Interview with producer Jim Tso (December
Not seen for over two thousand years, the Heart of the
Dragon is an immensely powerful artifact, a black pearl
that gives its possessor the frightening ability to shape
the minds and wills of others. In 1935, heeding rumors that
it lies buried within the crypt of China's first emperor,
an underground Asian society called the Black Dragon Triad
has joined forces with a German mercenary, Albrecht Von
Beck, to find and recover it. Lest this unholy alliance
gain the treasure and use it for unscrupulous ends, businessman
Marshal K'ai has recruited none other than Indiana Jones
to return it to the government of China. Naturally, this
task will not be simple; just entering the burial chamber
will require traversing the world to acquire and assemble
the three scattered pieces of the Dragon Seal, the key to
Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb is the third-person
fusion of action and adventure in which our hero, aided
by K'ai's stunningly beautiful assistant, Mei Ying, undertakes
a far-ranging quest that spans locations such as the jungles
of Ceylon, an underwater palace in Istanbul, the streets
of Hong Kong and more. Armed with his trademark whip and
pistol, Indy can also improvise by using shovels, chairs
and table legs as weapons, and also brawl hand to hand against
his adversaries, many of whom are skilled in the martial
arts. Combining developer The Collective's state of the
art engine with a rich story and compelling gameplay, the
title is projected to release next spring. Producer Jim
Tso of publisher LucasArts fills us in on what to expect
in this informative Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb
Action Vault: In overview, what kind of game will
Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb be, and what types
of gameplay you are aiming to provide?
Jim Tso: Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb is
an original Indy action-adventure game set in 1935. The
Indy movies have served as the main inspiration for much
of the game's design; we've really tried to recreate the
feeling of the Indy movies. That translates into several
aspects of the game - fast-paced action, exotic locations,
and traditional adventure elements such as traps and puzzles.
Action Vault: What's the fundamental premise of
the game? And without giving too much away, what are you
willing to reveal about the storyline, the ultimate objective,
the main adversaries et al?
Jim Tso: In the Emperor's Tomb, Indy has to recover
the Heart of the Dragon, a mystical artifact located inside
the tomb of China's first emperor. This tomb is an actual
historical site in China and has never been fully excavated.
The Heart of the Dragon is rumored to possess the power
to control the minds of men and it allowed Ch'in Shih Huang-ti
to conquer and unify all of China thousands of years ago.
Of course, the Nazis are after it also but they're just
one of the enemies that Indy will have to face.
Action Vault: What considerations factored into
choosing the game's various locations? And where does Indy
pass through on his way to the final destination?
Jim Tso: We decided to set the game in the Far East
because that's an area the movies haven't explored too much
and it has plenty to offer in terms of history and flavor.
Before he ends up in the Asia, Indy does travel around the
world quite a bit; the game starts in Ceylon, and from there
it moves to Prague, Istanbul, and finally to Hong Kong.
From Hong Kong, Indy has to make his way to a secret Nazi
sub base and then to a hidden fortress on top of an island.
Finally, Indy ends up inside the tomb in China.
Action Vault: Indy wouldn't be the same without
his whip and revolver. What other different types of arms
can players expect, and to what extent will regular items
be useful as weapons?
Jim Tso: Besides his trademark bullwhip and trusty
revolver, Indy will be able to pickup and use a variety
of different weapons - submachine guns, shotguns, grenades,
swords and improvised weapons such as a shovel, chair, or
Action Vault: What range of enemies will Indy have
to overcome? How diverse are they, and are you willing to
reveal some interesting or unusual examples?
Jim Tso: There are different enemies for each of
the environments. In Ceylon, Indy faces ivory hunters and
mercenaries. In Prague, Indy will fight Gestapo agents and
in Istanbul, Indy fights Turkish mercenaries and Nazi soldiers.
When Indy arrives in the Far East, he will fight a variety
of Triad enemies. In the tomb, Indy will also encounter
some supernatural enemies. In the first few levels of the
game, most of Indy's opponents will have a fighting style
similar to his own; it's something we call Western brawling.
However, the Triad opponents will use martial arts and do
all kinds of crazy leaps and flips. In some of the levels,
there are also monster bosses such as a huge octopus or
a reanimated corpse.
Action Vault: How about friendly or at least neutral
NPCs? Will there be many of them, and what kinds of roles
or functions will they fulfill?
Jim Tso: Most of the friendly NPCs appear in cinematics.
One NPC is a Chinese secret named Mei Ying. She helps Indy
out from time to time.
Action Vault: What are your major considerations
and goals in the areas of mission and level design? How
many will there be, and how varied will they be in terms
of types and objectives?
Jim Tso: We have 10 different locations in the game,
and each location is further subdivided into smaller areas.
In terms of mission design, we wanted a fast-paced game
with a good variety of things for the player to do. There's
a lot of hand to hand combat, ranged combat and navigating
around the environments. To a lesser degree, there are also
the traditional puzzles and traps that Indy fans expect.
Action Vault: You mentioned cinematics earlier.
Will there be many, and what degree of importance will they
Jim Tso: The plot is advanced with in-engine cinematics.
These occur at different points throughout a level as the
player progresses through the story.
Action Vault: What engine are you using, and what
makes it especially suited to the game? What major modifications
are you making, if any?
Jim Tso: The engine is an enhanced version of the
engine used for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We've added vehicle
interactions, whip and rope interaction, and much more varied
vAction Vault: What's the current status of development,
and when do you anticipate the game will be ready for release?
Jim Tso: Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb is
currently at beta and is on schedule for release in the
first quarter of 2003.
Action Vault: What will make Indiana Jones and the
Emperor's Tomb stand out from other action-adventure games
of the current generation? What kind of gamer will it appeal
to most strongly?
Jim Tso: I think Indiana Jones and the Emperor's
Tomb will appeal to Indy fans of course, but also to gamers
who are looking for fast-paced action and a good variety
of gameplay. Our focus with the game has been to recapture
the feel of the Indy movies. We spent a lot of time watching
all three and the one thing you take away from them is that
they're FUN. They have lots of different elements - action,
humor, adventure and great characters, but it's really how
all those elements are integrated into a whole that makes
the Indy movies so fun and unique. I'm happy to say that
I think we've captured the same spirit of fun with the Emperor's
Capturing the kind of fun that made the movies so immensely
popular would seem to be a certain road to success. Accordingly,
we'll be sure to keep our eyes open for further news and
information on Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb as it
moves through the last few months of development. For now,
our thanks to Producer Jim Tso of LucasArts for giving us
even more reason to anticipate the arrival of The Collective's
- Richard Aihoshi - "Jonric"