The Average Gamer

Beginner's Guide: Getting Started in ARK: Survival Evolved

ARK Survival Evolved - Brontosaurus
The new hotness is survival games right now is ARK: Survival Evolved. Despite being janky as hell – it just launched for Windows on Steam”s Early Access last week – I”m having incredible fun right now, because dinosaurs.

Lots of dinosaurs. Magnificent, roaming beasts that you can fight, tame, ride and eat. Soar through the skies on a pteranodon. Stomp through the forest on a brontosaurus. Roam the hills for prey on a carnataur. There”s plenty to do.

As an early access game, it doesn”t explain how things work. Players are still working out the mechanics and the devs are updating frequently to incorporate suggestions, balance things and hopefully patch up the terrible framerate drops. In this guide I”m going to run through some basic tips so you can jump the various beginner hurdles.

Note: The game is updated frequently so things like server transfers, etc. may be available by the time you read this. I”ll do what I can to keep up with changes.

Server Stuff

Choosing your server: Coordinate with your friends before getting stuck in. Your character doesn”t persist across servers like it would in Day Z and other survival games. Transfers will be available across official servers in future but these are disabled for the moment.

Persistence: Your character stays online when you log off. People can drag you around and take your stuff. Be somewhere safe and hidden before you log out. Your tamed dinosaurs will also stick around and occasionally wander off if something or someone attacks them. Once you”ve saddled your first dinosaur, if you whistle for all the dinos to follow when you”re on it (default key: J) they should (theoretically) home in on the saddled dino once they”ve done their hunting.

ARK Survival Evolved - LOL Players

PvE vs PvP: In PvE you can”t damage other players or their structures, though you can take stuff from a sleeping player”s inventory or be dragged into the sea and drowned. You can also take stuff from unsecured storage. In PvP you can be picked up by pteranodons and dropped in a player-run prison. Players can storm your base with T-Rexes. The building vs destruction balance is a little off right now so don”t get too invested in your builds on PvP.

Property and Tribes

The game is designed around groups. You will not be able to unlock everything in the tech tree by yourself so, group up and online casino specialise. Either make friends with your neighbours and hope they”re willing to trade with you, or join a tribe.

Tribes share everything (for the moment). Once you join one, anything you”ve built or will build in the future becomes property of the tribe. If you leave the tribe, it remains with them, so be loyal. As of today, tribes will also be able to set their own rules on property. I”ll update once I find out how this works in practice. Update: Tribe governance is now in. It”s not fully implemented but eventually, your tribe leader will be able to set structures and dinosaurs to be tribe property or owned by each player.

ARK Survival Evolved - EngramsThe tech tree comes in the form of “engrams” that you unlock with points from levelling up. Right now, it”s not laid out clearly so dependencies aren”t easy to follow. From what I”ve seen there are a few distinct craft types that you eventually unlock: buildings, armour, narcotics/food, furniture/gardening, weapons and saddles. You”d be better off saving up your early points instead of wasting them on something like armour that another tribe member can craft. There are also blueprints you can get from supply drops – these allow anyone holding the blueprint to craft an item.

Update: There”s an unofficial ARK Engram Calculator here that will help you plan your character build.

I”d recommend that everyone learn to build the primitive axe, spear and waterskin. You need the axe to get hides from dinosaurs and spear to poke dilos in the face. Very handy things to cobble together in the field until you get your tribe stocked.


The map is 48 square kilometers, including ocean. There are also caves, both underwater and in mountains. You”ll start out low-tech so your location won”t be shown on the map.

When getting started, it”s best to coordinate with your friends on a spawn point and learn to recognise landmarks. Obelisks are the obvious one. These have distinct colours, so use the position of the sun or moon (rises in the east, sets in the west) and the nearest obelisk to orient yourself.

Once you”ve built a sleeping bag or a bed, you”ll be able to see these on the map when you die. You”ll be able to spawn indefinitely in beds but sleeping bags are single-use. They can be pretty handy as location markers.

ARK Survival Evolved - Taming

Taming Dinosaurs

Of course, the main draw of the game is riding around like a lunatic on a prehistoric monster. First thing to do is knock a dinosaur unconscious. It”s easy enough to knock out a dodo with your fists. Bit trickier with a brontosaurus. As you level up you can unlock slingshots, narcotics and tranq arrows. However you do it, the taming process is the same.

  1. Open the dino”s inventory and place narcoberries (gathered from bushes) or narcotics (crafted) in the inventory.
  2. Watch the torpor and hunger stats. When torpor drops, click on the narco and click “remote use” to force-feed the dinosaur and keep it asleep. (Alternatively, punch it in the face, though this will lower your taming bar if you”ve already started feeding.)
  3. Wait for the hunger stat to drop to about 10% or more if you”re feeling patient. This can take hours on large dinosaurs so you might need tribe members to guard them. Stimberries can help make dinos hungry but will also wake them up a little. You”ll need to balance these with the narcs.
  4. When hunger is very low, drop a bunch of the dinosaur”s favourite food into its inventory. It will eat automatically and the taming bar will raise until, hopefully, the dinosaur becomes yours.

Food and Drink

Berries are a crap food source and will not slake your thirst. Stay near a water source until you get the hides to make a waterskin. Update: Berries can now be used to help thirst and small amounts of hunger.

Shallow rivers also have coels, which are really easy to kill with a spear. Use your pick on their corpses to get extra meat. Cook it on a campfire.

Food will spoil but only one item per stack spoils at a time. Stack your foods. Cooked meat lasts longer but raw meat is better to tame and feed most carnivorous dinosaurs. Food also lasts four times longer in a dinosaurs inventory so it can useful to designate a few as mobile refrigerators.

Leave some food in your tame dino”s inventory when you log out. They persist in the world as well, so you don”t want them starving.

ARK Survival Evolved - T-Rex

There”s so much more to the game and plenty of ways to optimise things for your playstyle. These are just a few tips to get you going. Good luck and see you on the dino trails.

ARK: Survival Evolved is out now for Windows on Steam Early Access.