Developer: Snail Games
Formats: PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
Release Date: 22/03/2018
Check out our interview with Sky Wu, Vice President at Snail Games, about their upcoming first-person VR Dinosaur adventure ARK Park:
How would you describe ARK Park to someone who has never heard of the game?
ARK Park is a VR game that invites players to enter a world filled with magnificent creatures and timeless adventures.
Whilst the announcement trailer does show off parts of ARK Park where players could interact with the dinosaurs in lush environments, it seems that the focus was mainly on the action segments where you’re taking on some of the more violent creatures. Which of the two would you say is the more fleshed out aspect of the game? Will players spend more time exploring the park or taking down the dinosaurs?
Exploration and battle gameplay complement each other. In the early phase, players spend more time exploring – and in the latter phase, players might spend more time in the battle scenes. Action sequences/fighting consume items and weapons – just like in real life, I guess! – so players need to head over to exploration scenes to gather much-needed resources for the battles ahead.
There seems to be an emphasis on multiplayer play within the game, too. How does this work? Are there just pre-set sequences that you can play through or is there an open area to explore together?
There are single-player and multiplayer modes in ARK Park. In multiplayer mode, one player creates a room or joins another player’s room to go on adventures together. Gameplay and content are the same in both single-player and multiplayer mode. Players can voice chat with each other, explore, and hunt together. In battle scenes, a group of players can take up different weapons and fight as a team.
What sort of interactions will players get to have with the dinosaurs? I’ve seen that collecting dinosaur DNA and gathering materials plays a role in the game, so I’m intrigued to find out how players actually do this and what use it has in the main game.
Players collect dinosaur DNA in exploration maps with a gene scanner. The DNA is later used to unlock new maps. Materials are collected with different tools, such as gloves and axes, and then used to craft weapons and items.
One of the features I’m most excited for is to raise my own dinosaur; after playing around with my Tamagotchi as a child and then eventually looking after Chaos in Sonic Adventure, it’s the sort of feature that really resonates with me. How exactly do you look after your own dinosaurs in the game? Are the species restricted or are there plenty of different varieties?
First, you need a dinosaur egg that is put into the incubator to hatch. After it hatches, you need to feed your dinosaur with yummy food and keep it healthy so that it grows into adulthood. There are four stages: egg>>newborn>>teen>>adult. You can only ride the dinosaur once it reaches adulthood. Different species grow at a distinct pace; some might take more than 10 hours, so make sure you check in from time to time!
I read that you can actually ride dinosaurs too, which sounds like it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun in virtual reality. Are there free-roaming areas that you’re able to explore or activities to take part in whilst riding a dinosaur?
For now, dinosaur riding takes place on a pre-set route.
ARK Park is a spin-off of the very popular ARK: Survival Evolved, though the two games seem to be incredibly different in how they play. Do they tie in with each other in any shape or form?
Yes – and we will talk about it at GDC on March 22nd!
I read that Studio Wildcard have actually worked as creative consultants on the game, too. Have there been any ideas in particular that they had a hand in?
We have been keeping close communication with Studio Wildcard. They helped us understand the ARK worldview – and they were also instrumental in differentiating ARK Park’s VR experience from the original game.
I think virtual reality adds some really fantastic features to gaming and adds whole new ways to play some games. Whilst simply exploring a park full of dinosaurs and interacting with them sounds absolutely brilliant in virtual reality, what other creative ways have you utilised the technology to make ARK Park an even more immersive experience?
We use IKinema and motion capture to dynamically portray the player’s movements in-game. In most video games, the way an avatar moves is pre-set. But such “prefabricated” movement is not suitable for VR games. A combination of IKinema and motion capture proved to be a reliable solution for us. We’re also using a special algorithm to make the sound effects in VR much more realistic and life-like.
What’s your favourite creature that appears in the game?
Dodos – because of their cuteness! When I first booted up ARK: Survival Evolved, I ran away from any creature I saw – the only exception being the Dodo. It ran away when it saw me! We added this adorable behavior pattern into ARK Park as well.
Finally, can you tell us a fact about ARK Park that no-one outside of the development team knows?
We originally wanted to develop a huge open world – but the enormous amount of data required for such a large map proved to be a limiting factor in VR. Therefore, we decided to split the world into individual attractions – which ended up working great with the theme park setting.