Why I love Ark's pickiest creature: a giant snail that only eats cake

And making that cake is no small task.

When you tame a creature in Ark: Survival Evolved, your work isn't done. You need to keep your pets fed, though that's usually not a problem. Most carnivores are happy with red meat or fish, and herbivores are typically content with a selection of berries. Fill a trough, park the animal nearby, and it'll eat when it gets hungry. 

A few animals are more selective, like the dung beetle, which only eats poop. The beetle won't eat out of a trough like other animals, either: you have to stick the poop right in its inventory, but poop isn't exactly hard to come by since dinos and players are constantly taking dumps all over the place. There's even a key you can press to make yourself or your dinos poop on command. Dinner time!

There's another creature that only eats one kind of food, and that's the Achatina, a land mollusk that I will just call 'snail' to keep it simple. The snail, too, needs to be fed manually, but it has a more refined palate than the dung beetle. The snail only eats cake. And isn't that the perfect life? Only eating cake?

Cake doesn't just fall fully formed out of dinosaur butts.

As you might imagine, cake doesn't just fall fully formed out of dinosaur butts, and it can't just be roasted in a campfire like a slab of meat. It takes a tiny bit of work, by which I mean you might wind spend hours gathering and mining and crafting and building several entirely new structures. All to feed a single snail.

I'll just briefly explain how to bake a cake. In a cooking pot, you'll place your ingredients: fiber—no biggie, you can grab that from bushes. Water—collected in a skin or a jar, no problem there. Stimulant—okay, you'll need to collect stimberries from bushes, and mix them with sparkpowder, which itself requires grinding flint and stone together at a mortar and pestle. A little work to do there, but still pretty easy.

You'll also need carrots, corn, and potatoes, because this is a vegetable cake. You won't find those lying around, either, you'll need to grow them from seeds (gathered from bushes) in three different planters (built from wood, thatch, fiber, and stone) and you'll want to keep them irrigated with a water source like a reservoir (which is built from stone and cementing paste—which itself can be made from stone and chitin (which can be harvested from creatures with exoskeletons) and then connected with a stone pipe and tap (made from more stone and wood).

Of course, growing your plants will also require fertilizer, which can be created in a compost bin (combine poop and thatch) or generated by feeding poop to that beetle I mentioned earlier. And, unless you want to spend ages waiting for your crops to grow, you might as well go all-in and construct a damn greenhouse using a whole bunch of metal ingots (made in a forge), crystal (mined from mountaintops and caves), and more cementing paste.

So, you've built your poop box and farming plots and irrigation systems and a damn greenhouse and you've grown and harvested your vegetables. Time to bake the cake? Ha ha, no, dummy! You're not done yet. The cake's final ingredient is sap, which you can harvest from giant redwood trees, once you craft an enormous metal tap (from 100 ingots—which take 200 metal—and still more cementing paste). 

Ready to stick your tap into a redwood? Nope, you're not. You need to place it well above ground level, so hey, why not just craft a bunch of wooden tree platforms and build an Ewok-style base way up in the trees so you can actually attach your tap and collect your sap and bake your cake (which will spoil in just over an hour, so you might want to build a fabricator so you can craft a gas powered generator and a fridge to preserve it, too).

In return, your snail will produce paste, which is ironically enough, one of the resources you just crafted or gathered loads of just to be able to feed the snail its special veggie cake. It also produces a natural polymer for crafting, which is very useful. It makes a cool wet slimy sound when it slithers around, which I enjoy, plus it's one of the only creatures in the game that will never attack you.

Yes, it is quite a lot of work to feed this one snail, this one delightfully picky creature that insists on only eating hand-fed cake produced by hours of construction and tons of materials.

But in that way, Ark's snail is like a real life pet, which is why I love it. If you have a dog or a cat or some other type of pet, you know the lengths you'll go to just to keep them happy. You'll pay massive vet bills, administer expensive medicines, buy crates full of toys, replace pieces of furniture, and redecorate your entire home just so the little animal in your life can experience some contentment. You don't just put your dog or cat near a bowl of food and call it a night: you tend to them, care for them, and spend hours of your life doing back-breaking labor so they have what they need. Ark's snail is no different. It's just a little slimier.