ARK Dev: DX12 Is Very Complicated; Console Optimizations Will Help With Performance


Yesterday, we gave you a report on ARK: Survival Evolved's DirectX 12 update, with a developer confirming on the Steam forums that there is currently no ETA.

By coincidence, Studio Wildcard's Co-Founder and Co-Creative Director Jesse Rapczak held a Reddit AMA on r/games a few hours later, so we thought we'd ask him directly about it.

  • Can you explain exactly what's going on with the DX12 update? One month ago you said it was ready and it would have given a 20% performance boost. Today, a developer of yours said there's no ETA and it won't be released until it's "at least better" than DX11.
  • Trust me there are no conspiracy theories, here! DX12 is a new technology and it's very complicated even for the largest teams to get everything working smoothly. We care greatly about this but want the experience to be extremely polished and exactly what people expect. The DX11 technology the engine is built on is extremely mature and DX12 just isn't ready for us yet for a variety of reasons. It just comes down to other technical wins like server performance and general client optimization that apply to ALL users being our first priority for now.

That's certainly an interesting answer. We know that DX12 as a lower level API will require more care from developers than DX11 and this is one of the first instances where one of them said openly that it's very complicated to get it working smoothly.

Rapczak provided many more useful answers throughout the AMA session, though, starting with a promising answer on Vulkan & Metal support.

We will support Vulkan when UE4 fully supports it. So we didn't decide against it, it's just not ready for us yet. 🙂 Trust me, I want Vulkan BAD as well as OS X Metal, because the graphics API is the big reason there is such a difference between Mac, Linux and the PC version of the game.

Once UE4 supports Metal the Mac specs will change drastically. However, expect that you will always need a dedicated GPU. Integrated GPUs won't cut it for some time.

Moving on to general performance issues, he said that console optimizations will help especially with lower GPUs, while also explaining why the game performed badly at its initial release on Steam Early Access. Performance will be "really good" once the game is closer to launch, according to Rapczak, which should happen in June 2016 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

I expect our console optimizations will help lower end graphics cards quite a bit. Since the game doesn't actually release for quite some time, I would start to look at some of the more demanding games starting to launch (like Battlefront) to indicate what type of min spec we might actually end up with at launch.

Performance will be really good when the game is closer to launch. We originally designed the rendering effects to perform OK on high-end graphics hardware in the near term since we weren't shipping for another year. Turns out a lot more people wanted to play the game with older hardware, so we kind of back-ported to DX10 and the community has found a lot of ways to make the game run smoothly despite not looking great for now.

He also commented on server performance in Ark: Survival Evolved, saying that Studio Wildcard is absolutely working to improve as they consider it the first technical issue right now.

Server performance (including re-writing large piles of complex code to customize it for ARK) is one of our top priorities.

Suffice to say, if we have to write our own complete server that is not UE4 we are willing to go there to get performance where we want it. So don't worry, it's key to the game and the #1 technical issue at the top of the giant pile of technical issues.

Moving on to gameplay related questions, Rapczak said that they're working on the Dinosaur AI update which will allow creatures to work together; there will also be a way to issue commands.

This will come in stages but we don't have an exact date yet. The overall goal of the updates is to make all the (now 100+ planned) unique creatures behave in more rich ways as part of the global ecosystem. Advanced features like groups working together and hierarchy-based behaviors are high on our priority list.

We have a system coming in allowing you to group dinos together and issue quick commands to them on hotkeys. So this may help a lot of the things you are talking about!

ARK: Survival Evolved still has to receive the endgame content update, and Rapczak mentioned that he's very excited about it.

Definitely. The ruins, rewards for exploration, and end game content are a huge part of the game and we're working on them now (looks to left, sees ruins on Lead LD's screen, smiles in anticipation).

Absolutely! As will the rest of the end game content and our Explorer Notes which have yet to be added to the island. I'm super excited about this. ARK is so much more than anyone has guessed. 😉

Above all else, there is an end goal in ARK. We'll be getting that content in soon. For now you can master all of the game's mechanics and play styles!

Finally, he also commented on HoloLens - Rapczak was Technical Art Director of the project for over two years and he'd love to see it working with ARK some day.

HoloLens is legit. I was there from almost the beginning, when we all looked like Doc Brown in Back to the Future, with crazy head gear hanging from the ceiling. The promise is real and I really hope to use HoloLens to bring a unique ARK experience to life one day.

In related news, a press release issued yesterday announced that ARK: Survival Evolved had sold more than 2 million units via Steam Early Access since its debut in June. Speaking to MCV, Rapczak said that this figure could be doubled or even tripled once the physical release will be out on all platforms.