Ark: Griefing Evolved

I picked up Ark for $12 as part of the Humble Monthly bundle the other day, and my five or so hours with it have been… interesting. Even more interesting was what I was reading on the Steam forums about the recent addition of handcuffs into the game:

Ark is a great game but it’s become unenjoyable for some and unplayable for others. As I write this, my avatar on official server 16 has been caged, immobile and unplayable for over six hours. I’d suicide and respawn… but that’s not an option. […]

And no, you can’t do anything about it. Handcuffs can’t be escaped and don’t allow you to use your hands. No punching walls or using anything to suicide with. Your captors encumber you so you can’t burn stamina, food and water to kill yourself. And captors are able to force feed you to keep you alive indefinitely. So you’re stuck, unable to actually play Ark for as long as they decide to hijack your game.

In case you don’t know much about it, Ark has a “torpor” mechanic that is primarily used to knock out dinosaurs so you can tame them. As it turns out, torpor can also be used on other players (the game is PvP by default). There have been cages and prisons and the like for a while now, but players used to be able to kill themselves by thrashing about, as the esteemed sir throttlejam mentioned above. Handcuffs remove this ability, and make it so that other players can manipulate your inventory directly.

The player responses to throttlejam’s plight go on to demonstrate that one really can justify anything. They basically run the full gamut from “your friends will save you” to “you got what you deserve for not playing with friends” to “go play on a different server.” Quick note: your character’s progress is limited to the specific server you are on. Playing on a different server basically means rerolling.

Some people were doubting throttlejam’s description of events. Surely it can’t be that bad? Which then led to this description:

You’re not unconscious. You’re handcuffed and they put weight in your inventory to encumber you so you can’t move and they force feed you like taming a dino. All you can do is stand there and wait… forever. You’re in a cell made of greenhouse glass and you can see everyone else being held around you… and there are multiple levels of nothing but cells and captive players. I can see them all.

An immobile player uses very little food or water… so it’s not a big drain on a large tribe’s resources to imprison a LOT of player avatars. On this server there are maybe 20 – 30 players online at one time… and these guys have most of those players avatars in lock up. How’s that fun?

…I think I’m done with Ark for now.

For the record, it is not necessarily due to Ark’s dedication to raising the bar for sociopath simulators. Indeed, my gameplay thus far as been entirely on a single-player server – I went to a official PvE server for about five minutes, saw a huge player-constructed tower, and remembered I don’t actually like people all that much. No, I’m primarily done with Ark for the time being because not even a GTX 970 can eek out more than about 24 fps on a good day.

Well, that, and I built a small hut, then a larger hut with a better view, then realized that I’d never be able to farm with a nearby source of water. I actually scouted abroad pretty far, found a nice area near a river, and then it occurred to me that I’d be looking at another half dozen hours just gathering resources. Let alone taming dinosaurs, or venturing out and getting immediately eaten by raptors.

There’s fun, and then there’s fun. I’m more in the mood for the latter.

Posted on February 29, 2016, in Impressions and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. “I went to a official PvE server for about five minutes, saw a huge player-constructed tower, and remembered I don’t actually like people all that much” – this sounds like me. I do enjoy playing with others, but not when it feels unfair. It’s down to the game developers to ensure that their game is balanced in such a way that doesn’t allow some players to dominate other others. I played a bit of ARK and enjoyed it, but this sounds like a terrible mechanic. If you’ve paid for the game it’s only fair that you shouldn’t be prevented from playing it properly. The social aspect is a large part of some games – there are much better survival games than ARK, but they’re single-player – and it’ll ruin the game if they don’t encourage a healthy growth in the community. Players that don’t enjoy this type of thing will be deterred from playing, and in the end the players who do enjoy it will find there’s no longer anybody left to do this to and so will eventually stop playing aswell. They should allow players some way to escape, even if it’s challenging to pull off.


  2. Assuming that the handcuffs are working as intended in the descriptions above, in what way would you imagine the developers imagined gameplay would be improved when they added them? From the outside, ARK looks more like a social experiment run for the interests of the designers (similar to A Tale in The Desert) than a game intended to be enjoyed by customers. Its massive success, however, suggests they may know their business pretty well.


    • I’d suggest that the game’s success thus far has had little to do with the implementation of gulags. Not sure when the “portable” wooden prison cells were added, but the handcuffs came in on Feb 23rd, so not quite a full week yet. I’d be very surprised if A) nothing changed about handcuffs, or B) options to suicide were not added.

      Honestly, I bet the devs added handcuffs because other games like DayZ (and I think Rust) has them. Problem is that DayZ allows you to struggle out of handcuffs, and Rust has suicide console commands, or at least did according to the brief Googling I did. Handcuffs are a bit pointless beyond RPing possibilities in those cases, but I’d argue that there is a reason that is the case. Player-run Guantanamo Bay facilities are not exactly the sort of thing that lends itself to fun gameplay experiences.


  3. Typically as soon as I read “PVP Survival MMO” I’m done, but this just seals the deal for good.


    • I never would have bothered either if I hadn’t heard about PvE servers or the ability to basically play single-player. Until the performance issues are handled though, it’s tough to recommend even then.


  4. I’m with Bhagpuss, that’s some Zimbardo-level stuff, creepy as hell.

    But yes, it’s in keeping with the ‘we are more hardcore than the competition’ arms race that churns away under the rock of gaming.


  5. There’s a fair bit of monkeying around you can do with the various game inis to improve performance.

    On the private server my friends and I use I sit pretty comfortably at ~40-50 FPS with medium-high graphics on my nearly 4 year old GTX 670. The /r/playark/ subreddit is usually quite helpful with such things.


  6. Woah, it’s like “The Experiment”, but in a gaming medium. Creepy as fuck.


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