Studio Wildcard and its Community Engagement

As you may have noticed from some of my
previous posts, I do enjoy playing ARK – Survival Evolved. Even on our website
background you can notice ARK’s logo and the reasons are obvious.  The game combines all my favourite games as
it offers a range of elements that include dinosaurs, crafting, explorations,
caves, ruins, artefacts and simple survival.


This, however, is not the only reason why I
find ARK interesting. You see, for my dissertation I had to write a chapter on
how videogame developers engage with the community, particularly content
creators. I have thus decided to investigate how ARK’s developer, Studio
Wildcard, addresses its community and utilise my findings as a case study. I
was actually pleasantly surprised with how much of time and effort they
dedicate considering that they are a small independent company.  Its flagship game was in the “Early Access”

Of course, there are many impatient users
who cannot bear the bugs that every major update brings.  We for example had to start over a number of
times; losing all our buildings, dinosaurs and characters. With the latest DLC
being released the other day ARK’s forums and discussion boards were flooded
with outraged users who experienced bugs and generally found it unfair that
they had to pay money for a DLC. Let me just clarify, that even though I did
purchase that DLC, I hardly had a chance to enjoy it yet as my server admin
team still did not implement cross-ARK transfer and the update actually bugged
my server quite a bit. I however still find Studio Wildcard quite unique and
believe that they deserve kudos.

You see, ARK runs on Unreal Engine and as
the result Studio Wildcard allowed its users to create various mods for the
game. I always found it a good appreciative gesture from the developer when
they release modding tools for the game.
ARK is different.

A couple of months ago Studio Wildcard
announced that they have paid the creators of the map “The Center” and a total
conversion mod “Primitive+” a several month salary for their content.
Additionally, those modders were hired by the company to continue work on their
content. Those mods became official yet free DLCs.  This means that players on Xbox One (and PS4
version coming soon) can also enjoy the new map and mod.

to Kotaku
, lead
designer Jeremy Stiglitz said that they are prepared to pay, “a
considerable amount of money,” for content developed by modders.

forward, we intend to continue to regularly select what we consider to be the
most polished mods from among the many thousands available on Steam Workshop –
often identified through open-entry cash-prize mod Contests, such as the one
we’re currently running, which we use to gauge community enthusiasm,”
Stiglitz said. “And then when we determine what we think are the standout
exemplars, we’ll make more offers.”

Additionally, Studio Wildcard featured a
fan-made creature called the DodoRex as part of the ARK: Fear Evolved Halloween
event in 2015. The giant thing would spawn from time to time with an army of
Zomdodos. Dodorex then appeared during various community events in the game.


I honestly never
seen such appreciation of the modding community by the developer in a while. Particularly
if that developer is a small, independent company founded only TWO years ago.

Wildcard has yearly battle tournaments where teams of players compete for their
survival in the “Survival of the Fittest” game mode, which essentially is a
virtual Hunger Games. The last tribe standing received a grand prize of $20K in
2015, the prize DOUBLED this year.

In fact, Studio
Wildcard invited 70 Let’s Players for their 2015 tournament to compete a week
after the launch of “Survival of the Fittest” game mode. This way they not only
successfully promoted own product but shown appreciation to their Let’s Play
community. Here’s one of my favourite streams from the event:

Lastly, Jen, the
community manager and QA analyst for Studio Wildcard, spends her entire day
tweeting and troubleshooting the users, collecting bug reports and organising
various community events at major expos. I honestly have no idea if she ever
sleeps, because she replies to nearly all of my questions within hours! Give
her a follow btw, she’s awesome.

I was playing ARK
for more than a year now and I enjoyed seeing it evolving into an amazing game
and I cannot wait for a full release later this year.  Until then I will carry on taking care of my
Trex called Fluffy.