Trespasser (video game)
|Release date(s)||October 28, 1998|
|Genre(s)||Action-adventure, first-person shooter|
Trespasser is a video game which was released in 1998 for Microsoft Windows after much hype and anticipation. As targeted, the game's release date coincided with that of the VHS of the film on which it is based, the 1997 film The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The player assumes the role of Anne who is the sole survivor of a plane crash on InGen's "Site B" one year after the events of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. With a fractured arm and only her wits about her, Anne must escape the remote island by solving puzzles and evading dangerous dinosaurs.
The game is noted for the involvement of American producer Steven Spielberg and award-winning British actors Richard Attenborough and Minnie Driver. Trespasser's game engine was advanced for its time and required a fast and powerful computer to adequately display the game's detailed graphics without pixelation artifacts. The ambitious game disappointed many reviewers and has been mocked as "...the worst game of 1998." It is believed this was caused by rushing the game's development to reach the preset release date.
The game opens with John Hammond reading an excerpt from his memoirs. Hammond is a rich industrialist who used his wealth to assemble a scientific team that cloned dinosaurs. Intent on creating an amusement park showcasing his biological attractions, Hammond's park ultimately fails when the dinosaurs escape. While Jurassic Park was built on Isla Nublar, off the coast of Costa Rica, the animals were raised at an alternate location, Isla Sorna, also named "Site B". Trespasser takes place a year after the events of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, where the general public has learned about the existence of Jurassic Park.
The game begins in a dark apartment, where mail is piling up and a phone rings. When it goes to voice-mail, a woman named Jill leaves a message, expressing amazement that Anne (the apartment's resident) had actually gone ahead on a trip to the tropics. The message closes with Jill's comment, "I thought you HATED flying." The scene changes to an unseen person closing and bolting an airplane bathroom door and then the sounds of retching can be heard. The plane suddenly bucks and an apparent malfunction occurs and the plane crashes.
Anne awakens on the shores of an island (apparently the sole survivor of the crash), and proceeds to explore. Anne learns she is on Site B, InGen's dinosaur breeding facility. Pursued by dinosaurs, Anne makes use of weapons left behind to defend herself as she explores. Following a monorail track into the island interior, Anne encounters dinosaurs such as Brachiosaurus, Velociraptor, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus, Parasaurolophus, and Albertosaurus. After recovering security cards from an InGen town, Anne proceeds past a dam and to a large mountain. At the summit, Anne is able to contact the United States Navy on an emergency channel. After defeating the Alpha Velociraptor and its tribe that lives atop the mountain, she is rescued by helicopter. The game closes as Anne returns to her apartment. Jill calls and the message goes to the answering machine, saying she "better have a good damn reason for not calling," Anne wordlessly responds by tossing a raptor claw on her desk.
The entire game is played through the eyes of Anne (voiced by Driver). There are only three cut scenes, one that begins the game and one that concludes the game, and an introductory video. There is occasional orchestral music, scored by Bill Brown. As she traverses the island, Anne will often talk to herself or remember clips of John Hammond's memoirs (voiced by Richard Attenborough) describing the creation (and downfall) of Jurassic Park. There are no time limits or difficulty settings to adjust and only the first level has text prompts to aid players that are new to the game.
This game features no HUD. Anne's health is represented by a heart-shaped tattoo on her breast, that the player can look down to. The ink of the tattoo is filled in depending on the amount of damage she has taken; when it is filled completely and a chain appears around it, Anne dies. Anne's health regenerates quickly over time as long as she does not take further damage. The only way for the player to know how much ammunition is left in a particular weapon is by picking up and then weighing the weapon and specifically saying things such as, "About eight shots," "Feels full," and "Hasn't been used." The game was aiming for a high level of realism, although whether it succeeded has been a matter of much debate, as well as a source of many frustrations. For example, Anne sometimes has difficulty holding onto items without dropping them, to a degree many players describe as wholly unrealistic.
By pressing a key, Anne will extend her arm out in to the game world, allowing the player to pick up, swing, push and throw objects. This allows the player to create improvised weaponry, for instance: picking up a large rock off the ground and hitting an enemy with it. Anne can move her arm in any direction, allowing the player to get a different feel of use for each weapon. However, this feature is extremely cumbersome, as it requires up to five buttons (maximum) to be pressed to fully manipulate the arm (picking up, dropping, moving, swinging, and rotating). This makes utilizing the arm in the heat of battle somewhat frustrating. Anne can only carry two items at once and when bumping into things will often drop items. Further problems with the arm included a contribution to logical flaws in the promoted realistic portions of the game. For example, Anne could drag steel girders that theoretically weighed a ton or more, and swing them around or toss them several feet with little difficulty, but could not use this same arm to pull herself over a 3-foot (0.91 m) high embankment. The wrist is able to rotate 360 degrees several times over and the lack of an elbow often results in erratic and impossible movement.
In addition to picking up objects off the ground to use as weapons, Anne can find and use various other armaments including key cards and diskettes. In situations requiring button input (such as keypads), Anne will extend out one of her fingers. In keeping with the "hyper realistic" vision of the game, firearms have no cross-hairs, causing the player to first align the gun by adjusting Anne's wrist and then manually move her arm to aim at dinosaurs. Due to the non-traditional nature of the controls, inexperienced players may find it difficult to fire their weapons. Anne can carry up to two weapons at a time. Weapons have been made to incorporate realistic recoil, as if being held with two hands. Once each firearm is empty, it serves little use except as a club when swung. Empty weapons cannot be reloaded, and so must be discarded and another one found.
The game was initiated by two former employees of Looking Glass Technologies, Seamus Blackley and Austin Grossman. With the film The Lost World: Jurassic Park expected to be a success and after securing the movie license, the pair approached several movie animation groups before signing with DreamWorks Interactive. Adobe Photoshop 5 and 3D Studio Max were used to produce the game. A 3D model of the island was also built and digitally scanned.
The game had a development period of more than three years. Money was the biggest hurdle in the development of Trespasser and the game went severely over-budget several times throughout its development. Second only to money was time, as the game had to be ready to meet the release of the The Lost World: Jurassic Park film; originally, the game was to be released in the fall of 1997. However, due to a number of problems the project was delayed by a year. The rush to release the game caused many features to be either cut, or left unfinished and unpolished. For instance, due to difficulties coding the behaviour of both arms together developers had to ditch the left arm entirely. A late shift in development effectively changed the game from survival horror to action shooter, and contributed to the many complaints the game received. Lack of experienced management and the use of artists who were unfamiliar with basic game development processes and 3D modeling has also been identified as a cause of problems. Developers struggled for more than two years on some problems and in the end released a game that is set within a very large and open outdoor environment. The main problem was that development started before the 3dfx Voodoo 1 started the move towards 3D hardware. Because of this, some techniques, like the bump mapping and image caching were incompatible with graphics processing units. Near the end of development the programmers developed a renderer that drew bump mapped objects in software and the terrain in hardware, but most objects were bump mapped so the speed advantages of hardware acceleration were negated. Trespasser used many textures for its mip levels and image cache, more than the most highly lauded gaming card of the time, the Voodoo2, could handle, and the game used the lower resolution textures in hardware mode instead of the high resolution ones available in software mode. This led to the strange situation that the game ran faster and looked better in software mode, while running in hardware mode meant the game ran slower and looked worse.
The Trespasser engine was, and in many ways still is, unique. In 1998, it was one of the first engines to successfully portray outdoor environments full of hundreds of trees. Unfortunately, not many computers in 1998 could render the complex environments it generated. The result was the worst clipping one reviewer had ever seen with another finding the game experienced a slowdown and frame rate drops. In addition, the Trespasser engine featured the first game world to be completely influenced by classical mechanics and was also the first game to use ragdoll physics. Perhaps the most advanced feature of the rendering engine was the ability to render objects like trees and rocks as 2D sprites, which, when close enough to Anne, would be replaced by their 3D counterpart. Elements using this technique are known as "impostors". Unfortunately, this often led to an ugly "popping", where a low-resolution object suddenly "pops" into 3D immediately in front of the player. This is especially noticeable when playing the game at higher resolutions. The same kind of rendering technique was used in Shadow of the Colossus and Far Cry, although the latter uses higher resolution sprites and the total draw distance of 3D trees is set further away which has essentially eliminated the "popping" problem. Trespasser was one of the first games to feature bump mapping and specular highlighting, however the effects are not overly apparent due to the lack of dynamic lighting and the fact that many of the models used grayscale versions of the regular textures instead of the displacement maps necessary to take advantage of bump mapping. Additionally, an effect was used to dynamically draw an animated texture to simulate the ripples in pools of water. Trespasser also used height mapping to render a full-sized island (split into chunks due to memory limitations). Level designers would simply provide the Trespasser engine with a black-and-white image that detailed the height of the ground – the closer to white the shade of gray was, the higher the section of land would be elevated. Once a height map was created, objects such as buildings, weapons, dinosaurs and more would be hand-placed in a level. Trespasser features a robust physics system but instead of accurate, per-polygon collisions, Trespasser uses a "Box System", where every object in the game acts as if it is encased in an invisible box. Additionally, Trespasser's physics are based on the Penalty Force Method, in which, when two objects collide – rather than stopping movement, the two objects push away from one another until they are no longer colliding. This makes stacking objects difficult, and standing on top of objects even harder. It also led a great deal to a problem called interpenetration; where two objects will collide and then become stuck inside one another, unable to separate. In the final release the dinosaurs were disallowed from making jump attacks and entering buildings to avoid interpenetration from occurring. One of the most impressive features of Trespasser is a system dubbed by the creators as "Real-Time Foley". Theoretically, the Trespasser engine could produce the sound of any two objects colliding with one another at any speed or distance by dynamically mixing several sounds together on-the-fly. As of 2009, the only other significant game to feature this is Penumbra.
In most PC games, characters have "animations" in the traditional sense: an animator scripts a sequence of movements for the 3D model to do, which are played at specified times. Every animation in Trespasser is done using inverse kinematics. No animation in the game is pre-animated; every movement of every dinosaur is generated automatically through their artificial intelligence. Due to the rushed nature of development, this feature ultimately resulted primarily in awkward movement as the dinosaurs performed unnaturally. Andrew Grant was Trespasser's chief artificial intelligence programmer.Trespasser was designed to have a complex artificial intelligence routine, giving each creature on the island its own set of emotions: fear, happiness, hunger, among many others. Dinosaurs will fight together, enemy to enemy. Dinosaurs would react to the player differently depending on what mood they were in. Unfortunately, system bugs in the artificial intelligence routines made it so that dinosaurs would have drastic mood swings and would switch between mood-based actions so quickly, they would actually stop moving, unable to do anything at all. A quick fix was hard-coded in to the game that locked all dinosaurs’ anger at maximum, leaving all other emotions at zero. This fixed the bug, but also negated all the work the team had done on programming the AI, leaving the dinosaurs ultimately simplistic in their goals.
Before the release of the game, it was announced that Jurassic Park: Trespasser would revolutionize PC gaming. Unfortunately, after the game's release, reviews noted that it "failed to impress". Trespasser was not only a critical but also a commercial failure with only (about) 50,000 copies sold. Reviews of the game were mostly negative, but some reviewers felt the game had positive elements and a few were impressed by the title's originality and scale. Many of the reviewers disliked the poor graphics performance on even the fastest, graphically accelerated PCs available upon the game's release. Despite the anticipation over the many "first attempts at" within the game's original development scope, the reality did not match the hype.
A Computer and Video Games review thought the game was a "dog" and gave it a score of 1 out of 10. A GameSpot review by Elliot Chin described it as the most frustrating game he had ever played with "boring gameplay and annoying bugs". Some of the complaints included the physics engine is needlessly complicating, levels were over-filled with box-stacking puzzles, exploration is tiresome because movement speed is far too slow, landscapes were barren with few dinosaurs, too many collision detection bugs, poor voice acting and a clumsy arm interface. An IGN review was more favourable, describing the plot as "super-intriguing" with high praise for the realism of the game's physics engine. Despite featuring a blocky and heavily pixelated environment that offered limited interaction, the dinosaurs were convincing and "looked and moved really well" and the reviewer felt the game was badly implemented but still ground-breaking. One Game Revolution review described the game's graphical engine as gorgeous with impressive real-time shadows and good water and particle physics. On the downside, the gameplay was very basic with the usual "key-finding, enemy-killing, button-pushing" of the FPS genre and when there was more than one dinosaur on-screen the game slowed considerably. An AllGame reviewer didn't like the bugs and graphical glitches or the slow frame rate but concluded the game was a "ground breaking title that offers some great thrills, challenges, puzzles, and rewarding gameplay". PC Gamer UK thought the game got the atmospherics right. PC Zone felt the game could be quite frightening but that there were too many guns scattered around the island. An Adrenaline Vault review liked the game's originality and some tense moments, but disliked the critically bad flaws such as the slow treks, the lack of a real inventory system, the frustrating interface and there being too many guns lying around.
Computer Gaming World awarded the game "Coaster of the Year". GameSpot included Trespasser as one of nominees for the title of the Most Disappointing Game of the Year ("losing" to Star Wars Rebellion) and gave it the dubious award of the Worst Game of the Year (PC), commenting: "Of all the games released this year, none was as ill-received and terrible as Trespasser. No game was implemented as poorly, and no game squandered its potential as much. No game played as awfully. (...) There's one thing we won't forget: Trespasser was undoubtedly the worst game of 1998."
As time went on, fans got involved into making their own new levels using TresEd, fan-made software that allows the user to edit Trespasser. The fan community was also capable on achieving the original source code to create modifications and unofficial patches. In 2014, based on this available source code, a code review was done by Fabien Sanglard which revealed several design aspects of the game.
Despite lackluster reviews, the game's unique control scheme inspired at least two indie titles. Both the developers of Surgeon Simulator 2013 and the original Octodad have cited the game as a source of inspiration.
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The community has even managed to get hold of the original source code, which they've set to work modifying.
- Patches on trescom.org
- Sanglard, Fabien (2014-06-10). "Jurassic Park: Trespasser CG Source Code Review". fabiensanglard.net. Retrieved 2014-08-13.
- Rose, Mike. "The blissfully awkward controls of Surgeon Simulator 2013". Gamasutra. Retrieved Oct 2, 2014.
- Rose, Mike. "How Octodad turned a group of strangers into best friends". Gamasutra. Retrieved Oct 2, 2014.