‘ARK: Survival Evolved’ Tests Limits Of Early Access With ‘Scorched Earth’ Paid DLC

ARK: Survival Evolved has been in Steam Early Access on the PC for just over a year and is closing in on the mark for the Xbox One as part of the console’s Preview Program. The Scorched Earth paid expansion released yesterday on both platforms is causing controversy as DLC for a game still technically in alpha status is unheard of. However, the expansion release around this time appears to have been Studio Wildcard’s plan all along. It’s just other things related to the open-world survival game that changed.

The ARK: Survival Evolved community has reacted strongly to the release of the $20 Scorched Earth expansion. The game’s Reddit community and other Xbox communities are filled with complaints of Studio Wildcard releasing DLC for an Early Access title.

Fans point out that bugs and issues present from the launch of ARK: Survival Evolved still hang around today. Additionally, some question how Studio Wildcard can dedicate resources towards creating paid DLC when the main game is still a work in progress after being delayed from a June 2016 release. This becomes an even sorer sticking point when current ARK: Survival Evolved owners see certain features like Lightning Storms and Sandstorms added to Scorched Earth, but not the main game.

Accusations against Studio Wildcard have gone from game related complaints to more lurid finger-pointing about the developer using the DLC to offset the $40 million settlement with Trendy Entertainment. That is not the case, however, as Studio Wildcard has been working on Scorched Earth well before Trendy launched its lawsuit against Co-Founder and Lead Designer Jeremy Stieglitz in December 2015.

[Image via Studio Wildcard]
Co-Founder Jesse Rapczak stated the developer was going to start working on an ARK: Survival Evolved expansion in September 2015.

“We are also starting soon on our expansion content, which is lots of extra gameplay hours and story extensions on top of the main game. We’re going to be developing that, starting soon, so that a few months after release we have a first expansion of Ark to go out and people have a big chunk of new content,” Rapczak told Rock Paper Shotgun in an interview from Gamescom last year posted September 4, 2015.

“We may iterate with that content in an early access-type way, with the community before we launch it,” he added. “That’s something that we talk about; having an early access for DLC rather than just the game, because we get so much out of that with the back and forth with the community.”

So, the plan was to develop the ARK: Survival Evolved DLC alongside the main game at the same time. Hardly a new practice in the games industry, though one that is often looked down upon by fans. In this instance, Studio Wildcard expanded the scope of ARK: Survival Evolved, which led to an inevitable April delay announcement and missing the original June 2016 release window. Meanwhile, the work on the Scorched Earth expansion was completed on time.

“This expansion pack represents much more closely the final look and feel and polish of the game,” Rapczack explained to Polygon in an interview released Thursday. “We’ve been working on it for a long time. We always planned to release it close to the launch of the game, so why sit on it? Let’s get it out there and let players enjoy it.”

[Image via Studio Wildcard]
It can easily be argued Studio Wildcard has lost focus at time, such as unsuccessfully spinning off ARK: Survival of the Fittest into a stand-alone title plus the upcoming ARK: Primal Survival spin-off, and PrimitivePlus. At the same time only a couple of individuals work on SotF and a lone individual is responsible for the PrimitivePlus mod. On the other hand, Primal Survival has been handed off to Studio Wildcard’s Egyptian development partner, Instinct Games. These obviously require help with QA testing, however.

ARK: Survival Evolved still has much work to be done to be finished. The question is when Studio Wildcard will cut off adding new content to focus on bug fixes and optimizing the game. This when the game would technically be in beta status, but that has not been announced yet, and the official PC patch notes have a lengthy list of upcoming content and features listed. The game is targeting a holiday 2016 currently, so time is running out unless another delay comes.

Should Studio Wildcard have held back the release of Scorched Earth until ARK: Survival Evolved exited Early Access even if the DLC was done? Sound off in the comments below.

[Image via Studio Wildcard]

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