Surviving Jurassic: It’s STILL Time for a Modern Jurassic Video Game

At this point, Jurassic World: Survivor is an open secret. When will we see it, though? What will the game itself even be? And does the developer's previous work hold clues about what to expect?

 This post was published as part of #JurassicJune, an annual, month-long, community-wide celebration of all things Jurassic. All such posts, along with those of previous years, can be found here.

UPDATE (June 9, 2017)
When I was mapping out what I wanted to post during #JurassicJune, I deliberately put this article as close to the beginning of the month as possible, just in case there were any developments relating to its subject early-on. You can imagine my relief at having done so when, today, some developments came along.

The first actually came two days ago, but I — along with everyone else, apparently — failed to notice. On June 7, it was announced that Perfect World Entertainment will be publishing a new Cryptic-developed MMORPG based on Magic: The Gathering. When I came across IGNs article on Twitter, I shared it immediately; the proximity of the announcement to E3 is, as you can likely guess, both interesting and, potentially, telling. Like I said, I shared the article immediately, then sat back and returned to not-so-patiently waiting for some sort of increasingly-unlikely official announcement.

While I’m still waiting on that score, the next best thing has come along in the meantime. Jurassic Outpost, linked to repeatedly throughout this article, has revealed a screenshot from a very early version of Jurassic World: Survivor. There’s not much to say about it, other than it looks great and thoroughly reignites my inner conflict about whether I’d like Survivor to be first- or third-person. You can check out the shot for yourself by following either of the links above.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that Cryptic’s website was given a substantial makeover alongside the aforementioned announcement. Subsequently, some of the links in this article may have become redundant. Perfect timing!

STILL WAITING FOR THAT WALK IN THE PARK

Just over two years ago, on one of The JHN Files’ many predecessors, I posted an article entitled Walks in the Park: It’s Time for a Modern Jurassic Park Video Game. It was a brief look back at my time with some of Jurassic’s various digital adventures, and — as you might’ve guessed — a statement of the fact that it really is about time there was a modern one.

Towards the end of the article, I mentioned that it would be crazy to think that some sort of game wouldn’t be born from the excitement surrounding the then-upcoming Jurassic World, and while it would be disingenuous to suggest that nothing came of it, I feel confident in saying that both Jurassic World: The Game and LEGO Jurassic world weren’t really what the majority of fans were hoping for, the former (interesting mainly because of it’s pre-film glimpse into Jurassic World) being little more than a cash-grab, and the latter (despite being packed with moments of tongue-in-cheek excellence) being, as has been the case with pretty much all of Jurassic World’s marketing, aimed squarely at kids.

While understandable on some level — a broader market guarantees more financial returns — though no less disappointing for it, it felt back in 2015 as it continues to feel now: as though Jurassic’s older fans are well and truly being left out in the cold.

Two years on, LEGO Jurassic World remains the latest offering in the video game sphere. There still hasn’t been anything in a more mature vein. However — cue the #ImpactTremors — things might just be about to change.

JURASSIC WORLD: SURVIVOR

Though officially — who coughed? — we’ve seen neither hide nor hair of it, Jurassic World: Survivor is, at this point, an open secret. Prehistoric news, you might say.

In November 2015, the site formerly known as jurassicworld.org broke the news that Cryptic Studios Seattle had been at work on an unnamed Jurassic World title, but that the studio had been shut down, presumably putting an end to their efforts. The leak came with glimpses at various assets from the game, which would, reportedly, have put players in the role of Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady. But it wasn’t to be — then, at least.

Things went quiet. Disappointing though the revelation had been, there was some silver lining to be found: it proved that someone had tried to make a modern Jurassic game — surely it was only a matter of time before someone else tried, too. Then, however, came a twist in the tale. In June 2016, it was reported — again by Jurassic Outpost — that Cryptic’s game was back in development, that it had been, in fact, at the time of the original story. The name Jurassic World: Survivor came along when Universal trademarked it in December — and with publisher (not to mention Cryptic’s parent company) Perfect World Entertainment registering jurassicworldsurvivor.com, along with a slew of related URLs, all signs pointed to it being the game.

So, we know Survivor exists. We know it’s coming. The question, now, is when we’ll hear about it.

Well… in a stunning turn of events in no way related to the timing of this post — seriously, who coughed? — this year’s E3 kicks off next week, with developer conferences beginning this coming weekend. E3, for those who might not know, is an annual trade show at which developers, publishers and hardware manufacturers get together to showcase the latest and greatest in the world of video games — and Perfect World Entertainment is going to be there.

Assuming everything we’ve heard so-far is accurate, Survivor has been in development — in some form or other — for quite awhile. On these grounds alone, it would be odd if the developers didn’t have something to show by now — and with marketing for Jurassic World 2 likely just around the proverbial corner, it would seem the time is ripe to lift the lid.

Of course, Jurassic World 2 could very well keep the game under wraps for considerably longer, too. Releasing in the run-up to the film certainly wouldn’t go unnoticed, but doing so alongside it would generate significantly more attention, and with Jurassic having been relatively extinct in the video game space, that certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Still, speculating about when the game will release is a bit premature given that we don’t even know what it’ll be

SURVIVING JURASSIC

In an ideal world, a modern Jurassic game would be primarily single-player, a visual extravaganza dropping players onto a dinosaur-heavy, resource-light island. It would inherit Jurassic Park’s close, intimate, almost claustrophobic atmosphere, and would be presented in a similar fashion to Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. Stealth, tension, distraction, waiting — as a certain Captain would say — for the opportune moment would be the order of the day, with combat being the absolute last resort. As with the foes in The Last of Us, any unavoidable fighting between the player and the dinosaurs would be visceral, unpleasant, and heavily weighted in favour of the animals.

A nice surprise though it would be, however, Survivor probably isn’t going to be that game. Rather, early rumours suggest it to be a more MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) inspired experience, set sometime after the events of Jurassic World.

While, personally, I find this to be a slight turn-off, it doesn’t necessarily preclude the game from being enjoyable. Indeed, there are some encouraging whisperings out there, too — by far the most interesting being that Universal were unhappy with the prevalence of guns in early versions, which suggests that stealth might just be, as I mentioned earlier, the order of the day. And, certainly, the multiplayer aspect could prove to be fun, too — the thought of group sessions in which various members of the Jurassic community head out into the wilds of Nublar together is great, and the potential gameplay opportunities equally so.

Imagine: you spot a bunker in the jungle. There might be some much-needed resources in there. Problem is, another player has also noticed it — and there’s a group of velociraptors in the way, too. Do you make a break for it? Do you try to work something out with the other player? Or do you, perhaps, pick up a rock or some other such projectile, launch it in the direction of the other player, and make for the bunker while the raptors enjoy a thoroughly distracting meal?

The possibilities are as exciting as they are endless. Still, as with the release date, speculating about the gameplay is, at this point, moot. Other than that the game has been described as being similar to something like H1Z1, we simply don’t know what to expect.

That being said, however, I thought at quick look at the developer’s past work might provide some interesting clues.

CRYPTIC CLUES

As we’ve heard, Survivor was originally in development Cryptic Studios’ now defunct Seattle branch. When rumours surfaced that the game was back in development, it was simply stated to be at a ‘different studio.’ However, given that Cryptic’s parent company, Perfect World Entertainment, is definitely still involved, we can assume — assume, mind you… — that Cryptic itself is, too. Indeed, a glance at its website confirms that it has at least one ‘top secret’ project in development.

So, with this in mind, I did some ‘research.’ Take note of those inverted commas, though. I have absolutely no first-hand experience with any of Cryptic’s games. I simply did some reading, watched some videos, and took note of anything that seemed pertinent. There may well be mistakes in my work, things I’ve overlooked or missed entirely. If that’s the case, please bear with me, and, by all means, let me know so I can clear things up.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s dig in, shall we?

Currently owned — as previously mentioned — by Perfect World Entertainment, Cryptic Studios was established in June 2000 and specialises (surprise, surprise) in MMORPGs. Its previous games, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Champions Online, Star Trek Online and Neverwinter all fit that bill, and it’s the various features of these titles that might, I think, offer some hints as to what to expect from Survivor.

Firstly, all the above-mentioned games employ a traditional third-person perspective, with the camera set a good distance back from the player.

I’m not sure about this one. Though Survivor is said to be a third-person experience, I think this particular style of presentation would be completely antithetical to the almost-claustrophobia a thrilling Jurassic adventure would benefit from. It would, I think, create a feeling of separation, take away from the experience of encountering a dinosaur in the wild — a massive, hulking beast barely able to fit on the screen of your TV would be infinitely more effective than something more akin to a miniaturised model of some tabletop game…

Also common to Cryptic’s games is an MMO staple: character creation. Now, unless Survivor is still set to put players in the shoes of Owen Grady, I reckon this is pretty much guaranteed to be a feature — and it’s something I’m genuinely excited to play with. I took great pleasure in putting a minifigure version of myself in LEGO Jurassic World, and I imagine creating a more realistic representation in Survivor would be just as enjoyable.

Of course, just how realistic things will be remains to be seen. Visually, Cryptic’s previous titles are what you’d expect from an MMO: not actively offensive, but nothing to write home about, either — and certainly not on par with most modern AAA offerings. Though things may, of course, have changed since, Survivor looked — at the time of the original leak — set to buck that trend.

I can’t tell you how much I hope it does.

As has been said time, time, and time again, graphics aren’t everything, but they’re certainly not nothing, and I can’t pretend — having been spoiled by visual masterpieces like Uncharted 4 and, more recently, Horizon Zero Dawn — that I wouldn’t be disappointed if we end up with something on par with 2011’s polarising Jurassic Park: The Game.

‘DUDE… OFF-ROAD.’

As has been repeated throughout this article, we don’t really know what to expect from Survivor on a gameplay level, but I think Cryptic’s first title, City of Heroes, provides some intriguing possibilities.

In that game, the city was divided into various zones — standard, co-op, PVP (Player versus Player), and so on. Given the various sections Isla Nublar was divided up into in Jurassic World, this concept could easily be applied to Survivor.

Though the game is said to take place after the events of the film, it’s likely that the visitor areas of the park — Main Street, etc. — would still be resource-rich. That being the case, might these areas function as a hub of sorts, with the other sections of the island being where the action is? Could players head to Main Street to trade with each other and recoup supplies before heading out to complete various objectives solo, or as part of a team?

It’s certainly an intriguing possibility, and one I could see working, but, personally, I’d much rather the ‘multiplayer’ sections of the game be entirely separate from the real ‘meat’ of it. Ideally, I think, players should be able to explore all of Nublar alone if they choose, jumping to multiplayer sessions by choice rather than having other players be a constant presence in their world.

Of course, guaranteed to be a constant presence in players’ worlds are the dinosaurs. And it’s this remarkably clunky segue that brings me to by far the most interesting thing I discovered in my ‘research’: the fact that Survivor won’t be Cryptic’s first time dealing with dinosaurs.

WHAT DID YOU EXPECT TO SEE?

The terrible lizards are set to feature in an upcoming expansion to the studio’s latest title, Neverwinter — due to release in July — and can also be found in the earlier Champions Online.

It’s their appearance in Champions that’s of most interest here, particularly in the context of Jurassic World. You see, the dinosaurs of Champions Online are cartoonish, exaggerated beasts, seeming, in at least one case, to be a combination of various species, and, in another, to have been augmented with some sort of technology. Dun, dun, dun!

It seems, also, that players are able to have dinosaurs as ‘pets’, which can be used to attack various foes, including other players, in battle. Again… dun, dun, dun!

Undoubtedly — hopefully… — Survivor’s dinosaurs will be treated a little more realistically than those of Cryptic’s previous fare, but it’ll certainly be interesting to compare them to these existing creatures when we finally get our hands on the game. It may have been cheesy as hell in the film, but, as far as gameplay goes, arriving on the scene of a battle with your very own Raptor Squad at your heels could be all sorts of awesome.

‘WE CAN CHARGE ANYTHING WE WANT…’

Then again, concerns about visuals and gameplay pale in comparison to the fact that each and every one of Cryptic’s games is ‘free-to-play’ (otherwise, and more accurately, known as ‘fee-to-pay’…), and have, in some form, featured — you guessed it — microtransactions.

Sigh.

In the various articles I read on the subject, Cryptic repeatedly stresses that its microtransactions are mostly for aesthetic items, that they don’t actively prohibit players’ progress. Frankly, I have no time for such excuses. I simply don’t care. If Jurassic World: Survivor launches as a full-price experience, then microtransactions have absolutely no place in it.

Of all the possibilities Survivor brings to the table, this is easily the most concerning. Microtransactions, and all that comes with them, are a plague on the games industry, nothing but sheer greed masquerading under the bullshit guise of ‘games as a service.’ Like traditional MMO visuals, I sincerely hope this is a trend Jurassic bucks.

*Breathes.*

I’m nearly finished. I have just one more point to cover, and it brings us back to the subject of release dates.

‘WE’RE GOING TO OPEN NEXT YEAR…’

Just as they share microtransactions, each and every one of Cryptic’s games so-far has launched first on PC, with City of Heroes/Villains and Champions Online staying there, and Star Trek Online and Neverwinter eventually making their way to consoles — ‘eventually’ being the key word there.

Star Trek Online came to PC in February 2010, with a console release following in September 2016. Neverwinter made its debut in June 2013, before coming to Xbox One in March 2015 and PlayStation 4 in July 2016. Just over three years is undeniably a lot better than just over six, but still a massive delay regardless.

As much as I hope it doesn’t — favouring consoles myself — you have to wonder if a similar approach will be taken with Jurassic, if, perhaps, it’ll come to PC at some point this year, before making its way to consoles sometime around the release of Jurassic World 2.

Unlikely though it is — consoles have been mentioned from the beginning in Survivor-related leaks and rumours — I could see it happening. In fact, I half expect it to. Given Jurassic’s aforementioned relative absence from the video game world, hitting the market twice could give Survivor legs it might otherwise lack.

Like I said, though, I sincerely hope this doesn’t prove to be the case, and that the game doesn’t come with some sort of content exclusivity for one of the consoles, either, which would, frankly, suck just as much.

And that, friends, is really all I have to say. I must admit, though, that while I absolutely remain excited to learn more about Survivor — it’s Jurassic… how could I not? — looking into Cryptic’s past work so deeply has really reinforced the fact that MMOs just aren’t the kinds of games I’m interested in.

On its site, Cryptic states that it is committed to reaching beyond the boundaries of traditional MMORPG gaming, so I have my fingers firmly crossed that Jurassic will be representative of that commitment, a pleasant surprise rather than something their previous projects suggest it might be. If it’s not, though, if it is something we’ve seen countless times before, I’ll deal with it. All I hope, really, is that it’s a decent, well-made game that, hopefully, will inspire other developers to take a trip to the Jurassic world. Maybe, then, that ‘ideal’ game will show up someday.

It’s well and truly time for a modern Jurassic game. We may be about to get one. Fingers crossed it’s just the beginning.

FOR THE ATTENTION OF VIDEO GAME DEVELOPERS EVERYWHERE
jurassic-1

2011. Yes, you read that right: 2011. That’s the last time there was a Jurassic game of any real significance. Whilst an enjoyable treat, LEGO Jurassic World wasn’t at all what the majority of fans have been waiting for, and with the commercial success of Jurassic World, it should have been but an appetiser for bigger, better things to come. Well… fire the waiter, and send some raptors into the kitchen to see what’s up, because we’re still waiting for the main course.

Jurassic is a franchise that lends itself to any number of genres, and there’s certainly no shortage of ideas for possible games. It really is about time one came along. Yes, there are rights involved, deals to be made and permissions to be gotten, but, let’s be honest: it’s going to happen.

Life will find a way, and someone will make one. Why not you?


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