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Friday, 27 March 2015

Mesozoica and Prehistoric Kingdom: Spiritual Successors to Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis



When I was growing up four video games dominated my childhood and three of them were very similar: Zoo Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon 2 and Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, (the fourth was Kingdom Hearts and later Kingdom Hearts II). The basis for Zoo Tycoon and its sequel was that you had to design, create and run your own zoo. In 2003 Blue Tongue Entertainment in association with Universal Interactive released Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis. It was similar to Zoo Tycoon except that you had to design, create and eventually open your very own Jurassic Park to the public. Characters from films, (unfortunately book characters who weren't in the films didn't make an appearance), helped you run your Jurassic Park; you would send Alan Grant to dig up dinosaur fossils, Dr Henry Wu would extract the dinosaur DNA so you could have dinosaurs and Ellie Sattler would tell if you if one of your dinosaurs was ill. I got the game in 2004 for my eight birthday and loved it. When I was older it was the first game that I managed to hack to fix a glitch and it was the first game that I played with mods; today I can't play an Elder Scrolls game without mods. It scored highly in many different gaming magazines and reviewers, Metacritic gave the PC version 72/100 while GameRankings 72.81%. Recently I even found out the game was rushed out and they wanted to do so much more with it! There was talks that a sequel would be released to coincide with a possible new Jurassic Park but unfortunately the parent company THQ closed down Blue Tongue with the rights to Operation Genesis with it. Although a sequel was now impossible many people wanted at least a spiritual successor and partially got one with the iOS game Jurassic Park: Builder. However I found a possible new spiritual successor. Going through YouTube I found out about a game called Prehistoric Kingdom, (PK), which seemed to be a possible successor that we have been dreaming of. However when looking about more information about the game a YouTuber called Best In Slot Gaming did a few videos about another game called Mesozoica. Now we had two spiritual successors. This week I thought it would be good to talk about both games; they won't be out by the end of 2015 or at the latest 2016 but they look very promising indeed.
Now let's look at the first one that I discovered: Prehistoric Kingdom.

Prehistoric Kingdom
 The above image is one of the models for PK of a Mosasaurus which was a large aquatic reptile that lived during the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago, (if you watch the trailer for Jurassic World it is the same species that jumps from the tank and eats a shark). The inclusion of Mosasaurus is a promising sign as it gives the player the ability to make aquatic exhibits, something which Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis lacked. Other aquatic species have been confirmed including the giant shark Megalodon which, when alive, ate whales. In fact there will be 160 prehistoric animals in the game which they plan to rise to 202 in DLCs! The developers have even said that they are spending time on each species in order to make them seem realistic as well as give each species their own animation to make them seem truly alive. Even if they manage to do this for half the animals this would allow PK to make the player properly engaged with the game. However the developers have announced that PK will not just feature animals from the Mesozoic era, (the Age of Dinosaurs), but also animals that lived before and after the dinosaurs. Animals slated to appear have included Dimetrodon, (a Komodo Dragon sized reptile with a sail on its back that lived millions of years before the dinosaurs), mammoths, Titanoboa, (a 13 meter long snakes that lived in Colombia after the dinosaurs went extinct), and even Dodos! With this wide variety of animals to put in a possible zoo or wildlife park it could make each playthrough different. Another point to make is scientific accuracy. The developers have seemed to take note about recent updates in paleontology and have at least designed some of the creatures to fit to those new finds. Therapod dinosaurs, (the bipedal carnivores like T Rex), were found to be feathered and many of them, including Velociraptor, will be feathered in game. Tyrannosaurus has also been found to have feathers and they plan to have a feathered Tyrannosaurus and other therapods in the game but you have a choice whether to breed either a scaly or feathered dinosaur. This can allow you to have either a traditional Jurassic Park style Tyrannosaurus or a foreboding eagle like one. For example the famous Spinosaurus from Jurassic Park III has been found to walk on fours and live more like a crocodile and the below picture shows that they've tried to do credit to the new theory.
Many different plans have been made in regards to gameplay. In the Zoo Tycoon franchise you had an ability to go either on a campaign mode where you had a certain amount of money and had to complete a series of challenges without running out of money and a sandbox mode where you had unlimited money to be creative with your zoo. It seems that PK has adopted both of these so you can either challenge yourself with a limited amount of money to build your ultimate prehistoric park or be creative with unlimited amount of money. Actual gameplay they have again been creative with you having the ability to go into an aerial mode to design your park but also a first person view where you can act as a keeper/guest and walk around the island that your park is on as well as physically drive the helicopter and jeep slated to be in the game. This would take much programming to do but if they manage to do it the gaming experience should be greatly enhanced. How do you get your extinct animals though? In Operation Genesis you had to send fossil crews to dig sites to dig up fossils which would then be extracted in a lab. PK has adopted a similar tactic where you have to send teams out to dig up fossils but they have added a new level to this concept. Your animals can breed which Operation Genesis missed out to keep in canon with the books and films. This can add a new level to the game as you could have a runaway population through overbreeding animals, (it would be amusing though to see a park full of dodos because they are overly fertile). With each animal having their own animations it could lead to some interesting mating dances which brings us onto another point: the AI.
I've put in the above image because it is Gallimimus, (the 'flocking this way' dinosaur from Jurassic Park), as the developers have said that they've put effort into the flocking AI for animals like Gallimimus. They also announced a realistic predator-prey relationship where herbivores move into herds as predators stalk them. Although difficult to do the developers plan to put full realistic AI in for the animals, (including guarding or raiding nests), which can add an extra level of detail to the game if done correctly. The final point to make about PK for now is emphasis on managing along side creating your kingdom. For example you have to make sure the fences get enough electricity to function so you may have to decide between having a fully lit hotel or having a Tyrannosaurus enclosure properly electrified. Another feature in regards to this is having to wait until a fence is fixed while in Zoo Tycoon or Operation Genesis you could simply drag and drop a new piece of fencing over the broken one. This could add an extra level of difficulty and challenge to the game.

Mesozoica
The developers for Mesozoica have managed to show us an actual bit of gameplay what would be expected in the final product, (PK only the tech demo gameplay). Although it may be hard to tell in the above image but it looks very promising and we could have a very well designed finished product, especially as they are using Unity to create the game. First off you may be wondering what animals will be appearing in the game? The developers have announced a wide variety of Mesozoic fauna including the famous Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops to my favorite dinosaur Deinonychus. For those who don't know when Michael Crichton was writing Jurassic Park he liked the name Velociraptor but the real life animal was too small to be an antagonist so he attached the name to a larger relative, Deinonychus so Velociraptors in Jurassic Park are Deinonychus. This was one of the dinosaurs announced in UI Tech Demo and is a very good idea going for a less well known dinosaur as the first ones confirmed. The UI Tech Demo also announced that Mosasaurus would appear in the game and a stream on Twitch where fans could ask about the game it was announced that pterosaurs would also appear. In the same stream they announced that they do not have a list of Mesozoic fauna that will definitely be in the game for a very good reason. They want the fans to choose what they want in the game so they can have the dinosaurs, pterosaurs and other Mesozoic life that will truly interest fans as well as avoiding shoehorning in a particular species. Keeping with the fauna themselves they have been open about how much they have been working on the AI and in a Twitch stream on of the developers has stated that the predator-prey relation has been worked on extensively. They said that prey could hear or smell the carnivore much before they could see if and would either start to run or defend themselves accordingly while the carnivores sometimes could smell or hear the herbivores before they could see them and would then begin to stalk the prey.
On the 10th March 2015 this was released by the team showing an Allosaurus, (a carnivore from Late Jurassic Wyoming), hunting a Stegosaurus. If this predator-prey relationship is perfected we could experience a very thrilling game. Like Operation Genesis in Mesozoica you have to send teams out to fossil sites to dig up bones so you can breed dinosaurs. In Operation Genesis you were rewarded for how much you research a dinosaurs DNA by having it live longer, researching it to 60% could have a dinosaur live for 2 years while researching it to 100% could make it live to 10 years, (the less advanced programming available in 2003 meant the game could not handle a dinosaur living for so long because of the different algorithms at work). Mesozoica has adopted something similar but at the same time vastly different. The more you research a particular dinosaur or other animal you can unlock different skins for your dinosaur and with the Deinonychus at least, feathers. If done well could unlock a huge wave of creativity to the game as it would mean that no two playthroughs would be the same. On one you could focus on Stegosaurus over a raptor so have a wide range of Stegosaurs while having one scaly raptor while on another you could have a feathered raptor to just having one plain Stegosaurus. I am also looking forward to seeing an alternate version of this dinosaur:
The Dilophosaurus famous for killing Dennis Nedry is confirmed although minus the frill due to no scientific evidence of it.
They also have a realistic Spinosaurus and Tyrannosaurus, (hopefully with the ability to have it with feathers), but you have the ability to excavate the Jurassic Park style of both dinosaurs so you could have a realistic and JP Spinosaurus living side by side. Mesozoica offers four different play styles: the typical aerial creative view, a first person interactive view, the P.V.D, (Personal Visitor Drone), which allows you to take photos of your park and the ability to play as one of your animals! This I am particularly excited about as it takes the best elements of Primal Carnage and gives you the opportunity to wreak havoc Jurassic Park style. Particularly it could come in useful to test if your fences are possibly raptor proof to stop a possible mistake. The amount of programming to do this is massive from what I've heard they may pull it off, (I've heard a rumor that someone who worked on Primal Carnage is working on Mesozoica but how valid the rumor is I don't know and would much appreciate it if someone could tell me). Something quite impressive is the use of radars to create exhibits for aquatic and flying animals which can be put anywhere instead of clunky aviary walls and tanks so this could create unique exhibit designs. Mesozoica seems so far to focus on a campaign mode where you choose one of three companies, Gelco, Hadisoft and Eternemax, to fund your park but each of these companies have pros and cons which can add a whole new level to the game. As well as creating dinosaurs the developers have announced that you take on more of a managerial role in the game and can create either an eco-park or a ultra-capitalist park creating mass amounts of merchandise and quoting Ian Malcolm: "You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you're selling it". Again this adds another layer to gameplay but also you have to make in game decisions which could affect what your advisers think of you. For example cutting back on security could make your Security chief dislike and recaptures escaped dinosaurs at a slower rate or reducing funding to the dig sites could make the chief there not dig up any bones. The developers also announced that some paths you choose could have similar effects. One example they gave was the CEO of your company wants a T Rex steak and you have to decide whether to kill and cook a Tyrannosaurus or bear the brunt of the CEO. Also corporate espionage can happen and a Dennis Nedry could steal your DNA allowing a rival dinosaur park to come about. In order to stop this you would have to keep Security on side but at the same time do you cut the funding to your vets or paleontologists?
 Final Thoughts- Both games look very prospective and I would love to see a sequel to both; possibly a collaboration? Hopefully both will live up to the hype and it is amazing how two games with the initial idea to be a successor to Operation Genesis took two very different approaches. Both teams though could learn from each other as PK has a forum but no livestream while Mesozoica has a livestream but no forum. Both has allowed fans to properly engage with the developers and hopefully the games will reflect this engagement. If I've left any important information out I apologize: I either didn't mention it because I did not know about it or understand it. Thanks for reading and next week it will be the next part of An Alternate History Scenario for Every Country.

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