When Survival of the Fittest was added to ARK Survival Evolved, it was a demonstration of what was possible with the Engine and the Devkit. It was intended to demonstrate to modders and developers how diverse the game can be and how many different directions ARK can be taken to if enough time and knowledge is invested. It started the golden era of Total Conversions.
But Survival of the Fittest was a Battle Royale game released during the same golden era of Battle Royale games, and the community both loved and despised it. The ARK community was small back then, and the tone was either extremely positive or extremely negative. In comparison to today, the community was partially filled with hatred and rage and knew no bounds. That was successfully turned around years later by the new Wildcard community team, who knew how to amplify Positive Vibes and let the negative Nancys cry in their small little echo chamber unless they had some constructive criticism, but before that you needed a really thick skin to be a part of the community.
I believe that when the first SOTF was released in 2015, Wildcard was simply overwhelmed by the amount of work needed not only to keep the game running and updated, but also to manage the community
. A volunteer Community Manager was found and chosen from the community to assist with managing the community and the drama that surrounded it**. And it worked at times. The community members who wanted the game to succeed rejoiced.
The Good Memories
This part was present at the monthly Survival of the Fittest paid Tournament streams. When “Evolve” by Nerdout was playing for the fourth time during server preparations, we spammed “Evoooolve” into the Streamchat. When TypeForced butchered yet another name, we burst out laughing. We all laughed when every player wrote their name backwards to troll him. Those are my fond memories of SOTF and the tournaments.
However, this enjoyable and positive part of the SOTF Community was not the only one. There were some that nearly drove me to abandon ARK entirely. That part that wanted to be destructive and hateful just to see everything Wildcard creates burn.
They were still actively participating in the Tournaments but would try to DDoS the servers when they died in the game, so matches had to restart. They would team up in FFA matches to kill the people who were playing fairly, then turn the final into their own circus. And these Tournaments were only the cherry on top. The toxicity already began during the qualifying phase.
Elo rating system in SOTF
To be eligible to compete in the monthly tournaments, players had to compete in the Survivor League. Those were the games that were available during the month. Every game would contribute to their Elo Score.
The Elo rating system is a method for calculating the relative skill levels of players in competitive games. The system works by assigning each player a rating, which is a numerical value that reflects their skill level. When a player wins a game, their rating increases, while a loss causes their rating to decrease. The amount of change in a player’s rating depends on the rating of their opponent and the result of the game.
The ARK SOTF Community was too small to use the Elo rating system reliable because with a small community and the option to choose which lobby you join and which people you go against you simply can’ use Elo.
The weakness of the Elo rating system in games like SOTF is that it can not accurately reflect the skill levels of every player especially when players can have several different accounts to play with.This is because the system has to rely on a large number of games being played in order to accurately measure the skill levels of all players. SOTF matches were 1-4h long and it was impossible to play enough games played for the ratings to stabilize, leading to large fluctuations in a player’s rating even after just a few games.
Additionally, there was only a limited number of players available to compete against, which made it difficult for players to consistently face opponents of similar skill levels. This resulted in some players having ratings that were artificially inflated or deflated due to the lack of appropriate competition.
The last weakness of the Elo system in SOTF was that it was vulnerable to manipulation or exploitation. Small groups organized streamsniping of high Elo players with fresh unranked accounts to make them loose the max amount of points possible which meant a high Elo player could lose access to the Survivor League Tournament quicker by playing than by not playing. Elo needs to be tied to one person – one account. No smurf-accounts, no streamsnipe accounts, no troll accounts.
If you then have Tournaments that would offer thousands and thousands of dollars in price money, abusing the system like that was profitable.
Harassment in the Community
Devs and players experienced a rise in harassment within the SOTF community. I still have a whole folder of threats, insults that people in the community got daily, but especially towards the end of the survivor leagues.
Those are just two examples of things that have been sent out sometimes anonymously, sometimes open. The goal was to push the good and fair people out of the game to have fewer people to compete with. I modded quite a few SOTF streams myself back then and I also played as a player myself. Never aimed for the Tournament. I never wanted to even be in the Survivor League. Having a target on your head doesn’t feel fun.
The good, fun and fair people left one by one. Some completely disappeared. The last tournaments had mainly the toxic players compete against each other. Interesting for the community to watch? Not so much.
Don’t Let These Things Happen to SOTF 2.
Despite this, there is hope on the horizon with the recent announcement of the SOTF reboot on the 23rd of December. This new version of the game presents an opportunity for a fresh start and the chance to build a better, more positive community, especially because the community has grown by a lot and the game will also be available for cross play.
However, it’s important to note that simply releasing a new version of the game will not magically solve all the problems that SOTF had in 2016 and 2017. It will take a concerted effort from both the developers and the players to create a more positive and welcoming game. This must be done through strict moderation and banning toxic players before they make the people leave that you want in your community. Creating the fear of missing out in the player when they might lose access to the game instead of the knowledge that the game needs them because the community is otherwise too small.
Additionally, Wildcard should consider implementing features that encourage positive behavior and discourage negative behavior. How that may look? No idea. But having players show off that they are the good guys has helped a few communities, for example Counter Strike.
As my thoughts come to an end for this SOTF story, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the journey that brought us here. While the community has faced its fair share of challenges, from toxic players to DDOS attacks to harassment, there have also been many bright spots and moments of fond memories and with the recent announcement of date of the SOTF reboot, there is hope.
But it’s important to recognize that this will not be an easy task. Building a positive and welcoming community takes effort and dedication from everyone involved. It will require a commitment to treating others with respect and working together to create a better gaming experience for all and from the developers it will require the commitment to cut off players who don’t have the same goal for the game. As we look towards the future, let’s embrace the opportunity to create a community that is positive, inclusive, and enjoyable for all.
One more time…
** The article implicated that the Community Manager might have been a hired and paid person by Wildcard, but it was solely a voluntary position. Not an official person hired or paid by the company.