During our recent trip to Los Angeles, we attended the world's first presentation on Jurassic World Evolution by Frontier Developments. It took place inside Stage 6 of Universal Studios Hollywood, which was filled with movie props including a Jurassic Park jeep and a giant T-Rex, both laid on especially for the occasion. Before and after our gameplay session, we had plenty of opportunity to talk to developers about their work on the upcoming business simulation game, which is exactly what we did.
As we noticed during our hands-on session, Jurassic World Evolution has similar UI and game mechanics to earlier games by Frontier Developments, such as Zoo Tycoon and Rollercoaster Tycoon 3. According to Michael Brookes (the game director), the game runs on "the same engine [as previous games] but it has been advanced in many places". The game allows the player to construct buildings for research and entertainment for visitors, while the park requires power lines, roads, and monorails to function. You research new dinosaurs to draw new visitors, then you sculpt the terrain to your liking, and you construct enclosures with the appropriate security fences to keep your dinosaurs and visitors safe. The objective of the player is to continuously balance attracting enough visitors to your park, investing profits in the development of new dinosaurs, and investing in safety to protect your park against rampant dinosaurs, power cuts, and natural disasters.
Michael Brookes and Andrew Fletcher (lead designer) told us that several characters provide a narrative to the construction of your park, for example by offering contracts to complete. Dr. Ian Malcolm (played once again by Jeff Goldblum) will function as the player's "conscience" in the game. Fletcher told us "he's sort of a narrator throughout and you'll definitely hear a lot from him throughout the game. [...] If you play more of the missions related to the different divisions, you'll hear more about him and he'll come in more about what's going on." He also stated Malcolm will be the "central character" of the storyline.
When we asked whether any other characters from the Jurassic films will be present, Brookes told us "[they're] not allowed to comment on that at the moment". We did see a couple of other fictional characters that were associated with the park though, such as a military-looking guy as the head of security. We also asked Brookes about the storyline's replayability, to which he replied: "It's not adaptive in the way that you can change it, but you can approach it in different ways."
Your experience playing the game will also change by unlocking new islands of Las Cinco Muertes Archipelago. According to Brookes, "each of the [five] islands has their own kind of mood and challenges associated with it. Then as you progress to other islands you get all of these new challenges; one of them is really narrow and thin so you have to distribute or manage your resources through the island, or there can be violent weather." They "mixed up the visuals and the challenges of the islands," so for example "with the really small island you have to choose which dinosaurs to keep, because there is only so much you have space for." The biggest island, Isla Sorna, is "800,000 m², which is slightly bigger than the entire Planet Coaster map".
So apparently the game's realistic weather effects come into play at the more difficult islands, as they're not only cosmetic but they also damage your park facilities. Heavy rain can impact your fences or cause power cuts that leave your strongest fences unpowered, for instance, and since you can also construct feeding stations with a goat, this means you can recreate that iconic part of the first Jurassic Park film.