With Jurassic World now creeping onto the horizon, the Game Scouts imagine how to craft an adventure that captures the awe and terror of the film franchise 65 million years in the making.
Jurassic Park is the first movie I can remember seeing in the theater. I had seen plenty of movies before it, I’m sure, but JP was the first one I truly remember. Every time I sit through it even now (and yes, it is definitely one of those movies I sit through whenever it comes on), I remember every moment from that theater in Myrtle Beach. I recall my parents assuring the usher that I was not too young to watch the movie, followed immediately by the terrifying opening sequence of a velociraptor ripping that worker out of Muldoon’s hands that made me think that maybe my parents had been wrong. And of course, I’ll never forget the awe I felt as the score hit its crescendo and the Brachiosaurs came down with a seat-shaking crash.
Few other movies have ever matched the sense of wonder that Jurassic Park instilled in me at age six. So when I finally got my hands on the Jurassic Park video game for SNES, I was very excited to relive not just the movie, but an experience. Unfortunately, even though the game’s soundtrack was amazing, it would be the first of many lackluster Jurassic Park games that saw you as either a human who shot your way through hordes of mindless dinosaurs, or a dinosaur that ate your way through hordes of mindless humans. Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis tried to do something unique by offering an amusement park simulator, and although I was a huge fan of that title, it never quite rose to the heights that the film franchise had achieved. No matter what you might have thought of the trailer for Jurassic World, we can all agree that the time is right for an adventure game set on our favorite tropical dinosaur habitat: Isla Nublar.
Our game’s story borrows slightly from the plot of The Lost World, and takes place after the first three films, but before the Park reopens in Jurassic World. You play as Nick Van Owen, Vince Vaughn’s character from the second film, a documentarian with a history of going into dangerous filming locations, who was originally hired by Hammond to document the behavior of the animals in the park in order to make it into a nature preserve.
After the events in San Diego, a group of activists assembles in protests against InGen’s creation of genetic monsters. They have formed a private militia that is going to attempt to ripe out the remaining dinosaurs on the islands—something like Greenpeace if it hired private military contractors and sought to cause the extinction of an entire species. Van Owen is hired by a group of benefactors who hope to document the animals on the island of the original park, now overrun with dinosaurs in settled into a complex ecosystem. Their goal, they claim, is the preservation and isolation of the island, but their ulterior motive, of course, is to reopen Jurassic Park.
Playing as Nick Van Owen, your goals are survival, exploration, and documentation—not extermination. This solves a lot the problem in other games that feature dinosaurs as antagonists. Anyone can stand thirty yards away and blast a pack of velociraptors away with a shotgun, but it would take some real skill to track and film the same pack of predators as they hunt and kill an Iguanodon—especially after you have to start avoiding the armed mercenaries that arrive on the island while you’re there in addition to the giant carnivores.
Gameplay would be a mix between Assassin’s Creed, Metal Gear Solid, Far Cry, and Pokémon Snap. You are tasked with mapping the entire island, navigating climbing and other environmental puzzles in an attempt to get as much information as you can about each distinct region. As you explore the abandoned Visitors Center’s shops and restaurants, long-abandoned dinosaur enclosures, and abandoned garages full of those distinctively painted Jeeps, you can gain clues about where the different species of dinosaurs herd, feed, or nest. The dinosaurs themselves don’t hunt you down like heat-seeking missiles, but instead react naturally. Some choose to remain docile as you move around them, allowing you to get close-up footage of the creatures as they graze—until you get too close to their nesting ground or young, that is. Other species may have to be filmed using a more stealthy approach, or photographed on the run from the seat of a moving dirt bike. Velociraptors would hunt and stalk you, trying to follow your path and ambush you from stealth, while the T-Rex could be distracted with flares should you cross its path.
In order to advance through the game, you would have to collect footage for all of the known species on the island. You could simply take a few wide shots and call it a day, but like in Pokémon Snap, each photo or video is be rated based on how much of the animal was in the shot, or what it’s doing. A video of a charging triceratops will earn you more than one asleep in the distant tall grass, just as photos of a stegosaurus protecting its nest from an invading T-Rex are more valuable than a photo of the nest alone. There are many potential variables in scoring that keep players competing with each other to have the best shots—all of which can be ranked online both internationally and against your friend’s list.
Money earned can be used to call in air drops from your benefactors back on the mainland. Players use a variety of equipment, including gas grenades, flare guns, tranquilizers, tazers and other nonlethal weapons; everything from wide-angle and fisheye to night vision and thermal camera lenses; remote controlled drones, advanced climbing equipment, or scuba gear to help you overcome or circumvent obstacles; and medical supplies for both yourself and specimens found injured in the field. The game also takes a page out of Metal Gear Solid 3’s survival system, allowing you to collect plants and animals to help you keep up your stamina or bait dinosaurs into moving where you want them to be. Players have to be careful, though, for being directly responsible for a specimen’s death causes a penalty on any collected funds.
Once Van Owen begins to encounter the mercenaries on the island, even more objectives and gameplay mechanics are opened up. Now, not only do you have an obligation to map and catalog the animals on the island, you also have to defend them from the military-grade poachers that have come to destroy them. You can do this either by direct action, such as invading enemy encampments and using your nonlethal weaponry and their own restraints to neutralize them, or more interestingly, indirect action, such as unleashing an enraged dinosaur from one of their traps, or luring a group of hunters into the feeding grounds of a pack of hungry velociraptor.
The Extra Mile:
By making the dinosaurs less of an adversary and more of a resource, this version of a Jurassic Park adventure title elevates them above being simple bullet sponges and into the kind of creatures that inspired so much awe in a generation of movie-goers. Portraying locations from the original adds plenty of fan service, while utilizing the classic soundtrack at pivotal points in the game really sells the feeling of the film. As long we are dreaming, we might as well add in remastered orchestral versions of the original SNES soundtrack (seriously, I love those tunes), and bring in Vince Vaughn to provide the voice to his character.
What else could a developer add into this title to really sell it? How about an opt in multiplayer in the vein of what was offered in Watchdogs. Players participating in multiplayer may choose to invade another player’s game as a dinosaur, and it’s their opponent’s job to capture, tranq, survive, or film the invading player. After all, let’s face it: getting ambushed and your having your face eaten by a velociraptor is one thing—but getting ambushed and having your face eaten by a velociraptor controlled by your friend, that’s some good time fun.
Article by: Nick Walge
Nick Walge is a writer, gamer, and bartender who also works for a nonprofit in the Shenandoah Valley. You Know What They Should Make? appears on The Game Scouts every Monday. Have ideas for a dream game that you’d love to see made? Let us hear about it by contacting Nick on Twitter @nickwalge or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.