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Jurassic Park: Trespasser - gaming's greatest failure

Snuggles

erotic butter maelstrom
Dec 15, 2008
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"The evolution of first person 3D gaming"


Watch the FMV intro to begin, complete with an excellent voice over by Sir Richard Attenborough.

It all begins with a plane crash. You are Anne, an average American woman with a prominent bust whose flight crashes over Site B, the location of the infamous Jurassic Park incident. You must survive the many dangers of the island and find a way back home.






THE GOOD

"Welcome to Jurassic Park"



Physics, Ragdolls and Realism



Physics in action

Forget Half-Life, Trespasser did crate physics first. The player could lift an object, and drop it and watch as gravity took effect. You could reach areas by stacking boxes, or make a pass by tossing them out of the way. Pushing one object into another would cause a reaction, and you could stack them and watch as they toppled over. Environment objects like baseball bats and hammers could be used to bludgeon dinos, with the amount of damage caused dependent on how hard the object was swung. This may not be much now, but in 1998 it was mind blowing. The ragdoll physics were remarkable as well, it was pretty awesome to kill a raptor and watch as it's body flops over and rolls down a hill.

In addition to the realistic physics and ragdolls, it was also one of the first FPS games to put you in the body of a person, rather than just being a floating cam. At any time, you could look down and see your breasts/body. Instead of just clicking on an item and picking it up, like a floating cam would, you had to extend your arm and grab it. It also featured HUD-free gameplay, your health was displayed on your breast and the remaining ammo on your clip was called out by Anne. All of this contributed towards a very immersive experience.


Emergent Gameplay



T-Rex fight

Trespasser relied on AI systems over scripted behavior for it's dinosaurs. Their behavior may not have always been intelligent, but it was unpredictable and even believable at times. Sometimes they would aggressively attack you, sometimes they would run in fear or even attack each other. Trespasser had no traditional levels or missions to restrict the player, it was what we would now call an open world or sandbox game, and there was an exciting unpredictability to it. In some situations, you could improvise an escape by entering a building and blocking off the doorway, or defeating a dino by taking advantage of the physics engine and crushing them with a heavy object. The world felt 'alive' and was spontaneous and memorable moments driven by the player's actions, one scenario could play out in many different ways.


Dino Porn



As troubled as the final product may have been, Trespasser has the greatest concept for any Dino-based game to date. A vast, unscripted jungle island populated by the scaly monsters we grew up fascinated by. It features all the classics: T-Rex, Raptors, Stegosaurus, Brontosaurs - basically all the top dinosaurs, ready and willing to make you their lunch. And it was excellent fan service for a Jurassic Park fan like myself. You get to explore site B, where it all went down. It was a joy to explore sites like Hammond's mansion as you listen to his memoirs.



THE BAD

"That is one big pile of shit"



Fucking bonkers physics



Check out the Flying house or the Rubber Bronto .

Tresspasser was released in an unfinished state, and it showed. Dead dinos would often end up in bizarre, contorted positions. You could make a trailer home fly through the air by shooting it with an uzi. Physics based objects like doors and boxes would often just freak out for no reason. The janky physics were only made worse when contrasted against the the focus on realistic physics that the game strives for.


Immersion breaking (but hilarious) glitches




^ That is not supposed to happen...
A gallery of WTF moments
Flying Dinosaur fun
Death by 2 by 4
T-Rex stuck in a car


Broken, sloppy gameplay



Trespasser received a very harsh reception. It was given a 4.7/10 by IGN, a 3.9/10 by Gamespot and CVG gave it a 1/10, saying that "like John Hammond, they blew it.". The controls may have been innovative and ambitious, but in practice they were an exercise in patience as you struggled to simply pick up a weapon only to have it knocked out of your hand by grazing a nearby object. The arm mechanic was an interesting concept, but it's execution was too sloppy was too frustrating to be considered anything but a failure. .

The brain dead enemy AI made encounters a joke, as dinos would often get stuck in an object or find a way to commit suicide before they could even within mauling range of the player. And on top of all that, the plethora of glitches and the lack of polish led to many situations where the player would become stuck in the geometry or in between objects and be forced to reset. So, with all that in mind, how did I enjoy this game so much?



IN CONCLUSION

Despite all of it's flaws, I loved this game. It came to me when I was young, naive, and willing to forgive design flaws, bugs and general wonkiness for the greatness that was buried beneath it all. It almost hurts to look back on this game and see the potential it had. It could have been something truly amazing if the final product could have even come close to the ambitious ideas behind it. For now, I can only dream of what a classic this game would be with the right developer, modern tech and an appropriate development cycle.



P.S.
For further reading, check out Gamasutra's post-mortem with Richard Wyckoff, one of the designers from Dreamworks Int.
 

BeeDog

Member
Aug 2, 2007
15,495
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I still have a near-perfect copy of this game on my shelf. For some retarded reason I loved this game as a kid, but it (obviously) became clear to me as I got older that this was a major fuck-up. Nice retrospect though!
 

yencid

Member
Oct 27, 2009
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28
Never played this game but it sounds to me from reading this that this was a game ahead of its time o.o
 

Ravidrath

Member
Jun 8, 2005
10,390
0
0
41
Los Angeles, CA
I've never played this, but I'm curious about it.

A friend and former coworker worked on it, and it really sounds like it was hugely ambitious and was just pushed out the door for budgetary reasons.

Another friend of mine is endlessly fascinated by it, and has written, like... floating tree FAQs and shit for it.

Gravijah said:
hey why is her boob tattoo different in some of those videos
I believe it's the health meter?
 

Huggy

Member
Sep 11, 2006
1,284
0
0
37
NL
Amazing technology features for it's time and the survival aspect of it is awesome.
If you can handle the gameplay mechanics (which are hard to learn and hard to master) you'll have a great time.
 

Mr_Zombie

Member
Jul 25, 2009
7,839
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Heard about the game when it was released but never had a chance to play it. It was truly a game ahead of its times, too ambitious.
Most of things that it tried to do were successfully accomplished few years later.

Gravijah said:
you are lying



you have to be lying
No, a tatoo on heroine's breast is indeed the health meter in the game ;)
Sucks that nowadays all we've got is a strawberry jam all over the screen instead of something like that :/
 

Dennis

Banned
Jul 7, 2009
46,557
1
0
Just imagine how different the world of gaming would have turned out if Trespasser had been a huge multi-million seller.

Immersive, open-world physics-driven HUD-less games instead of the linear shit we got.....


*manly tears running down cheek*
 

Vinterbird

Member
Nov 17, 2006
8,146
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0
It's the one game I've hoped for years that someone will look at go "maybe we should do a spiritual successor to this one". The basic fundament for an amazing FarCry escue survival experience is there. It just needs a good developer (Warren Spector should do this when Junction Point inevitably closes)
 

Ravidrath

Member
Jun 8, 2005
10,390
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0
41
Los Angeles, CA
Gravijah said:
OK I finished reading the OP. Now I can't stop laughing. That's such an absurd idea!
Eh, it's not too bad... more eccentric, really?

Coming up with ways of clearly displaying health without a HUD is hard enough, and it's even harder in first-person. This is a decent hybrid approach, I think.

For example, I think it's way better than The GetAway's bloody shirt.

In that, how bloody your shirt is indicates how hurt you are. You heal by leaning against walls and catching your breath, which takes a little while... and while you wait, the blood gets sucked out of the shirt and back into your body!
 

Doctor West

Member
Mar 9, 2010
1,921
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0
Earth
I remember playing this as a kid and having a lot of fun. The heart health meter on her breast also blew my mind. I spent way too much time down there, lol. With that said, I'd be afraid to revisit it today and have reality crush the nostalgia. Some things are better left in the past...
 

zoukka

Member
Nov 18, 2006
36,170
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940
Finland
DennisK4 said:
Just imagine how different the world of gaming would have turned out if Trespasser had been a huge multi-million seller.

Immersive, open-world physics-driven HUD-less games instead of the linear shit we got.....
Yeah devs would've suddenly and magically found ways to create those games fast and cheap... oh wait.
 

Peru

Member
Dec 18, 2005
21,611
1
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Yeah they should make it today. This is the kind of stuff I'm after, semi-realistic dinosaurs just roaming about.
 

JoeBoy101

Member
Mar 13, 2009
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860
I still remember when I learned to hate this game. Its when I was playing and came across a ledge one foot off the ground, but it was too much for Anne to hoist herself up on to.
 

Noisepurge

Member
Oct 2, 2009
14,040
1
0
Helsinki
www.playfire.com
Mdk7 said:
Never had the chance to play it...
But developers, give us more games with dinosaurs!!!
i doubt they will since Turok and Primal Carnage and Jurassic: The Hunted sold SO well ;D

edit: on a second thought, anyone have any thoughts on these three games released this gen?
 

MooSeePoo

Neo Member
Jun 10, 2009
169
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0
it was a great concept for the time and has some (again for the time) amazing graphics. I remember getting the same (I was probably about 12 at the time) and just couldn't get on with it. I hated the physics and always got stuck on particular points so gave up on it. Looking back at it now I wish I would have stuck with it and played it through to the end!

If, and I know it would never happen in 1,000,000 years, a developer tweaked it and cleaned it up and put it on XBLA for 800pts then I would snap it up in a second!
 

spindrift

Neo Member
Jul 22, 2009
70
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brisbane
I loved this game when it first came out. It was WAY ahead of it's time and its revolutionary features were often overlooked in lieu of the unfortunate boob-hud. It's still probably one of the more immersive games i've ever played, in the sense that I got super drawn-in to the world because of the way that you had to interact with the world. That arm system was crazy, and maybe too ambitious for its time; I'm still fond of it because of the unprecedented, and I believe still unmatched, control you had over it. Running out of bullets for your gun and wildly flailing your mouse in an attempt to smack the raptor upside the head still bring a smile to my face.
I was forgiving of the bugs because the game was so obviously pushing current game-design and hardware beyond what it could handle. Plus they were hilarious.
 

Zenith

Banned
Feb 17, 2006
12,579
1
0
I love this game.

Fan patches have revamped the original and made brand-new games out of it.
 

Darth Kupi

Banned
Jun 10, 2009
1,126
0
0
This game is the shiznit.

I'd rather have abysmal shoot-for-the-moon-and-miss overreaching, overambitious failures than your regular decent me-too games.
 

Dennis

Banned
Jul 7, 2009
46,557
1
0
zoukka said:
Yeah devs would've suddenly and magically found ways to create those games fast and cheap... oh wait.
Fast and cheap, yeah thats the motto of great games....

Just so you know, that was sarcasm.
 

derFeef

Member
Jan 21, 2010
37,914
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0
I always thought that I am just bad at this game because I died so often and had generally no idea what to do. I also was a bit scared by the dinos back then and never finished it.

And - gamings greatest failure is Daikatana.
 

quetz67

Banned
Jun 24, 2004
5,795
0
0
Oh sweet memories, never was I more hyped for a game ever. The result was strange, but still entertaining, if only for it's physics, forward kinematics and bumpmapping, none of those done before in a game.
 

Truant

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Apr 23, 2007
12,312
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I got this because some guy at the store said "Dude, Turok 2 sucks. YOU NEED THIS!" and it looked amazing. Had a hard time getting it to run, but I actually enjoyed it even if it was like 10FPS at best, and I could never get the gun to aim right. I just locked her arm in some crazy position and left it there.

Actually, I got pretty far, but had to quit when I couldn't figure out what to do next. I think I got to some residential area where I was supposed to communicate with some satellite system or something?
 

dark10x

Digital Foundry pixel pusher
Jun 9, 2004
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I also finished the game. It had a lot of problems, but the atmosphere was incredible and really pulled me into the world. I'm not one to typically enjoy broken controls, but in this case, it really did heighten the tension. Jumping across the gaps in the monorail track with poor controls made the threat of falling and being attacked by raptors much more realistic.

I loved exploring the abandoned towns. You needed to explore the buildings, but you had very few supplies and there were a few raptors outside wandering around. They could go anywhere, so you'd need to scout the area before attempting to push forward and hope you could make it to the next building before they got to you. The dinosaurs were all very threatening in the game, yet they were present in very small numbers. The idea of a game presenting very few enemies but making those enemies difficult to deal with is quite appealing. One of the things that killed the STALKER games for me is the absolutely HUGE number of enemies present throughout. They both ruined the gameplay and the atmosphere for me. Exploring an abandoned town loses a lot of its punch when you're being rushed by an army. Trespasser stick to just a few dinosaurs in any major area and those enemies could move all around the map making them unpredictable. They were also quite silent in their approach so they could easily get the drop on you (which could be pretty shocking).

The game was way ahead of its time and few others could appreciate what they were doing. I would love to see this revisited at some point.
 

big_z

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Oct 15, 2005
13,836
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way ahead of it's time in terms of ideas. the arm was wonky but the framerate was unplayable. i remember going back years after it's release with a high end pc and the framerate still sucked wtf?


Die by the Sword was another pc game with strange arm/sword physics. the game would be perfect for todays motion controllers though.
 

aerts1js

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Oct 16, 2008
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I don't think I was ever more hyped for a game than this game. I was of course disappointed but I still played through until the end...

There needs to be another dinosaur game with similar concept but with much better execution..

edit: I remember having a difficult time swiping key cards in this game...does anyone else remember this? Maybe I'm thinking of a different game, it's been so long.
 

Acosta

Member
Jun 9, 2004
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39
I recommend to read the postmortem (as mentioned in the OP actually), truly a game ahead its time and technolgy:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3339/postmortem_dreamworks_.php

Trespasser was begun by two former employees of Looking Glass Technologies, Seamus Blackley and Austin Grossman. By the time the game was rolling, two more ex-Looking Glass employees would join the team, and our common background was instrumental in setting the direction for the project. Looking Glass’s most distinguished products, Underworld I and II and System Shock, are games which in some ways are still ahead of their time, specifically in the areas of object-rich, physics-based environments and emergent gameplay.
Another major system for Trespasser was its audio system, which we described as "real time Foley" because of its ability to generate collision and scraping effects between differing sound materials in real time. Although the system could have used more sound material data, even with what it had it resulted in some wonderfully immersive sound effects which most other games do not duplicate - things like scraping a board down a concrete surface or hitting an oil barrel with a metal bat sound just about perfect. Since the system doesn’t simply play two sound effects but actually chooses from a group of samples and sets volumes based on the underlying physics collision, it sounds much more natural than most other audio systems currently used.
Trespasser was developed for a Hollywood company, and if there’s one thing Hollywood is good at it is wholeheartedly embracing the notion of hierarchical structures. However, this does not mean that Hollywood knows how to manage successfully. Instead it is famous for its tales of producers on power trips ruining projects and careers left and right as it pleases them. Perhaps Trespasser fell prey to this Hollywood curse. At the very least, it suffered from being an innovative, technologically ambitious project being developed at a company which had not yet gained institutional experience in game management by publishing significant less-ambitious projects
 

quetz67

Banned
Jun 24, 2004
5,795
0
0
There was a great forum at the time, I have spent to many hours of my life there. When the game came out in the US someone made a one level demo demo for the rest of the world - for those of us who didnt want to pirate but couldnt wait for the game to arrive.

This page is still pretty avtice:

http://www.trescom.org/index.php?page=news
 

owlbeak

Member
May 28, 2009
5,803
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I still play this game and it's one of my favorite games of all time.

Also cool is this was back when games often had unfinished content or cut content that was left on the disc. For instance, modders have located a couple of levels that were to be included in the game but were cut at the last minute. You can download them and play through it, along with other features that were cut like dinosaur behavior AI that is actually smart and other things.

I forget the site though. :(

Edit: Whoops! Missed that the OP posted the postmortem.
 

DangerStepp

Member
Sep 14, 2007
6,064
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I've always been captivated by Trespasser every time I read about it. There's something tragically alluring about the game, like time has forgotten about it and we're left to romanticize the time of its death. Meanwhile, it lays lost under the rubble from the collapse of it's own ambition and promise only to be discovered time and time again by those of us who were not worthy enough to experience it. This all makes me nostalgic for a time I never knew.

Perhaps Trespasser is actually a true work of art that we're too dense to spot and it's parallels to John Hammond's failure is it's ultimate triumph. It's a fun thought to entertain.

There have to be fan patches/mods to fix most of the physics problems by now, right?

Awesome retrospective OP.
 

Metalmurphy

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Jan 17, 2007
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As buggy as this game was It was still freaking amazing. The dino's AI and animations were fuck awesome and really led to awesome moments.

I remember one time I turned around and saw a Raptor. I just stood still and he did the same looking at me sideways like they're supposed to. I was like... "Should I shoot it? Run away?"

I ran way...

Didn't go very well