My obsession with ARK continues, and it has now bled into the MMO-thinking part of my brain. To be very clear, ARK isn’t an MMO, but in a lot of ways it certainly plays like one.
The big thing is progression; you certainly have it in ARK, between your own character’s level, the base you build, the dinos you tame, the blueprints you collect, and the ever-expanding scope of stuff you can do as you progress and get more powerful. What’s funny is in an MMO like WoW, you can go from fresh character to the level cap in less time than it would take in ARK, and then both games have a lot of different stuff to do once you are at the cap, with a key difference being that levels help in ARK, while levels are required for ‘end-game’ content in WoW.
The main reason ARK isn’t an MMO is scale. Servers currently max out at 70 players, while an MMO server can hold thousands (or tens of thousands if we are talking EVE). ARK also has trouble handling more than ten or so characters on one screen, while again in an MMO that is common and expected. But the question in my mind is how often, when playing an MMO, does that matter? When you run a dungeon, it’s just you and the 3-5 others with you, and literally nothing else matters. Raids are bigger, but basically the same thing. An auction house is something thousands of players interact with, but unless you are deep into playing the auction house, do you actually care that the goods are listed and bought by others, or would your experience be mostly the same if bots did it?
In fact, one could argue player interaction in ARK is more important than it is in a typical MMO. The obvious example is PvP; raiding someone’s base has a huge impact, larger than killing someone in WoW or even blowing up a ship in EVE. A lot of things are easy to replace in ARK, but there are also a lot of things (high lvl dinos, rare items or blueprints) that aren’t, and losing those hurts. Plus base raiding has various degrees; someone blowing up one wall and looting one room stings, but a rival tribe leveling your base is a rage-quit level event.
PvP aside, even living near someone else has a large impact in ARK, while your garrison in WoW has nearly zero impact on anyone but you. In ARK resources don’t respawn near a base, so having 2-3 bases in close proximity not only means a large void of respawns, but also increased competition for the remaining resources. It’s comparable to mining in EVE, where you show up and the belt has already been stripped, only in ARK resource availability plays a more major role, and it’s not as easy as simply flying to the next belt.
ARK makes me wonder if a lot of the design problems of an MMO can be solved by going micro-MMO, especially if going smaller results in MORE player interaction.