We talk to Primal Carnage assistant producer, Garrett Austin, to discuss the Jurassic-inspired multiplayer game, and how exactly you go about balancing humans versus dinosaurs.
What sparked the idea for Primal Carnage?
We all watched Jurassic Park when we were younger, and we always really wanted to play as dinosaurs in a videogame, but nobody really made the game that we wanted to play. So I think the idea for Primal Carnage was we wanted to make that dinosaur game that everybody wanted but nobody made.
What led to the decision to make it dinosaurs vs. humans? Was it that Jurassic Park tie-in where the humans enter the park and had to deal with the dinosaurs?
I think it’s more to do with the fact that it’s just fun to hunt down humans as dinosaurs, or as a Raptor, or as a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It’s an awesome feeling. We could’ve done dinosaurs versus dinosaurs, but I think that it’s more easy for people to relate with humans.
We also have that asymmetrical difference where it’s humans from the first-person perspective and dinosaurs from the third-person perspective, which is a very interesting balance. If you look at games like Team Fortress 2, they have a certain amount of classes, but it’s the same classes on the other side of the battle, whereas ours is completely asymmetrical, ’cause there’s the Dilophosaurus that can spit acid, blind people, bite people, poison over time. There’s also a guy who can shoot his net gun and trap dinosaurs, run up to them, and knife them. It’s just an interesting dynamic.
What kind of challenges did you guys face in creating a balanced experience? You would think humans wouldn’t match up at all.
The balance was one of the most difficult things with Primal Carnage. And that’s, honestly, something that we spent, probably, the most time in development. We just have been constantly balancing classes: balancing, balancing, balancing. But one of the things we did was we implemented the classes one-by-one. We started off with the idea that we wanted five classes on each side. We had everything written down on paper, but we never really programmed all of them at once. So we weren’t playing with, like, ten broken classes.
The first class we started off with was the Raptor. It was the first dinosaur we designed, and then the Commando was the first human that we designed. So initially it was just the Raptor versus the Commando and then we added in the Scientist, who’s kind of like this sniper in the game. She has a sniper rifle and a tranquilizer dart-gun. We added her in and the Tyrannosaurus Rex. We focused on getting the balance between two specific classes done, and then we would say ‘Okay, that’s fun. Let’s add two more to the mix. Okay, that’s fun. Let’s add two more to the mix.’ And then we eventually got them all in, which is incredibly rewarding once we finally got it done.
So how did you go about creating a believable situation between dinosaurs and humans?
One of the things we really focused on was animations. So if you look at the dinosaur animations they’re very, I wanna say, life-like, but obviously none of us have ever seen a dinosaur move. But when you watch the animations, they move as you would expect them to. The animations aren’t stiff, they’re very fluid, they just look natural.
And that’s one of the things we really focused on with the dinosaurs: making everything feel natural. So when you play as the Raptor, he’s kind of like a platforming class. I mean, a lot of people see him as like a scout or like an assault class, but what a lot of people would notice about him is that he runs and jumps very, very high. So, whenever I play the Raptor, I’ll jump on top of a building, and sort of stalk people from above. The entire movement of the Raptor when you’re sprinting, running, jumping, pouncing on people is all very believable.