Thursday, 31 March 2016

How to survive your first day in ARK: Survival: pointers for newbies

Picture by Traitine

Last week, I was asked by Traitine of Constant Warfare to help him out with ARK: Survival. He had logged in once or twice alone but didn't get the hang of it. This was something I could relate to, considering Conrad's disastrous first play session on the "Beaches of Terror" I reported on last week, so I was happy to be of any help.

In this post, I hope to give some pointers to ARK newbies inspired by the stream, right from the absolute start (picking a server) to how to prepare for your first logout (you can imagine falling asleep in a wood roamed by tyrannosaurus rexes and whatnot isn't the brightest of ideas). It's basically a post with the 5 Things I Wish I Had Known When Logging in to ARK for the First Time (if I'd have wanted to go with a real clickbaity title)! In addition to the blog post there's the stream, so you can pick whatever form (watching, listening or reading) suits you.

Traitine streams a lot of different games, among which SWTOR and ARK. 
This is a video of last Thursday's session.

But first a bit more about the stream. Last week I wrote how nervous I was joining a stream for the first time. However, I wasn't nervous at all for this time, mainly because I had arranged for my boyfriend Conrad to join us. Conrad has the ability to suck in all the information on the games he plays and is good at explaining things, making him the perfect guide for the sort of "ARK tutorial" play session we were planning. So the guiding tour voice on the stream, that's him. He also tends to talk a lot, which takes the pressure off me - I don't get stressed by the feeling I have to say something. I just hope Traitine will forgive me for inviting this living chatter box to his stream!

Of course, this time everything that could've gone wrong actually went wrong. The gaming laptop suddenly decided it didn't want to run ARK anymore (even though it worked fine the day before) and it took us half an hour to find out why and fix it (oops!). The stream has a bit of a slow startup because of this, so sorry about that! But now to the actual post.

1) Picking a server

The first thing you have to do when you start up ARK is to pick a server. This sounds easy, but what server you play on will have a major effect on your game experience, so it's a good idea to think about this in advance. Here are some factors you can consider:
  • PvP or PvE
  • Do you like the adventure of not knowing whether you're meeting friend or foe? A hardcore PvP server might be something for you. Note that PvP in ARK is very unforgiving. You'll probably want to join a tribe for protection. We went with a more PvE oriented server for the stream because we figured getting rekt by dinos was already getting rekt enough.

  • Official vs unofficial servers
  • When I play a game, I tend to go with official servers as a default. Not so in ARK. Official servers are generally unfriendly for starters, being more established and populated and having few good spots to settle left. Most importantly, though: they have the hardcore settings (see the next paragraph "Server settings"). Unofficial servers don't have these problems, but you're dependent on the server's host: if they decide to close the server, you lose all your progress. The third option is to host a server yourself. You'll have to pay real money for it, but on the upside you can decide on all the settings yourself. You can even turn it off when you're not playing for a while and don't want your plants to wither, your food spoiled, your dinos starving and so on (provided you don't share the servers with others).

  • Server settings
  • ARK is highly customizable, but with what you roll depends on the server settings. Some servers require you to have certain mods installed. For the purpose of the stream we decided against one of those, so we could hop right in (Conrad explains some things about our server choice at the start of the video). Two server settings to look out for, though, are dino tame speed and gathering rates. By default and on the official servers, gathering rate is low and tame speed very low. This gives large tribes an advantage over low level and starting players, especially on PvP servers. It can easily take hours to tame a dino: tribe members will usually have easier access to the correct dino food, increasing the taming rate, and can rotate baby sitters. If you plan on starting on your own or with a small group of friends, look for a server on which the tame speed and gathering rate are increased. Other settings you could consider are increased baby maturation rate (if you think you're going to breed dinos a lot), realistic day night cycles (for shit and giggles; do check where the server is situated!), shorter nights (if you value convenience above realism) and increased engram point gain (if you play alone and want to get all engrams).

  • Finding other players
  • ARK is a lot of fun to play together with others: you can take on larger prey and divide who learns what engrams (skills needed to craft things) - you don't have enough points to learn all by default, unless you play on an unofficial server with increased engram point gain. If you would like to play together with others but don't know anyone, there's plenty of recruitment messages online by players renting a server wanting more residents. Reddit has a good list with up to date advertisements, including info about the server settings.

2) Creating a survivor

There aren't terribly many options for your character yet: gender, size, muscle volume, limited hair colours and that's it. I'm really hoping more options will be added in the future; right now it's hard to recognize characters in the landscape because they all sort of look the same. You can see the character creation screen in the video at (00:07).

The easiest spawning points are south or west; do not spawn solo in the northeast unless you're willing to die over and over.

A dilophosaur isn't hard to take on when you have a weapon equipped.

3) Starting with gathering

As soon as you've materialized in the open world, start gathering materials to survive. Pick berries and gather fibre from plants (do not eat the black narcoberries, or you'll fall asleep), punch trees to get thatch and wood (watch your health while doing this, it actually hurts) and pick up stones from the beach. You should now be able to craft your first tools. Some tools are better at gathering specific mats than others:
  • Pickaxe: flint (from rock), thatch (from trees), meat (from dead animals)
  • Hatchet: stone (from rock), wood (from trees), hides (from dead animals)

Crafting a torch is also useful. It will keep you warm when you get cold and it will provide some visual during the night. Craft clothes with the fibre to keep warm: the colder you are, the sooner your food meter ticks down.
A spear is a useful first weapon. It allows you to safely take on the smaller predators on the island: dilophosaurus and compy. Note that it has a chance to break on impact, so make a couple in advance.
A club is useful for taming dinosaurs: it deals less damage and will knock dinos out (increasing their torpor), so you can start the taming process.
Create a campfire to cook meat (after which it is safely consumable). Drag some wood or thatch in to fuel it.

You can watch some gathering in the video at 00:10 - 00:13.

From all the gathering, you'll inevitably level up. This is nice! As you level up, you will get points to spend on your stats and engrams. Conrad gives some tips on this at 00:13 - 00:20.

Looking at an unconscious dino will show the unconscious and taming meter. 
If the taming meter is full, the dino will be yours.

4) Tame a dino!

If you need to logout soon I'd advice to skip to 5), but taming is of course where the fun starts. The safest is to start with a dodo, because they will never attack you, even if they accidentally wake up. Hit it with a club and it will be knocked unconscious, then put berries in its inventory. All herbivores like mejoberries the best; carnivores require raw meat. Force-feeding unconscious dinos narcoberries, or hit them with a club, will keep them unconscious for longer, but will decrease their taming efficiency. Although they will not fight for you, dodos are not completely useless because they lay eggs - a great food source. Other easy dinos to tame are dilophosaurus (a carnivore that can function as a guard dog) and parasaurolophus (a herbivore that you can be mounted at low level).

You can see the taming process in the video at 00:39 (dilophosaurus) and 00:43 (parasaurolophus). We even managed to tame Traitine's favourite dino: a triceratops! This is not a dino I would recommend for beginners (especially without narcotics or bow and arrow), but it was very cool to get this done on stream (01:48).

If you've tamed a dino, you'll have to craft a saddle before you can ride them. 
You need to be level 20 to craft the triceratops one (sorry Traitine!).

5) Create a safehouse

After you log out, your body will fall asleep. As you may imagine, you are very vulnerable to carnivorous dinos and unfriendly players during this time. This is why it is smart to build a thatch shed. Be sure to close (and lock) the door after you logout! You will never be 100 percent safe since other players can destroy your shed and reach you that way, but you should usually be okay if you don't play on a hardcore PvP server.

If you have the time, you can place a sleeping bag (1x use) or a bed in your house. You can use this as a spawn point in case you die. You do, however need quite some hides to craft them. Dodos are the safest source of hides, but larger animals drop more. Turtles drop a lot of hides and can be kited with a spear. If you do it right, you will never get hit. However, this requires some practice and you may die the first few times. Conrad shows how it's done at 01:05.

That's it. You've survived your first day in ARK! I had to simplify things in order to keep the article size in check, but if there are any crucial tips I managed to forget, feel free to share them in the comments below.


  1. Awesome! Thanks for the starter tips. Didn't know about that about servers, thought you would be able to setup your own on your own computer.

    1. Oh, oops! I may have forgotten to mention that. I know it's possible to play locally (if you don't want to play with people that are not part of your household) and you're probably also able to run your own server if you're techy - but I'm obviously not, so I'm not sure! I'm adding these options to the list. Somehow it just didn't occur to me when writing this at the time. Thank you for being sharp-eyed. :)

      Do you play ARK? I think it'd be perfect for you. We have a female rex called Rheiya. If we ever catch a male I'll call it Roger. :P

    2. Cool! Thanks for the update.
      I do want to play it, but didn't get the game yet.

      Awesome XD
      and I'm honored

  2. The stream was definitely educational! I think I learned more about the game that evening than I did in the hours I actually spent playing it, haha. :P

    1. It's so easy to get 'stuck' in ARK (*cough* punching trees *cough*) - I picked up a lot from other players who found out about things (we play together with a bunch of Asylum people). It's really a strength in numbers things! Awesome to hear that even you learned something from the stream. :)


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