to lose its appeal to many players. I was impressed they were changing it. I was impressed they were balancing the map, fixing an area of the map that is more naturally defended than the area created for new players (Newbie Island).

What Happened?

Not long after the first announcement, a second one was made saying their first announcement was inaccurate and included a map that showed where actual changes were taking place.

secondmapchanges

Big difference, isn’t it? I took a couple of days to think about it before I made a video about it. Do a search for base building recommendations on YouTube and Hidden Lake is the most popular area recommended for obvious reasons. Keep in mind, the first announcement affected the main base on the server I play on. One of the swamp biome changes was right next to the area I picked for my personal base. I sympathized with people who had to move but the map is unbalanced. It’s better to fix it now than waiting until later.

Let me be clear: the map is unbalanced and the tribes dominating the area on official servers know it. Anyone complaining about the map changes obviously forgot, or worse think they are exempt from, the big warning on the purchase page for ARK, that is in alpha:

Note: This Early Access game is not complete and may or may not change further. If you are not excited to play this game in its current state, then you should wait to see if the game progresses further in development.

In other words, let me give you some cheese to go with your whine in regards to balancing an map that is obviously unbalanced.

MY Problem with the Backpeddling

Everyone makes mistakes. How the mistake is handled and corrected is what people tend to remember the most. How many game developers have made the mistake of not being able to balance PvE and PvP game play? As a player, nothing is more annoying that having your game environment changed on a released game because the game developer needs to balance game play for a play style that shouldn’t affect you. While ARK is in alpha, this is the time to balance the map. It is ridiculous that a tribe feels, on a world PvP map – playing on a PvP server – in a survival game, they can and should dominate an area indefinitely. The fun of PvP is war – trying to take over an area. Look at the epic battles that have happened in EVE Online. Areas were not hard to penetrate because the developers made the map over-powered in one area. Those epic battles happened because players worked hard to create a strategy to overthrow well-established corporations.

My problem: if they don’t fix it now, will they ever fix it? Who wants to hear about a change in this area after May 30th? No one. Now is the time to do it, since they brought it up in the first place. Is this a sign of what is to come? The inability to stand behind a decision made, to correct a mistake?

Was it a mistake, to add a naturally defended area to a world PvP map, being played on PvP servers, in a survival game? I hope that wasn’t the intent of the map design. If it is, I’m concerned about other upcoming map changes. I’m assuming quality of life changes will be coming soon to ARK. Creating and making buildings in ARK is painful, it is not fun at all. Block placement is not smooth and fluid in comparison to other games even if the players uses mods. The problem using mods like this is the uncertainty of the mod working in the future and how potential removal of the mod would impact building design. I’m hoping the developers make building more enjoyable and creative. Actually, this quality of life change would be perfect to add along with making map or terrain changes. They compliment each other. Yes, your area might change but rebuilding would be a more enjoyable experience.

A Possible Solution

If the area doesn’t turn into a snow biome, what else can be done? The game developers could make the terrain around Hidden Lake flatter. Problem solved. The appeal for the area would diminish, the biome does not change, and it’s not like the tribes in that area don’t have access to metal. The true beauty of this: tribes could be ready when the servers first come up to invade because the area would be vulnerable. The tribes who have been sitting pretty for months would actually have to work, hard, to hold it. Epic battles and awesome YouTube videos would be created of these experiences to watch for weeks, creating more of an allure to pull in new players. Going forward, Hidden Lake would be contested like the rest of the map. Each server would have its own story.

Another solution is to puts divides within the stone walls, gaps where tribes would have to build walls to secure the area. The area could still be hidden, yet vulnerable. Fixing the map makes the map match the description of the game.

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