Getting chased around by dinosaurs in VR can be an unnerving experience. We saw this with Ark: Survival Evolved and its subsequent expansions, which immersed users in a do-or-die, kill-or-be killed fight for your life on an island full of dinosaurs that can tear you to shreds. However, Ark: Survival was not designed explicitly as a VR experience, and the extremely high details of the environment and dinosaurs created performance issues for would-be survivors using HMDs (and sometimes, even standard 2D gamers).
Last November, Studio Wildcard licensed the IP for Ark: Survival Evolved to a company called Snail Games, which took all of the highly-detailed dinos from the suspenseful game and put them into a less-threatening package designed from the ground up specifically for VR. Ark Park lets you see all of the dinosaurs in their natural habitat, without the fear of getting eaten. You can even feed them.
At GDC, we had the opportunity to take a stroll through Ark Park, and we were impressed by the sheer detail of the dinosaurs and environment in the game. The downside to these stunning visuals was that the GTX 1080 running the game had its needle in the red the entire time, and we definitely weren’t hitting the standard 90fps most VR games are designed to deliver. The frame rate was mostly landing between 45-60fps (as best as we can tell from our personal VR gaming experience); the performance was a major downside to the otherwise-enjoyable demo.
We were shocked to learn that the minimum hardware requirements for Ark Park is an Intel Core i7-4790K processor and a GTX 1080 GPU, which up until last week, was Nvidia’s top-tier flagship graphics card. Furthermore, the recommended CPU is the eight-core Core i7-5960X, so it’s no wonder we experienced performance issues with such a steep hardware requirement.
Clearly, Snail Games and Studio Wildcard are banking on graphics technology improving sooner rather than later (and a GTX 1080 Ti would likely net better performance), with Ark Park slated for a 2017 release on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. However, we are somewhat skeptical of how well a game requiring so much CPU and GPU horsepower will perform on the PSVR, which will also receive Ark Park sometime this year.
Although we’re elated to see more graphically demanding VR experiences, we wonder if Ark Park is pushing too much too fast. However, with AMD Vega on the way, and the GTX 1080 Ti offering a considerable performance boost over its predecessor, perhaps Ark Park will find a home in the game libraries of top-tier hardware enthusiasts. However, PSVR compatibility is somewhat of a wildcard, and the representatives we spoke with followed up our question about porting the game to the console shortly after GDC, simply offering that "we will optimize it fully to PSVR."