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Tresspasser Review
1998-08-01 Chet
Trespasser Hype Review
Subtitled: It's called Hubris

"You hear people say, 'We create worlds,' states Rich Flier. "Well, we're really creating one."

"Get ready to stack crates..." Chet

Games get hyped. Some games get over-hyped.  Sometimes it's fans and sometimes it's companies...  Designers tend to blame it on the PR machines...   But some games and designers go out of their way to hype themselves....  such is the hype of Trespasser.  Revolutionary games are not built by guys looking to build revolutionary games, they are made by guys looking to make fun games....  Look at Id, Origin, or Sid Meir. These men/companies made games that were fun, and what was revolutionary about them, what influenced whole genres of games, came because they were fun to play... not because they were revolutionary...  (hmm...are you starting to think I don't like Trespasser?)   Here are some quotes from the Trespasser Team and some quotes from other sources, and my own...   Everything from a trespasser team member will be in green...
The sources of the quotes are listed at the bottom of this page.  And, believe it or not, the OGR review is, in the end, positive... yet it yielded so many great negative quotes....

1)"You would find a gun where you would expect to find a gun, or any useful object for that matter."
Rich Flier trespasser team.

"In general, there's little sense of gameplay balance as well. There's no clue who the former employees of InGen were, but they must have all been hard-core NRA members -- there are guns lying all over the island. "
Next Generation

2a)"We feel a lot of games are trying to hit the ball out of the park with one feature or another, be it their multiplayer feature, their rendered, the weapons they have - we're really working with advanced technology here and we think it's going to be a breakthrough product. The major feature we have over everyone else is the physics engine" Rick Flier.

2b)Products were not judged by how cool or fun they were, or how good a time you had playing them, but by the implementation of the standard feature set. The same thing is happening with first-person shooters. It's as though there is this standard rack of questions like, "What does your water do? Do you have multi-texturing? What is your colored lighting like? List your weapons and how are they different." And I guess it is possible to purchase the first-person shooter construction set, but Trespasser doesn't fit into that mold because it's not a shooter.  Seamus 
(um not to interrupt... but so you don't fit into the mold because you don't compete graphically? But yet you will call out all other FPS on their Physics engine?

2c)I have to underscore that my goal at the beginning of the project was to make a world that was consistently real enough that it would make for a great game. I am not trying to simulate the world; nothing goes into the game that is not fun. What would be the point? I have been doing physics for computer games since 1993, and have produced a lot of really dull stuff. I have produced a lot of neat stuff as well, but the point is, if it's not fun, and you are not enjoying it, and it is not working as a game -- independent of whether or not it is a perfect simulation -- then I don't want it. So the razor of Trespasser is, "Is this fun?" Seamus Blackley

"The realistic physics aren't. Well, perhaps everything on the island is made of ultra light super bouncy rubber."
Newsgroup post.

"It was an interesting idea to allow objects to slide and bounce around "just like in the real world", but in practice it's maddening. After spending five minutes getting a box lined up just right to enable you to reach a high platform, for example, you'll jump up on top of it, only to have it bounce and tumble away. "
Next Generation

"And how did the 'physics' enhance gameplay? By making jumping on stacked boxes so frustrating you just want to give up." Newsgroup post

I don't see where they get off saying the game has "real physics"!!!!! Since when do boxes bounce around on the ground like the ground was made of sponges!?!? Their idea of real physics is so "unreal" that it makes the game unplayable. In the real world you'd be able to hold yourself upright on small items by using other senses. They should have figured out that these senses (balance, feel of air, better sight on distance) can't be recreated yet on a computer. Thus they shoulda given a little more input into the capabilities of the "girl". Plus I got sick of seeing boxes pass partially through walls and the ground. What is real about that?!?
Newsgroup post.

3a)"This is the first ever fully physics based engine. This allows us to have puzzles that aren't the same old thing, where players are wandering around stale, internal environments looking for a gold key to open the gold door. Our physics engine allows for a very intuitive puzzle solving process..."  Rick Flier.  
3b)"As far as the player is concerned, puzzles will arrive in many different shapes and sizes. Sticking with the door concept, if a player comes up to a door that won't open in the normal way, what do you do? Maybe you pick up a log and smash the door. Maybe there's a window on the door you can break, jam something through to the other side, and release the latch. A lot of these guys worked on System Shock and that game had some limited physics interaction but this thing (Trespasser) is fully physics based. Everything from the Dinosaurs to the doors to a rickety little table, which you could literally knock down, turn over, and break the legs off and use one as a weapon or whatever." Rick Flier
3c)Our puzzles. Our puzzles are free-form, and that sounds dangerous, because it implies they might be frustrating, but again, we have tested the hell out of them. The best moments will come when you solve a puzzle by thinking of a motion we didn't see, or wasn't obvious according to the visual clues we gave you. For example, we might give you a plank to get over a fence, but instead, you spring yourself up some clever way. You might set a crate up, shoot it with a gun onto the other end of the plank, and that flings you up over the wall. It can happen! You will be so proud of yourself, strutting around and thinking, "I am the king of the world!" That is where I get my joy out of puzzle solving. That, and after I solve a puzzle, I want to be led into a new area. I want a new environment to explore, a new set of challenges, and more stuff to do. Trespasser is all about that kind of payoff.
Seamus Blackley
3d)" Most players that we sit down in front of this game, veteran Quake players, when confronted with a door with a handle on it, will not reach out and open the damn door. Instead they're running off looking for a lever instead of trying the obvious. In some respects, Trespasser is like Quake re-education school."  Seamus Blackley
3e)Grossman describes Trespasser as an action game with enough puzzle elements to also make it an adventure game. "But we're working really hard not to make any kinds of puzzles that you can solve by chance or brute force or just by searching," Grossman explains. "We try not to have too much stuff based on coordination. You should be able to think about a situation and use tools to solve it. It's all about using physics, the rules of this physical world, to accomplish goals."

"Yes, though we do have keycards. It's great! You pick it up, and it's this little object, and you stuff it down in your belt. You can see it down there, and to use it, you grab it with your hand, hold it up, and rub it against a card reader."
Seamus Blackley 
(Repeat after me, Gold Keys Suck, Gold KeyCards Rule!)

"Also annoying is the lack of an ability to climb, which seems obvious, but supposedly would ruin some of the puzzles. " OGR's amazing, buttkissing review.

The "physics based" engine was hyped, but honestly, I would rather that the puzzle-solving had more direct solutions than "think of something that would work in the real world" - the interface just got in the way too much, and I wouldn't have nearly so much trouble moving things around in reality.
Newsgroup post

If you have not touched Trespasser yet... in the first 10 seconds of the game (okay first 15 minutes unless you have the latest everything in hardware) you cannot climb up a simple incline....  I guess the ability of your character to break a sweat is unrealistic...   Also... not able to be solved by brute force?  In the "real world" where there are "real physics" brute force is right up there in physical problem solving.  Ahh... but what "real world" do we want to emulate?

What puzzles are made out of real world physics?  Get ready to stack crates...

4)"The game has a beginning, middle and end. It's linear in that sense. But it's not linear in the way you go about completing the game. Let's say you need to get over a fence...maybe you figure out where they key is if it's locked, maybe it's electrified and you rip apart the metal casing somewhere down the road and hotwire it, rip out the electrical fuses...maybe you walk down a mile and stack some objects so you can climb over the fence...or maybe you take a crowbar and try to rip a hole in the fence. We're really excited about the approach we're taking and it should be interesting to see how gamers react. "
Rick Flier

"The worse part though were the levels. At no point I felt I was on an island, there was always one exit and one entrance"
Newsgroup post.

The entire game really takes place in a single linear quest to find a phone or radio, with no twists or turns.
OGR's inexplicable, buttkissing Review

I don't want to spoil anything, but the last level and the ending video rank among the most anti-climactic and disappointing in recent memory.
OGR's wacky, buttkissing Review

The game is divided into levels, which are fairly linear in that they have one entrance and one exit and you can't ever return to a previous level.
OGR's "Mr. Spielberg is on line 1 and would like to cast the author of the Trespasser review in Indiana Jones 4", buttkissing Review

The outer edges where you run into an invisible force field are actually quite easy to get to... no natural wall blocking you... no that would not be "cool"  or "natural" instead merely having you bump up against a totally invisible forcefield is much better....

5)"Dinosaur AI...it's not your standard pathfinding gimmick AI that other companies claim as revolutionary...our dino's have motivations and different factors that alter their behavior. One dinosaur might have a higher level of fear than another one...some dinosaurs are hungry, some are thirsty, some have curiosity factors, we have somewhere around fifteen different aspects that make up the dinosaur mind, all of which will effect the way they interact with you."  Rick Flier

"We are setting up one of the final fights now, where you come across three Raptors eating a downed Stegosaurus. They look around, and as soon as they see you, they go for you, just to kill you, and it's a really difficult encounter. Of course, that's a situation where your brain just doesn't matter. "
Seamus Blackley
So this is different AI?  Or is the fact of the 7 dinos only 1 type can actually fight you?  Is that cool?

"I though DOOM did a better job at creating AI."
Newsgroup post

"You end up on the top of a mountain, it;'s fenced in with a sheer drop outside the fence. there is only one entrance. There are three smallish building and some boxes. Nothing else. I walked behind the buildings, nothing there until, and I was watching the entrance, when you walk toward the middle of the area suddenly out from behind the buildings run two raptors and a baby t-rex (or a really big raptor.) How the fuck did they manage to teleport up here. Never mind the hordes of raptors who just managed to climb up the side of mountain and are just waiting for you at various intervals. For a game that hypes it realism this just throw it all out of the window."
Newsgroup Post

6)On what system will it run....
"The game is broken down into manageable chunks for us! We have nine levels, and each level has close to 15,000 objects in it, and is 2x2 square kilometers in size. That's just an extraordinary amount of data. Our clipping plane is close to 2 kilometers, so you'll see 35 to 50 million polygons at all times. To do that requires an editor that is par excellence, so we use 3D-Max plugged into an incredibly stoked machine, and we have an export process that boils all of this down to something you can actually run with a good framerate on a Pentium 166 with 32 megs. So the editor is an amazing, prodigious piece of technology, and we have divided the island into these workable areas. At first, we had this idea that it would be one, big space, but our data structures couldn't handle that, though our original memory manager could. Still, why beat yourself? " Seamus Blackley

"What happened is we struggled to figure how to make it better on hardware systems, because like I said, in order to draw the outside, you have to use primitives and rendering techniques that are just not supported by today's hardware. The current generation of cards is designed around Quake II. Period. That's what the hardware does; it plays Quake II. We are interested in drawing something newer and more innovative. Figuring out how to hack the hardware to do it is difficult, but once the hardware guys saw what we were up to, they got enormously excited, and now we have to turn them away because we don't have time to talk them through all this stuff. We have a hardware implementation that, in the words of one of the biggest card manufacturers, is "a showcase of this generation of hardware." It does things you have never seen before in hardware, which is very cool. "
Seamus Blackley

"Take a look at Battlezone, which is a great looking game, or a Tomb Raider which is also great looking, but both worlds are very sparse with objects. We can easily have a setting that has over 40,000 trees being rendered on the fly, in software mode. It's real easy to get lost on our island because the entire place is so choked with vegetation...that's the kind of atmosphere we wanted to create"
Rick Flier

"Everything you'll be seeing today is software driven. Right here you're looking at at least 40,000 trees which we can render with ease. We're using a whole bunch of new algorithms to draw the outside world and we're running into some snags supporting 3D cards. We think we have most of them worked out. I went to give a big talk at Winhack a few weeks ago to basically bust the jaws of the hardware manufacturers and let them know that, yes, it's very pretty to draw interior scenes like Quake - a clipping plane at twenty-feet is great and all, but we want 5 kilometers. The problem is, the cards currently available are constructed to run games currently available, and we don't think the consumer wants that. We feel they want something they've never seen before. " Seamus

I saw the screen shots at AGN and the graphics look absolutely terrible...what happened? Did they rush this game out? I saw the brontosaurus<sp> and the neck looked so simplistic...so angular...like nice texture map dressing an ugly model...
Newsgroup post

Trespasser = prime example of overhyped underachieving software.  What was that about over 100 trees rendered even on a low end pentium? This game runs like crap on my p2 333 with a monster 3d. I got the game thinking it was going to look like the screenshots on the pages of PC gamer. I'm afraid to say I am very disappointed.  Let this be a lesson to future game makers to deliver games that work the way there are advertised.
Newsgroup Post

Chances are you aren't doing anything wrong. The graphics *are* that awful...
Newsgroup Post

The rendering engine is no beauty either. With its poorly chosen LODs (level of detail) and mip-mapping horizons, objects are constantly jumping around and changing appearance, and textures are endlessly swimming all over the screen. The effect is nausea-inducing.
Next Generation

it almost requires tomorrow's hardware to run well
OGR's odd, buttkissing review

Even people with fast computers can expect some areas to slow down quite a lot, especially with "only" 64MB of RAM. I played mostly on a P2-450 with 64MB, and quite often the game would freeze for 3-4 seconds of disk access when I fired a new gun, or turned quickly in a dense area.
OGR's surprise ending, buttkissing review

Read the newsgroups... there are too many posts of it not running and/or looking like crap...


7)Is it fun?
Quake is a great game, and all the 3D shooters are very alluring, but Austin and I feel that interactivity with a game world is really, amazingly fun. We have testers who come here and spend two hours putting planks together, floating them out into the water, jumping on them, throwing stuff in, knocking things down, and playing with the world . It's unbelievably, incredibly fun to do things like that. On top of that, you haven't seen anything until you are holding a shotgun and shooting at a Raptor, and he jumps on top of you, knocks the shotgun out of your hands, stands on your chest, and starts eating your face! That is just outrageous! You just don't see that in other games.  Blackley

"Oh yeah. We did a lot of research. A lot of our artists aren't game-players in the traditional sense. They went, they looked at these plants, and they reproduced them."  Rick Flier

We have spent a tremendous amount of time making the interface easy to use -- it weighed heavily upon us. We call the first level in our game the Quake re-education camp! [Laughs] For instance, there is a door, and Quake players just stand there hitting the space bar, when all they have to do is open the door. So we've put a tremendous amount of time and effort into the interface in order to make it really, really intuitive to use. Now, much like a fighting game, your success is going to be directly related to the skill you acquire using that interface. There are five buttons, and you have a hand. You can pick things up, manipulate them, and put things together. You are not going to get it all at first, but we are not going to require you to do it all at first. 
Seamus Blackley

"I want the puzzles to be deep but not arbitrary," Grossman says. "The game world is full of objects and you can use them, but no object has a special purpose. The idea is that every object has its own properties and you figure out what to do with it."

This wide-open approach does have its limitations. For example, the game lacks fire and explosions, and there are no shovels (you can be sure some gamers would try to dig to China) or chisels (otherwise players might be tempted to spend hours trying to break through walls). You also cannot fill a bucket with water and make 100 trips to try and flood a room. "There are a lot of things we don't have," Blackley admits. "We only have things that absolutely, 100 percent of the time, without exception, work exactly as they should with everything else."

"After the 20th or so raptor kill it got alittle dull and with even more of the same for the rest of the game it wore even thinner. The occasional 'where's the coloured keycard' didn't really help. But if you get off on nothing but runing around shooting raptors, more power to you. However after all the claims by Dreamworks that this was big step forward in gamedesign and gameplay I was expecting a little more than Quake 2 with dinos."
Newsgroup Post

But perhaps the worst shortcoming is in its "robot arm" style interface.
Next Generation

Oh this is always the most subjective of calls... all I will add is this.
If this idea of real world problem solving is your idea of fun, I am coming out with a game this Jan, 1st.  Its called Murray & Sons 1998 Corporate Taxes.     The winner gets the feeling of accomplishment knowing we are going to file their entry with the IRS...


Quick "I told you so" from erik:

Here's my E3 report from way back in may:

After reading OGR’s massively positive preview of this game, I was really looking forward to seeing it (moreso than Half-Life). Now that I’ve seen it, I can only conclude that A) OGR played a different version than the one at E3 or B) the OGR staff is huffing gas. The idea of a real physics engine is pretty revolutionary but the execution feels like some kind of crappy VR demo. Spielberg makes about 40 million dollars a day, so I’m assuming Trespasser was running on at least a 400 with lots of RAM and IT WAS STILL CHOPPY. There was no real fogging, but many landscape elements would noticeably pop into existence and then kind of jump around until they eventually left your field of view or, for some reason, became stable. The engine had some cool features, but, if the demo is any indication, there’s no game there yet. Also, apparently you play a little retarded girl who says "Mommy I found something" every time a dinosaur comes into view, even if it’s the same dinosaur she saw 2 seconds ago. I’m sure this will be removed in the final game, but maybe it could have been taken out of the demo as well.

Extra points to Trespasser for having the bitterest, most uninterested guy demoing it. I’m I big fan of bitter, but c’mon man, if the game sucks at least pretend to be excited about it.


Official Requirements
Pentium 166
120 MB free disk space
Direct X 6.0 (included)
Windows® compatible mouse
Windows® compatible sound card
1 MB Video Card
AMD K6-2 OR Pentium II 266MHz Processor
AGP2X 3D Accelerator Card

And a bellyfull of lag....

I have nothing against a company or its programmer's championing a game... but look at these quotes.  These people are not gamers, they sneer at gamers, we are all idiots, who they can only hope can rise up and understand their great game.... give me a break.. or if you want to yell just drop a line to chet@oldmanmurray.com

Quotes are from a variety of sources including:
comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.action newsgroup
Trespasser at next generation
The response to this review has been overwhelming.  By 10-1 the response has been in agreement.  We did get some funny, angry letters from people who enjoy their "games" with lots of loopy physics, one curious email from a past employee of DreamWorks, and then a phone call from Rich Flier.   Rich wanted to know why we hate the game so much (as if we were any worse than what is in the newsgroups...)  Rich called, we called back (he wanted to know if we were scared?).   As with everything, we wish no one harm (except Adolf Hitler and, of course, Roberta Williams), but if you want to call a revolution and fail, be prepared to face the Old Man's wrath.   After talking with Rich, we have offered him this page to respond to any and all points made by our review or any other of the many negative reviews of Trespasser.  He laughingly said he would... that was tonight 11/2/98... so we shall see....  we're idiots and not afraid to be berated and mocked in public on our own site.... we are still waiting for a proper rebuttal... let's give Rich a chance and see if he chooses to respond.  Note to Rich: an expense paid junket to Dreamworks could result in a major retraction of our current review.

PS. We would like to also point out that a quote from the original Trespasser review from Next Generation had an error in it on the number of dinos that can be killed.

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