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Talking with Maxwell Wood of dino-tycoon simulator, Mesozoica

Game designer, Maxwell Wood, discusses simulator story lines, dinosaurs, and why the player is central to Mesozoica.

Mesozoica is an upcoming tycoon simulator being funded through Kickstarter. It is being called the "Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis spiritual successor" and Maxwell Wood, the game designer of this passion project, is clearly excited about the future. Wood delves into several aspects of not only the game itself, but also how to keep players coming back for more.

"Mezozoica is a tycoon simulator in it's base core... It puts you on a journey in a world that is in love with this concept of a prehistoric theme park." Wood explains that you begin as tycoon manager with a basic concept and minimal funds to create your vision. You grow up with the park.

"It's a journey in a sense that you start off with less and in the end game you have tons of money, you have all the dinosaurs you want, you have prehistoric creatures out the wha-zoo, you have excavated ridiculous skins, zebra skins, you have a pink T-Rex, but at the end of the day, you have all these options." 

Hardships do arise. As the manager, you must deal with not only financial limitations, but also employees who don't respect you, lawsuits, several different companies, and natural disasters. While most tycoons don't feature a story, Wood feels that it is one of Mezosoica's best attributes.  Their approach to the tycoon simulator genre was to create an attachment previously unseen in other simulators. And a great and engaging game, according to Wood, requires a great story to accompany it.

As far as the mechanics, the team strove for familiarity in controlling the world. Based on a grid system, creating your park is easier in all maneuvers from rotating fences to placing items. Wood explains that the best and most challenging aspect for maneuverability in tycoon simulators is the problem of aquatic and areal animals. However their solution to this problem (also seen in previous games such as Operation Genesis) is buoys and towers . These buoys and towers ping off of the animals to keep them within theparameters. 

Arial tower

Aquatic buoy

These designs are based on fan desires and community suggestions. The Mesozoica community, Wood hopes, will continue to expand and grow along with the game itself. The fan community is the biggest and most important facet of Mesozoica. Thus, the gameplay mechanics, the immersion, and the concept itself are made for the players, not the developers. (And perhaps why you can get feathers on everything and a pink skin for your T-Rex).

"We do have a button, an 'open paddock 9', that's like, 'sorry buddy, you just have to make it to the next exit, or you're done.'"

Although customization is a huge facet to Mesozoica, it is natural to assume that players of tycoons will eventually want some mayhem to accompany their perfect park. So Wood explains that once the park is perfect and running smooth, players can play as a dinosaur and test the park's safety integrity. If the park is overpopulated, what better way to thin it out than to release a few raptors?

After the players have done everything, how do you keep players playing? This is a problem all development teams face. Wood's answer: Perspective. Wood explains,

"Not only are we going to give you the standard manager tycoon... a visitor from the first person perspective that can walk through your park...but yes, the one thing everyone is going crazy about, playing as a dinosaur...it's you being on the other side of the fence... an opportunity to play as the "villainous" perspective. Players at some point will have built this massive park, now let's experience it through the different perspectives. They're going to go on every single little ride, and they're gonna go up in the towers, and they're gonna view everything from those perspectives and they're going to say, 'Well that was great. What now?' And our answer to 'What now?' is, 'Well, let's see you escape it.' Let's see if you can outsmart what you've built for the past 48 hours...We already have the Allosaurus' controller built."

Wood handpicked the whole development team, Underdog Interactive, himself. Mesozoica is a side project that he (and his team) hope(s) to make into a bigger reality. He explains that the team is very close and have been through a lot, that it's not only his passion but also the whole team's. 

At this point, Mesozoica is just waiting on Kickstarter for the UI and the finalized version for everything to get accomplished. Wood's message to the backers:

"You're not going to just be a fan, you're part of the Mesozoica family and that means more than just someone sitting on the other side of the computer. We respect you for the time you put into making art, for being a part of the project. We want to thank you for being on the forums, being engaged, giving us feedback, and being apart of this community, this family. That allows us to make something that's truly special...This isn't money or time based, it's entirely passion and feedback based. It's entirely between fans and developers and you're not going to get that anywhere else. We're all working on it together."

Mesozoica is still in the Kickstarter process and has yet to reach their goal. Wood and his team are determined to see the project through to fruition. However, only time will tell if it becomes a reality for them. Underdog Interactive, has worked on this game over the past 5 months and, if successful, will relase Mesozoica for PC. Currently, the project is in the alpha and bug testing phase. You can find more info about Mesozoica through their Kickstarter (in the widget) and through Steam Greenlight.

Published Sep. 16th 2015

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