Jurassic Park: The Game- Avoiding The Potential Pitfalls
Telltale discusses the importance of treating the license with respect by hiring passionate fans to work on the video game.
Lots of high profile games come out this week, including Super Mario 3D Land, Saints Row: The Third and Assassin's Creed Revelations.
Nestled among these potential hits lies Jurassic Park: The Game (Xbox 360, PS3, PC/Mac), the latest from the puzzle masters at Telltale.
Created with the blessing of Universal, this promising thrill ride sends players on a new journey through the dinosaur infested Isla Nublar, where they'll search for the embryos Dennis Nedry failed to deliver in the original film. From there, they'll meet new faces and make death defying escapes as a variety of thunder lizards give chase.
The game holds a tremendous amount of potential, both as a standalone adventure and as a shining example of how to (possibly) do a movie licensed title justice.
That said, we had the privilege of chatting with executive producer, Kevin Boyle, on what it took to put Jurassic Park together, as well as the upcoming iPad 2 version.
Jurassic Part is quite cinematic. Were you able to put all of this content into the iPad version without sacrificing performance?
Once we came to the decision that Jurassic Park should require an iPad 2, a lot of the performance challenges were made significantly easier to deal with. I have been impressed with what the iPad 2 is capable of, and with the freedom it has given us to use high fidelity assets to make a great looking game.
We have strived for consistently cohesive transitions between non-interactive cinematics, exploration and problem solving, environment navigation and even action sequences. We pursued this to the point where no scene in the game relies on a default follow-camera or default navigation camera. Every scene is composed cinematically. We even allow the player to move to points of interest in a given scene by cutting to them, rather than manually traversing the environment. In moments of action, we have taken queues from the Jurassic Park movie in terms of pacing, escalation and even cinematography. Jurassic Park: The Game is truly a cinematic adventure.
What challenges have popped up in bringing the game to iOS? Will you support iOS 5 specific features?
From very early in our development process, we have been putting a lot of thought into Jurassic Park on the iPad. The style of gameplay is well suited to touch interface, so the work to bring the game to iOS has been more about refinement than struggling to fit the platform. I'm particularly happy with how Jurassic Park plays on iPad.
Having approached Jurassic Park as a cinematic gameplay experience, we are taking advantage of AirPlay by mirroring a display of the game without UI, so viewers can enjoy the interactive experience as a purely cinematic one.
What type of access did you receive?
Universal has been a great partner, and a huge help when it comes to assets. One example that jumps to mind is avoiding the potential pitfalls of recreating very familiar and iconic dinosaur sounds by getting access to a huge pool of movie audio assets. Our dinosaurs sound great, in no small part because we use a lot of the source materials from the films.
Telltale is one of the few companies with a highly regarded movie based game with the Back to the Future series. How do you guys manage to do a movie license justice in the video game realm?
We approach game development with an emphasis on character and narrative, making sure every part of the story players are taking part in fits squarely in the license. We also have a habit of going after licenses that we love. If you love the subject matter, it's actually quite enjoyable scrutinizing every detail of characters and narrative, drilling down to the specifics of each encounter and how it helps to put the player in front of challenges similar to what Dr. Grant and the others on the island faced. Working with strong licensors certainly doesn't hurt, but there's no substitute for having rabid super fans on the development team.
Taking this a step further, what do so many competing developers and publishers get wrong when it comes to creating movie based games?
An advantage we have is that our approach thus far has been to cherry-pick licenses we're excited about and that we can envision as great Telltale games. Our consistent focus on gameplay that emphasizes narrative, cinematic presentation and character development gives flexibility to stay true to licenses that might not fit as cleanly into other gameplay genres, but even with that as a starting point, we needed to adapt our approach to this game. To feel like an authentic experience, Jurassic Park combines action, suspense, wonder, terror and even a little bit of humor.
What did you learn with Back to the Future, and how did you apply this newfound knowledge to Jurassic Park: The Game?
Although Jurassic Park and Back to the Future are very different games, the big take away from Back to the Future was that stocking your team with talented people who love the franchise will always get you a stronger result. This is true both as it relates to developing content that suits the license, and in terms of self-motivation to go the extra mile to do something great.
Will we see popular characters from the film appear in the game?
Although we are telling a new story in Jurassic Park, the fact that the timeframe overlaps with the first movie gave us some opportunities to see familiar faces. Players will have a chance to track down Dennis Nedry, who failed to deliver the canister of stolen dinosaur embryos in the first Jurassic Park movie. The Park's chief veterinarian, Gerry Harding, who appears briefly in the movie, is one of our protagonists. Then, of course, there's the dinosaurs, many of which players will recognize from the Jurassic park movies.
In deviating from the old Telltale formula of static screens and puzzle solving, what do you hope to achieve with this title? Will it lay the groundwork for future IP?
Our goal from the beginning was to make a game that is true to what's great about Jurassic Park. This means giving players an opportunity to take part in a cinematic adventure that brings them back to Jurassic Park, both literally and figuratively, to experience the wonder of the park, to become invested in flawed but likeable characters, to use their wits to solve problems and to get on the edges of their seats as moments of calm give way to tension and terror.
When setting out to tackle new IP, we'll continue to do our best to make sure our games can deliver experiences that fits the license. Jurassic Park has definitely expanded our tool and skill sets in a way that could certainly relate to future titles, but we'll continue to start by asking ourselves what's best for the IP.