dinosaur ranching

The hubs and I recently started playing ARK: Survival Evolved, a survival crafting adventure game where you tame dinosaurs. It is unforgiving, but, you know, in a fun way.

Highlights of our first session include:

  • A small army of tamed dodos!
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Two of the dodos are named Dodger and two of them are named Mogs because I thought the first of each had died when they hadn’t. In my defense, all the previous ones got eaten. …which doesn’t sound like much of a defense now that I say it.

  • …that were quickly eaten by wild wandering dilophosaurs. (Womp womp.)
  • Taming a pair of parasaurs!
  • …that also quickly met their end. RIP Hellyeah and Ruby. Hellyeah died trying to defend Adam against a school of piranhas when he overzealously jumped into some water chasing after an oviraptor he wanted to tame. Ruby died trying to protect me against titanoboas (Fuck you, titanoboas.)
  • Taming a triceratops!
  • …that died trying to defend us against another trike we were trying to tame and who was mad at our efforts.
  • I got chased up a mountain by two titanoboas (seriously, fuck you, titanoboas), ran out of stamina, and threw myself off a cliff to escape. And then died from falling, obvs. (Adam talks about this on episode 217 of Coffee with Butterscotch, starting at about 18 minutes in.)

I feel like there’s a pattern in there…

ARK is primarily billed as an online multiplayer game.* You can form up tribes and go to war against each other or try to carve out a peaceful settlement for yourself, though good luck going that route if you’re playing on open servers. Hubs and I play on our own private server so that we can hang out and game together without having to worry about randoms intruding into our space and fucking up all our shit. (As though dinosaurs fucking up all our shit wasn’t enough to begin with.)

Here’s what we learned so far after we muddled through our first few sessions on dino island.

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This seems effective.

You’re going to die. A lot. Because lots of things want to kill you. When you die, you respawn either somewhere random or at a bed, if you’ve made one. Then you have to go track down your stuff and loot it from your corpse. Here’s the thing though: don’t get too attached to all the stuff you’re carrying (and don’t carry too much stuff with you when you’re exploring) because you will have at least one death where your body is inaccessible or lost and you can’t get your stuff back. Really, it’s often easier to just build new stuff.

(Sidebar: you can destroy your corpse for meat. Just don’t think too hard about it.)

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Adam’s character. Not dead, but asleep. Yeah, this is definitely how I sleep too.

The dinosaurs you tame at the beginning will probably die. Sorry.

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My super cool tech parasaurs! They died shortly after this picture was taken.

The beach is a good place for a first makeshift base to start your adventures (again, all bets are off if you’re playing PvP). It’s in the open so you have good visibility (it is helpful to be able to see your base from a distance since navigation is tricky). There are a lot of resources. And you have a water source close by.

But, also. Be careful in the water. It is treacherous and filled with teeth.

Build a lot of beds. Place them periodically while you’re exploring. A bed provides a respawn point for your whole tribe. It has a significant cool down, but it’s still extremely, extremely useful. You can also use beds as fast travel points, though you lose all your stuff when you teleport.

We’re getting Adam’s bros into it too for some family adventures. If you like survival/crafting games and dinosaurs, I recommend it.

(Again, with the caveat that I’m playing PvE on a private server.)

*RANT: I know this is a draw for lots of people, but it’s literally the opposite for me. I am less likely to buy a game if you tell me I have to play online with other people. Where are my single-player games? Where are my local/LAN co-op games?

Why wouldn’t you let me have a private server? I’m looking at you Fallout 76. Which makes me sad because I love the Fallout franchise and was ready to hand over the cash, until I found out it was only online and there was no way to keep randoms out of your gameplay experience. ARK lets you have private servers, which is great.

Having spent plenty of time playing online games and seeing how quickly people RUIN things… No thanks. And that’s even before you add in the fact that I’m a woman. Does that mean I miss out on moments of community? Maybe. But in my experience, those come few and far between the RUINATION. For every one story I see about someone helping someone else in a game, I see a dozen about terrible, abusive behavior.

Anyway. I could rant about this for a lot longer.