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PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2005 2:30 pm 
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Jurassic Game Flouts Hyper-Real Physics


DreamWorks Interactive, primed with multi-industry synergy, is trying to break video games out of their geekboy ghetto with a new game based on the Jurassic Park mythos. The much-hyped brainchild of Steven Spielberg and partner Bill Gates, DreamWorks Interactive seems to be following the belief that the missing link from video games to a mass market is the believability of the world it portrays, starting with the physics that govern its properties.

"If this is successful it could open up a whole new world of physics-based gaming." says Johnny L. Wilson, editor in chief of Computer Gaming World, whose March cover story focuses on the technology driving the design of Trespasser.

The idea behind Trespasser: Jurassic Park, due out in the fall, is to avoid the trap of "metagaming," where players are forced to guess how the game designer built a puzzle, rather than react intuitively. "The reason a lot of people don't get into gaming - and I watched my girlfriend struggle with Myst and other games - is that there's a whole semantic of game playing that you just have to be into," says Seamus Blackley, the developer who is managing the 25-people game developing team.

"If the workaday objects work right, the doorhandle opens like you'd expect, and when you start accepting the consistent reality of this world, when you see that first velociraptor, it's a big fucking deal," says Blackley. To this end, all of the actions of creatures and objects are calculated on the fly, using a combination of physical modeling, AI, muscle strength, and physical conditions.

The game is played through the persona of a woman named Anne, whose plane has crashed on the way to Costa Rica. As Anne explores the island where she has washed ashore, she discovers she is on the island she's been reading about- where experiments with dinosaurs had been conducted. Blackley has stressed the exploration of the island: "There are things that work really well in the computer game medium, the feeling of environment, space, and ability to explore something on your own, that you really don't get in other media."

Wilson insists that it is Blackley and the new technology, not the the aura of DreamWorks' big names, that could make Trespasser work. "There are multiple ways to mess up projects and partnerships whenever you have high-flying celebrities represented," Wilson says. "The key aspect of the success of Trespasser: Jurassic Park is not so much either Microsoft's distribution, which was unable to make a hit out of the Neverhood, or the Goosebumps game, nor is it Spielberg's flash." Wilson Points out that Spielberg's name was attached to LucasArts's The Dig, which did poorly.

But for Blackley, DreamWorks is a welcome break from other game makers with lesser budgets. "DreamWorks is well acquainted with the business model of making money by doing creativity right, so they don't have these panic attacks and try to push stuff."

Instant access into the world of DreamWorks powerbrokers has also given Blackley some unexpected insights into their workings. Besides running golf cart races with Speilberg and Jeff Goldblum, he has had intense encounters with Microsoft. "Those people are not interested in bullshit in any form." says Blackley. "They want to know why something is or isn't working, when will the product ship ... it's almost like being on trial. Now I know how they make so much money."

By John Alderman

Source:WIRED News, 05:04 AM Feb. 18, 1998 PT

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