Interviews// Turok Walks Again

How scary would that be? It would be completely pant-wetting.

Posted 10 Jan 2007 19:15 by
Check out the on-site first looks at Turok right here!

Josh Holmes - a love of the game.
Josh Holmes - a love of the game.
Josh Holmes is the founder, VP and CEO of Propaganda Studios the developers behind Buena Vista Games’ (BVG) all new Turok. An affable and pretty articulate chap in his thirties, he also strikes you as cooler – or at least, less geeky – than the average developer. And if Turok turns out to be a big hit, he could develop a decent profile within the industry – particularly considering that it is the first game from a start-up company.

Propa-who-da? You ask. To be honest, it would be impressive if you had heard of Propaganda Studios, since the company has only been around since 2005. Unsurprisingly, since it is based in Vancouver, the initial core of four founders, which rapidly grew to 18 people or so, came from EA Canada. It rapidly expanded to about 110 staff.

Founder, VP and CEO Josh Holmes says that originally, the company started working with BVG on a different concept, but heard that BVG was acquiring the Turok licence. Holmes says: “We were big fans of the original game on the N64. So we put together a pitch to make the game for BVG.” By April 2005, BVG had bought Propaganda. Holmes says the studio has some other concepts in development, and that its ultimate goal is to support three development teams.

We travelled to Vancouver in order to get find out about the man, the company and, of course, the dinosaur hunting game that seemed all but dead and gone. During this interview SPOnG also got the low-down on PS3 dev-kit, the difficulties of working with the Unreal Engine 3, and why developers can and should have more power than publishers.

SPONG: Was the prospect of resurrecting a dead franchise scary?

JH: That wasn’t first and foremost in our minds when we first thought about it. One of the things that drew us to the opportunity, though, was that it was such a big franchise, and one that was near and dear to our hearts. We’d seen it go down a dark path, and we thought here’s something that would be really cool to bring back and relaunch.

SPONG: Can you go over the main points that are different from the original Turok games?

JH: Well, it is a completely new storyline, new characters, a new world and environment, but what we tried to do was keep it true to the spirit of the original games. So, let’s look at the things that are the same: you play as Turok, who is Native American, there’s a sense of spirituality during the game, it’s set in a lost world inhabited by dinosaurs, there’s tons of action, great weaponry and a sense of wonder and exploration as you’re moving through the environment. All those things were what we felt were the most compelling parts of the original Turok games.

SPONG: For you, what was the best thing that developing Turok for next-gen platforms could bring?

JH: I definitely think the complexity of the AI, to drive the creatures and deliver a really realistic creature performance within a dynamic AI system, and the same on the human side – rather than having one-off scripted animations, but having them dynamically interact with each other and giving you the freedom to control in some cases, and influence in all cases, their behaviour. That’s definitely not something we could have done on previous generations of consoles.

SPONG: You said you were influenced by Dawn of the Dead when making the dinosaurs – can you explain that?

How it used to be... when the world was all dinosaurs
How it used to be... when the world was all dinosaurs
JH: When we started out with the dinosaurs, we went down an academic path, researching realistic behaviours and so on. And then we shifted over into pop culture and looked at how dinosaurs are portrayed; what people’s expectations are as far as a dinosaurs might behave based on movies like Jurassic Park where you have “realistic” dinosaur behaviours. But once we got to that point, we were like: “OK, that’s bedrock, a foundation, but how will we differentiate our dinosaurs, and make them totally different and memorable?” Because one of the things we really wanted to capture in the game is that sense of fear and terror as you try to survive in this horrible environment.

Consider the situation: you crash-land on this prehistoric planet filled with all kinds of crazy, somewhat mutated dino-creatures which are slightly tainted and different from the norm. How scary would that be? It would be completely pant-wetting. So we homed in on that and started looking at horror movies, and that almost meth-addicted zombie-type thing where they just won’t stop – they just keep coming and there’s nothing you can do. That’s the feeling we really wanted to capture, particularly for the raptors, but it became something that was a hallmark of all the creatures to some extent.

How it's going to be... pant-wetting.
How it's going to be... pant-wetting.
SPONG: You’ve said that you can’t talk about the multiplayer yet, but will you have multiplayer stuff that people haven’t experienced before?

JH: One thing we have talked about with our multiplayer stuff that sets us apart from anyone else out there is the introduction of the creatures into the multiplayer experience. When you play with the ability to lure creatures onto your opponents, it adds a whole new dynamic to the experience.

SPONG: What age-rating are you shooting for? Because Turok is a game that marks a conscious move for BVG into more adult territory.

JH: Definitely. It’s intended for a mature audience. I’m not sure how it will be rated according to European standards – I think it will probably be 16-plus. In the US, it will be 17-plus. So, it is quite a departure for BVG if you look at their historical portfolio of titles. But because we’ve not doing anything gratuitous for gratuity’s sake, I think that’s a line that we’ve drawn, saying: “This is necessary to do justice to the creative side,” and they’ve been very supportive with that.
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Joji 11 Jan 2007 14:57
I enjoyed the N64 sequel a lot. I hope they can improve on the previous Turok efforts. The thing that has plagued the series is its universe from the comics and having to bend within it. I'll give them a chance to sort it out mind.

Does the dinosaur thing work well when compared to stuff like GoW, Metroid or Halo? I think most people prefer biped human like opponents, unless you can use your imagination a create cool stuff like the spider thing in GoW.
OptimusP 11 Jan 2007 16:29
raptors are biped...and fast...and deadly...and hunt in packs with diversion and sneaktactics...and attack with sharp claws and pointy theeth gnahgnahgnah...

If they can get their AI up to speed like that then bring it!
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LUPOS 11 Jan 2007 17:29
I like how they say they took the story for the game and reimagined it... does no one even know "the story" is from a comic originaly. It's like they bought a game franchise with no regard to the fact that it wasnt original IP to begin with. I'm not huge fan of the comic but it's just odd. :/

billson 15 Jan 2007 00:09
hopefuly its better than evolution, bought it, was s**te, multiplayer was semi-decent, traded it in on games 10 day return thing, got timesplitters 2 and never looked back.
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