When they were first released, Turok and Turok 2: Seeds of Evil really stood out to me as offering a unique experience different from other FPS titles of the time. I can still remember spending countless hours playing Turok at my local Funcoland store! So having the opportunity to work on the remasters of these classic titles was something that I was really eager to do.
Even before I joined Nightdive, I was working on a hobby project that aimed to recreate the original Turok through reverse engineering. It wasn’t anything that I thought that I would ever use, I just wanted to know how the game worked, how the original developers were able to overcome the limitations of the time and how level data was treated. It was a fun learning experience that allowed me to understand the format of the game assets and the compression techniques that they used for animations.
The project also helped me to better understand trigonometry! That hobby project would lead directly into the remaster of Turok. A few months before the PC version was scheduled to be released the original source code was found. I was quite pleased that not much had to be changed. Most of the code that I had written was very close to the original source. The only part that would be rewritten was the AI system.
Before joining Nightdive, I had worked as a level designer at Timegate Studios for seven years. There were some parts of Turok’s level design that just cried out for modernization. I wanted to cut back on the use of hallways, mazes and “cheap shot” traps that were in the original version. Many of these “questionable” level design decisions had been made to overcome the hardware limitations of the time. I have made some modifications in an attempt to improve gameplay. Some areas were redone completely from scratch in favor of better presentation. One example is the second key hub at the beginning of the first level. In tweaking or redoing these areas I have tried to be consistent with the spirit of the original game.
When I started working on Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, I was amazed at how complex the game was under the hood. In particular, I was impressed with the AI, which was brilliant especially for the time. Clearly, this was a very ambitious project. Unfortunately, not all the features could be used. For example, there is unused code for flying enemies, even code for riding a pterodactyl, and code for an advanced star field system. Some parts of the flying AI code are used for the drones in the final boss battle.
Both Turok titles were remastered using our custom KEX engine. There were a few things that I ended up regretting. For one, I got too ambitious with the renderer and ended up wishing that I had kept things simpler. I wanted to figure out how to implement screen-space reflections. It seemed like a really cool idea, and then I found out that it really only looked good on the water scenes. We may end up using this tech on future games.
Developing for the Xbox One was uncharted territory for me. I was pleasantly surprised that the porting of Turok went off without a hitch. For Turok 2, we needed some minor tweaks and optimizations, mostly in the batching level geometry.
All in all, it has been a great experience for our entire team. We have all learned a lot and I am grateful to have been part of bringing the Turok franchise to a new generation of gamers. Stay tuned, we’ll be bringing more classic titles to the Xbox One!