We’ve been playing the new Dominion Malta Expansion for Jurassic World Evolution 2 this past week, and have come away impressed. So much so that we wanted to reach out to the team at Frontier to find out more about what’s gone into the development of this expansion and the Jurassic World Evolution games. Here are our thoughts on the game, as well as some exclusive developer insights.
As with other expansion packs, the Dominion Malta expansion features new buildings and animals, the most eye-catching of which is probably the Atrociraptor that also featured prominently in the most recent film. These aren’t the biggest draws for the expansion though – that’s the fact that is comes with a brand new and original campaign that more or less acts as a prequel to the film.
Taking place on Malta, you’re setting up a new facility in a multi-tiered story that’s set across different islands. For a DLC pack at this price point, the campaign offers a 14+ hour ride, so it offers great value for money – further enhanced by the production values. In addition to the usual high standards of the visuals, this expansion is also fully voiced by many of the actors from the film, including Campbell Scott, Omar Sy and DeWanda Wise. Combine that with the fact that it ties in well with the events in Dominion, and you’re pretty much playing through a story that’s entirely canon and exclusive to Jurassic World Evolution 2 players – a pretty exciting prospect for franchise fans like ourselves. Needless to say, we wanted to know more, and here’s what we heard from game director Rich Newbold at Frontier.
Jurassic World Evolution was the first time that Frontier worked with a AAA film franchise. How did that change the development process for the studio?
Working with the games and digital platforms teams at Universal Studios and the teams behind the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World franchises has been really positive from start to finish. The process itself generally follows a traditional development path where we design the game and its contents but work with our partners at Universal on certain aspects of it for approval and guidance.
We work closely with them so that the vision of what we at Frontier can create as a dinosaur park management game sits perfectly within the franchise as an authentic experience. That ranges from ensuring the dinosaurs we create look, move and sound as true to the films as possible, to how we’re presenting the motives of any of the iconic characters from the films which appear in the game, plus lots of other moving pieces relating to the franchise. Universal also provide help in reaching out to the amazing actors from the films that we want to include, reprising their roles as part of our original campaign narratives.
Where a game like Planet Zoo can build on real life examples for the animals they’re recreating, you can’t study real dinosaurs – how do you go about creating their look and animations?
All the dinosaurs in Jurassic World Evolution 2 are authentic to Jurassic World, and we’re lucky to have plenty of on-screen inspiration. But for dinosaurs never seen before we research the available fossil finds and scientific data. We then concept versions that will feel true to Jurassic World visually, and then move into a 3D modelling stage, followed by materials and texturing. At all stages, we iterate on the designs to ensure our dinosaurs look and behave in realistic ways.
You’ve worked with several of the actors from the film franchise already – how did that come about and what does a collaboration like that look like?
Working with all the actors reprising their iconic roles again was a great experience, especially those I remember from my childhood such as Sam Neill and Laura Dern- they’ve been incredible. All of the actors worked alongside ourselves and the writer to ensure that the characters were true to the decades of experience they have playing them.
There’s an incredible logistical challenge which our team, the recording studios and the talent themselves all help achieve when it comes to producing the content, and I cannot praise everyone enough for bringing everything together. Especially during the pandemic, when we had to record the actors in various non-traditional remote places. It was definitely an experience, especially recording Laura Dern in a room with her wardrobe hanging up nearby. She mentioned it was the same setup used for the ADR for Dominion and if it was good enough for that, it was good enough for us!
The new Dominion Malta Expansion is set up like a prequel of sorts to the latest film – what was the creative process for that like?
The team and myself identified the types of narratives or stories set in and around Jurassic World Dominion that we felt were perfect fits for Jurassic World Evolution 2 or our Expansions, and we worked with Universal on how the story and characters could weave together. With the Dominion Malta Expansion, we felt those incredible scenes in the middle of the movie were a great opportunity to dive more into the shadier side of dinosaurs now being out in the world.
We then reached out to those amazing actors to see if they’d like to be a part of that. We work with a writer, John Zuur Platten, who has for years been writing incredible scripts for us on Jurassic World Evolution 1 and 2 to bring it to the page and then to life in the recording studios.
Everyone over a certain age remembers the “oohs” and “aahs” when they first saw dinosaurs walk around in Jurassic Park. As developers, what have been some of the “wow” moments when you started seeing your work come to life on the screen?
Anything to do with the Tyrannosaurus Rex has been a highlight for me. The first time it came out of a hatchery, the first time it roared, or the first time I saw it eat a goat. We’re all massive dinosaur fans and we all really enjoy seeing a concept or seeing a behaviour for a new dinosaur for the first time. Those always elicit squeals of delight and laughter.
What are some of the (story) mechanics that players can look forward to in the new Malta expansion?
The campaign is set before the events of Jurassic World Dominion; you will lead a brand-new enterprise in Malta. Work alongside key figures from the film, including Kayla Watts, Soyona Santos, Barry Sembène and Lewis Dodgson as you set up parks across three new Mediterranean locations. New species can be acquired via the Dinosaur Exchange, where you’ll also be able to find eggs and genomes. You’ll also be required to work with both the Underground and Authorities, building trust with these organisations via various actions to unlock further opportunities such as hatchery upgrades, locations, and more!