Jurassic June has passed, but the influx of fan projects continues. Last week, we discussed Jurassic World: Exodus – a fantastic fan film coming soon. Now, today, we are delighted to be discussing another awesome fan project which is in the works – Jurassic Explorer: Season 2. We’re going to jump straight into an interview I got to do with Michael Pearce, the lead developer on the project, and then I’ll give you my thoughts at the end of this article. Let’s get in to it.
Tom: So, Michael – for anyone who isn’t familiar with you, how did you get into Jurassic Park?
Michael: Hi there, Tom. My name is Michael Pearce. I'm a 3D Environment Artist and lead developer for Jurassic Explorer. Like many of you, I grew up watching Jurassic Park as a kid. I think the first time I watched it was when I was around 4 years old. The dinosaurs of course were a huge part of the experience but even back then, then locations and 'Park' side of things always interest me greatly. Back then I believed Jurassic Park was a real park I could visit and I think that in part is one of the reasons Jurassic Explorer is so special to me now.
Tom: And what exactly is the ‘Jurassic Explorer’ project?
Michael: Jurassic Explorer is a free fan project made by a small team of dedicated and growing artists. It lets guests explore an accurate 3D recreation of the park and locations from the movie Jurassic World. We released Jurassic Explorer at the end of 2017 with many fans left wanting more, so we've been hard at work on what we call "Season 2" which is the next step in Jurassic Explorer.
Tom: What made you decide to set Explorer within the Jurassic World Timeline, as opposed to that of Jurassic Park?
Michael: There was a quote from Colin (Trevorrow) that was said a ton during interviews, something like "I want kids to believe this park, to look at it and say, 'That's real, right? We can go there?". I think bringing that vision to life was so important to me because I felt like that as a kid about Jurassic Park. For the first time in the franchise the park is open and public, it was only natural to choose Jurassic World as a real park for people to explore.
Tom: The first season of Explorer was a massive feat – how many hours went into recreating Isla Nublar?
Michael: Haha - I wish I knew how many hours went into Season 1! I began development on Season 1 around September 2016 and pretty much put in work nearly every day right up until release which was November 28th 2017. So, it took just under a year of full development to complete Season 1.
Tom: The first season also featured lots of Jurassic World areas not seen on screen. How hard was it finding source material? Did a lot boil down to creative vision?
Michael: That's correct, a lot of areas you can explore in Season 1 we really didn't get quite a good look of it from the movie. It's one of the reasons I created Jurassic Explorer, was to explore the park as if it were a real place. The thing is, the CGI and sets they built for Jurassic World (especially Main street) are incredibly detailed. It took a TON of reference photos from all kinds of angles and behind the scenes footage, but I eventually pieced everything together. What you see in Jurassic Explorer is movie accurate, the only time we've had to use our own creative control is when we don’t get a close enough view of the smaller details on things like CGI-Only stuff. We fill those details in with our own vision. But the shape, the buildings, the locations, all that is movie accurate.
Tom: What can fans expect from Jurassic Explorer Season 2?
Michael: Season 2 is a HUGE upgrade from Season 1 in every way. Nearly twice the amount of new locations, including one of my favourite locations being the Gyrosphere Valley. We have a new shop system which lets players collect in-game coins and spend them on ways to customize your Main Street. For the first time ever we've also got a little background story going on which focuses on Mr. DNA. It's a story that's very close to our hearts and has become very fun and creative as development continues. Unlike our first season, Season 2 truly feels 'complete'. It has an ending, it has progression, it should keep players active and playing for some time and its crazy how much we've managed to learn and pack into Season 2 in such a short dev time.
Tom: What was the hardest thing to create in Season 2?
Michael: The hardest thing to create in Season 2, that's hard to say. We have a lot of locations which focus heavily on trees/plants. This season we're using 'Speedtree' for our environment trees which look fantastic! but trees and plants, making them look like a jungle, is still the hardest part for me as an Environment Artist. There's been lots of challenges along the way in Season 2, especially on the programming side. We have Dinosaur AI for the first time ever and that's been full of tweaking, testing, fixing. Of course, we also have our Shop System too which is probably one of our most complex systems in Jurassic Explorer. All in all, these challenges have helped us all learn and become better developers which is exactly why we started Jurassic Explorer
Tom: Can we expect a Season 3 to be in development afterwards?
Michael: Season 2 is a complete experience on its own. I’ve made sure that whether there's a Season 3 or not, that players will be happy and satisfied with Season 2 and especially with the way it ends. I'd love to one day return for a Season 3 but it all comes down to how Season 2 is received. We've come to a point as developers where we want to branch out and start working on our own IP, we've got to find the right time to say "Okay, it’s time to work on something new". Either way, you guys will be the first to know if it happens.
Jurassic Explorer Season 2 releases in August this year as a free download on their Gamejolt page, which you can find here.
I really appreciate Michael lending us his time to talk about Jurassic Explorer Season 2 – it is looking fantastic! Season 1 was a lot of fun, with many fans praising the level of detail it went to capture iconic, familiar locations from Jurassic World. I know I personally had a lot of fun with it! Season 2 takes things to a whole new level, and is looking phenomenal. But – don’t just take my word for it! Enjoy some exclusive screenshots of the upcoming Season 2, found below along with the Season 2 trailer.
Did you guys play Jurassic Explorer Season 1? What did you think? Leave us a comment or tweet us – and we’ll catch you in our next article very, very soon!
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