Announced during Gamescom, Frontier Developments continues to spread its wings and bring its games to an increasingly diverse range of platforms. Top of the studio's to-do list is to finish the process of porting Jurassic World Evolution to the Nintendo Switch, with the studio planning on bringing a Complete Edition of the game to the portable platform, allowing all you dino-park builders to take a definitive version of the game with you on the go.
With Frontier bringing the dino park builder to Switch, we caught up with the game's director Rich Newbold and, during our chat over Zoom, we were able to ask him about all aspects of the game and what players can expect from the port.
GR: What's the thing that you're most excited about in terms of people getting their hands on the game on Switch?
RN: For me, it was bringing the entire Jurassic World Evolution collection, as it were, the base game, all of the updates that we've done, every single piece of DLC we've released, to players and to that community, in one package, in a Complete Edition - hence the name! And also bringing it to a new audience and a new platform; they're a big community of players that predominantly play on the Nintendo Switch alone, and for me, it's getting the quality of the game that we're doing to a whole new audience. It's a new way to play with the Nintendo Switch; you can take it out with you - we used to commute to work but now we don't do that, but now you go sit in a park and play on your Switch instead.
But for me, it was about bringing it to a new audience and a new way to experience the game as well; it's completely different, for me anyway, it's an experience different from sitting at my PC or on the couch, having that portable aspect.
What were the challenges of bringing the game to the Switch from a technical perspective?
The technical challenge was: everything. My objective was to make sure that the parity between this version and the versions you see [on PC and console] graphically was as high and as close as possible. So I wanted to make sure that the dinosaurs are still the stars of the show; they are the thing that you look at and go "wow, this looks amazing". So for me, it was making sure that the dinosaurs still had that "wow" moment, that sense of awe that you get from the other versions of the game and the film.
Going across the game, we sliced it horizontally, as it were, and asked every department to look at their parts of the game and optimise it for the Nintendo Switch hardware. So the audio team looked at different codex and plugins to find different ways to optimise what they were doing with their audio for the dinosaurs and the park, changing the way their emitters work. The code team looked at a lot of the gameplay-code and all the things we're doing on the gameplay-side and optimised all that stuff. The art team went and looked at every building and dinosaur and looked to see if there was ways to eke out optimisations and improvements to make it work on Nintendo Switch.
It is technically challenging hardware compared to what we had before, but the code team especially loves a challenge. They love the fact that it was a known end goal; we know what the hardware is and they know what we had before, we just need to find solutions to get there. It was good to see them keen to tackle that as opposed to some of the other challenges we had in the game's development.
Did you have to make any compromises when porting the game over?
Yeah, we did have some challenges and some compromises. The challenge of having the complete edition was having the opportunity.. you could have lots of things in your levels at once. So for us, it was looking at what our options were, how we tackled a solution and choosing ones that looked as good as possible but might offer the optimisations as well. I might have to come back to you with specifics, though.
What can you tell us about how you've adapted the UI for the handheld console, and about any differences between playing handheld and docked?
So we looked into the touch screen functionality of the Switch and we looked at what we wanted to achieve with the game. We wanted to make sure that the appearance was the same across all platforms, and we found that if we added touch screen functionality, it's going to change the way that players input with the direct controls, the ACU, the ranges, and a lot of the UIs would need to be reimplemented and redesigned. So we made sure that we took the UI that we had on the base game, put that in the Nintendo Switch version, and then we looked at how it held up in the handheld version and on the docked version on the consoles, and obviously we already had a console version already, so that worked out. We looked at the handheld version and worked on it as we put it on, so didn't have to make any changes to the way the UI worked for the handheld version. We tailored it to work in both situations, so it's always the best experience; it's just about which one you want to choose, whether it's handheld or docked.
Did you add anything new, maybe gameplay tweaks or minor revisions that someone who has played the game before might notice?
It's the complete experience so: everything we've done on the PC and console versions, bundled up in one package for the Nintendo Switch. One thing that is slightly different, actually it is a compromise now I'm thinking about it, is because we had so many dinosaurs available to players, we had to make some tweaks to the number of dinosaurs you can have at once in your park. We wanted to make sure the experience is as optimal as possible, so there is a cap of 100 dinosaurs, which is still a tremendous amount of dinosaurs at once in your park ... That's one of the nuances that is different in the Switch version and the others.
How do you access the side content? Is it all unlocked from the start?
It's exactly the same as it is on the console version, so on the main menu, the player has access to the base Jurassic World Evolution campaign. The Secrets of Doctor Wu is a side-story inside that, so that's accessed by playing the main campaign and then going to the different islands. Claire's Sanctuary and Return to Jurassic Park are accessible from the main menu, as they are on the PC and console versions; they're already locked, you don't need to have played the main campaign to access those, although we do advise it because the main campaign has the tutorial and the help screens to get you into the gameplay loops. And all the dinosaurs are available through the natural unlocks as well, but they're all there from the start for players to access once they've unlocked them.
I was going to ask if you had any Nintendo-themed dinosaurs in mind, but I'm not sure Yoshi is a good fit, so let's leave it there. Thanks for your time!
Jurassic World Evolution: Complete Edition is heading to Nintendo Switch on November 3, at which point we'll all be able to take our prehistoric park building with us wherever we go, even on the loo. Just don't be like this guy!