The Turok franchise has a long and storied past and along the way there have been good and bad games. The folks at Propaganda Games recently got their hands on the franchise and are relaunching the game and the series this week with a re-boot of the franchise. Here's our e-mail interview with one of the minds behind the game, Tim Lewinson.
Can you introduce yourself and describe your role on the project? How long have you been in the gaming industry and what drew you to your current position?
My role as Associate Director on Turok involves working mainly on creatures and their AI. I’ve been in the industry for roughly 13 years, and when the opportunity came to work on an IP like Turok, I jumped at the chance to be involved. Now that we’re getting ready to release the game, I’m very glad I did.
Why bring the Turok franchise back and not just create an new IP with dinosaurs? How does the game tie in with the rest of the series? Are there any inside jokes for people who've played the previous games?
We took the core elements of Turok – a Native American protagonist, cool and hardcore weaponry, and of course, dinosaurs – and concentrated on bringing those to life for next-generation platforms. We’re all big fans of the IP, and felt that the time was right to bring Turok back to life. As we’ve seen with movies like Casino Royale and Batman Begins, freshening up an old IP can inject new life into it, and Turok is no exception. For fans of the old games, you may recognize a certain arrow…
Are you introducing any new game play concepts with the game? From the videos and demos there's a lot of melee combat with the knife, how are you handling that in the game? Are there balance issues around such a powerful weapon?
Definitely, for both single player and in multiplayer. Making the knife a risk-vs-reward weapon was paramount when it came to development, and if you have the knife equipped and an enemy is aware, you’ll suffer a severe speed penalty if he managed to shoot you. Timing is everything with a powerful, close-range weapon like Turok’s knife.
Did you have any contact with the folks behind the comic book? What other influences are there in the game? How restricted did you feel by the Turok canon?
We weren’t really restricted at all, since we’re all big fans of the Turok comic. To have the opportunity to concentrate on the core aspects of Turok – what makes him what he is – and then build our own universe around it, was a real honor.
There are a ton of FPS games coming out this quarter, what separates Turok from the competition?
Where Turok really separates itself from other first person shooters is in the strength of our AI, strong multiplayer component, signature primal weaponry and of course our vicious dinosaurs. There are many different shooters on the market, but when it comes to the AI you face off against, they’re all slight variations on the same theme, working together to kill the player. The vicious dinosaurs in Turok present a neutral AI that will go after you and your enemies without prejudice either way, and when you combine that with our vaunted dino luring technique, endless new gameplay scenarios present themselves.
You're using the Unreal Engine 3 for the game, did you have any problems with the PS3 version of the game or is all Internet hearsay? Why did you pick this engine over others on the market? What modifications did you have to make to the engine to support the game?
All new platforms have their challenges. I’ve been doing this for 13 years and remember fondly the fanboy wars between Saturn, N64 and the PS One. At the end of the day, developers will get more familiar with the systems and make them work to their needs. The PS3 is no different.
Is there any difference between the PS3 and Xbox 360 version of the game (such as using SIXAXIS motion control)? What was your philosophy when it came to developing achievements for the Xbox 360 version?
Our achievements are skewed towards online, as that’s really the long tail for first person shooters. We wanted to encourage people to continue playing Turok online and enjoying our unique gameplay, and if you can get some achievements into the mix, why not? As far as using SIXAXIS motion control, not this time around.
Turok is a member of Whiskey Squad, what kind of interactions can gamers expect with the rest of the team? Will you be able to control them at all or are they all AI controlled? Will you spend the entire game with them or will you be riding solo for parts of the game?
You’ll be working with your companions at certain times – mainly with Slade, but others will step into the mix depending on where in the game you are. Turok, however, rolls solo through a large chunk of the game. He’s a loner at heart, and our game reflects that.
It's a bit passe to ask but how long is the single player part of the campaign? How many levels are there in the final game? Is there a level that you are particularly proud of?
The single player campaign runs between 10-15 hours long, depending on skill level. While we love all of our levels, I’m a big fan of any level that combines both dinosaurs and human enemies, giving the player an opportunity to use dino luring to their advantage. It showcases our unique AI system for both human and dino enemies, and seeing that happen dynamically is pretty cool.
Obviously the draw of the Turok games is the dinosaurs, can you talk about how they are different from the dinosaurs in the previous games? What was the biggest hurdle in incorporating them into the game? Were there dinosaurs you want to use in the game but couldn't? How did you incorporate them into the multiplayer part of the game and what kind of balance issues do they create?
Our dinosaurs are incredibly intelligent, and it’s those smarts that made it fun – and a lot of work – to incorporate them into the single player and multiplayer game. With dynamic AI that will go after anyone it sees fit, having a pack of raptors running loose can make the game change every time, in ways we never saw coming. How do you use the flare luring to bring opposing groups together? What happens if the human enemies come across a raptor nest before you do? It’s a headache to test, but so satisfying to see it in motion, because it means the Turok fan can play the same level multiple times and see something new occur every time. Good stuff.
Speaking of the multiplayer side of the game, can you talk about the different multiplayer modes in the game? Do you have a personal favorite? What's going to make someone fire up the Turok multiplayer over Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3?
Having dinosaurs in our multiplayer instantly sets it apart from every other shooter out there. A neutral AI that will go after you and your opponent without prejudice? Bring it on, I say. Plus there’s nothing better than having a raptor eat the face of an enemy flag carrier for you. While we have all of the standard multiplayer modes you’d expect from an AAA shooter, we’ve also included a Turok special called War Games. With team-based objectives that change on the fly depending on your success or failure, it’s very fluid and a lot of fun to play.
Any plans for downloadable content after the release of the game?
Nothing I can say just yet, but stay tuned…
We'd like to thank Tim for taking the time to answer our questions as well as Brandon who helped coordinate the interview.
Companies: Buena Vista
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