Sony Online Entertainment's zombie-survival online game H1Z1 must first find stable footing on PC before the game begins to take shape on PS4, Senior Game Designer Jimmy Whisenhunt tells Joystiq.
Months after being announced with a promise to launch on Steam Early Access, H1Z1 is still in closed testing. Whisenhunt says his team doesn't want to rush to market, instead setting a goal to release a game to Early Access that's as technically stable as it is fun.
"I would love to have it next week," Whisenhunt laughs. "The thing about [Early Access] is the community takes a look at a bunch of streams and says 'It looks really cool. It looks playable. Please release it.' But our concerns aren't the shiny things, it's making sure that our server isn't going to ... look, we know we are going to have a server issue within the first week of Early Access," he admits.
"We do want to make sure that we're ready to respond to that the right way."
Once the game has found a stable footing on the PC, the H1Z1 team will then begin to adapt the game's design and systems to the PS4 to ensure parity between versions. Development on PS4 relies on the PC release, Whisenhunt confirms, adding H1Z1 is not currently playable on PS4.
When both versions are available however, they "most likely" will not exist on the same network. Cross-platform play is not part of the plan.
"A lot of it has to do with update cadence and different needs for the systems," Whisenhunt says. "And there's always that age-old conversion of 'keyboard/mouse versus controller.'" Since H1Z1 characters can be permanently killed – even by other players – the developer wants to avoid any inherent advantages offered by control schemes.
"You can't have two separate versions of a game going on at the same time, just from a platform perspective. If we need to patch PC very quickly for a performance fix, whatever it happens to be, we would also have to find a way to match version with PS4. Who knows? Maybe we'll see cross-platform stuff later on, but really our plan is to do both separately," Whisenhunt says.
Whisenhunt says solidifying the metrics for the Early Access build is key to launch, so if a player crashes or has issues, his team can examine the metrics for that particular player and identify the problem quickly to ensure a more stable playing experience in the future.
"It's imperative. We could be stuck in Early Access forever or we could do it the right way and make sure that we're receiving the right [information] from players. So as they're playing the game, they're teaching us."
When H1Z1 launches on Steam Early Access the game will carry a price tag of $20, but will be made free-to-play when the game crosses the threshold from Early Access to final release.