Harrison Abbott chats with Frontier’s Brendon Morgan about Jurassic World Evolution coming to Xbox Game Pass…
Frontier Developments are something of an authority when it comes to management sims, having worked on many of the genre’s vintage franchises: like Rollercoaster Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon and Thrillville. Clearly, they have an affinity for creating virtual amusement parks, which is typically seen as more of a PC market. Yet they’ve gone against the grain throughout their illustrious history, to ensure that a wider range of players can experience these titles.
Indeed, ever since the sixth console generation, Frontier have been porting their addictive releases over to Xbox and PlayStation, where they have enjoyed great success. More recently, they have taken this business model even further, by wholeheartedly embracing the Xbox Game Pass and making offerings (like Disneyland Adventures and Planet Coaster) available to the platform’s users.
The latest of their games to hit the service is Jurassic World Evolution, which just debuted on the Nintendo Switch. First launched back in June 2018 (to coincide with the release of Fallen Kingdom), the park-builder allows fans to step into the shoes of John Hammond and fulfil their dreams of running Las Cinco Muertes. Taking charge of everything from the dinosaur encolusres, to the scenery, the security provision, and the gift shop prices: you can customise the resort to your heart’s content.
And now that Xbox Game Pass subscribers can pick up the title for free, Froniter are hoping that even more people will get to experience the fun (and stresses) of filling this particular management vacancy. To talk about this decision, we spoke with the game’s producer, Brendon Morgan.
I just want to kick things off by thanking you for taking the time to do this. I’m a big fan of Jurassic World Evolution, having sunk countless hours into the original game and the DLCs.
Thanks, that’s awesome to hear!
So, could you start by explaining why Frontier have decided to release the title on Game Pass?
It’s hugely exciting to bring Jurassic to Game Pass, as it means more people get the opportunity to play our game. It’s always great when lots of players – who’ve not yet had the chance to create their own parks or incubate their own dinosaurs – can finally [discover] what it’s all about!
For the sake of clarity, is it the complete edition of the game, like the one that was recently ported to the Nintendo Switch?
It is the base game that we [have brought] to Xbox Game Pass, but we have added so much to the base game since we first released it. Of course all the DLC is available for those that want to experience even more dinosaurs, more missions and more of the incredible actors of the Jurassic universe!
Obviously, players can grab both Disneyland Adventures and Planet Coaster already on the platform. Do you have any way of knowing how popular those titles have been, or how many people have used the service to access them?
While I can’t give out any specific numbers, I think with many of us spending more time at home and being able to dedicate more time to the games we love, it’s not come as a surprise that both of these titles [are] doing really well. They’re both great family friendly games as well, so I know a lot of people have been playing them with their children. And games like Planet Coaster are great fun to watch someone else play as well.
I totally agree. From my own personal experience, I’ve been dipping into them as a way of vicariously having the theme park experience during lockdown. So, I was wondering if maybe other people have been doing the same, and if you’d seen an uptick in the player base lately?
We’ve definitely seen an uptick in the numbers for all of our games over this time, likely for some of the same reasons that you’ve been playing them! Games can be an amazing way to get a bit of an escape from the reality of everything going on around us and immerse yourself in something fun and worry free.
I know myself that I’ve been going back and revisiting lots of older games that I’ve previously not had the chance to put much time into, as well as so many of the Game Pass titles that keep coming out.
You’ve given Planet Coaster and Planet Zoo a lot of ongoing support since launch, with various patches and expansion packs. Jurassic World had its own add-ons too, but are there any more DLCs in the pipeline (especially with another movie on the way)?
Our main focus at this time is on delivering a great gameplay experience with on the Xbox Game pass. We have nothing further to announce right now.
Moving on to more general questions about the game itself. When you were developing Jurassic World Evolution, were there any key aspects from the movies that you knew you absolutely wanted to capture?
I think having the acting talent and the authentic feel of the films was a massive aspect that we wanted to deliver on. We didn’t want this to feel like any dinosaur park management game, but specifically a Jurassic World park management game that was as true to the franchise as possible.
Our partnership with Universal has obviously been very helpful here. We really could not have pushed this so far without their help at every step. Everything from the dinosaurs themselves, to the sets, the cast and the locations: Universal have done so much to help us bring Jurassic World Evolution to life.
With something like Planet Zoo, you can take cues from real life attractions and animal exhibits. However, as of yet, we don’t have any prehistoric cloning facilities. So how did you go about researching what Jurassic World would actually look like and what it would need to operate?
I really do hope that we will have some prehistoric cloning facilities someday. I know there is a project around to bring back the Woolly Mammoth, so maybe it’s not too far away!
There was definitely a lot of research put into every aspect of the game and we had a lot of expert knowledge at hand for the development! From palaeontology expert, Jack Horner, to our incredible Art team – who did a stellar job researching every single dinosaur – to Frontier Developments’ own Chief Creative Officer – Jonny Watts – who holds a degree in zoology!
Oh, wow I didn’t know that! On a related note, did you try to strike a balance between making the dinosaurs scientifically accurate, whilst simultaneously ensuring that they felt in keeping with the ones you see in the films?
There was definitely a balance here but, ultimately, we made the choice to stick to the film versions. I think our teams did an amazing job bringing those creatures to life, especially when you consider that some of them are only on screen [in the movies] for a handful of seconds. In a couple of cases, they used that [limited] footage to make a whole dinosaur. It’s an incredible process.
How did you approach designing the dino species that weren’t included in any of the movies?
When it comes to the dinosaurs that weren’t in the films, we’ve tried to make these as truthful as possible to the current scientific consensus. However, with new finds and discoveries happening regularly all over the world, there are a lot of unresolved debates over some species. So even this was a challenge at times. We’ve definitely lent heavily on our experienced character teams here at Frontier, alongside experts such as Jack Horner, who I mentioned above.
When compared to a lot of other management sims, Jurassic World Evolution has a rigidly structured campaign that unfolds almost like a linear narrative. Of course, there is a sandbox mode as well, but I was wondering if you could talk a little about why you chose to design the main experience in that way?
Having a linear story in the campaign mode allowed us to better capture the feel of the films and guide players to each of the story points. This was definitely a good decision on the part of our design team and I’m really happy with the way that it worked out. Even in the campaign though, you can still hop back and forth between previous islands and, as you say, we have these two other modes (Challenge and Sandbox) for those who want a more open ended way to play. There’s definitely a way for everyone to enjoy Jurassic World Evolution.
Jurassic Park Evolution Complete Edition is out now and can be purchased on: Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One & PlayStation 4 and is available on Xbox Game Pass.
Thank you to Brendon Morgan for taking the time to answer our questions.