the survivalist

The Survivalist is a feature column all about the biggest and best survival sandboxes; it is helmed by MJ Guthrie. [Follow this column’s RSS feed]

The Survivalist: Eight ways to give Just Survive a fighting chance

Do you remember at the beginning of May when Just Survive was talking about “working on a plan to go forward”? I understand if you don’t: It almost seems as if Daybreak itself has forgotten about the game, so how can it expect players to remember. Well, with H1Z1 doing so well on the PlayStation 4, maybe — just maybe — the game that actually birthed the battle royale version (that it lost its name to) will get some love. We can dream! And while we dream, we can also help the studio out with its plan-making endeavors. And boy, do I think it needs some help! As it is, the next promised patch sound like little more than maintenance mode and doesn’t really dispel the rumor that the game is on the sunset path. In order to survive, Just Survive needs to step up and offer a bit more than that. So here are eight ways Daybreak can give this survival game a fighting chance.

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The Survivalist: How Aberration saved ARK

It’s no secret that plenty of people have felt disappointed by Studio Wildcard, disillusioned by decisions and direction. I was among that crowd. It reached a point where I had to give thought as to whether or not I felt I could continue to support the company. Added to that was the feeling of been there, done that in ARK: Survival Evolved that made logging in a drudgery. Not even the unexplored spaces of procedurally generated maps, Scorched Earth, or Ragnarok could rekindle that fire and entice me to delve back in with the regularity of my previous adventures; there just wasn’t enough to keep my interest or heart in it. I was reduced to mostly just making sure my dinosaurs were fed (because no way could I stand the thought of letting them die!). I had to decide, was it now time to move on?

And then came Aberration.

It is no exaggeration to say that Aberration saved ARK for me. Right when I was ready to relegate my ARK adventures to only memories, I found myself sucked back in. And I dived in with gusto! More than just logging in more often, I am back to thinking about the game even when I am not online. I am making long-term plans for my ARK: Aberration life. And I have clocked numerous lengthy play sessions that probably should have ended sooner but I got caught in the “just let me do this one last thing…” trap multiple times.

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The Survivalist: The good, the bad, and the barbaric of Conan Exiles’ launch

If the survival genre is any indication, Early Access is a nigh indestructable beast! Time and time again we’ve seen where so many have failed to defeat this end boss. But that all changed when one mighty barbarian came along and did just that. Conan Exiles strangled the last breath out of the Early Access beast with its bare hands and cast it aside, then strode straight into the waiting arms of launch this week.

Now there is lots to say about this launch, and a good chunk of it is pretty glowing. However, no launch is without some troubles. And sadly, there is also a despicable element as well. Here’s my look at the good, the bad, and the barbaric of the first couple of days of Conan Exiles’ launch.

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The Survivalist: Seven survival games I want to love, but can’t… yet

Well that didn’t take long! There are a plethora of survival sandboxes out there for fans to play (as you can see from our multiple guides!), enough that there might be some worry that the market for this genre is getting pretty saturated. Perhaps there is room still, but anyone entering that crowded market needs to have a good hook and be able to deliver a worthwhile experience in order to attract and keep players. Sadly, this isn’t always (often?) the case. Even when you want games to not just survive but thrive, there are a host of factors that work against that.

I have found that I enjoy the survival sandbox genre, and I play a number of the games. A couple get the lion’s share of my attention and game time while others are visited occasionally. Some of these titles have a chance to move into a favored position in my heart and my gaming line up. Others, however, have lost their chance completely. Here are seven survival sandboxes that I want to love, but don’t — at least not yet.

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The Survivalist: Four hopes for the future of ARK Survival Evolved

As we explored last week, game development isn’t always an upward trajectory. Some things soar, and some things crash. Our last Survivalist conversation was about four ways that the ARK: Survival Evolved that launched was better than the early early access build and four ways that it was worse. Since launch, development has continued, some on the base game and quite a bit on expansions. Whether the overall game as it stands right now is better or worse depends in part on what aspects are more important to you and likely which expansion you play. (Let’s hear it for Aberration!)

Even with improvements made to the game since launch, there are areas that could really use some attention. Today, I’d like to focus on four things that I really want for the future of ARK!

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The Survivalist: ARK Survival Evolved’s early early access vs. launch

When a game is being created, you usually expect that development to move the title in a positive direction and make it better, right? The state of the game when it launches should be much better than when it started. Well, sometimes that doesn’t quite happen. In ARK: Survival Evolved’s case, I think there are instances when it did just the opposite; certain aspects of the launched game were worse than the earlier versions. However, that’s not the case for everything: There were also a number of ways the game was definitely improved. Does one outweigh the other? Is the game better, or is it worse? It might depend on which features you feel are more important for the game and the side that they fall on.

While not exhaustive in either case, here’s a list of four ways that early early access ARK was better than the launch and four ways the launch version is better. Then tune in next week for four hopes for a better future.

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The Survivalist: A tale of two early accesses (and why Conan Exiles comes out on top)

It was the best of early access, it was the worst of early access. We needn’t even stop there: It was the age of wisdom and it was the age of foolishness as well! I venture to say that Dickens didn’t know he would be so on point in relation to video games. As much as I know players are disappointed about the announcement from Conan Exiles that multiple anticipated features will not make it in for launch (trust me, I’ve been looking forward to them as well!), I actually really appreciate the decision. You see, I have already experienced the maddening delay of “just a few (hundred) more features before launch” and I lost heaps of respect for the studio that went that route. A studio, I might add, that was the epitome of doing early access right for a long while.

In this week’s edition of The Survivalist, I’ll juxtapose these two examples of early access in the survival sandbox genre and show how Conan Exiles’ latest announcement secures this game the title of doing early access right — a position once held by the other.

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The Survivalist: ARK’s latest exploit highlights how cheaters ruin official servers

Let’s talk exploits. And no, this is definitely not a how-to guide! For shame! If you are a person who exploits, a pox on you. No, we are going to discuss how exploits — and more importantly, how those exploits are handled — can seriously harm, if not irreparably damage, a survival game.

This exact principle was highlighted this week with Studio WildCard’s announcement and its accompanying emergency update for ARK: Survival Evolved. I applaud the studio for jumping on the fix, even when it meant a surprise major version change that locked folks out of unofficial servers until they updated. However, how the exploit and the exploiters were handled is a different matter. In survival sandbox games, cheaters can ruin the long-term experience for the entire server, as does the subsequent action (or inaction) against those cheaters.

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The Survivalist: The downside of hosting custom servers for survival games (and why we don’t do it)

After the latest guide introduced even more possible games to sink our survival teeth into, it is understandable that the question cropped up again asking whether Massively OP would be officially hosting any servers for any of these titles. Think of it, life and death alongside your fellow MOP fans! Of course, we think it could be great fun, and we like playing games with ya’ll. However, as much as we love having folks congregate and have fun together, the answer is unfortunately no. Could it happen in the future? You could say there is a possibility, but it is extremely remote. Remote as in you have a higher chance to win the Powerball lottery. (Of course if you do win and want to fund such an endeavor, let’s talk.)

But why, you ask? Didn’t MOP have an ARK: Survival Evolved server? There are a number of reasons that official servers are not in the future, some of which the official unofficial ARK server helped illuminate or reinforce.

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The Survivalist: Another year, another Survival Game guide

A new year, a new batch of survival games! Yes, the genre has become so popular that one guide, no not even two guides could contain all of the survival goodness. More keep cropping up. I certainly can’t say as I mind, since this is the style of game that has been giving me the feeling of having an impact on my environment. And it’s not all the same collection of zombies, although there is still plenty of that. It is interesting to see what new takes developers are bringing to the table. Want to do a survival reality show? There’s a game for that! How about living like a viking? Yup. What if you want to be the psychotic killer that survivors are trying to, well, survive? Got you covered. Fell like upping the ante and surviving via VR? There are a few of those available.

If you are looking for a new survival to sink your teeth into, here’s the addendum for some newer games in development as well as some newly discovered ones since the last mega double guide. Note: This collection will be a mix of multiplayer and single-player titles with some uniques thrown in.

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The Survivalist: ARK Survival Evolved’s sequel tease is an insult to its fans

You know that moment when you just can’t take it anymore? I am there, right on the cusp. I know many folks have gotten to their “I can no longer support <insert name here>” phases for various games and studios for a variety of reasons, but I had never yet reached such a point in my own gaming. (That one studio doesn’t count because I never supported them in the first place.) And now here I am. I don’t think I can continue to support Studio WildCard.

That is definitely a shift for me. I have been an ardent fan of ARK: Survival Evolved. I championed the game pretty heavily: I have streamed it for over two years, I personally host two servers, and this very column was born largely on the back of ARK. I have almost 1500 hours of playtime, and I own the expansions. I had praised the game and Studio WildCard for a long while, holding it up as an example of things done right.

Then things changed. The accumulation of many remarks and actions that ate away at my trust was topped off by the way the studio shows disregard for its current customers, treating them as disposable cash cows. And then came the sequel talk this very week.

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The Survivalist: ARK Aberration has already been delayed, but here’s what to expect

Surprise! ARK: Aberration, the survival sandbox’s next expansion that was slated to launch this month, is delayed. Shocking, I know. Actually, if any fans were actually surprised, they obviously haven’t been following ARK: Survival Evolved very long. The delay, along with a other news, was announced during Twitch Con 2017; Studio WildCard showed off the expansion to a host of streamers who, in turn, showed the game off to the rest of us. Fans got to see hours of Aberration gameplay, learning little tidbits about the world and its unique flora and fauna as streamers experienced the malfunctioning ARK for the first time. And the world does look fascinating!

Besides the delay and the peek into the underground world, we learned that the Structures Plus mod will be officially integrated into the game. This is fabulous news for builders who’ve been waiting a long while for this feature to get some attention. And for those who want some real-world ARK goodies, the ability to purchase the The Collector’s Edition of ARK: Survival Evolved sans game and expansions was also announced. Also, ARK itself and the expansions are on sale this weekend only.

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The Survivalist: How procedurally generated maps stretch the life of survival MMOs

It’s no secret that I love to explore. And exploring the dangerous new worlds of survival games has been something I have really been enjoying this past couple of years. But there is dark cloud looming over each of these experiences: They end too quickly. These games, most of which are still in early access, have a very finite map. Once I’ve poked my head into every nook and cranny, once I’ve built what I wanted, and once I have completed the game tasks, there’s nothing left for me to do. I am not one who likes the whole wipe-and-start-over idea, precisely because there is nothing left to explore for me. And the PvP scene is no long-term draw either. Sure, maybe the studio was happy to have folks for just those few months, but wouldn’t retaining players be better? So how do you keep things fresh and keep players playing?

Different games are exploring different approaches. Currently, Conan Exiles is releasing new areas and expanding its map, offering plenty of new spaces to survey. ARK: Survival Evolved releases expansions that are completely new worlds. But to explore those new areas, you have to buy them. It’s actually a different strategy that ARK employs that I think solves the problem best, especially for games with a smaller map-type. Three words: procedurally generated maps.

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