As Ark: Survival Evolved continues to evolve itself, one thing remains the same: no matter the version you are playing, multiplayer is one of the most fulfilling modes to play the game. From taming dinosaurs with a friend to fending off or launching tribal raids across the Ark, the great gameplay of Ark: Survival Evolved shines through. That is, if you can get on or launch your own dedicated server.
Make no mistake, Ark: Survival Evolved is a fun game. It wouldn't sell over two million copies on PC and exceed one million downloads on Xbox One without being fun. However, the game does suffer from some incredibly crippling multiplayer issues if you are not on a dedicated or official server, regardless of version. On a dedicated server, or an official one, all players have free reign to move about the server, taming and building to their hearts content. However, with the overwhelming demand for server slots for players, most specifically Xbox One, many players turn to dedicated servers.
A dedicated multiplayer server is exactly as it sounds: a server dedicated to running a copy of the game which other players can connect to around the clock. Normally console players don't have the luxury of setting up and controlling their own dedicated servers, while PC players have long enjoyed this facet of multiplayer gaming. Ark: Survival Evolved gives Xbox owners the ability to create their own dedicated servers, so long as they have a second Xbox One with a copy of Ark and an additional Xbox Live account. Obviously, this is not the case for many console owners, but if they have this resource available to them, it's the best way to experience Ark's mulitplayer.
The other alternative is to launch what is called a "non-dedicated" multiplayer session, where players connect to your specific single player game of Ark and play with you until you decide to log off an do something else. This is nice, as you can continue to play your version of Ark: Survival Evolved and your friends can join you, but it's incredibly crippling for those who join your game. Normally, the game allows for an open exploration of the full Ark, giving players the ability to choose their own path to survive. However, if you join a non-dedicated session, you are tethered, or bound to the host player.
This isn't an Xbox One-specific issue, but rather an issue with Survival Evolved as a whole. When you are tethered to the host, it means that you cannot go beyond a distance of 200 meters in all directions, incredibly limiting the gameplay of Ark. It's incredibly frustrating for those times when you are far away from your home base and the host dies. Unfortunately it forces all the players to teleport to where ever the host respawns at.
I had this happen when playing the Xbox One version with a friend, we were both flying our eagles to a top of a mountain. I died and he was instantly teleported back to me, leaving both our mounts floating in the air above the mountain with no way to get them down. This restriction forced us to spend the next hour or so taming another set of mounts to go get them, time we could have spent doing what we set our minds to do that play session. When tinkering with the dedicated server, it made all the difference.
Ark is best when its players are free to do what they want, but the cost to run your own dedicated server requires someone to essentially turn their second Xbox console into a round the clock Ark server. Not many people can do that.
Ark: Survival Evolved's developer Studio Wildcard has mentioned that they are working on the tethering restriction, but until then it's quite literally the worst way to experience Ark's imaginative gameplay. The most recent patch notes state that the max-tethering distance on Xbox will be increased by 33 percent. Splitscreen is a solution down the road on console, and hopefully PC as well, but for that to be viable Ark needs to optimize the game better, as multiplayer also causes the console version to chug and run slowly, barely hitting 30 frames-per-second during our multiplayer sessions. The framerate is incredibly unstable, and while Digital Foundry has found that the framerate has improved with the most recent update, it's still too variable to make it worth losing the extra frames just to play with a friend.
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[Image via Ark: Survival Evolved]