Recently I got to speak with Donna Woo and Dawn Pinkney, Associate Producers, Activision Publishing, Inc about the pending Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. I want to thank Donna and Dawn as well as Monica for setting up the interview.
OCMS: What is the background and setting for the game and how closely does it follow the events of the film?
The game does follow the events of the film with some added adventures to extend the experience beyond the movie. Catching up with everyone’s favorite characters, Manny and Ellie are now awaiting the birth of their baby mammoth, while Diego and Sid ponder their roles in this new “family.” Trying to start a family of his own, Sid decides to adopt some mysterious eggs, but gets into trouble when their momma, a giant T-Rex, comes looking for them. The gang journeys into a mysterious Dinosaur World that has somehow survived underneath the ice on a wild rescue mission to save Sid. Along the way, they have some close encounters with dinosaurs, towering meat-eating plants, and find some new friends.
OCMS: What are some of the locales and missions gamers will see in the game?
It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact description of the typical locales and missions, as these are so varied and the playable characters so numerous. Gamers will have a chance to play and relive the adventures they will see in the film, as well as brand new adventures created specifically for the game. Players will experience environments from the film and more, as they venture through the frozen ice terrain of the Ice Age world to the lush and mysterious jungles, swamps, and tar pits of the Dinosaur World.
OCMS: What have been some of the biggest challenges and rewards in crafting the game?
The biggest challenge for any movie game is re-creating what is loved about the film, but also capturing the personalities of each character in the gameplay, and with those well-loved humorous prehistoric pals, it has been quite a challenge. Luckily we’ve had the support of the celebrity cast and a large team of animators, to name a few, to ensure our success.
So far, the most rewarding thing has been seeing how much the kids love the game during our focus testing sessions, so much in fact they would not stop playing to eat pizza!
OCMS: What sort of enemies and heroes will players face and will there be boss battles?
Setting the game in both the Ice Age and Dinosaur World offers an opportunity for a wide variety of enemy types. When traveling through the Ice Age world, players will encounter enemies such as beavers, molehogs, vultures, spiders, and bats, among other animals and creatures familiar to fans of the Ice Age movies. The Dinosaur World is a perilous place, teeming with different types of dangerous foliage such as spitting plants and venus fly-traps, and dinosaur enemies, such as raptors, triceratops, and pterodactyls to name a few. And of course boss battles – players will encounter many boss battles where they will face off with carnivorous plants and giant dinosaurs.
OCMS: How do NPC characters figure in the game?
Aside from the enemy NPCs, the friendly NPCs in the game offer a variety of resources, from mischievous guidance and special quests from Crash and Eddie, to Fast Tony trying to make a fast buck selling unique tools and upgrades. Players will be able to lasso and ride some of the friendly dinosaurs, as well as some well-known angry Rhinos, and use their stomp attacks for some fun with the smaller NPC’s. In some levels, players will even be able to jump on and slide down the back of the larger dinosaurs and fly on the back of others.
OCMS: Will any of the films stars be providing voices in the game?
As with the previous game, many of the feature film’s stars are reprising their roles to bring the Ice Age characters’ unique personalities to life in this latest game.
OCMS: What sort of missions will players have and is there a co-op mode?
For the first time in an Ice Age game, players will be able to play as more than 6 of their favorite characters from the Ice Age movies, as well as all new characters introduced in the upcoming film. There will be more than 15 action-packed levels where players will take on the role of characters such as Scrat, Sid, Manny, Diego, and many more. There is no co-op mode, but players will have the ability to team up or go head-to-head with family and friends in 8 competitive multiplayer party games, each with 4 variations – another all-time first for the game franchise.
OCMS: What are some of the enemies in games and their abilities?
As mentioned previously, the game has a variety of enemy types, from eye plants, hornets and hornet hives to piranhas and big charging Anklosauruses. There are also a lot of environmental hazards such as lava, tar, and poisonous gas. Each enemy has their own attack, and the player will have to figure out which of their moves or weapons will be most effective. Some examples of enemy attacks are spiders that shoot their webbing to tangle the player and giant Venus flytrap plants that catch the player in its grips. Some enemies work together against the player, such as vultures that fly overhead clutching molehogs, before dropping them on top of the player.
OCMS: How do players gain new skills and abilities in the game?
Each playable character has their own personalized strengths and abilities. Players are taught the basics as they start the adventure. As players advance through the game, they are taught more advanced moves and skills, and given new and upgraded weapons to add to their artillery.
OCMS: How do you balance action, story, and puzzle solving in a game like this and is there a temptation to prioritize one over the other?
Because skills and abilities vary depending on playable character, this allows for a wide variety of game types that are suited to each character’s personality and story. Allowing each character time to tell their story in the game also helps with maintaining balance and not prioritizing one element over the other. Also, providing the player with a lot of variety helps to aid in this balance and ensures that nothing feels overused.
New characters offer variety even within just the platforming aspect of the game. Players will learn a variety of acrobatic moves and will be able to vine slide, wall run, wall jump, lasso swing, as well as perform a myriad of acrobatic flips and jumps to help escape and combat dinosaur predators.
In addition to platforming and puzzle solving, players will encounter all types of challenges, ranging from nostalgic side-scrollers, third-person action, racing, as well as flight rail shooting as they take to the skies on a pterodactyl. Players are constantly offered an abundance of gameplay variety, whether they are taking on the role of Sid being chased by an angry T-Rex or Scrat in a two dimensional search for his elusive acorn