To put it in terms almost anyone can understand, Jurassic World Evolution is the RollerCoaster Tycoon of dinosaur theme park management. It's made by Frontier Developments, the Cambridge, England-based studio that worked on the RollerCoaster Tycoon series, including developing RCT 3, plus the similar Thrillville after that, and most recently the spiritual successor Planet Coaster.
In other words, these folks know how to build a theme park simulator. But they've done more than that, too, including the massive space trading and adventure game Elite: Dangerous. And now, they're taking on dinosaurs.
Jurassic World Evolution tasks you with running your very own Jurassic Park, beginning humbly but eventually spreading across the series' entire iconic five-island archipelago. You'll have the freedom to research and hatch whatever dinosaurs you want, the tools to attract park guests from far and wide, and the resources to deal with whatever chaos the game's whims might throw at you--not to mention the chaos you create yourself. And of course, Jeff Goldblum makes his triumphant return to the series in his iconic role as Dr. Ian Malcolm.
We sat down with Jurassic World Evolution's game director, Michael Brookes, and lead designer, Andy Fletcher, to chat about what we can expect when the game arrives this summer on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Read our full interview below.
GameSpot: So what we're seeing in this demo, how big of a chunk of the overall game is this?
Michael Brookes: That's always a difficult one to answer, because you're trying to distill the gameplay mechanics into the few important things that you need. I think most of them were covered. A lot of the subtlety wasn't necessarily covered, and also you didn't have all the progression that's associated with it, and you didn't really see the effects of some of the calamities, like disease and weather, sabotage and all that.
That brings me to my next question, which is that a Jurassic Park movie isn't interesting unless something is going wrong, whereas your goal in a management style game is for things to run smoothly. How do you reconcile those things?
Andy Fletcher: This is one of the ways in which progression through the game really helps. Because on the first island, you're learning the basics, and it's more of a build-up, you know, you're expanding your first island, and there's minimal stuff going on. I mean, if you really want dinosaurs to just go in among your guests, you can have that happen. It's kind of a balance between a progression system and a sandbox kind of system.
But it's more as you get to the later islands, that challenge comes in. So you're going to have power disruptions, you're going to have storms taking out fences, and you're going to have sabotage elements. And you will definitely suffer calamities or emergency situations, and it's about how you manage them. It adds another layer of challenge. Like you say, it's also the fun of the fiction, you know, it's when things--I mean, watching dinosaurs run through a crowd of guests never gets old. It's so much fun.
When you put it like that, it makes me feel a little bad.
Fletcher: Well yeah, but, you know, that is part of the fiction. But it's something you're going to have to contend with a few times, and so really, it becomes quite quickly about, "How quickly can I respond to this and stop it from happening again?"
Brookes: That's what we worked quite hard to--especially the vehicle management, for example--to make sure that you could give executive control to the elements that respond to these crises. Because as you saw in the demo, you can jump in there and do it yourself as well, and if you're skilled at it, you can do it more quickly than the AI can, which is a handy thing, because it gives you those "hero moments" if you want to just dive in.
So how much of the game has that potential to be more action based?
Brookes: I would stress that it's not an action game in itself. There are some action elements to it where you can do that. But that really scales depending on what's going wrong. But of course, there's a non-problem aspect to that, in the sense that, with the 4x4 for example, you can go and resupply the feeders, but you've also got the photo mode as well, so you can go around and take pictures of the dinosaurs and make a bit of money doing that as well.
To go back a bit to dinosaurs rampaging through crowds--I think part of the fun of this genre is sometimes seeing how f***ed up we can make it for guests. How conscious are you guys of that style of player when you're making a game like this?
Brookes: We're making sure that we're going for a 16 or a Teen rating so that we can show the impact of those events, without going into gratuitous gore and all that. So we want to make sure that it's something that you see, and it's the same in the films--you rarely see any sort of viscera or any things like that. There's a couple of examples where that didn't happen, but mostly there's a "crunch" and a bit of blood.
So we want to make sure that we keep it within those boundaries, but there's, of course, the moment you release a dinosaur or it breaks through a fence, the people nearby will just run. But you've got things you can do to try to prevent that--you can put emergency shelters, so you activate the emergency shelters, it sets off the alarm, they can run to the shelters for protection, you need to get the ACU out to tranquilize them. But of course, if it gets near the guest, it's dangerous.
So there are things I can do to prevent guests from getting hurt. But are there things I can do to facilitate it? Can I build a fence around them and set a dinosaur loose?
Andy Fletcher: There are ways in which you can engineer that situation, yeah. But also, you can just not build enclosures. We don't stop you from doing that. You can let your dinosaurs loose just in the park, and we want players to have that freedom in the game. But I think it's quite interesting that, in order to get the chaos to really high levels, you have to have built a good park. You have to build a good park before lots of people will turn up, and endure all this chaos you're going to cause.
And I apologize in advance for twisting your beautiful game into Jurassic Park: Saw.
Brookes: I don't think you'll be the only one.
Can we talk about the influence of the movies, of the originals and also the newer ones? Where are you drawing from the most?
Brookes: It's primarily a Jurassic World game, but from the start Universal have been huge supporters of what we're doing. And they agreed that everyone's fans of the original films as well, and we should try and draw as much of that as possible into the game as well. So a good example of that is [Jeff Goldblum]. He's a key character throughout the history.
Fletcher: Yeah, he's our connection to the earlier films, and there's a lot of references and Easter eggs as well available in the game, which you'll find refer to the whole canon. So I think it's kind of nice that it's got connections to all the movies in the franchise.
Brookes: And in relation to [Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom], we've worked closely with Universal to make sure that we're accommodating what will happen in that movie, although I can't reveal what that is.
Oh, but you know!?
Brookes: Yes, we've been working with them so we can make sure that we know what's happening and things all sync up at the right time.
Well, Jurassic World had stuff like the old jeeps and the abandoned parts of the park that showed it's all in the same continuity. Does the game fall within that sort of canon timeline somewhere?
Brookes: So I think [Jurassic World director] Colin Trevorrow used a very interesting phrase in a recent tweet, about the games tend to be "soft canon." So they're drawing from the films and their inspiration, but I think we get a little bit of leeway to kind of steer the path a little bit. So in our case, we've got the archipelago, the five islands, the Five Deaths, which were never really exploited except for Isla Sorna in the films. So we're expanding out into those extra islands as well.
Fletcher: Yeah, and we've got a few new characters in there that represent the different divisions of the Hammond foundation, but obviously those themes of "security" and "science" and "entertainment," they are strung throughout the books and the movies as well. So even though those characters are created for our game, they represent themes from the franchise. So it all connects back.
So let's talk about Jeff Goldblum a little bit. What's the level of his involvement been and how has it been working with him?
Brookes: He's the consummate professional. The teams that were doing all the audio recording with him, he kept in character, he adjusted the writing to make sure that it was Dr. Ian Malcolm, and with regards to the game, he's the central character. The only thing more important than him is the player themselves. He's always there. He's the conscience, because he knows it's a crazy idea to build these parks, and he won't let you forget that. But he's also the vehicle through--as you work through the different divisions, they reveal more of what the narrative is going through the islands. But he's kind of the central character through it all, bringing it together, and coming up with realizations and pointing you in various directions.
Fletcher: He's kind of the voice of reason, but he also keys into that theme of like, inevitable chaos that we have in the game. These emergency situations will happen, and you have to manage them as best you can. His character's always kind of--in the movies he's always predicting that that is going to happen.
And I imagine in the game whenever that does happen, he'll pop up to say, "I told you so."
Brookes: There's a brilliant line when your first dinosaur dies. "Is there something you could have done about it? Of course not."
Fletcher: I think when we first got his voice in the game, it just transformed the game. We had text to speech in the game before that, so we had all the dialogue in, but it was just [a] robotic voice. And then Jeff came in, and it was just like, "Wow. This really feels like a Jurassic World game now."
Jurassic World Evolution releases digitally June 12 on PS4, PC, and Xbox One, and physically on July 3 for PS4 and Xbox One.