The state of ARK Official PvP vs PvE

PVP vs. PVE

How many people play official PvP vs PvE? How many official players are there in total? This is a question we have not gotten an answer to until now. I have looked into the numbers and I will give you some answers.

Why?

With the release of Fjordur – the last Community Map on ARK Survival Evolved it has been made very clear that this map was made with PvE play in the back of the head. Map creator Nekatus said in several statements that he does not build for nor care about PvP.  This raised a little shitstorm within the PvP community who felt treated badly despite being the “dominant play mode” and despite “everything always being PvE and nobody cares about PvP”. It went to the point where Nekatus himself got personally attacked by PvP content creators. My goal is to look into the numbers myself to see the size of the “dominant play mode” myself.

Methodology

Limitations

  1. There are no official numbers. This is something we have to make clear from the beginning. All numbers we will ever find, are from third party data collections or from platforms themselves.
  2.  These numbers only apply to Steam because other platforms are not transparent about player numbers. So please be aware that these numbers can never be complete, but they are a window looking into at least Steam.

Getting the numbers

To get the numbers we wrote several programs that made use of the public  Battlemetrics API. Battlemetrics collects an insane amount of data about servers and players on servers. They do not make everything available on their website, but if you are into programming, you can make use of their public API and write your own scripts to search the data for very specific filters. On their very own website, the filters are very basic and did not help a lot in answering the question above therefore we did some manual labour.

What do we really look for?

Focussing on official numbers has been a priority for me because official has always been treated as “THE” way to play ARK. Being a content creator for basically as long as ARK exists I came across a few people who would disregard all content that has not been recorded and been done on Official as “cheating” and not legit. There are certain things I have been looking into in particular.

  1.  How many people play official servers?
  2. Which group is bigger? PvP or PvE
  3.  Which PvP Game mode is most popular?
  4.  Which servers have a high player density
  5. How do official player numbers compare to the total player numbers

The main groups in ARK

Official Servers:

  • PvP
    • Small Tribes
    • ARKpocalypse
    • Beginner
    • Regular
    • CrossArk
    • Conquest
    • Hardcode
  • PvE
    • Beginner
    • Regular
    • Legacy
    • CrossARK

Unofficial Servers:

Here we run into a problem. Inexperienced ARK players would now say “Just split them into PvE and PvP and you got your numbers.” It’s not that easy, unfortunately. Many servers that are set to PvP won’t allow PvP but only PvE. PvP mode is activated only to make certain things in the game easier—Breeding for example. But let’s try to get some overview on it.

  • PvP and PvE
    • PvP “Alternative to official Servers” (Big clusters regular wipes/seasons)
    • PvP/PvE Insane boosted (1000x everything. Jump in, get kit)
    • PvP Deathmatch servers
    • PvP actually PvE (set to PvP only for breeding)
    • PvP/PvE Roleplay Servers (Set to PvP for played conflicts)
    • PvP/PvE Content Creator Servers
    • PvP/PvE Extreme Modded/ New Game Mode (Primal Fear, Pugnacia etc.)

Because this is really complicated and a ton of data, unofficial Servers are for now out of the scope for this article but we will look into it further for another article. The amount of data for unofficial servers is insanely big. We have a list with about 130k unofficial servers and that is not even the full amount.

1. How many players play on official Servers?

Let’s start with the elephant in the room and look into the data about how many players we have on official servers alone. The number was surprisingly low. But then when looking into it—it was actually not as surprising as I might have thought, since official servers have some harsh playing conditions in which you have to reset your bases once a week or they despawn (PvE).

We collected the data in the week starting with September 10th and the lowest amount of players PER mode in this week was around 2000 players. The highest amount of players per mode was around 6000 players. We looked into a total of about 1800ish official servers.

2. Which group is bigger? PvP or PvE

When comparing the numbers of both groups, the amount of players on PvP and PvE seem to be very even on official servers with a slight tendency towards PvP at the end of the week. The reason why the week started so strong was, because the Beginner servers and also the ARKpocalypse servers wiped the day before and many people enjoyed the fresh beach bob lifestyle for a few days.

Official PVP vs official PVE

While official PvE has just a few modes in which people hang out and build their little (or quite massive) dream houses, on PvP there are a lot more modes. Thanks to a suggestion from Shockist with whom I had a very pleasant conversation about this topic, I decided to also look into the specific numbers for the different PvP modes.

3. Which PvP mode is most popular?

Which game modes have the most players, shouldn’t surprise any PvP player. We all knew that Regular PvP and Small Tribes have the most players in total.

Different PvP modes

I need to point out two game modes here in particular. One is Beginner servers who managed to actually be clearly visible on this graph with only having 2 servers and the second is Hardcore PvP. Shoutout to the 20 badass people who try to stay strong in a cold world where dying is basically our best character debugger. You are actually the MVPs here.

4. Which servers have a high player density

A high amount of player numbers does not reflect how many players you would meet when entering the servers. 100 players may sound many. If they split up between 100 servers, then you have a lonely PvP game.

Players per Server per game mode

Beginner servers and ARKpocalyse servers will offer you the highest chance to meet other players and have some quick PvP moments. No wonder because these reset regularly and keep the gameplay fresh.

The average player count on Small Tribes is between 3 and 8 people which is interesting because the maximum tribe size here are 6 players. So it looks like we have split the servers evenly.

Hardcore servers have on average one player per server. It’s hard but honest work.

Keep in mind, that these here are the average numbers and not the exact numbers. It doesn’t mean that there are actually no players on servers, but it means that the fighting “action” happens on a few selected servers and not on every single server in the network. And we have seen this in the big raids which are regularly streamed on Twitch by the big content creators.

How do official player numbers compare to the total player numbers

Let’s now compare the official numbers to the total numbers of players in ARK. In my opinion this is probably the most fascinating graph of them all. It shows very well how small the official player group is compared to the gigantic group of unofficial servers and even single player survivors. My own best guess would be that about half of the total players are in single player. But take this like everything in the article with a grain of salt because those numbers are collected and combined from different platforms and therefore can’t be exact or official. Especially Single Player numbers are hard to track because they don’t show up in server statistics and could even be players just logging in or waiting to get on a server that is currently capped.

Official vs Unofficial

What does this all mean

Because I already see certain big PvP creators yell “lol ded game” into their microphones, let’s talk about what these numbers actually mean.

  1. The official play style is not for everyone

I already said this before and the numbers just prove it. The official game mode is rough and only the players who are 200% dedicated to the game can really keep up with the maintenance and online-time these servers require. Because there is so much dedication that is put into the game, people often develop a little bit of an elite-mindset. That happens in PvP and PvE equally. So no shade to either game mode.

2. The official play style does not represent how “The game is played by the majority of players”

This is interesting for content creators because if they want to make authentic and relatable content, it’s important to understand that the majority of players do not play the game the way the creator plays. It also reflects how much of a turn off the elitist “official” mindset really is.

3. Then there is the problem with balancing

This is a very sensitive point for many players and for the fact how the game is balanced. A lot of balancing patches evolve around PVP/official PVP. To name just a few: Procoptodon nerf (you can’t pick them up easily any more because PVP used them for meshing), Managarmr nerf that turned the Mana as a travel mount into a very harmless but annoying puppy, C4 limitations, Kill-Meshes, Rocket launcher nerf.  There are also a ton of creatures that pretty much have their main usage in PVP and are nothing more than a collectors item in PvE.

4. Ark players love the game, but they love to play the game like THEY want

ARK is far from being a dead game, sorry to disappoint all the negative Nancy’s out there. ARK did not only manage to keep its player base since 2016, but they also managed to increase the baseline of players in the past few years. I said before, this is thanks to unofficial servers, modders and the creativity of the server admins that try to offer a new experience even if you already have 10.000h playtime in the game.

What I hope for ARK 2 as a consequence of this

I would love to see two different balancing setups for PvP and PvE. The game modes are played so differently that it’s hard if not impossible to combine everyone’s interests with just one setup. I understand that it will cause having basically two games, but it would remove the animosity between players of both play styles but not putting the burden of responsibility on the shoulders of either of them, when patches are happening.  We have seen the start of different setups in ARK 1 already – PvE has no cryo sickness for example. And we would love to see more of that. If not in ARK 1 then at least in ARK 2.

This article wouldn’t have been possible without the smart brains of some people so here a few thanks: 

  • Battlemetrics for providing a public API to pull the data from
  • steamdb and steamcharts for counting players
  • Nekatus for being the target stand for PvP Players unhappiness which caused this whole article
  • Coldino for doing the majority of the coding work and listening to my long confusing explanations on which data we need
  • Shockist for the good input on which data might be interesting for PvP players
  • Also thank you to everyone who participated in the lively conversation we had on Twitter that sparked the motivation in me to make this a bigger project than originally planned.
  • Last but not least thank you to Wildcard for making a game we all care so much about and that we love to fight about, just showing how much invested we all are into it.

TiiaAurora

Tiia is a bilingual Content Creator for the game ARK: Survival Evolved. She has over 12k hours experience in the game and her main interest is the complex breeding mechanic in ARK.

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