The last time we saw Turok... In fact, let's just leave that alone. The latest stab at dino-shooting comes from Vancouver-based Propaganda Games and publisher Disney Interactive, and transplants the action to a far-away world where dinosaurs are only half the trouble. With the game nearing the end of development, we caught up with Propaganda co-founder and studio manager Josh Holmes and game director Joel Manners to talk about their plans.
Eurogamer: Why bring Turok back now? What does he have to offer fans of the FPS genre waiting for games like Halo 3 and Crysis?
Josh Holmes: Turok is a classic FPS franchise that remains well-loved despite some of the shortcomings of the later games in the original series. We were able to acquire the rights for Turok and have made a game that pays homage to the elements that made the first games on N64 so special. Turok drops you into a dangerous living jungle and forces you to face off against terrifying predatory dinosaurs as you struggle to survive. The game offers a truly unique experience, blending elements of action and stealth in a prehistoric world.
We were able to acquire the rights for Turok to make an entirely new game based on the Turok licence but with an entirely reworking of the series. This game is not a sequel or an updated version of past Turok games. This is an entirely new Turok set in a futuristic world with dinosaurs and other dangerous creatures. The only elements that carry over from the original series are a main character named Turok - Joseph Turok in our game - and dinosaurs. Everything is brand new.
Eurogamer: The series has obviously been through highs and lows. What would you say were its defining characteristics and what have you been able to harness for this next-generation offering?
Joel Manners: When I look back on the first N64 Turok I remember it for a couple of things. First, it was the first time I ever played an FPS on a console and felt that it was really a first-class experience. A lot of people remember GoldenEye as the first real console shooter, but for me it was Turok, and that establishes the franchise as a premier FPS experience - something that we must uphold and take to this new generation of consoles. Second, of course, is that incredible feeling of being stalked in a dense jungle by the ferocious dinosaurs. It really felt mysterious and terrifying. To me, that's the heart of the franchise above and beyond what any other shooter has done, and that's something that we have made the heart and soul of the game experience. Of course, we've done it a little differently this time around.
Eurogamer: What sort of gameplay styles are we going to experience? Will you change things up regularly like Half-Life? Concentrate variety into a certain mechanic like Gears? What's the plan?
Joel Manners: There's a ton of different ways that you can be successful playing through Turok. One of the things we spent a lot of effort on was making the environments really respond realistically to the life and action that is taking place within them, so the player is free to use that to his advantage.
A player could take a more stealthy approach, staying concealed in the dense jungle foliage, using silent weapons to pick off his opponents one by one. Or he can unlimber the heavy weapons in his arsenal and blast his way through even the toughest opponents.
The more tactically minded players will soon realise that it's not just him against the world, too. Patrolling enemy soldiers are perpetually on guard against the ferocious predators of the Turok world, and they should be! If you can lure a pack of hungry raptors down onto the patrol, you can easily sneak past in the carnage that follows, or stick around to mop up the survivors. Players should look for those opportunities. A predator might be content to eat his fresh kill for a while, but if you could sting him or attract his attention and then slip away, he might just focus on the more obvious targets just around the corner or down the hill. It's a dangerous game, but very rewarding when you can pull it off.
Eurogamer: We understand that Turok's still hunting, but this time your prey's a war criminal on another planet. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what lay behind the decisions you made in that area?
Josh Holmes: The story is set roughly 200 years in the future. You play as Joseph Turok, a former black-ops soldier who has now joined his new unit, Whiskey Company. Together you are on a mission to take down Turok's former mentor, a war criminal named Roland Kane. As your ship nears the planet where Kane and his men are located, it is shot down. You crash-land in the jungle below and find yourself in a fight for survival, hunted by Kane's army in a prehistoric world filled with dangerous dinosaurs, huge insects and other creatures.
We wanted to re-imagine Turok and take everything we thought was great about the original series (the visceral FPS experience, dinosaurs, the Native American hero) and create a new story and game that lent itself to a powerful next-gen experience.
Eurogamer: Engines like Unreal 3 and Havok have levelled certain areas of the shooter playing field - physics, corridor shooter detail levels, and so on. Are you using an existing game engine or something of your own creation? What are your strengths technology-wise?
Josh Holmes: We're using a highly modified version of Unreal Engine 3. The Unreal engine is a powerful tool but it wasn't designed to create the type of experience we are delivering in Turok. Fortunately, we have a team of talented technologists who have been working on the game engine to expand its capabilities. We've put a lot of effort into developing our dynamic AI systems, building powerful animation technology and creating rendering solutions specifically for the jungle foliage and outdoor environments featured in our game. The result is a game that pushes technology to deliver a unique and innovative gameplay experience.
Eurogamer: Last we heard you were working on PS3 and Xbox 360. We're often told by developers that the 360 is more immediately gratifying to develop for but the PS3 has a tremendous amount of long-term potential to unlock. Does that hold true in your experience?
Joel Manners: Both platforms certainly have massive upside. The differences in graphics and gameplay that fans have been seeing, and will continue to see, between last generation and this generation are fantastic.
For the Turok development team it has really been more of a question that the Unreal 3 core that we are based on was more advanced on 360 than PS3 when we started, so we have spent more time developing the game on 360, and more time developing technology for PS3. In the end the game will look and play identically on both platforms.
Eurogamer: Both consoles have chosen to put online at the centre of their offerings. What sort of multiplayer options are you considering? Any plans for full-campaign co-operative ala Halo 3, Gears of War or Haze?
Joel Manners: We are definitely working on a lot of multiplayer goodness. Even though we are stressing the story-telling and drama of the single-player campaign, we know that the heart of a good FPS is in online.
The details of multiplayer aren't being released just yet, but there are a bunch of modes, including some of the most popular from recent games, and a wide variety of maps custom designed to support those modes. We are supporting 16-player matches.
Eurogamer: How will you be using Xbox Live and PlayStation Network post-release? Any plans for downloadable add-ons, either single- or multiplayer?
Joel Manners: We'll be discussing this at a later time.
Eurogamer: How far along is development and when's the game likely to come out? Are you worried about going up against games like Halo 3, Half-Life 2: Episode Two and Haze?
Joel Manners: The game is extremely close to finishing up. We are well past alpha, so most of our current effort is focused on bug fixing.
Obviously there are a ton of really good games coming out in the next few months, so as a gamer I am extremely excited. As a developer I also know that there is more to making a successful game than just having a great game. After weighing all of the options for release we've announced that the game will be in stores in the first quarter of 2008.