ARK: Survival Evolved: How Abstraction Games beat the odds for PS4 release

Abstraction Games, the Dutch studio in charge of porting the PC and Xbox One versions of dinosaur-fuelled romp, ARK: Survival Evolved, to PS4 has quite a story to tell.

ARK: Survival Evolved is the first early access game, a title that is still in active development, to ever appear on PS4, with a full release expected in Spring 2017. However, unlike the early stages of early access titles on other platforms, Sony is far stricter on quality from the outset, demanding a finished product before getting approval to launch on PS4.

ark dinosaur

Working with Studio Wildcard’s Xbox One and PC title to bring ARK to PS4 gamers pre-Christmas, things didn’t go entirely to plan during the latter stages of the submission process, and it turns out that we’re lucky that it’s arrived this month at all!

Speaking in an exclusive interview with PlayStation Universe, we spoke with Abstraction Games’ CEO Ralph Egas, alongside co-founder Erik Bastianen and Lead Programmer, Wilco about the development process and the trials and tribulations of porting the open-world action-adventure to PS4.

“Getting through certification is a relatively simple process, yet thorough,” said Ralph. “The real problem is if it’s an early access model platform. We had to make a finished product on PS4, which was the biggest challenge. Very late in the project we had to add the Scorched Earth DLC and at the very last minute PlayStation exclusive content just before our final submission to Sony, but there’d been another two submissions of the game prior to that for approval.”

The process for approval seems to have been intense with both the development studio and Sony rigorously checking that it’s in a fit state to release and passes quality guidelines set by Sony.

“If Sony finds something that needs fixing in a submission then you must fix it, which means very extensive internal testing is required with the QA team,” Ralph continues. “There’s a massive amount of content, and a massive number of features in ARK, so for the PS4 version we had to ensure that we were at least on par with the Xbox One version.”

Abstraction also spoke about the differences between the Xbox One and PS4 versions of Ark: Survival Evolved, including framerates, performance and PS4 Pro support.

“ARK: Survival Evolved isn’t specifically tailored for PS4 Pro, so it doesn’t have 4K support, but it will run more smoothly,” confirmed Lead Programmer, Wilco. “Studio Wildcard, however, has added the options to enhance graphics in the menu system. The Xbox One version was averaging 25 frames-per-second, but the PS4 has slightly better performance than the Xbox One in terms of graphics, so there’s more leeway to invest some time into making it better, with the hope of pushing towards 60fps. In theory that should be doable, and that’s the goal. We’ve also worked with Studio Wildcard to help increase performance on Xbox One since.”

Things were running smoothly then, right up until the penultimate day before deadline for submission of ARK to Sony, which would ensure its December 6 release date was hit. Abstraction wanted to upgrade its internet connection. Things didn’t go according to plan.

“When the engineer turned up instead of activating a parallel fiber connection, which we had explicitly asked for, they decided to piggyback on the fiber that fed our existing connection, said Ralph.

This meant that their internet connection was now offline on one of the most important days for the studio.
“Before we knew it, we were without internet,” said Ralph. “We wanted to submit the build at 5pm, so we packed everything up in the offices and headed to my house, and got my static IP address whitelisted with Sony. However, we had to wait for server back-up migration cycle to complete.

Our internal QA team had to regress 14 must-fix issues, but we had no means of testing, and they were ready to give up a few times during that day. We were going to rebook a slot to submit the build at a later date. They ordered sushi, and we pretty much thought we’re going to miss the next day’s 12pm deadline for submission. Then, suddenly we noticed the servers coming online again at 8pm, so we started a new working day.

The team were incredible. They put on an all-nighter to get things fixed, and it wasn’t until 8am the next morning that all the issues were fixed, and we then had until just 12pm to submit the build. It all worked out in the end and we got an approval to launch on December 6, but the release date could easily have been delayed.”

So, thanks to the Titanosaurus efforts of Abstraction Games, we can now play ARK: Survival Evolved on PS4 now, which includes all previously released content. PS4 gamers can also enjoy an exclusive Bionic Giga skin plus an entire Manticore armor set for all male and female characters, and an almost complete trophy set. There’ll also be a major update in Spring 2017, and regular updates throughout ARK’s life-cycle.

Watch the trailer, and visit the official ARK site for more details.