Studio Wildcard Killed ARK PVP?

The developer’s behind the massively popular survival title ARK: Survival Evolved, have really made some questionable decisions in the continued development of the Early Access title. These decisions have included releasing a paid for DLC for a title still in development as well as the release of the not-quite-functional Procedurally Generated ARKS but it is the latest complete ‘overhaul’ of one of the essential PvP elements in the game that has the community more incensed than ever. I am talking, of course, about the changes to all mountable flying creatures.

Before we look at why the community is upset, let us first look at was changed on flying creatures (taken from the ARK Gamepedia wiki under the “Undocumented Changes”):

Flyer Nerf

Note “flyer” refers only to the mountable flyers and excludes creatures such as the Onyc, Dimorphodon and Vulture.

  • Flying creatures can no longer allocate points into movement speed.
    • All flying creatures have had their movement speed points refunded.
    • Wild points allocated to movement speed are no longer reflected in the creature’s level, reducing their wild level when compared to other creatures.
  • Flyers will continue to consume stamina (and won’t regenerate) while unmounted if they are still being ridden by another player or creature (i.e. on their back). This primarily affects wyverns and quetzals.
  • Flyers now added 100% of the weight of other creatures on their back (up from 30%).
  • Mounted-fly-speed of flyers reduced by 10-30%.
  • The stamina of all flying creatures has been substantially reduced.
  • The stamina of all flying creatures now regenerates much more slowly.
  • The stamina of all flying creatures now takes ~10 seconds to begin regenerating.
  • The Island now features Wind Speed, which modifies the speed of flyers. Direction of the wind is currently not visible.
  • Imprint no longer increases the movement speed of flyers.
  • Increased wyvern special attack cost.
  • Decreased quetzal health per rank.
  • Added 3-second cooldown to the Pteranodons barrel roll.

It has to be noted that these “patch notes” were never released on the official ARK Patch notes available on the SurviveTheARK site or on Steam so most players had to discover these changes all on their own (something that led to no small amount of rage on my own PVP server). So now we know what changes were made, let’s take a look at the impact they have had on the game (I will be discussing from both a PVP and a PVE standpoint so will begin with the broad-reaching PVE implications).

Gone are the days when a player’s game is forever changed with the taming of a flyer. Cross map travel, transportation of creatures/resources/players themselves have taken a major hit as flyers no longer have the speed or stamina to warrant anything but the briefest of journeys. In addition, the changes to the stamina regeneration as well as the adjusted weight on carried creatures means that Quetzals have taken a major hit in terms of usefulness for bulk farming as well as transportation as transporting creatures on Quetzal back will now require the Quetzal to actually land to regen stamina instead of a player being able to just dismount and watch stamina regen in mid-air.

While these changes don’t seem like a major issue we have to ask ourselves: on maps other than The Island (where the map can be easily transversed on a land creature) how are players supposed to effectively traverse the oceans and mountains to get to resource nodes/outpost bases? Maps like the Center and Shigo Islands are set up in such a way that travel by land is almost impossible if you wish to explore anything other than the island you are spawned on. While the Center is an official map, and Shigo is well on the way to being recognised as official, this change also has massive implications for players on Wildcard’s DLC map, Scorched Earth.

To fully realise the impact of these nerfs one must look at a key aspect of why players play on Scorched Earth to begin with: Wyverns. How does one get Wyverns? Stealing their eggs from the single most dangerous part of the map, the Wyvern cavern.

Previously, before cross-ARK travel was enabled, this was achieved by boosting the movement speed of an Argentavis to a level at which you could outrun the Wyvern who you just aggroed by stealing its egg. With the changes to Movement Speed, this is no longer possible. This leaves players with two options: draw out the Wyverns to a player created “death zone” (perhaps a small metal building covered in auto turrets) or get a mount capable of killing a Wyvern (let’s be honest, multiple Wyverns) which is only semi-viable due to the ability of the Lightning Wyverns beam attack being able to deal damage and torpor to riders directly.

And this is only the start of the change. In terms of PVP, Pteranodons played a vital role in offensive and defensive capabilities of tribes. Getting attacked by another tribe? Hop onto your Pteranodon and pull players off of their mounts to be decimated by your turrets/creatures. Going to attack another tribe? Pick up players to prevent them leaving the area or load your Ptera up with C4 to launch an attack on their walls (or attach C4 to a tanky Carbonemys and launch it into their base by Quetzal). One thing was for sure, though, taking a Ptera into battle could make or break your mission. With an area-of-effect attack and massive amounts of movement speed not only could you fly in and attack mounted land dino’s with little potential for harm to yourself but, if in a pinch, you could almost be assured of your escape should you wish to hightail it out of there.

In this way, Pteranodons were vital for the success of PVP orientated tribes. These changes to the flyers have decimated the current meta, in a way killing traditional ARK PVP but, is that really a bad thing? One poster on the Steam forum mega thread for the patch put it quite perfectly:

Pre-Nerf: The flyer class as a whole allowed players to do the following:

  1. Cross the entire map extremely quickly with no risk
  2. Complete control over engagement /disengagement of wildlife
  3. Play with zero PVE risk
  4. Mine the entire map in one run, again with zero risk
  5. Made the entire land game obsolete except for resource farming
  6. Build Rome in a day
  7. Be an absolute game changer the minute you got your first flyer

There are a few end game land dino’s that can match flyers in some of the categories, but as a “swiss army knife – do it all – carry it all” kind of pet nothing else could match the flyer.

Almost 100 creatures can currently be tamed. Five of those just got nerfed and the entire official game changes because of this. This only proves how unbalanced and OP the flyer class really was.”

The Thylacoleo, a new addition to the ARK and creature possessing the ability to dismount riders in mid-air (a mechanic which could be countered simply through the pumping of movement speed).

While the changes to ARK’s flyers will have a major impact on current players, the flyer-meta has long been criticised as it has become increasingly more stale and overused with tribe domination ultimately being decided by who tames a high-level Ptera first. I personally believe that these changes will “evolve” ARK from a predominantly aerial offense game to one more in line with expectations when one thinks of a dinosaur survival game (ie. traversing the land is difficult and full of toothy hazards and PVP will be a game of sustainability rather than reliant on a player’s ability to find a fast flyer).

One of my favourite screenshots from when the Dragon was first introduced to ARK – a battle of the beasts.

I am quite excited to delve into the potential of ARK’s many, varied land-based (and semi-aquatic) wildlife to discover new ways to overcome my obstacles (which previously were just dismissed as you flew jauntily over any and all hazards). In addition, the previously neglected flyers (like my personal favourite the Tapejara) should see some more player love as players find new and exciting ways to better use a broader range of creatures (because honestly, with so many different creatures at our disposal it was such a great shame to see the same creatures doing the same thing over and over).

While I feel that these changes will ultimately be for the good of both PVE and PVP players, the way in which Studio Wildcard presented these nerfs is something I do not agree with. Not a patch note nor warning in sight, our tribe happily spent two weeks breeding Pteranadons only for all of them to become irrelevant overnight. Perhaps if we had more warning, or even just more in-depth patch-notes on the day, there would not have been such an outpouring of negativity from the community as, even with assurances from Wildcard that the nerfs were a work in progress, ultimately the backlash from what is an almost complete overhaul was something that could have been avoided (this is why most games have testing-servers that players can experiment on before the patch is rolled out to the general audience). ARK: Survival Evolved may still be an Early Access title, meaning that change is inevitable, but this does not mean that the developers can drop such massive changes without expecting a fair amount of negativity, especially an Early Access title that makes game-changing nerfs that have such great effect on their paid-for DLC content.

Our now-useless breeding Pteranadons.

In the meantime, while Studio Wildcard continues working on the state of flyers, players have a couple of options open to them:

  1. Embrace the changes, provide negative and positive feedback on the post mega-thread to better enable Wildcard to bring the flyers into a place where they are not completely irrelevant
  2. Wait out the inevitable changes by playing on a server running a mod (like the Classic Flyers mod)
  3. Stop playing ARK until such time that flyers have been brought into line with expectations (something that is not assured by any means)

What are your thoughts on the current state of flyers in ARK: Survival Evolved and, should you not agree with the nerfs, what would you have Studio Wildcard change in order to retain their overall goal (of shifting the meta away from a flyer-based one without making them completely irrelevant).

  • Matthew Holliday

    “Wild points allocated to movement speed are no longer reflected in the creature’s level, reducing their wild level when compared to other creatures.”

    Atleast there was something useful from this.

    Nerfing flyers to attempt to balance PVP is one thing, i mean all those changes can be justified towards that.
    But I play PVE, I like to build, and breed and stuff. Now what do I do? install ANOTHER mod that applies a fix that should have been made by wildcard?
    Hope my server has put the command in to un-nerf the flyers? does the command prompt, mentioned in the patch notes even affect these notes that werent in the patch notes?

    They didnt kill PVP, they attempted to balance it, not quite the reception theyd hoped for, but atleast theyr trying.
    But PVE? PVE is an abandoned baby that theyv just handed over to the modders, hoping to make their game playable.