About 'Ark: Survival of the Fittest' and one of it's winners, Apolloz

Ark: Survival Evolved took the top spot on Twitch on Saturday with an introduction to the upcoming game mode ‘Survival of the Fittest’ in the form of a cash prize tournament. Due out later this month for players of the early access game, players are paired up and level, train dinosaurs and fight each other with the winners declared as the last team standing (even if only 1 of the pair is still alive at the end).

For this tournament, 70 players were selected from the community making 35 teams fighting it out, in a way very reminiscent of The Hunger Games movies, for the money and the glory. The team selection process was totally random, literally picking names out of a hat live on Twitch 3 days before the event, which didn’t leave a lot of time to get to know your teammate and practice a strategy. Additionally, the game mechanics were adjusted in terms of drop rate and levelling to allow for the 5 hour time limit of the event.

The winners of the Ark: Survival of the fittest tournament, DarkDolphin and Apolloz, shared the $20,000 prize pool and received other prizes such as Logitech peripherals, a ticket to the upcoming TwitchCon 2015 as well as front page hosting on twitch for a week (quite a big deal for streamers). Second place was given to the team of ESGame & Pedrosaltana winning $10,000 ($5,000 each). First and second place teams survived with both members alive until the final phase, however the $5000 prize for third place was taken by Anthony_Kongphan who earned his long-dead partner TheSparrowJourney a $2,500 share.

I got the chance to catch up with Ryan (aka Apolloz), a 22 year old UK Twitch streamer, to get his thoughts on the game, the tournament and life in general. One of the first questions I asked was if he was worried about the random nature of the teams and what strategy he went for:

(Apolloz): I only played with ‘Dolphin once for about 2-3 hours before the event. Since we play on [the same] server together I knew who he was and how skilled he was too, but as it goes for teamwork we really had not played together before the event. In the 2-3 hours, we formed a battle plan which was training lots of ‘dinos’. In this event, it played a lot differently from the main game. We all knew certain tricks used to level such as placing down a foundation and destroying it over and over for XP – a lot of teams used this including us at the start – but what was really interesting is the dynamic the developers installed so that when you kill a player or their ‘dino’ you gain most of their XP. This played a huge factor for us when we picked off random people in the midgame and levelled up fast.

During the Survival of the Fittest tournament, the Game Master introduced environmental changes ranging from severe changes in temperature and extreme weather effects through to dinosaur’s raining down from the sky to attack the players, some of these events being voted for by the viewers of the main Twitch channel. Also, they had to deal with the event’s timer. A shrinking shield was placed over the whole map and was tied to the time limit. If a player stayed outside the shield for more than a few seconds it would kill them.

(Apolloz): Well our ‘Spino’, which really won us the game, was from a Carnivore Drop, haha. We killed one and tamed the other! That was really our saving grace. It was so clutch taming it too, the circle enveloped it but seemed to do no damage to ‘dinos’ but I rode into it on my raptor just to pull the ‘Spino’ back into the circle when it finished taming. I honestly didn’t know if I was gonna die or not there, but I wanted to get that ‘Spino’ for our team because I knew how important of a ‘dino’ it was especially after we saw Lirik’s [another player] ‘T-rex’ munching around.
(Me): So you were pretty close to the moving fatality barrier which passed over the ‘Spino’ before it got tamed?
(Apolloz): Yup, I was hugging the edge of the barrier while calling the ‘dino’ to me. Luckily it was in range and followed me back into the circle. I could have easily died at that point though!

I asked if he went into the Survival of the Fittest match hoping to win or did he try to forget about the prizes and just play.

(Apolloz): Haha, I just didn’t want to die at the start… that was my only goal! A lot of people were saying we were a strong team and Fairlight [another player] actually called us the winning team during the random hat pick but I never thought I would get past the midgame to be fair.
(Me): So at what point did you start thinking you might get into the top 3 and walk away with a prize?
(Apolloz): To be honest I never really thought I would until we were fighting with Ralph at the end. I was just so focused on the PVP and the game, living in the moment, nothing else really mattered – not the money or winning – just the fun.
(Me): At the end you seemed quite bewildered. How long did it take before you realised yours was the winning team?
(Apolloz): I honestly thought Ralph [Pedrosaltana] could kill us at the end. He is such a strong player and I have battled with him a lot on Fairlight’s server and he mostly wins, this time he didn’t have his eagle though, haha. But yeah, it just… happened and I was shocked more than anything. I’ve never won anything in my life!

I wanted to find out what drew him to Ark and why he plays it:

(Apolloz): I’ve always been interested in anything survival game orientated ever since DayZ Mod when that first came out like 4-5 years ago, many indie titles too like Project Zomboid which is awesome, etc. But ARK just looked so, so, so, polished compared to all the others and that they worked with the community it was amazing and I just wanted to get involved so much. The Devs and the PR team are the most insane and down to earth people. I love them, and I’d go out on a limb to call them the best dev team out there currently. The amount of updates and community response just speaks for itself really.

Ryan has been a twitch partner for a year now and has been streaming games for around 3 years, starting while at University “just as a cool/chill thing”. I asked if he had any tips for aspiring streamers.

(Apolloz): Make a schedule, and keep at it. Speak to 0 viewers like you would speak to 100 or 1000. Practice just talking about what you are doing in-game and why until there is chat to feed/bounce off. If you are really smart try and find a timeslot in-between other streamers schedules where you might be able to get in.

I want to say a huge thank you to Ryan for taking the time to talk to me, the interview went into a lot more detail and you can find the full interview here. If you want to follow his adventures in-game, you can find him online at Twitch, Twitter and You Tube. He’s usually online between 1 – 6pm GMT and often between 10.30pm – 1am, however as he’s looking to move in with his girlfriend (sorry ladies, he’s taken!) the days that he’s streaming are a bit hit and miss at the moment. Keep an eye out for his tweets or look on his Twitch title to see when he’s planning his next stream.

If you missed Ark: Survival of the Fittest, you can catch the whole 5 hour and 23 minutes broadcast on the Ark: Survival of the Fittest Twitch channel which switches regularly between all players. If you want to see it from Ryan’s point of view, try his Twitch channel also I’ll try to update this with a direct link.

I’ll leave you with Apolloz’s last words for the community, “Support Indie developers and Ark!”

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