How the Jurassic World Evolution game reunited the original film’s cast

Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern all reprise their roles in the game's Return To Jurassic Park DLC

The Jurassic World Evolution game has been out since June 2018, and now a massive update is coming to the theme-park-building experience that promises to be a real treat for fans of the original Jurassic Park movie: it’s called the ‘Return To Jurassic Park’ DLC, and it will allow players to construct parks in a retro style that matches the aesthetic of the first film.

And here’s the best bit: the developers from Frontier have brought in Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern to voice their original characters of Alan Grant, Ian Malcolm and Ellie Sattler. The DLC will tell its own unique story that follows on from the first Jurassic Park film, and, having heard that, Den Of Geek went along to an event in London to find out exactly how this reunion came together.

We played the DLC for a couple of hours, and found it to be a really fun experience. The gameplay itself is quite addictive, once you’re into the flow, and it is simply joyous to hear the original voice cast back in their iconic roles. Of course, Goldblum is stealing the show again by adding in all of his usual umms and errs. The story sees the original trio returning to Isla Nubar to get it back up and running, and it takes place in a different timeline to the sequel movies.

After finishing our preview session, we sat down with executive producer Rich Newbold. Here’s how it went…

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It’s been about 18 months since Evolution launched, but did you have plans from the start to revisit the original era eventually?

It’s been something we’ve been noodling on for a while, but it’s one of those things that we wanted to do justice to. We didn’t want to just do a small pack, just do a bit of Jurassic Park. We wanted to give ourselves as much time as possible to build as many dinosaurs that we can from the original movies, get all the buildings in, get as many iconic things as possible. We’ve got the signs, the trees, all the voice cast together, and that does take time. So it’s something we’ve been noodling on for a while.

To cast your mind back even further, how did you come to be working on the Jurassic World/Park franchise in the first place?

So I think Universal came to us after the success of Planet Coaster, like, ‘We think you guys are a great studio to build a theme park builder for Jurassic.’ This was between the films, [and Universal said,] ‘So we have Fallen Kingdom coming soon, we think you guys would be great for it, what do you think?’ And, pretty much, Universal asking us to do a Jurassic Park builder is like the ultimate dream.

That must be quite a flattering phonecall to receive.

Yes, definitely. [Laughs]

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And did you get any kind of directions or notes from Universal when you had the idea to go back to the classics?

Yeah, so we kind of go in with like, ‘Here’s what want to be doing’, and then they help collaboratively make that dream real. So there are the guys who are the Universal games side and they are part of Universal films, and we always work together whenever we build some things. Whether it’s Henry Wu or Claire Dearing [who have appeared in previous DLC chapters] or a new dinosaur, we always work together on the updates to make them as authentic as possible and as much Jurassic as possible.

So once we started the ball rolling on doing Jurassic Park, we worked with them to make all our dinosaurs – like we get assets or pictures, as much as possible, when they make a film, so that we can make things look exactly the same. So we’re not just using movie records, we’re also using maquettes or anything that they built at the time.

And they’ve also been quite helpful in getting some of the voice cast together, as well, which is something that we probably wouldn’t have been able to do without Universal’s help. Because, when we’ve got the whole weight of Universal Studios, it makes it a bit easier when you go to someone like Sam or Jeff or Laura saying ‘do you want to do a voice in a video game?’ It helps, having them on board, and it’s always been great working with them.

Let’s talk about having these amazing cast members, then. It must have been the ultimate wish-fulfilment as a fan to have the original three stars reunited and working on your game?

It really was. I thought it couldn’t get any better than working with Jeff, when we did the Jeff sessions for the main game, because I was like, ‘this is it, this is good, this is something you’ve always wanted.’ And then getting Sam involved and Laura, as well, it’s been so great just to have all three of them be their the characters again.

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And working with them in the VO studios and them going through the lines, working collaboratively to make sure that we’re being as authentic as possible to that character. Because we can write something and the writers can write something, but these actors know these characters well, they’ve been playing them a few times now. They have an idea of what the character would say or would be feeling in the character’s context. It’s an original story set after the film, so they kind of channel the feelings that they think Alan and Ellie and Ian would be feeling at that point in time. They’ve been so great to work with. It’s been brilliant.

And recently, of course, the film side has announced that they’re bringing the three of them back for the next Jurassic World movie, as well. Were you aware that they had been working on that? Did they mention it while helping you with your project?

So we kind of get a heads-up about some of these things. So as we were working with them, trying to to get all these three actors together, [we asked] ‘can you help up with that?’ [And they told us that] ‘There are conversations happening with the film team, we’ll do our best.’ We get told some things, so we knew it was coming. It’s something that we’re excited about – we’re going to do it in our video game, and then to see it happening when the movie comes out is gonna be really good.

It almost makes it cooler, doesn’t it? You know they wanted to do it, but you get to do it first.

[Laughs] I don’t know about that, but we’re making a video game based around their IP and that’s great. And just to be able to get them together has just been so good – it’s the first time they’ve all been together since the first film, so it was a really cool thing for us.

And did you manage to get them all in a room together?

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We tried so hard to try and get some time in their schedules between, because they’re always really busy people. Even just with Jeff, his schedule, there’s so much stuff like jazz, or being on the BBC, or doing something else, being in actual movies – its ridiculous. And Sam’s in New Zealand doing his own thing. It’s been really difficult to get them all together. We were so close – I think one day we had Jeff, and then Laura the day after. But we just couldn’t quite get any of them in a room together. We tried so much because we wanted to do do something – it’s better to have them record all together. We tried so hard for months to try and do it. It just doesn’t quite work out sometimes. We’re sad that we didn’t, but it’s been so great, because what we do is we record one [actor] and then we play those sessions to the others. We try to fake it as much as possible as though they’re in the room.

It feels like, with Jeff especially, you can write a line for him but you can never quite account for the way he’s going to say it. Is that right?

Jeff has a great personality and that shines through in what he brings as Ian Malcolm. We found with Jurassic World Evolution that he brings his own ‘Jeff’ to the character, which is great, because it always makes for such good content. You hear it in the stuff that he delivers: he brings this wit and sarcasm and tone to it. It’s all so Jeff Goldblum, and that’s really good.

You mentioned, as well, that this is an original story set after the original film. Do you have to worry about things like the wider canon, or are you off on your own?

Kind of. So with Jurassic World Evolution, we’ve always had this… the term we always use is ‘weird sideways timeline’. Because we’re not a Jurassic World canon game, because obviously the events of Jurassic World happen on Nublar, and in the game that’s one of the islands you build on. You build on all five. So we kind of kept everything slightly different, but we use the characters and some of the story beats in the narrative. We do our own thing with it, like with Doctor Henry Wu, we did our own thing that isn’t considered movie canon.

There are conversations, but we want to do an original story because that gives us all the freedom. One of the key things about a park-builder is building a park, and with Jurassic Park, we wanted to be able to give players the ability to build Jurassic Park, fulfil that, and actually do it. And we realised that, in the film, John Hammond never does that – the venture always fails, and then Masrani takes over a long time later. So, we realised the best way for us to do it is to build an original story, set after the film, because then you can go back and see the devastation from the storm, you get the raptors out, we go back to the visitor centre. It’s the best place that gives us that feeling of Jurassic Park, like what happened there, as well as giving us some freedom to try our own thing. Players get to build Jurassic Park and open it up, as well. And we managed to get people to go to Sorna, even though it’s set in between the first film and The Lost World, so we kind of us as much as we can from those films.

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In terms of changing the gameplay to match the Jurassic Park era instead of the Jurassic World era, what are some of the tools you’ve given or taken away from players for this DLC?

We changed the way that the buildings worked in our parks. Instead of everything being different… like, we don’t have explicit Expedition, Fossil and Research centres. It’s all done by the Visitor Centre, which is just one building. And that’s because we wanted to, kind of, make it aesthetically fit better with John Hammond’s way that Jurassic Park was going to build – Here’s the one hub that everything is done from. So we changed it to be like that. And we changed the way the tour works, as well, so those kind of things. And we’ve added restrooms and ‘Ranger Danger’ in this update, as well.

That Ranger Danger feature, where your staff can get attacked while they’re trying to fix things, is so core to Jurassic Park isn’t it?

Yeah, so that was one of those things. We don’t have the helicopters in Jurassic Park. In Jurassic World Evolution, they [the people in the helicopters] do all the tranquilising. They don’t have to deal with the terror. In Jurassic Park, they didn’t really have helicopters flying around with guns, ready for something to go wrong. It was all done by the ranger teams. So we added the functionality that wasn’t helicopters [it’s now done with jeeps, instead]. Then we wanted to add new peril to that, because it’d be a bit strange if these can now shoot dinosaurs, but dinosaurs don’t really react. Ranger Danger is a balance for that, so there’s now conflict between you being in the enclosures more and trying to tranquilise dinosaurs when things go wrong.

And finally, can I just ask who does your voice of Hammond? It’s so spot on!

If I told you that we reanimated a dead man, would you believe me?

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[Laughs] Yeah, we found this mosquito…

[Laughs] Oh man, that was so obvious! It was right there! Why didn’t I use that?

Again, that’s one of the benefits of talking to Universal. So we talked to Universal and said, ‘We want to have the principal voice cast, but we’d really love to have John Hammond, because he’s the fulcrum of all of that. He’s the reason that Jurassic Park exists. How have you guys solved this problem before? Do you have anybody that you’d recommend?’

And they have already solved this problem by having different Jurassic Park properties that use a voice actor called Mackenzie Gray. He plays John Hammond in all of their stuff. And we’re like, ‘Great, can you help us connect with him?’ And it’s like, yep. And he just came in and just went [clicks fingers], he just nailed it. It’s like, ‘Oh, wow. He’s just so perfect.’ We have a Scot in the office and he’s like, ‘Yep, he’s definitely got this accent perfect.’ He’s a Canadian guy, but yeah, it was really good.

Jurassic World Evolution is out now for PS4, Xbox One and Windows PC. The ‘Return To Jurassic Park’ DLC launches on 10 December.

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