Turok 2 Exclusive

Iguana's Turok 2 creator tells all. Read the exclusive first details on the game's multiplayer mode and see it in action.


The release of Turok 2 for the Nintendo 64 is just around the corner. Acclaim and Iguana came by the videogames.com offices to show it off. Naturally, we pulled the game's lead designer David Dienstbier aside to have a root beer and tell us everything he knows.

No force was used since the game is finished. Dienstbier was more than ready to give in and talk. Here's what he had to say:

Lauren Fielder (Videogames.com): What's the most satisfying part of seeing Turok 2 out the door?David Dienstbier: In addition to the ability to sleep, just the fact of knowing we did right by the franchise, making a sequel that didn't rest on the laurels of the first. The ambition was to make it a great sequel and to improve upon the first one in every way we could, but in a large way. So there are not minor adjustments - we started over in almost every aspect, the level design, the artwork, the characters. So I think it does the original justice by making a really great sequel. That's the most satisfying part about it to me - that it is what we said it was going to be.

Which was one of the most impressive sequels that anyone's probably ever going to play. At least up to this point, if I may be so humble.

VG: What was your inspiration for the game's tone, look, and feel?DD: Just to be compelling to a player. The further somebody plays into the game, the darker and more surreal the environments become. The player begins in a port city that's been besieged by the Dinosoid army. Then the player goes into the marshes and the caves and the cavernous level and fights giant insects we call the Blind Ones, then you end up in an alien hive and it just keeps getting darker and more bizarre.

I think that's compelling to a gameplayer, because it helps to really bring across this kind of feeling that what you're doing is serious and dangerous and potentially life threatening. And from a visual standpoint you of course have the neat factor, but from the standpoint of how a player feels being there, it's creepy. And that's what we wanted. We chose a darker path for the sequel, from the original which had jungles and Aztec sorts of ruins and things like that, but we wanted to go darker. So there wasn't a specific influence at all. It was what I felt was right for the game - the direction the game should go.

VG: Tell us about the new precision collision system. Did you look at other games and determine that as an area to improve gameplay?DD: Most of the improvements we made were based on the weaknesses of the first title. One of the first things that we knew was going to be a problem with Turok, that didn't present a major problem but did come up, was the collision system. Basically, the characters in the first game, collisions were detected based on a cylinder around the center point of the character. This was a very broad target that wasn't really the size or shape of the character you were shooting at. So what that meant was hits would be registered in the space between the arm and the body, when you clearly should have missed that shot.

What we wanted to do was to make that theory accurate, so we created the new, node-based collision system in the game, that allows us to actually detect collision with each body part: each joint of the finger, the hand, the forearm. So what that means is, if you shoot between an enemies legs, your particle, projectile, arrow, whatever you're shooting, goes between his legs. A grenade will miss by a hair's breadth if it zips by his head.

What it means is that you've got to be very accurate with your combat. And that's also very well suited to the fact that we have the stealth element where you can creep around. There are sniper elements. How you play the game, the style you choose to play really affects your ability to do well in the game. The collision system basically did away with the problems on the first game. All of the collision is now based on a polygon level system, so it's hyper accurate.VG: And the enemies have armor, too.DD: Right. The way that we designed the system, we could add damage multipliers. If a creature was wearing armor, we could make it invulnerable at that joint. What that means is that you may shoot one of the armored characters at the top of his head, but if he's wearing a helmet it won't affect him. However, if you shoot through the visor of the helmet where his eyes are, it will, in a most uncomfortable way. So it allows us a lot of freedom.

We can assign material types to each of the joints, so it can throw sparks or dust, depending on whether we made it wood, steel, stone, and so on. So there's a lot we can do with it for the game. So when you see a creature that's heavily armored, you have to worry, 'Am I using the best weapon for this situation?' or worry a lot more about sneaking around and taking a shot when he's not aware of you, rather than charging in and taking a chance on getting a sweet shot and taking him down.

VG: How much research went into the character and enemy design, or did you base them on purely creative concepts?DD: It was basically out of our heads. When I originally put the design together, I give basics. I know that we're using genetically altered dinosaurs called Dinotoids. However, I wanted more than one type of those. So through many meetings with the artists and giving them what my feelings are and having them do sketches, and then showing me the results of those sketches and directing what I see, and what I did and did not like, all of this comes out. For example, the Mantids are based on the alien infantry characters from the first game. And we decided to make them more like a cicada or a grasshopper.

So we did pull out books on insects, and studied their patterns, the way that their armor lays on their bodies, and things like that, but I gave the artists the four types, the basic information about what I wanted, what their purpose was and whatnot, and I never had to change a pixel on those, because they were outstanding. So most of the time, if you communicate well, you end up with good results. So it was all pretty much out of our noggins.VG: If you had six more months on the game, what would you do?DD: If I had six more months on the game, I would probably expand on the more mission-based elements, which there are plenty of now. I would probably flesh those out a little bit more. I would go in to the technical side of things and see what else we could squeeze out of the engine. We have, of course, new ideas that crop up during the process of making a game, where it's not safe to go into…

VG: Turok 3?DD: Oooo. That's bad game karma to talk about three before the second one's out! But there's a number of technical things that we would try to tackle. There's an infinite number of design things that you could change. The whole thing is that you're working on something very subjective, as far as design elements go. And there are parts of the game, as project manager and lead designer that I could change if I had six months. However, I'm perfectly happy with them, given the time frame we've worked on it.

There's always room to improve a game. Always. Give Zelda six more months…believe me, they could make plenty of changes. But you have to be happy with what you did. Sooner or later it's got to go on sale. And I'm very happy with how the product turned out.

VG: If you had to define your ultimate goal with Turok 2, what would you say that was?DD: With Turok 2, the agenda was we're very competitive as a team, but we're more competitive with ourselves than with outside product. So inevitably the comparisons to every other game on the planet that's a first-person game comes flooding in. I think that the overall goal that we had was basically to take Turok to new heights.

We had what we considered to be a very cool world and game with the original, and what we wanted to do was to take it ten steps forward. Not a leap, not a bound, but several. And that was really the goal; that was the idea. The idea wasn't to go 'Blech, my game was really popular. We'll show those guys.' The goal for us was to really stand out, to excel in every aspect of the game - the artwork, the animation, the technology, the design, the music, the sound - and to really make the most impressive N64 game people had seen. And I think we succeeded.

Now. Six months from now there'll probably be something else out, and then they succeeded. But that's the nature of the industry. You can't worry about what's coming down the pipe six months after we're done, because we're going to be six months into the thing we're doing; we'll have our own agenda then, too. It was really just to outdo ourselves and to come away from it being proud of what we did. And that's what we've done.VG: How do you think the relationship between Zelda shipping shortly before Turok 2 will ship will affect sales and the perception of both games?DD: It's something that I've actually spent a lot of time thinking about, and when you come away from it all, you can't compare the two. You cannot compare the adventures of a tights-wearing elfin warrior as in Zelda and that sort of experience as a role-playing and part of a classic chain, to a first-person, gory, blast-fest, mission objective-based, highly intense, dark, evil, very serious, more mature-themed game that we went with with Turok 2.

So in terms of how I think it's going to do when it's in the stores? Very well. I'm not scared of it sitting next to Zelda, because I think people are going to come in and they're going to want one or want the other or want both. There's not much else that people are hugely excited about for Christmas, but I think that there's always product to compete with. If we'd waited, there'd be something else. If we were earlier, that's debatable.

But the fact of the matter is that we got the game in stores for Christmas and we anticipate that this game's going to have really long legs. When people get in the multiplayer and start playing the frag tag with the little monkey that you can run around with and blow up and whatnot, it's really going to become the sort of thing that people keep buying so they can keep having friends over and such. We're not really worried about it; you can't compare the two. I'd be the first person to say 'Yeah, it kind of isn't a good thing,' but I feel comfortable, you know? I was a bit uneasy early on, but I really don't feel nervous about it at all.

VG: What do you think of how the multiplayer mode turned out?DD: It's great. Our multiplayer really came together very well. The nice thing about it is that it retains all the freedom of movement of the one player game, so there's climbing, there's swimming, this becomes part of the strategy of playing, all of the sudden you have a lot more avenues of escape and a lot more vantage points to attack from.

One of the problems with GoldenEye was the pace and the inability to do simple things like drop off the ledge, if you see a guy that you want to come up behind, you've got to go around the long way - we considered that a problem, even though the game was very enjoyable. Such things don't exist in our multiplayer. It's much faster than the GoldenEye deathmatches, you can hide in the shadows, we added all sorts of cool cheats. We've got a Dark City cheat where all of the lights go out and everybody is seen by only a flashlight they carry around. So you light the area around you, and in front of you and otherwise everything is pitch black - oh, it's a blast. It's so fun. So essentially there's a lot of stuff.

People who love to play PC-style deathmatches are going to find the pace great. It's very fast, very frantic - a lot more high-action stuff and a lot less of the 'boy this level is big and I've got to look around.' There's no radar in our deathmatch because we've designed it so that you wouldn't need it. It defeats the purpose of ambushing and not ambushing and being seen and hiding and seeking and things like that. We took a lot of time in making sure our levels were designed in such a way that you would come across each other, even though there are many ways they go about that: they wrap around, they overlap, you see people high, low, wherever you want to. And of course we kept the outrageous weapons…VG: What is your favorite weapon?DD: The Cerebral Bore is the single coolest weapon that has even been put into a video game. I will fight that point with anyone on the planet! It's going to get me in trouble. It's a sick, sick, sick weapon. When anybody sees it, they go nuts. It's hard to pick a favorite, but that would be mine. And it's in the multiplayer. There's nothing like cerebral boring your friend.

In addition to that, in multiplayer all of the different characters actually do have different attributes, so they do have speed differences, they do have hit point differences. An example is the Purr-Linn character that you play is very slow his movements and rotation speed are slower compared to a smaller, faster character, but he has more hit points.

Adia, in the multiplayer game has fewer hit points, but she's quick and she regenerates, so there's a disadvantage to playing her in that she takes light damage, but there's an advantage in that she's fast, which does make it hard to track the character, for characters that are slower than she is. And she doesn't have to look for the health power up that everyone's going to be fighting over to cure themselves and heal themselves up because she will regenerate her own hit points back.

So we added in that sort of element to mix it up, and we added in that you can save your multiplayer characters to your memory pak, so you'll get your little lifetime stats: how many times you've been killed, how many lifetime total frags you've got, there's a ranking system, so a player can go from being called a schmuck, to being called something pretty cool, to being called somebody really, really dangerous. And we think that's fun for people to compare characters with. If you're just saving deathmatch characters to your memory pak you can save so many of them that will include your name, and you can pick from all the different characters and save those all. So there's a lot of fun stuff to do with our deathmatch.

We also added, not only can you choose the level that you want to play in, but you can select the texture set that you want displayed while you're playing it. We threw a couple of fun ones in there, Mr. Happiness, he's quite sick. It's like fuzzy bunnies and smiley faces and balloons and you're splattering everybody's brains against them. You're spreading your friends' guts over the walls covered with this fuzzy bunny and baby blue and balloons and polka dot colored corridor, so there's a lot there. There's so much there. There are a lot of levels, there are a dozen deathmatch levels and a half of a dozen frag tag levels.

And then there's the whole frag tag game, which gives all the players the opportunity to get revenge on the monkey from the first game. And basically the deal with that is that one player's it. The player who's it gets turned into the monkey and is helpless. The player who's it has to cure himself from being it, by surviving being it. Other people get points by tagging the monkey. Which basically entails blowing it into a fountain of gore. And the guy who's the monkey can pull the trigger and he screams like a monkey, and you can hear him 'ook, ook, ook, ook,' he runs around like a monkey.

We thought it was really a fun way to add another game in, and the idea to turn the player into the monkey actually came at the end because we'd always planned on getting the monkey in and giving the players plenty of times to kill plenty of monkeys. But it was one of those things that as an incidental, or an aside to the main game, kept getting pushed back on the priority scale. And it was the very end of the project when one of the artists said 'We could turn the guy who's it into the monkey,' and we all said, 'Yeahhhhhh. Very good idea. Turn him into the monkey.' So I asked the sound guy, 'Can you give me monkey sounds in a couple of hours.' He said, 'Yeah, I can get you monkey sounds in a couple hours.' Ok great. 'How long's it going to take you to build a monkey? Ok. Rest of the day? Build a monkey. How long's it going to take to animate a monkey? Most of tomorrow? Ok. Two days from now we'll have a monkey. Now how long's it going to take to code the monkey? Not too long? Ok.

The monkey's in there.' So we were very happy about that. So the deathmatch is very complex. It's fun. It looks great in hi-res.VG: What is your favorite level?DD: I think for pure atmosphere, realism, the Lair of the Blind Ones. The caves look brilliant, they really do. There are cobwebs, stalactites, stalagmites, mushrooms growing out of the ground, water pouring into cracks in the walls, spider webs everywhere, egg sacks from the spiders, spiders crawling in and out of those. It's just real when you're in there.

The music is perfect in that level. I really, as an atmosphere, love it. I really do. From a design standpoint, I'm actually quite fond of the first level of the game because it does an excellent job in unraveling players to the game. It does a very good job of stepping you through basic things you are going to need to do in the game - here's an opportunity to swim without being harmed right away, here's a few things to tell you how the mission objectives work and how to do them, destructible scenery elements like passageways and stuff. And then as the level goes, it continues on becoming more dangerous, more complex, lots of fighting going on, and the sniper features. I think it designed out really well as the first level of the game. And most everybody that's played it has really enjoyed it. So those are my two favorites from two different angles.

VG: As a developer, what do you think is the most important element of a game?DD: Well, just to have fun, basically. Fun comes with a lot of different faces. It's not always smiling, laughing, and clapping your hands. A lot of times it's getting your heartbeat racing, how angry might get if you die is a very, very direct response to how important it was that you didn't in a good game. In a bad game, how angry you are and frustrated that you can't do something simple like move across a space, or accomplish simple goals. It's a different kind of angry. Personal investment in finishing a game that becomes important to you. It's the kind of thing where you say, 'Yes, honey, I'll be over at 8 o'clock,' and then you show up at 10:30 because you were playing Zelda. 'Sorry, I lost track of time.'

So it's having fun. It's beyond the gameplay; the gameplay is obviously what's going to decide whether you're having fun, but it's just whether or not, as you're doing it, it's something that you really want to keep doing, and spend more and more and more time with. Get upset if it doesn't go well; get frustrated if you can't figure something out. It's always just been about fun, whether that sort of dark, horror fun game like Resident Evil. That's great; that's really creepy. When you jump, when you're playing a video game? That never would have happened a few years ago. But that's something the technology allows us to do.

You can evoke emotion in a game these days. You can get the adrenaline really pumping. You can make them scared, sad…that's the great thing. I never want to confuse what's going on in a game with what's in a movie. But the areas where they can overlap are in their ability to really evoke emotion. That's where the next bunch of games are going to really stand out. If you can make an adult male cry in a game or get him really depressed about something, MAN! You've done something that five years ago somebody would've said, 'You're an idiot! C'mon. That guy came up and your little cartoon elf died, oh no!'

But now you're seeing games go a new place, and that's what I want to be a part of. So we evolved the story aspect of Turok 2 this time, and whatever we do next we'll go further.

VG: So what's next for you?DD: Take a little break, go eat some turkey and some stuffing, visit my family, and come back with a fresh head - a well rested one - and get together with everybody and see what's going on.

VG: Thanks David.

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