I was hired out of Grad School as a Technical Designer on the Early-Access multiplayer survival game ARK: Survival Evolved in July 2016. The other new hires and I from the SMU Guildhall formed the studio's new core Gameplay Team, which gave us all a lot of exposure to ARK's various gameplay systems and the modifications Wildcard had made to Unreal Engine 4. The Technical Design position came with the responsibility of designing, creating, and polishing a wide variety of things, including boss fights, new dinosaurs, and new items/weapons with unique functionality (such as the TEK Armor). ARK has been an incredibly successful Early-Access title, and working for Studio Wildcard has been an awesome first industry job.
PC, XBOX One, PS4
Company: Studio Wildcard
August 29th, 2017
As a man or woman stranded naked, freezing & starving on a mysterious island, you must hunt, harvest, craft items, grow crops, & build shelters to survive.
I was hired out of Grad School as a Technical Designer on the Early-Access multiplayer survival game ARK: Survival Evolved in July 2016. The other new hires and I from the SMU Guildhall formed the studio's new core gameplay team, which gave us all a lot of exposure to ARK's various gameplay systems and the modifications Wildcard had made to Unreal Engine 4. The Technical Design position came with the responsibility of designing, creating, and polishing a wide variety of things, including boss fights, new dinosaurs, and new items/weapons with unique functionality (such as the TEK Armor). ARK was an incredibly successful Early-Access title, and working for Studio Wildcard has been an awesome first industry job.
The TEK Tier
After shipping Scorched Earth, the gameplay team was given our next assignment: creating the new Armor set for the upcoming TEK Tier.
This would be the ultimate technology tier that only the most dedicated players can reach, giving players the ability to live out all their 80s cyberpunk fantasies. The TEK Tier also included a teleporter, clone machine, T-Rex laser helmet, and much more. All of the new objects require a rare resource called Element to run, which you must defeat bosses to obtain.
The TEK Armor, a badass sci-fi suit of alien technology smothered in bright lights and awesomesauce, included a jetpack, pants that let you run on water, a helmet with night-vision and advanced combat HUD, boots that nullify fall damage, and gauntlets that can crush boulders. A month before launch, I ended up taking over almost the entire set of armor while the rest of the gameplay team worked on other patch 254 content.
Around November 2016, in exchange for an exclusive first look at the new TEK content, PC Gamer decided to have ARK's new TEK Tier be the cover story of their January 2017 issue. It was an amazing experience to have my work featured in a major gaming magazine. We ended up finally launching the new tier at the end of January 2017.
In between major tasks, the core gameplay team at Wildcard is responsible for implementing new dinosaurs for ARK based on the dossiers created for them. We start with basic blueprints for their behaviors and abilities, but ultimately we get a lot of influence over the mechanics of these creatures before they are released. Below are the dinosaurs that I got to bring to life:
The Griffin was released in June of 2017, created exclusively for the adopted mod map Ragnarok (announced during E3 2017). It was the first flyer in ARK to use diving mechanics, which allowed it to pick up intense speed while dropping from a high altitude. After reaching terminal velocity, the Griffin can either do a quick swipe of its claws for high damage or slam into the ground for massive AOE knockback.
The Climber Dino System
Around the end of January 2017, I was tasked with creating the traversal mechanics for a new dinosaur called the Thylacoleo. Basically, it was a giant prehistoric tiger that could climb up walls and latch onto surfaces before pouncing down on its prey. By the time we went to GDC that year in March, the Thylaco had been fully released into the live game and people loved it. Unfortunately, this made people want more dinosaurs with more robust climbing mechanics, and so I abstracted all of the Thylaco's climbing logic into a parent class that has since been used for both the Megalania and the Rock Drake.
Since the Thylaco could only climb up or down vertical surfaces, the next logical evolution of the system was climbing on any surface, regardless of orientation. This was first implemented within the Megalania, a dinosaur komodo dragon hybrid that was sluggish on the ground but made up for it with allowing you to climb literally anywhere that the dino itself could fit. Weirdly enough, many people stuck with their Thylacos over the new Megalania, because the speed was more important to them than the added traversal options. This led to the design of the latest and most robust Climber Dino, the Rock Drake.
The Rock Drake is the Aberration DLC flagship dinosaur, meaning its the biggest and baddest predator short of the Reapers you can find in the massive Aberration cave system. To ensure that the Drake was the most mechanically robust dinosaur in terms of traversal, we combined the Thylaco's attacks and speed with the Megalanias traversal freedom, sprinkled with the Griffin's gliding mechanic. This meant that the Drake could quickly climb anywhere, jump and glide between giant cave walls, and pounce towards targets at high speeds. Not to mention they can do all of this while invisible thanks to their Predator-like cloaking ability. The Rock Drake is the pinnacle of the Climber Dino System thus far, and I can't wait to see how it evolves next.