Interview with producer Jim Tso (October
Harrison Ford has a new Indiana Jones role - but it likely
won't be splashed across the screen at your local movie
theatre. Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb is a globe-trekking
adventure in the classic movie style, but the target is
game players, not movie fans (unless, of course, they also
happen to be game players). Slated for release in the spring
of 2003 on the Xbox, PlayStation2 and PC platforms, Emperor's
Tomb promises the same broad action strokes of former games,
but with some new features which greatly improve the look
and play of the series. Foremost, Harrison Ford's face has
been planted on the video version of Indiana Jones. And
Indy sports a new look when it comes to fighting as well.
The storyline involves the search for a powerful artifact
known as the "Heart of the Dragon." Indy begins the adventure
by traveling to China in 1935. But the adventure also takes
players to the jungles of Ceylon, the underwater palaces
in Istanbul and the streets of Hong Kong. Along the way
Indy will have to battle Nazis and Asian underworld characters.
Jim Tso, a producer at LucasArts, talked with GameZone about
the new Indiana Jones title.
Question: Saw the demo of this game at E3, and the
first thing that was both surprising and wonderful at the
same time was the face of Indiana Jones. For the first time
in the game's history, it is the face of Harrison Ford.
How hard was this to pull off, frame-after-frame, in the
Jim: "It was fairly difficult, our art director
spent a huge amount of time working with scans of Harrison's
face and getting those into the game. The power of these
new systems has really given us the ability to make an Indy
game that's closer to the movies."
Question: In designing a franchise game like this,
is there a rule book that must be followed, or you can do
just about anything you wish to? If there are rules, can
you give us an example of what they might be?
Jim: "We're allowed a lot of freedom but there some
guidelines that we have to follow. We had to make sure that
our story didn't conflict with anything else already established
in the Indiana Jones timeline."
Question:Indy pulls out a whole new series of moves
and fighting styles in this game. Tell us a little bit about
the new moves. Where they motion-capture or solid animation?
What was the toughest move to render?
Jim: "All the moves in the game, both Indy's and
his foes, are hand animated. The Collective has some amazing
animators and they did an amazing job with Indy and the
Question: What kind of game engine does this game
use, and what advantages did you reap from using it?
Jim: "The game is based on an enhanced version of
the Slayer engine, which was used for The Collective's earlier
game, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Using an existing engine
provided a lot of advantages. Instead of spending a lot
of time and resources to develop something from scratch,
the team could quickly prototype and test game levels. In
turn, this really allowed us to focus on improving the game
play and adding new features. For example, instead of building
a fighting engine from scratch, the team was able to focus
on different fighting styles for Indy's opponents. There
are also a ton of new features such as Indy's whip, rope
climbing, traps, puzzles, and even vehicle interaction."
Question: Indy travels around the world on this
quest. What resource did you use for creating the environments
for the various locations?
Jim: "A variety of resources were used, including
reference material from the actual countries."
Question: This game is being released on three different
platforms. Which one was the easiest to design for? What
unique abilities or design features did the various platforms
give to you?
Jim: "Each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Most of our platform specific stuff is focused on making
sure the interface and controls feel right for each platform."
Question: What do you think is the lasting appeal
of Indiana Jones as a character? In the case of Harrison
Ford, do you think it was a matter of the actor fitting
the character or the character fitting the actor?
Jim:"I think one of the main elements in Indy's
appeal is that he's a well-rounded hero. Indy is just as
likely to use his wits as he is to use his fists when it
comes to getting out of a jam. I think that's also one of
the reasons that Harrison Ford is so great at the role.
He's believable as both a daring adventurer and a college
Question: What do you think gameplayers will remember
about this title once they set it aside for a bit?
Jim: 'I think they'll remember it as the next best
thing to an Indiana Jones movie."
-by Michael Lafferty