ARK: Survival Evolved has risen to prominence by working closely with its enthusiastic community, and Studio Wildcard is now taking that relationship to the next level.
This week ARK received a new map called "The Center," which doubles the game's "playable geography." And this major contribution was made not by the Wildcard team, but by a member of its 6 million-strong audience, Ben Burkat, under the Official Mods program it announced last month. The Center is the first new map to be launched under the Official Mods program, and another, "Primitive+", will be released in July.
Mods for PC games are nothing new, but Wildcard is also offering to pay for the content it selects. Speaking to Kotaku, lead designer Jeremy Stiglitz said it was prepared to pay, "a considerable amount of money," for content developed within its community. The actual amount is based on the time and effort applied, but Stiglitz said that, with The Center and Primitive+, the creators received, "multiple months' salary for a creative."
"We intend to continue to regularly select what we consider to be the most polished mods"
In addition, both creators were hired on the basis of the quality of their work, though this won't be a regular occurrence.
"Going forward, we intend to continue to regularly select what we consider to be the most polished mods from among the many thousands available on Steam Workshop - often identified through open-entry cash-prize mod Contests, such as the one we're currently running, which we use to gauge community enthusiasm," Stiglitz said. "And then when we determine what we think are the standout exemplars, we'll make more offers."
The notion that the best modders should make money from their work resurfaced last year when Valve and Bethesda trialled a paid mods feature on Skyrim's Steam Workshop page. The community took against the move, in part due to concerns that Valve and Bethesda were merely seeking a cut of the profits - a theory that Gabe Newell later questioned in a Reddit Q&A session.
ARK: Survival Evolved approach sidesteps that particular concern, because the only money paid is by Studio Wildcard to the creator. Both The Center and Primitive+ will be free to all ARK players.