Inside Jazz Jackrabbit 2

The title that put Epic on the gaming map, Jazz Jackrabbit, turns two.

How do you set off to make a stellar sequel to one of the first big PC 2D sidescrollers of all time? GameSpot News caught up with Epic's Jazz Jackrabbit 2 producer Robert Allen and "imperial advisor" Jay Wilbur to find out. Here's what they had to say:

GameSpot News: What can you tell us about the enhancements to the new title? How do you approach a sequel like this, especially when you think about creating a product for the ever-more-sophisticated audience out there?Robert Allen: The decision to create a sequel to Jazz Jackrabbit was pretty easy. There was a ton of stuff we wanted to do that didn't make it into our original release, and the public's response to Jazz 1 was overwhelming.

Action gamers, kids, and entire families embraced the character as their own "hero for the PC." Nick Stadler, the codesigner and lead animator, had already started playing around with sketches (from which Jazz's brother Spaz evolved), and soon after Jazz Jackrabbit was on the market, Cliff Bleszinski, the designer, and Arjan Brussee, the lead programmer, started discussing the possibilities for creating and extending the gameplay and technology. The goal: more. We're talking more entertainment, more action, and most of all, more fun. Sure, we extended Jazz 1 by releasing an add-on pack that eventually turned into Jazz Jackrabbit CD, but we wanted to make something that offered the kind of action gaming people could easily relate to, while giving them plenty to discover and explore. For Jazz Jackrabbit 2, we started from the ground up. Between Windows95 and the features we had planned, a completely new game engine was in order.

After developing a few of the basic tools and a rough implementation of the engine, Arjan enlisted the programming talents of Michiel Ouwehand, an ace programmer with a great feel for core game-engine architecture. These two were able to extend Cliff's ideas and Nick's animation into what you find in Jazz Jackrabbit 2.

The feature list for Jazz 2 is astounding compared to Jazz Jackrabbit 1. We paid careful attention to not intrude on the player's right to just jump into the game and start having fun, while offering extended gameplay elements that would keep the more seasoned gaming enthusiasts happy.

As for the improvements: special moves, high-resolution level graphics, great music and sound (courtesy of Alexander Brandon and Nando Eweg, respectively), exciting intro and ending cinematics (courtesy of Dean Dodrill), and thousands of frames of fluid character animation - the list goes on, but we made sure each area of Jazz 2 was a massive leap over the original. The main element that is proving to be a resounding success is party mode. Party mode is our answer to multiplayer platform gaming on the Internet, on a local network, or in split screen on a single computer. Again, our focus was simplicity. With a few presses of a button, you have access to any number of games that are currently in session on the Internet, or you can set up your own game with very little effort. Capture the flag and battle mode get the most Internet play time, while treasure hunt, race mode, and cooperative games tend to get the most "in-home" multiplayer play time.

We set out to create a gaming experience that anyone could enjoy. We wanted to take a familiar genre and elevate it to a level that would be embraced by the seasoned gamer. I think Jazz Jackrabbit 2 has come a long way in showing people that "fun" doesn't necessarily equal "the latest 3D engine," but a focus on the basic elements of play does.

GSNews: Will the title get as big a push in-store as it will on your site?Jay Wilbur: Absolutely. Retail has embraced Jazz 2 allowing us to make a big splash in stores. You would want to discuss the complete marketing package with Mike Wilson and the capable crew from Gathering of Developers.

GSN: A lot of people say the title would be a natural for consolers. Any plans to port the title?JW: You know it. I'm not which projects I can talk about and which I cannot. Let's just say there is significant movement in this area.

GSN: What's next at Epic?JW: More than these poor little fingers can type.... Let's just say that things are really cooking at Epic!

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