Whatever happened to Dino Crisis? While Resident Evil has become Capcom’s flagship franchise, its Resident Evil-with-dinosaurs survival horror series is all but extinct. It’s been over 20 years since primary protagonist Regina rocketed a Giganotosaurus in the face and nearly 18 since Dino Crisis 3 arrived on the original Xbox. But now Hashbane, a New Zealand-based development studio, is creating Instinction, a spiritual successor to Capcom’s long-abandoned franchise. We spoke to Hashbane co-founder Jade Saunders and Instinction’s lead developer, Richard Gold, to find out more.
The Escapist: Instinction seems like an ambitious undertaking, particularly considering it’s intended to be the next Dino Crisis. How, when, and why did the project get started? I gather it began life at (visual production studio) Dane Design.
Jade Saunders: It sure did. The conversation came up a few times; we were willing to make a small game with dinosaurs, just for fun. We had all worked in Unreal Engine, with varying experiences in UE4, and decided to make it a pet project a few hours a week maybe. Within the first week we had a working prototype that we could deploy. When we showed some friends and family there was a common, “Holy sh*t, is this Dino Crisis?” It was hard to deny the influence; other games like Turok and action adventure games in general certainly played a role initially.
It became apparent we should probably look at making this a real game. This led to everything else; we started a new studio, and we needed to dedicate our efforts to this game. Fortunately Dane Design wasn’t really affected by the pandemic and remains the largest funding source for the game.
Richard Gold: Let me also address this broad term of spiritual successor here. We obviously all loved and still appreciate what Dino Crisis was and what it meant to a segment of gamers that had the pleasure to experience it in its heyday. We just intend to recreate what we all felt back then and also instill that experience in a new generation of gamers and with modernized gameplay and mechanics. Secondly, Dino Crisis is and always will retain its own identity; we like what it was and have no intention to distract from that.
We just know that so many of us have waited too long, and while there have been other tribute attempts at remaking DC, no indie developer could get away with taking over the IP of Dino Crisis. That’s one of the reasons we are offering modding support (as well as character customization in-game). If you want to call your character “Regina” and make the character resemble an early DC character, you can! Also Dino Crisis 1 and 2 had fixed cameras, almost top-down gameplay, and that’s not what we are doing here.
What kind of background and experience does the development team have, and what games have they worked on in the past?
Gold: We had been using Unreal Engine since 2015; UE4 ushered in a whole new demographic of enthusiasts as they showed off a clean new interface and the wide gamut of possibilities for our studio. We started to find ways to implement it into our animation workflow and other interactive experiences.
Saunders: Since we got more involved we’ve begun to hire more experienced developers and other professionals, from artists through to publishers and even consulting paleontology experts and students.
You mention waiting 20 years for another Dino Crisis. How many of the team have memories of playing the original Dino Crisis?
Gold: The funny thing is we all played the game before and it came up in conversation often!
Saunders: My second game ever on my PS1 was DC1 and remained my most cherished game until DC2! I’d have to say my memories of the game make it one of my all-time favorites to this day.
You’ve described Instinction as “a dinosaur survival game with modern mechanics and a compelling story.” Could you give an example of some of the mechanics you plan to include, particularly ones that were absent from the original Dino Crisis?
Gold: Vehicle mechanics, swimming, climbing, crouching to name a few. There’s a large amount of underwater exploration. We’ve spent considerable effort on physics, ballistics, and impressive environments; the environments, especially in a semi-realistic setting, take a considerable amount of time and expertise.
Are the various glimpses we’ve had of the game — screenshots, trailer and so forth — all real-time in-game?
Gold: Some of the video is screen-captured; everything is however rendered in real time within Unreal Engine. Additionally, we’ve got a huge repository of our early tests that we plan to share now and then, so I think you’ll be pretty surprised when you see our game trailer.
Jade: We may have already mentioned the reveal trailer is still a while away. We are coordinating with IGN for the Summer of Gaming ’21 events (which kicks off in late May with E3 and finishes off in early September with Gamescom) and are working closely with their schedule. We’ll ensure that we indicate “captured in game engine” as there’s nothing worse than wondering!
With Dino Crisis, Capcom put you into corridors and rooms where they could control encounters. How will things be different with Instinction being semi-open world? It sounds a little reminiscent of Jurassic Park: Trespasser.
Gold: The world is being designed in such a way that some areas can only be accessed or played through a certain way; objectives and missions will force the player to specific confines. The game is narrative-driven, yet players aren’t restricted to play in sequence.
What dinosaurs do you plan on including? Will encounters with them be scripted? If they can free-roam, are you planning on having them interact with each other?
Gold: I can’t talk too much on this yet. Not all the animals in-game are dinosaurs; we are including a species of Smilodon (sabre-toothed cat) and there are a number of other animals in the game, and it does include combat with humans too. Also, ever heard of Homo floresiensis? We’re releasing the first list on our socials next week. There’s almost 100 in total, and this early list will showcase a few. The dinosaurs are not simple bots, at least the ones important to the game aren’t; there’s a balance between interactivity and narrative purpose and location.
Do you plan on letting the player pit dinosaurs against each other?
Gold: No, but we are including a separate dino-zombie game mode as a bonus.
Is this going to be some sort of horde-style mode?
Saunders: Correct, similar to what a franchise like Call of Duty has, but with hordes of dinos. This will be a separate game mode and does not affect the core game in any way. We created it for fun so we’d like to incorporate it, but will fine-tune it and make it available with the game. If there’s any real interest we may expand on it too in updates.
Is Instinction going to take place on another planet, like Turok, or is there going to be some Dino Crisis-style time meddling?
Saunders: What I can say is that it is on Earth and there is no time-traveling, but rather an undisclosed location controlled by a larger corporation. For now that is as much as I can say. So you are aware, we were approached and are in discussion with a film, television, and production company in the U.S. about film / TV rights that may slightly shift the narrative undertones a bit. (This won’t have an effect on our current production cycle.)
This is Hashbane’s first game. Are there any unexpected challenges you’ve run into so far? Are there any particular challenges you’re anticipating?
Saunders: Look, there will always be challenges. The best way to overcome these challenges is with smart and experienced individuals within their own respective fields and employing more professionals where needed; this is partially why the studio continues to grow. We’ve recently been approached and are in discussion with a funding partner to help supersize the development and further professionalize the team.
Gold: We’ve been fortunate. The pandemic hit hard. However, here in New Zealand we’ve been mostly unaffected; that includes both our businesses. We understand things may change and we’re always ready to adjust accordingly.
You’re planning to bring Instinction to PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5. What can we expect to see in terms of performance, frame rate, textures, etc. from the next-gen versions?
Gold: We’ve planned for release on these platforms, and it’s important to know this from the outset. In many ways we are preparing for Unreal Engine 5 and the technologies that come with it; it will revolutionize gaming and the stability of games on most platforms. We’ve touched on this before and will be able to go into more detail in the future, but ultimately 120 FPS is manageable and stable with DLSS and utilizing optimized textures, 3D meshes. Playing a stable game at 8K for instance has to be supersampled from 4K and would need the correct hardware on a PC; consoles aren’t there yet. All our textures are 8K.
Finally, is there one thing in particular you want people to know about Instinction?
Saunders: For those wondering, there is a massive research facility in the game, as well as a large cave and cenote system.
Hashbane plans to release Instinction in Q3 2022 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, and PC.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.