This interview was done with Action Forms in 2000, shortly after the release of Carnivores II and coming up on the release of Carnivores: Ice Age. The link was unfortunately down and wasn't archived on Archive.org, but JenDOS_RUS had posted a rough Google translation of it, but it was far from perfect and difficult to read. I've taken the liberty of spending a few hours and going through and rewriting it to the best of my abilities.
Its quite an interesting read, and covers topics like the beginning of Action Forms, the removed Multiplayer mode, the selecting of the dinosaurs, etc.
Action Forms: A New Period of Dinosaurs
Michael Kabanov of GameLand
Denis Vereshchagin (Credited as “Biz” in the Carnivores 2 credits, the equivalent of a PR I guess)
Michael Kabanov [MK]: Hello! If you are not opposed to the idea, tell our readers about the history of Action Forms; how it all started, what you've found out, and how the choice of your first game was made.
Denis Vereshchagin [DV]: Oh, I have previously answered this same question. I will still answer it but this interview would be better off without it. In my opinion, there isn't anything too interesting about it.
Good afternoon to all GameLand readers. The history of Action Forms is not complicated and actually very simple. Basically, four young and arrogant students (Who were like that for quite awhile!) undertook the idea of making a game which was going to amaze the world. And basically, our first project (Chasm: The Rift), in my opinion, didn't turn out too bad. During the progress of working on this game we have worked with quite a few people. Gradually, the size of our team grew, and we were lucky that all of them became professionals in that area. We didn't specifically choose the idea of our first game, we always did and always will make First Person games. When we first started, Doom had been released so it was easy to think it was impossible.
MK: What conclusions did you make from the development process of Chasm which were corrected for later work?
DV: Gradually it takes more and more work to be in this business, and we have started to understand what is necessary to develop games. The main conclusion we have recently made is that the independence of the developer is the main thing. As in, the rudder of the game creation should not be controlled by a person who does not fully understand all the processes which go into making a game and does not communicate with each developer daily. But generally, we could write an entire book revolving around this question.
MK: Should your transition from the Action genre be regarded as a course or should it be regarded as a side creation while still adjacent to other genres? Or is it something else?
DK: We didn't really leave the Action genre. Did we make a Hunting Simulator? Yes. But is not Quake technically a hunting simulator for monsters? We have tried to combine the two elements without being strictly limited to a single genre. Yes, the ideas are different, but our games still have the same amount of adrenaline that is caused in games like Blood and many other First Person Shooter games. Certainly, each released project is an enormous experience.
MK: What made you choose dinosaurs specifically instead of any other animals such as deer? We're those already done enough times by other developers?
DV: Basically, it was a situation like this. Us being a young developer, we knocked on the doors of the publisher and asked, “Shall we make a hunting game?” If this publisher had not been GT Interactive, we still would have to think, but we had more consent here on what type of hunting to make. They gave us free reign of the choice. What should we make? Well, certainly not butterfly catching with a net.
After the choice was made, we began to buy up tons of books and films about these prehistoric monsters and because to see clearly what rubbish lived on Earth at that time. If dinosaurs were stacked how we wanted, there wouldn't even be any room for stuff like vegetation, so we decided to deviate from realism in this case.
MK: Do you have an ridiculous moments which happened during programming?
DV: After we finished developing Chasm, GT Interactive offered for us to make our next project on the same engine as Chasm to save work. The idea of a hunting simulator was the only information given to us, the choice of a plot and background of the game was entirely up to us. We wrote a script and sent it to the publisher for consideration.
And as American people think very deeply and are uncertain and indecisive, we looked forward to hearing from them for a long time. It took them several weeks to reply and there was a normal discussion of the future project. But we had very poorly represented what a hunting simulator would be made in the Chasm engine. In the meantime as not to lose any time, our programmer (Oleg Slusar) quickly wrote a new engine, which was immediately given to the publisher, and they were very surprised. This sped up the discussion of the following project considerably.
MK: Can you tell us about the Multiplayer mode in the game? As you obviously know, it is not present in the final release of the game.
DV: Working for the followup to the original Carnivores, we had made the multiplayer mode in game. It was completed, and only needed testing.It was logical to use at the time that if you shot at and hit another hunter, they would die, and you would be disqualified.
Disqualification is a terrible piece of business, but I will tell you a secret, it doesn't really bring any general damage and doesn't take away any money from a pocket. Because of this, the beta-testers for the multiplayer mode immediately arranged hunting against each other instead. The dinosaurs raged around, but the players ignored them and fought each other.
To put it briefly, beta-testing proved only this, multiplayer is not necessary because it turns the game into a ordinary deathmatch, which is not the direction we were trying to take with this game.
MK: Now let's talk about the dinosaurs. How their choice was carried out?
DV: We didn't strain much selecting dinosaurs for the first Carnivores, as we made up sorted groups of dinosaurs. The first group is the dinosaurs who are forever around and got under feet. The opportunity to kill them is there but it is worthless, such as the Moschops. (Ambients) It is also possible to put the Dimorphodon in this category because it is constantly moving in the sky, letting out croaks.
The second group of dinosaurs still need to be hit, but on the spot they try to escape and get away from you. (Triceratops, Stegosaurus, and more) To tell the truth, we decided that especially large and strong should not be frightened but trample the player just incase, so you understand which second they go under. And lastly, the predatory group. Averaged size ones like Allosaur and Velociraptor (this is what were hidden in the grass in the film “Jurassic Park”) and big, certainly, T-Rex. With them all it is clear, the hunter's blood is warm through those who cannot brag of giantism and sometimes cowardly run and try to escape.
When time came to select dinosaurs for Carnivores II, there was a problem before us. We had already used all basic types and all dinosaurs which would've been interesting to hunt, there would only be left ones not visible at 200 meters or are a half meter in height. Also it was necessary to commit a sin of changing the colors and reorganizing certain parts of the dinosaurs, but it all became clear of whom would stand in the trophy room and whom would go in the charge on a cannery.
MK: How is the scene of the action of hunting, taking into account the habits of dinosaurs, proceeding from the realness of the world around?
DV: The game process of Carnivores and the process of making the environment strongly differ from closed room shooters, and the construction of the levels doesn't allow opportunities to use glitches like rocket jumps, the basic attention of the level construction was given to realism. Our designers tried to make the player, after having gotten into the game world, to feel like he is actually in a prehistoric wood. It was achieved by long work like the mother of such nature giving birth, and any Viennese cathedral will not be compared on detailed elaboration to an ordinary bog.
MK: Naturally, when speaking about dinosaurs, the concept of realism emerges. Certainly dinosaurs are not such a precise figure for studying, so it would be desirable to know which books were used, and why?
Alexey Sergy [AS]: The only book we used was a good one, “Prehistoric Animals” by Joseph Augusta and Zdenek Burian, Zdenek being the illustrator. All other material was gotten from the Internet. Long searches on sleepless nights...
MK: Also a prominent aspect on working with dinosaurs is the realism of their behavior, is there anything general between the behavior of your dinosaurs in game and the prospective behavior of dinosaur in real life?
DV: Dinosaurs, as we learned in school, had rather weak brains, and because of the structure of their body and nervous system, also had slow reactions. We didn't have to change this much, as the player could shoot and stand, and the dinosaur would not be suspecting that it would be killed soon, but would rather stand and eat grass. We adjusted the dinosaurs aggression already but all these parameters can be adjusted at will by the player, if the dinosaurs behave not absolutely like he likes, they can be adjusted to his desire.
MK: As passed process of carrying of dinosaurs in books went into the game: were there additional figures made which were considered experimental in a cut of the game?
AS: The process was not so. There was studying of material, and each time, I became one of the dinosaurs. I was born as a model.
MK: do you remember which dinosaur was the most difficult to model?
AS: Certainly the Brachiosaur, because of the length of its neck. When I modelled it, I had a dream one night that for the success of the enterprise, I had to climb up its neck to its head. It was very tiresome, and I often fell and was broken. In general, all of them dreamed and complained, that there is not enough polygons to them, others didn't like the colors of the skin, others thought there wasn't enough teeth.
MK: We shall go further, to tell you the truth, it was rather surprising to find out that you have started working on the continuation to Carnivores, which is Carnivores: Ice Age. What was the problem with dinosaurs? Is it connected somehow that you are gradually moving from the past to the future?
DV: No, it is simple, if we continued to go deep into the past, it wouldn't be possible to hunt besides on microbes and then on meteorites. Therefore, it was decided to not hunt dinosaurs, but rather on animals whom were also extinct. The continuation hardly will be, we have exhausted the possibilities of hunting but we still want to make a good shooter.
MK: We will leave dinosaur a little, what can you tell us about the engine used for Carnivores? From what I understand that the following game was on a more modified engine. Tell us about the updates to the engine, please.
DV: Yes, the engine used for Carnivores 2 is strongly different than the engine used for Carnivores. The user, if he starts both games on the same computer, can notice the world around the player is far bigger, more environmental space because available with a small downgrade in speed. Process of water and underwater space is also improved, a few bridges and a couple of underwater caves have been added. Progress is improving.
MK: Continuing the question, it would be interesting to hear your reason for updating the engine, are you constantly modernizing technologies?
DV: At the ending of development of our main project, Carnivores, we have made an excellent engine for rendering outside spaces. At the current moment, we are working on an engines capable of rendering internal rooms, a combination of both types into one. This will have a wide range of uses, from shooters, online games, strategy, and RPGs. But for ourselves, certainly, it will be a shooter.
MK: Then for a team there was a leader of the Carnivores development?
DV: Each of our projects is a step in our process as a game developer, and each completed project is a jump-off point for a new project. So, Carnivores was a preliminary stage for us before we started cooperation with developers such as 3D Realms, and our joint project with Duke Nukem as the main character became out primary project.
MK: Can you tell use more information about the game in detail? There is data, and it will not be a hunting simulator. What features will be included in Duke Nukem: Endangered Species?
You are right, it would be hard to imagine Duke in the same scene of a pheasant hatching over the four hour process of hatching in a tree. Our game can be called a hunting simulator with a big stretch of imagination, if so, it would be the first hunting simulator which includes rocket and grenade launchers. The player will also notice, when in the woods, there will be an overpopulation of predatory animals which are for some reason especially aggressive.
MK: As you noted, having made Carnivores allowed you to begin working with developers like 3D Realms. How does this collaboration look? Do you speak on how to make various gameplay variants, design, and so forth?
DV: Our team is a rather original developer, and the opinion of an outside person is rather hard to impose on us. But we did not receive special remarks with requests to alter our work. Though it is early to speak about it until the project is done.
MK: About the future, when do you hope to begin work on the project where you express yourself as Action Forms and only Action Forms?
DV: That's a very serious and difficult question and its hard to answer with certainty. Alot of time has passed since we made our first independent game, and since Chasm was finished, we are still searching. Many good and bad games have been released in the last few years, but in my opinion, there hasn't been any game with GAMEPLAY, capital letters. I've played many games in the Action genre, and since Doom, there was no game I would play through from beginning to end hundreds of times with the desire to play again still remaining. When we find the principle for creating such a game, we are on the spot for making it. For now, we are preparing for this project, as our programmers and artists perfect their skill.
Michael Kabanov: Denis, thank for your answers - was interesting to discuss. We will all be waiting for new projects from Action Forms. Good luck!