PixARK Producer Discusses Using Simplicity To Solve ARK’s Problems

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PixARK was revealed last month as a voxel-based companion to the massively popular ARK: Survival Evolved. In advance of the game’s early-access launch on PC and Xbox One next month, Snail Games Executive Producer Peter Kang spoke with Player.One to discuss why he feels simplicity and unique contributions to Minecraft’s foundation will help his spinoff shine.

“If you've ever played ARK you should know its hardware requirements are pretty intensive. ARK: Survival Evolved is a very high-fidelity game. With PixARK, our approach is to make this type of gameplay accessible to a broader spectrum of machines and player types,” Kang told us in his elevator pitch for the game. “With PixARK, we aim to take a more casual approach and still bring in some of the core gameplay elements that really helped ARK: Survival Evolved stand out.”

Boasting an audience of 100,000 peak concurrents on Steam alone, saying Survival Evolved stands out is an understatement. The game became a poster child for early access success and carried that momentum to a full retail release last August. It may not have much mainstream media appeal, but a large cult of players flocked to the game for its dozens of unique creatures and brutally realistic survival mechanics.

With that challenge in mind, Kang admitted that adapting those survival complexities for a casual audience has been one of his biggest struggles. When all is said and done, though, he feels PixARK still digs into the successful survival roots of its predecessor. “Survival mechanics are essentially the core gameplay,” Kang confirmed, but PixARK features a world-shattering twist: instead of living and building on solid terrain, this version of the game emphasizes terraformed environments.

“For a voxel-based game, it's easier to run away from a dinosaur if you can just make yourself a staircase to jump on top of. We feel like that type of gameplay, added on top of ARK's existing survival mechanics, will give players more ways to complete objectives like taming beasts, slaying beasts or collecting resources,” Kang said when asked to describe the Minecraft-inspired design choice. You’ll still be surviving, but digging will be a huge part of that process in PixARK. That extra freedom gives less experienced players more of a cushion to survive the wilderness instead of being instantly wrecked by a Raptor as soon as the map loads.

PixARK landscape
This entire landscape of voxels can be shaped to your heart's content. Photo: Snail Games

PixARK also differs from its predecessor by making conscious attempts to be less of a time sink. A typical 12-hour wait to tame a Giga, for example, will be just a few minutes long in PixARK, and a two-hour trip to restock gasoline will be replicated as a 15-minute diversion. This short-burst philosophy ties into Dino ownership too. Unlike Survival Evolved, tames in PixARK will only last for a maximum of three days. It’s a tweak that Kang feels will rectify one of ARK’s biggest design flaws. He envisions a path that makes dinosaurs easier to tame but with a limited duration gain.

“We felt like the whole dinosaur-farm concept was a poor design choice because it encouraged players to stockpile hundreds of dinosaurs for no reason. It created this scenario where players felt compelled to go online and feed the dinosaurs or they would die,” he said. “Having an attachment to your dinosaurs is great, but it'd be a lot more fun if you had to tame raid-focused dinosaurs before each raid,” he explained.

In this way, PixARK strives to address lasting issues that both Snail Games and Studio Wildcard acknowledged during the upcoming game’s development process. What you’re getting with PixARK, then, is a game built as an homage to Minecraft that encapsulates only the best and most digestible parts of Survival Evolved.

PixARK Dragon
Creature taming will be temporary, but that will hopefully make PixARK more fun. Photo: Snail Games

“People might say PixARK is a cash-in, but it's really about broadening ARK's IP to deliver it to players who like the idea of Survival Evolved but don't play because it's too hardware-intensive or too much of a time investment. We want to offer that simple, official server, survive-and-raid diplomacy with a shorter session length,” he said. “That's the main differentiator between us and them. We're taking ARK's gameplay and shortening the session.”

PixARK will arrive first in early access on PC and Xbox Game Preview next month. Versions for PS4 and Nintendo Switch are planned to release in 2018. Come back next week to learn intricate details about PixARK’s gameplay and potential plans for future expansion.

Does PixARK sound fun to you based on Kang’s description? Could Survival Evolved be simpler than it is? Tell us in the comments section!  

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