Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The misadventures of Conrav on the Beaches of Horror, or: The steep learning curve of ARK: Survival

We're writing December 2015. Inspired by Haffle's enthusing adventures, I bought ARK: Survival for Conrad's birthday. Just one copy to start with, because we don't usually play survival games and I had no clue if this one would stick. But I just had to buy it because it was too perfect of a birthday gift opportunity to pass up: it has dinos in it (gasp)!

Loyal readers may remember from this Liebster Award post that we both independently nerded out on dinos as children (pro-tip: check out the comments to find out with which dinos well-known bloggers identified with). We even share both ankylosaurus AND elasmosaurus in our favourite dino top 3, so we're a perfect match! But I digress...

So you'll understand that we were both glued to the screen when Conrad started up ARK (me watching over his shoulder). He quickly created a character, picked a random server and... oops, slideshow mode was engaged. The first disappointment with ARK was that it turned out to be a tad too new for Conrad's gaming computer. With all the settings maxed out it looked incredibly good, but he couldn't move. At all. Tweaking to make it playable made the game look crappy, unfortunately.

Usually crappy graphics are a big turn off for me. But this game had dinos. So we persisted.

The beaches of horror

We rolled solo on a local server first just to explore how the game works. Looking at the map, Conrad decided to spawn on the northeastern beaches, soon to be known by us as "the beaches of horror". This was our first big mistake, as we would soon find out. We ran around a little, and found all kinds of tasty-looking berries in the bushes. We also found some stones: so far so good. Conrad decided he needed a pickaxe to gather thatch: most tools and building parts seemed to require it. BUT, you need thatch to create a pickaxe in the first place! Uhhh, right. More running around then, hoping we would somehow find some thatch lying around.

A giant bird was flying above a cliff to the south. Upon Conrad's curious approach, it suddenly turned towards him with surprising speed and attacked! Conrad defended himself courageously with his firsts, but within a few seconds we were no more. Death by argentavis.

Arch-enemy number 1 of nooby Conrav: the argentavis

Conrad decided to respawn close by. Mistake number two. We spawned next to the argentavis. Running away in terror, he ran into a dark four-legged creature. While outrunning the argentavis seemed a valid strategy, outrunning a sabretooth tigre was no option: the buggers run as fast as a moped. Death by sabretooth tigre.

The next respawn point was safer, but now all of a sudden the screen went flickering and an icon of a liver appeared. "You are starving. Eat something, fast!" No worries, we thought, we have berries - and enthusiastically ate them all at once. But... what was happening now? The screen went black and Conrad's character collapsed on the beach. Several minutes of terror went by as Conrad was sleeping and miraculously not got eaten by sabretooth tigres. Another lesson learned: do not eat the black berries.

We had been playing for one hour now and had still not found any thatch. Because it is needed for about everything in the game we weren't getting any further. I caved in and looked up on the ARK wiki that you had to punch trees. Punch trees. In our assumption that survival games are all about realism, punching trees simply hadn't occurred to us. I don't know if you've ever punched any trees with your bare hands in your analogue life but... don't, just don't.

Punching trees - how intuitive is that?!

Now we had gathered some thatch, Conrad could finally make a thatch foundation for his beach hut. Venturing out into the woods to collect some more, we soon decided against getting tyrannosaurus rekt and immediately turned around when we sighted one. Mental note: the forest is scary, too (surprise).

A new problem was waiting for us upon our return: a pair of sabretooth tigres had spawned next to the beach hut's foundation. Five painful deaths, respawns on unknown locations (it was brutal to find back the "hut" without a compass: the beach looks the same everywhere) and run-ins with argentavises later, Conrad finally managed to find his foundation back and defeat one of the sabretooth tigres by throwing spears at it from on top of a cliff - the tigre was stuck below, not understanding how to get up. Victory! Okay, it may have not been the most heroic of victories, but this is about survival! Unfortunately, there was still one sabretooth tigre left...

By now two hours had gone by and all we had achieved was to craft some tools and build one thatch foundation. And die about 20 times. Then I googled a bit and found out that it wasn't the brightest idea to start out in the northeast: apparently it is notorious for being a bad place to start out, what with the large amount of carnivores (no kidding). Apparently we should have started out in the south. Figures.

Mental map of The Island after two hours of playtime

This is where we abandoned this play session and where I will leave it for this blog post. In our first hours playing ARK we got eaten by dinos over and over again and had to spend the remaining time trying to find out where we were and getting resources (clothes and tools) back (you lose everything when you die). Without any prior knowledge of the game, ARK: Survival definitely isn't easy to get into - at least if you start out in the northeast on a local server (with more alive dinos because there are no other players to kill them). I don't even want to think what it's like to start out on a PvP server!

Don't worry, though, all is well now. Armed with the wiki (yes, it's cheaty, but we didn't feel like pushing our heads against the wall for hours punching-tree-style again) we have built multiple bases and gathered a vast array of dinos over the course of many more play sessions. We are ARK noobs no longer.

I do not wish our first impression of the game on anyone, though, so with all the knowledge we have of ARK now, Conrad and I will take ARK newbie Traitine by the hand tomorrow and make sure he'll get a better first impression of the game than we did!

If you're new to ARK and are hesitant to dive into it all by yourself, you can follow how we'll do tomorrow, Thursday the 24th, on the Constant Warfare stream, 12 am PDT / 8 pm CET. We'll probably roll naked characters so we can start out on equal levels. Will we get eaten by sabretooth tigres? Nah, I'm sure we'll be fiiiiiine...


  1. This is probably mean but this was a pretty funny story.

    I wonder if the punching trees was something they got from Minecraft. I *think* in there you also don't start with any tools and just have to punch the trees to build some. Except that the graphics there are so much more simple that it doesn't seem that odd. In Ark Survival though...

    About using the Wiki, I don't think it is "cheaty" in the case of a game like this that just drops you in with little to no information on how to get things done. They are pretty much essential to help you figure out the basics. Once you got those down you can pretty much figure out what else to do.

    1. Some people get very upset or frustrated when they fail a challenge or die. I do not mind so much. While it was slightly annoying to die over and over, we could see the humorous side of it, too: the sheer amounts of times we were getting eaten made the whole gameplay pretty slapstick!

      I usually like going in blindfolded with as little information as possible. Figuring out what to do is part of the fun for me. When it boils down to hours of trying without any progress it becomes tedious.; then I don't mind looking at the work others have done to save myself time. Unfortunately ARK seems to be one of those games. For instance, what food to feed a specific species of dino in order to tame them as fast as possible is something you don't want to be researching for every dino you want to tame - it can take hours to do so and you'd have to stopwatch it with each type (depending on the server's settings for taming speed). I rather spend that time doing something fun!

  2. This was such a great read, Rav! A lot of what you wrote I can highly relate to especially when I first started out:p. Good stuff, and now you need to show us your dinos!

    1. Thank you! I will probably write some more about ARK in the future, if people don't get bored by it. There are plenty of adventures worth retelling. And of course I will show you my prehistoric sweeties!

  3. Lol I love your love for Dinos Rav! It was comedic and enjoyable to read xD

    As for the game, I really want to try it out now! Your commentary and screenshots always make me want to research and try out the games you play u_u Ouch to my wallet. But on a brighter note, I'd totally back you if you ever ended up in content advertising for video games, because you always sure convince me xD

    I'll be sure to check out your stream tomorrow to see if I'd enjoy the game :)

    1. Aww, I'm glad to hear you've enjoyed it. And super awesome that you wanted to watch the stream! I hope it gave you a better idea about what ARK's like: a lot of chaos, but fun. I'm happy we didn't die quite as much in the stream as in the blog post! ;)

  4. Haha, I started with people who already knew the game, so I knew about the tree punching and was immediately told to spawn at the south beach. However, my game wouldn't even finish booting up in regular mode, I had to choose one of the less resource-hogging modes to even get it to run. And my first death came when I tried to cross a little stream on the beach and got eaten by fish. Later I walked a bit too far into the forest in the dark and bumped into a crocodile or something that ate me. My co-players were amazed at my ability to get myself killed even while surrounded by high levels.

    1. Haha, thanks for making me feel better!

  5. I wish I could dive in NOW!... But with a 5-yearold pc, build for Photoshop (HIGH on RAM, but so so videocard and top quality, but slow screen), I just can't. Your discription of he game even wants me to dive in more. I don't care to get killed, a good game isn't too easy. Plus, from what I have seen, the graphics are awesome. And dino's... who doesn't like dino's? :)

    Great article Rav!

    1. The graphics *are* awesome... but I know your pain. The laptop I'm playing on is 4 years old (and was epic back then) and can just about play it on the lower settings. The screenies of this post were all taken in slideshow mode - I just couldn't bare the thought of ruining this article with pictures of what the game looks like normally!

      Sorry for making you jealous - I hope you'll be able to enjoy games such as ARK one day. :)


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