Dinosaur-Survival PC Game Ark Sells 1 Million, Gets New Mod Support

Q&A: We talk with Epic Games co-founder Tim Sweeney and developer Jesse Rapczak about the new mod editor and more.


Steam's big dinosaur-themed game, Ark: Survival Evolved, continues to grow.

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Developer Studio Wildcard on Tuesday announced that the game has now sold more than 1 million copies and is getting official modding support on PC by way of a new partnership with Epic Games.

If you're one of million people who have already bought Ark, you can follow this tutorial to get started with the game's new Unreal Engine 4 mod tools.

Basically, the Ark mod tools represent a simplified version of the Unreal Engine 4 editor that has been specifically tailored around creating mods and maps. Users don't get full access to Ark's C++ code, but the mod editor does have editable source art, maps, and classes. Modders can also change game logic, build new items and weapons, and modify AI behavior.

An Ark modding forum is available here, while you can also check out the game's Steam Workshop page to check out what others have made and try them out.

An in-development version of Ark is available now through Steam Early Access, while the full release is slated for June 2016 across not only PC, but also PlayStation 4 (with Morpheus support) and Xbox One.

To dive deeper into the subject of Ark's new Unreal modding tools and the overall response to the game so far, we spoke with Epic Games co-founder Tim Sweeney and Studio Wildcard creative director Jesse Rapczak. You can see our full conversion below. It touches on subjects such as PC mods coming to console, how Jurassic World may have helped boost sales, and why the game's community-focused approach is so important.

Mods are supported in different ways by different developers for different games; how are they going to work for Ark?

Jesse Rapczak: We want mod creators and players alike to have easy access to the tools and creations coming from them. You'll be able to find and download mod content for Ark through Steam Workshop and the Unreal Engine community. When connecting to a server that is running a mod, Ark will automatically download and install it for you if you like. This makes everything really fluid and integrated into the Ark experience, removing as many barriers as possible.

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Can you walk me through the Ark mod editor itself, Tim; how will this work?

Tim Sweeney: Once you've purchased Ark: Survival Evolved on Steam Early Access, just go here for directions on signing up and installing the Ark mod tools.

Rapczak: The ARK Development Kit wields the full power of Unreal Engine 4, tuned for creating content specifically going in to Ark. The build and upload tools are fully integrated into the editor and creators can deploy their mod in just a few clicks.

You're launching today with the first community-­made mods. Surely someone is going to make a Jurassic Park mod, you'd have to imagine...

Rapczak: We have already seen a few entirely new maps for the game, one of which rivals the size of our actual game map and includes things like ruins and a completely unique layout. Another mod introduces a new game mode that serves as a simple example for changing the rules of the game. So far we don't have any mods directly related to any top-selling entertainment franchises, but I'm over 9000% sure that will change extremely soon.

Ark is obviously developed using the Unreal Engine; but how did this extended relationship for a mod editor come about between Epic and Wildcard?

Rapczak: Wildcard is a new studio, but collectively we have been in the industry using Unreal technology for a long time. We have good friends at Epic and our team members love working together, especially when our goals are aligned around something like the mod community. The timing is right, and because Ark has been so successful and modding is a top priority for us, it's the perfect partnership for both our companies to put the power of creativity in the hands of new and experienced modders alike.

Sweeney: For years, we've been working to build Unreal Engine 4 as an easy-to-use tool to power a new generation of moddable games. And with Ark, Studio Wildcard built an amazing, highly moddable game more quickly than we'd imagined anybody doing. So, after years of foundation-building, this partnership came together quickly over the past few weeks.

Click through the images below to see full-size versions
Click through the images below to see full-size versions

Tim and Jesse, what do you think the introduction of this new mod editor means for Ark overall? What kind of effect do you think it will have on the game itself?

Sweeney: With open-world environment and dinosaur combat, there's something for everyone who has a unique design idea. I expect the game will rapidly evolve in directions beyond what Studio Wildcard, or any company of any size, could possibly undertake alone. This is a perfect game to unleash the mod community's creativity.

Rapczak: I firmly believe there is nothing that will increase the life and ultimate success of a game like giving it to over to the community to build on. This is why Minecraft and Skyrim are so successful and why GTA V has new life on PC. It's the reason games like Dota and Counter-Strike exist, and I would love nothing more than an entirely new franchise to come out of the Ark Dev Kit. I think it means more people will come to play the core game and stick around for all the exciting mod content… and vice versa.

Mods are often a way for a game community to really blossom – People follow a game to see its mods, specific mod makers make a name for themselves, etc.; do you foresee something similar happening here with Ark?

Tim Sweeney: Absolutely. This is an opportunity to turn your creative ideas into reality, and learn the art of game development as you go. And rather than starting from scratch, trying to build a standalone game all by yourself, you're starting with an awesome game, environment, and content base.

You can start with minor tweaks, and grow from there. In five years, I bet you will be able to look around the game industry, and find professional developers who got their start in Ark modding.

Rapczak: Definitely. Ark is a deep sandbox game with the power and flexibility of Unreal Engine 4 behind it. It is only a matter of time.

Mods also open a game up to, well, basically anything that can be imagined. Is that a little unsettling; that is, losing some of your sense of authorship over the game in a way, Jesse?

"Ark is more than a game, it's a platform for the next generation of game developers to showcase their talents." -- Rapczak

Rapczak: Not at all. Please take Ark and make an entirely new game with it! Replace all the dinosaurs with deadly humanoid future robots and the trees and mountains with bombed-out skyscrapers. Create a map in the asteroid belt and fill it with colonies of alien invaders. Make your ultimate adventure-survival-RPG or fast-paced arena combat with dinosaurs as vehicles. I can't wait to see and play what people come up with. Ark is more than a game, it's a platform for the next generation of game developers to showcase their talents.

Paid mods on Steam became a hot-­button issue with Skyrim earlier this year­­. What's your take on that? Do you think we'll see such a system sometime down the road?

Rapczak: I'm sure we will, especially as this next generation of mod makers really starts creating some amazing products with hours and hours of fun. A lot of gamers would probably support their favorite mods by purchasing them if it meant the mod could even exist at all. For now, though, Ark mods will be free for everyone. The more people playing each mod, the better.

Sweeney: Looking at the larger picture, mods have played a fundamental role in the game industry. Many leading games originated as free mods, and then evolved into something bigger, for example Counter Strike as a Half-Life mod, and Dota as a Warcraft mod.

Epic's view is that indies and mod developers who work hard and do great work deserve a path to becoming full-time pros, and that path shouldn't require abandoning one's work and starting over. If we look past the muddled attempt to commercialize Skyrim modding, I see opportunity to build a mod ecosystem that starts with free mods while allowing modders a path to make a living, and to build experiences of the scale and quality that, beyond a certain point, require funding.

Mods on PC are fairly commonplace, but Fallout 4 is doing some new things on console in that space; is there any chance we'll see PC mods make it to the console version of Ark some day?

Rapczak: We absolutely want to support mods on console and will be aggressively looking into making it happen.

Speaking of which, how are the console versions of Ark shaping up right now?

Jesse Rapczak: Great! Unreal Engine really helps us with multiplatform development and Early Access on PC is informing our decisions for Ark's console releases.

"Mods have played a fundamental role in the game industry" -- Sweeney

One million sales in 30 days is pretty incredible; what's your reaction to that, Jesse? And do you think Jurassic World's huge theatrical release had anything to do with it?

Rapczak: It's unbelievably exciting and definitely validating. Ark's subject-matter, game design, and release timing are all intentional decisions made late last year and it feels good to know after all the long hours and hard work that we got it more “right" than we could have ever hoped for.

You're taking a more community-­focused approach with Ark­­. Why is this so important to you?

Jesse Rapczak: The community is the reason the game has been sitting at number one on Steam since we launched, even through the Summer Sale, and why it's still there today. You don't have this kind of success by just being a good game or even a “great" game. It's the streamers and the YouTubers and the role players and the meme-creators doing new things with the game.

It's the fans who respond to their friends “I'm playing Ark," when asked what they are doing this weekend, because we just implemented a feature or creature they have been clamoring for. One of our big goals is to be an example of how PC Early Access and similar development programs can hugely benefit players and development teams alike. Expect to see our team working hard with the community to iterate, optimize, and polish the core game to hit our release date next year.

What else should people know about Ark's modding tools?

Rapczak: We can't wait to see your creations and our team is eager to help. Hop on the Ark modding forum at to let us know what you’ve got cooking!

Sweeney: The Ark modding tools are the complete Unreal Engine 4 tools. They're more polished, approachable, and easy to use than ever before. And, it's easy to get started, with a wealth of video tutorials and documentation.

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Ark: Survival Evolved is available today on Steam for $25.

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