Jurassic Park: Telltale Games Interview
Securing the Jurassic Park license must have been a massive coup for Telltale. What challenges come with designing a game based on a franchise so revered and expansive as this, or indeed your Back To the Future game?
ItÂs so important to us to be true to Jurassic Park. We love the franchise and we want to get both the overall tone and the nitty gritty details just right. We want players to feel like theyÂre back on Isla Nublar, having an epic Jurassic Park experience Â not just playing a game with dinosaurs in it. Being true to the license is always key for us, but with so many Jurassic Park fans out there, itÂs extra-important.
In your mind, what creative or licensing factors cause most movies to translate poorly as games, and how closely did you look at other movie tie-ins to avoid the same problems?
Sometimes games are dressed up in a license, but not really built around it. Maybe thereÂs a pre-existing idea, or engine, that doesnÂt quite work, but thereÂs no time or will to rework it. You can end up with something that feels ÂthemedÂ but not rooted in the movie experience. We focused less on analyzing other tie-ins, and more on what Jurassic Park means to us, the feelings and experiences we want players to have, and built the game organically from there.
How closely have you worked with Universal in development of Jurassic Park and Back To The Future. Did the studio approach you with a brief, or did you have free reign on how to handle each game? Do you have your eye on any other Universal franchises?
For Jurassic Park, we pitched them a story and characters, an experience Â they really liked it Â and weÂve collaborated from there. The group at Universal is terrific. Not only do they really care about the movies, but theyÂre gamers, they want to make cool games, and thatÂs been incredibly helpful. On the occasions where they have a concern, either we persuade them or they persuade us. WeÂre all coming from the same place. Regarding other franchises, thatÂs a wait and see kind of thing
To what extent was the expansive nature, and the amount of love that is out there for both franchises, make approaching these games a tad daunting? How rigorously did you check to ensure that both games stayed on track in matching the tone and style of the films?
More than a tad daunting! There are so many people out there who really care about these franchises. ItÂs an ongoing effort. We take care to check and re-check our content, bouncing it around with folks at Universal and with fans inside the office and out. WeÂre pushing the games to look, sound and feel like the films. As we blaze new character, story, and gameplay trails, weÂre constantly asking ourselves, Âdoes this feel like Jurassic Park?”
Jurassic Park is a film very much rooted in action set pieces. In what ways have you tailored the superb and classic Telltale format to better suit the pacing of the films?
Why thank you! For Jurassic Park, itÂs fair to say weÂve reinvented our format. We knew from the beginning that we wanted a fresh approach, to capture the range from intense action to quiet character moments, and to provide challenges that are often very direct and physical. WeÂve crafted an intuitive, cinematic style of play which we think feels just right.
In Back To The Future, you managed to find a superb voice actor for Marty McFly, while Christopher Lloyd voiced Doc Brown. Have you managed to secure any of the original Jurassic Park actors for the game?
It hasnÂt been an issue for Jurassic Park since weÂre introducing a fresh set of faces. Our story grows out of the story of the first film, and takes place on Isla Nublar, but it features characters you havenÂt spent time with before.
Can you give us an insight into how the plot of Jurassic Park will play out, and how the timeline segues with events of the first movie?
The game starts partway through the events of the first movie, and continues through the days that follow. YouÂll get to see the park crumbling and the dinosaurs roaming free, and what that leads to. The story follows up on one the most intriguing plot threads of the film Â the fate of the Barbasol canister full of invaluable dinosaur embryos, stolen, but never delivered, by Dennis Nedry.
Telltale has started transferring many of its titles to the iPad format. As a developer, what is it about the iPad that attracts you, and how well does the episodic nature of your series transfer to the format?
Touch input is what makes it awesome. It feels good, itÂs a natural for the sorts of games we make, and it invites innovation. The iPadÂs portability is a great match for downloadable, episodic content. You can get and play a Telltale game on your commute, over lunch, whenever and wherever.
Your next series of games is tied to the Walking Dead series, which seems to mark a more mature direction. Can we expect the same Telltale approach, or will this be a much darker adventure?
You can count on an approach that looks and feels like The Walking Dead. ItÂll have our traditional focus on story and character, with yes a darker tone, and with a gameplay experience custom crafted for the license.
You’re also making Kings Quest, which is a perfect fit for Telltale given your superb track record in the genre. Being one of the earliest games in the genre, how humbled are you to be working on this project? What are your aims for the reboot?
ItÂs an honor and a thrill. We have plenty of fans in the office that are really energized for this one. We aim to satisfy that itch to return to the Kingdom of Daventry, with its rich mythology, characters, world, and of course really cool puzzles.
What – in your mind – is the single greatest challenge facing the games industry today, and if you had the power how would you fix it?
IÂm actually more optimistic about our industry now than IÂve been in a very long time. Controller and platform innovation, the vibrant indie scene, and social gaming have massively livened things up in the last five years. Not to mention downloadable episodic games. The biz is fun again! Our challenge is to keep up the momentum, break boundaries, and advance the art form in ways that connect with people and create joy, real joy. WeÂre working on it.