By oraknabo 20 Comments
To his credit, Spielberg as involved with the early Medal of Honor games and Boom Blox (one of the best Wii games in my opinion) but almost everything else he has touched, especially movie promotion games have been terrible.
It all starts with E.T., for which he personally chose Howard Scott Warshaw, the creator of Yar's Revenge (still thought of as one of the best Atari games ever), but the studio only gave him 6 weeks to complete the game. After a lot of hyped marketing, the result was considered one of the worst flops in game history, even singled out as one of the primary reasons for the 1983 video game crash that, if it wasn't for the NES 2 years later, nearly destroyed the entire console industry. Today, thanks to the internet, most people know the story of E.T. and the mythical Atari cart landfill but Spielberg eventually had another flop that, while it didn't threaten to take an entire industry with it, seems bigger in some ways.
A decade and a half later came the second Jurassic Park movie. Both movies spawned a few average-quality console side scrollers, an arcade lightgun shooter and even a Primal Rage-style fighting game, but when Spielberg and Dreamworks decided to make a PC game they again targeted top-shelf talent by recruiting Looking Glass employees who had worked on System Shock and Thief to do somethig different. They put Seamus Blackley in charge, a physics grad who had worked at Fermilab in the early 90s and handled the physics engine for Flight Unlimited (and later convinced Microsoft to go into the console business). The team hyped the game as a living ecosystem full of realistic physics puzzles and super-advanced AI, but when the final product was released, it was savaged by critics almost as brutally as E.T. had been.
The game turned out to be ugly, awkward, bug-riddled and--due to memory constraints and bad planning--seriously lacking in dinosaurs, but even with all its faults, you can't call Trespasser unambitious. Years before Half-Life 2 this was THE physics game (and a big influence on Half-Life 2). Before Far Cry it was completely set outside on an island. It was also one of the first games to completely do away with the HUD. Honestly, for most people who hadn't played System Shock and Ultima Underworld at this point, the height of game world interaction was probably flushing toilets in Duke Nukem.
In 2005, Spielberg tried again with the Looking Glass guys one more time, getting Doug Church and a few others to work on his secret EA project LMNO. This might have been promising, but probably not, because the project was scrapped after 5 years of work.
I think of all the Jurassic Park games I've played, the best is Operation Genesis, a theme park sim for the PS2 that came out of nowhere, years after the last movie in the series was released. Now there's Telltale's new adventure, which looks like the biggest misstep the company's ever made, but I'm wondering just how bad it really is and if anyone has played both the new game and Trespasser can comment on which one is really the bigger disappointment.
I played the first Part of the Walking Dead and thought it was excellent. It's too bad that Telltale's Jurassic Park game seems like the test subject that taught them what not to do with this kind of game. I'm sure even they are wishing that they could go back and apply those lessons to fixing it.
On a similar note, I think a really good remake of Trespasser could be made with current tech. Some kind of combination of Crysis's island detail, Amnesia's physics and Dinosaur AI on the level of Stalker or FEAR seems to me like it could make for a pretty incredible game.
Edit: the Angry Video Game Nerd has some pretty good coverage of the old console JP games, just skip to 8:56 if you don't want to see Jaws and Hook for the NES--