UPDATE 6/9/16 9.30am: Ark developer Wildcard has issued a statement to fans enraged by the release of paid expansion Scorched Earth while the base Ark game is still in development.
In a blog posted to the game's official site, community manager Jat laid out the studio's "official take on the Scorched Earth Expansion Pack, and the future of ARK".
The message emphasises how development on Ark is still ongoing, despite the launch of the expansion - whose "early" release will allow for future expansions to be integrated far easier.
"Put simply: we are absolutely committed to driving aggressive development towards a solid, feature-robust game launch for Ark: Survival Evolved. Everyone at Wildcard wakes up every day thinking about how we can make ARK into a better game today than it was the day before.
"It's not always easy, but our intent is ever-forward progress towards a retail release that will be far more ambitious in scope and features than our original vision when we launched ARK into Steam Early Access in June 2015. Your feedback enables us to continually expand the game to become better than ever!
"Scorched Earth: Our original vision for ARK always included the creation of Expansion Ark [packs], along with the infrastructure and technical systems to transfer data dynamically between live Arks. We determined that it is more sound to iterate on these systems during Early Access than after retail launch, given the significant risks involved if we didn't 'get it right'.
"While that meant unveiling the first Expansion early, it also means an easier time integrating further post-launch Expansions into the Ark network. We understand that this isn't everyone's cup of tea, and we appreciate the enjoyment people seem to be getting out of this initial view of how Expansion Arks can work. Now that we have the systems in place to support them, we can ensure minimal integration issues with subsequent releases after Ark: Survival Evolved itself has launched.
Upcoming features for the base Ark game include new creatures, a backstory told through found notes, and a procedurally-generated Ark system.
ORIGINAL STORY 5/9/16 3.00pm: Last week, Ark developer Wildcard announced Scorched Earth, a "completely finished" expansion for its Early Access survival success.
The news did not go down well.
Ark is still in Early Access - still unfinished. So the decision to charge for extra content already, however substantial it may be, came as a surprise.
Scorched Earth is described by Wild Card as a "completely finished" expansion, created by the studio while it also spends time finishing the main game - a practice some fans have said goes against the ethos of Early Access.
By supporting an Early Access game during its development, a customer risks their money on a project that may never be finished. The reward, however, is that consumers then receive updated versions of the game as soon as they become available.
Many Ark fans who paid for the Early Access game have refused to fork out more cash for features they say should be part of the game's natural continued development.
Wildcard has temporarily cut the price of the base Ark game by 40 per cent so it is cheaper for new players, but this has done nothing for Ark's hardcore fanbase.
Ark's recent Steam reviews have now swung from Mostly Positive to Mostly Negative. Many opinions come from players with hundreds of hours on the clock:
"Started off as shining example of how to do early access," wrote Ark fan Fastidious, who has played for 990 hours. "Ended up a complete disaster after the developer went off on adventures of making [survival elimination spin-off project] Survival of the Fittest, console versions and paid expansion while still in early access! No wonder the game is so behind schedule."
"Wow way to release paid DLC before getting the game out of Early Access," wrote Synthetic (1843 hours played). "Seriously what is going through your heads? How's DirectX 12 and the TrueSky fix coming that have been sitting on your to do list since the game came out on Early Access?"
The situation became even messier when one Wild Card staff member spoke out about the backlash, and slammed one fan as being "too cheap to pony up $20".
"[Wildcard] should have uploaded it for free, really?" the staff member wrote in a now-deleted chat post. "We made essentially an entire new game to compliment the existing one, do we not deserve to be paid?
"I think you mean you wish we launch it for free, because you seem to have short arms and deep pockets."
The staff member has now apologised for his words via the game's official Reddit.
Ark: Scorched Earth strands players in a new desert area populated by Wyverns, among other new creatures, and where you must cope with dehydration on top of everything else.
While separate to the main game's area, players will be able to travel between Scorched Earth's location and the main game's island.
"All of us at Wildcard are tremendously excited to see how these new features alter the dynamics of the long-term ARK metagame," co-founder Jeremy Stieglitz said upon the expansion's announcement.
"While we've had Scorched Earth and future Arks in the planning stages since the project's inception, establishing its inter-Ark travel technology was the essential reason for making this content available to players right now."
We've asked Wildcard for comment on the Ark community's reaction.