In our 81st episode, we got to speak with members of the Saurian team and hear updates on their game as well as what’s going on with their awesome Kickstarter project.
As you may recall from our interview with Saurian in episode 43, Saurian is an open world survival game that is both beautiful and scientifically accurate. In the game you play as one of four dinosaurs: Dakotaraptor, Pachycephalosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, or Triceratops, and you must survive from hatchling to adult in the Hell Creek ecosystem. Each life stage comes with new challenges, all while managing physical needs and avoiding predators and natural hazards.
We also talk about Citipati, an oviraptorid theropod that had a tall crest on its head like a cassowary.
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In this episode, we discuss:
- The dinosaur of the day: Citipati
- Oviraptorid theropod that lived in the Late Cretaceous in what is now Mongolia
- Name means funeral pyre lord
- In Tibetan Buddhist folklore, Citipati were two monks who were in a deep trance when a thief beheaded them. Citipati are usually shown as a pair of dancing skeletons surrounded by a flame
- Described in 2001 by James M. Clark, Mark Norell, and Rinchen Barsbold
- 2001 paper called “Two New Oviraptorids (Theropod: Oviraptorosauria), Upper Cretaceous Djadokhta Formation, Ukhaa Tolgod, Mongolia
- Type species is Citipati osmolskae
- Species name is in honor of Halszka Osmólska, a paleontologist known for oviraptorids and Mongolian theropods
- Found in the Gobi Desert
- Many well-preserved skeletons found, and some found brooding on top of nests
- Holotype is of a nearly complete skeleton
- There may be a second species, but it’s unnamed
- One of the larger oviraptorids, though not as large as Gigantoraptor (named in 2007)
- About 10 ft (3 m) long
- Had a long neck and short tail
- Had a short skull with lots of openings in the bone structure
- Had a toothless beak and a tall crest (similar to a cassowary)
- Very similar to Oviraptor, and often the two are confused
- In 1981 a large oviraptorid with a distinct crest was called Oviraptor, but has been tentatively reclassified as a second species of Citipati (and has the large tall headcrest like a cassowary, taller than other Citipatis)
- This skeleton was so well known it’s often depicted as Oviraptor (especially since the Oviraptor holotype had a crushed skull so it’s unclear exactly what it looked like)
- Four Citipati specimens have been found in brooding positions on top of egg clutches. One has the nickname Big Mamma (described in 1999 and referred to as Citipati in 2001)
- Possible that Citipati had feathers on its forelimbs (position suggests the feathers would help cover the nest, with its arms and legs spread out on each side of the nest)
- Modern birds assume a similar posture, which further links birds and theropod dinosaurs
- The discovery of Citipati brooding changed the way scientists thought about Ovirapotorids, especially in 1993 when they found a Citipati embryo inside and egg thought to be a Protoceratops. Instead of being egg thiefs, they cared for their young
- Many Citipati eggs have been found
- Citipati eggs are oval shaped and were arranged in concentric circles of up to three layers. Clutches may have had as many as 22 eggs
- Eggs are 7 in (18 cm) long
- In the same nest where scientists found the Citipati embryo, they also found two skulls of embryonic Byronosaurus (a troodontid), which means Citipati may have preyed on them or an adult Byronosaurus laid eggs in the Citipati nest so that Citipati would raise them (nest parasitism)
- Oviraptorids lived in the Cretaceous in Mongolia and North America
- They used to be considered ornithomimids, but now they’re part of Maniraptora
- They are generally small, with short skulls, toothless jaws, and crests on the skull
- Had feathers
- Compared to other maniraptorans, they have short tails
- Fun fact: There have been over 300 animal taxa named after Charles Darwin including at least 2 dinosaurs. One, the Demandasaurus darwini, was discovered in Spain and named in 2011. It’s a diplodocoid sauropod from the Cretaceous. The Darwinsaurus evolutionis was named in 2012 after being referred to by different names since the 1800s, but may be a nomen dubium for another hadrosaur (also from the Cretaceous).
For those who may prefer reading, see below for the full transcript of our interview with the Saurian team:
Sabrina: Today we’ve got with us developers from the Saurian game, and Saurian is an open-world survival game that is both beautiful and scientifically accurate, and in this game you play as one of four dinosaurs: Dakotaraptor, Pachycephalosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, or Triceratops, and you must survive from hatchling to adult in the Hell Creek ecosystem. Each life stage comes with new challenges, all while managing physical needs and avoiding predators and natural hazards.
We first interviewed the Saurian team in our episode 43, and now after three years of development they’re running a successful Kickstarter campaign in order to get their game out into the world. They’ve already reached more than their initial goal of $55,000, more than 4200 backers have already pledged over $150,000, including us, and the project will be funded on Thursday, June 23rd, at 12:49PM PDT.
Garret: Very precise.
Sabrina: Well I thought it was interesting that it was that precise on Kickstarter.
Nick Turinetti: They like to keep track of these things.
Sabrina: They do. Last thing, they’ve reached a number of stretch goals, including genetic variation skins, spectator mode, character customization, dynamic environment events, post-impact survival, and new playable dinosaurs. And it looks like you’ve just reached the multi-player stretch goal.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah we hit multiplayer today.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: This morning.
Jack Turner: May God have mercy on our souls.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Yes, please.
Sabrina: You guys have come a long way, it’s awesome.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah. So with me today we have Alejandra, who’s one of our programmers. She’s handling player control right now, how the dinosaurs move from the player’s perspective. Jack is kind of a tech artist. He can do just about anything if we tell him to do it. And Jake is our…
Jack Turner: And continue to tell me until I actually do it.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah. And Jake Baardse is our 3D modeler. He’s responsible for like 99% of the things in-game right now.
Jake Baardse: I mean I think there isn’t a single thing in the Kickstarter trailer that I didn’t do as far as the game play stuff.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Humble bragging.
Jack Turner: That’s not even a humble brag, that’s just bragging.
Jake Baardse: Yeah, straight brag.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: I’m, giving you an out Jake, take it.
Nick Turinetti: And Henry’s our AI programmer.
Sabrina: So how many people are you up to now?
Nick Turinetti: We’re up to 15 people who are involved in some capacity or another. Including Gerry.
Sabrina: Gerry’s awesome. We got some questions about Gerry.
Nick Turinetti: That’s, Bryan’s Internet doesn’t work very well so he has a hard time with Skype, so we can do our best but the emu master is not here.
Garret: I think it’s a simple question.
Sabrina: It’s, yeah, it is. So we know Saurian is a passion project. How does it feel to have so much public support?
Nick Turinetti: It feels really, really good at least for me because until you actually finally put something out there for people to react to and fund you’re never quite sure if you’ve really nailed, you know, the public’s mood. You’re never quite sure how many people are actually behind you. And having, you know, 4400 plus people who have pledged to it now is awesome.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: It is amazingly overwhelming. Since the Kickstarter launch I’ve been between out of my mind happy and just crying. Because we’ve had such a good response from like fans. Like we reached our goal within two days, and we didn’t like, we don’t have like a big you know marketing team or whatever. We basically just put it out for our fans, the people who have been following us for years. And these people made it happen. I have no idea how they did it, but they made it happen. We have like 2,000 backers in the first three days.
Sabrina: That’s amazing.
Sabrina: Well I mean you’ve been at this for awhile and you do all kinds of engagement stuff. Like your livestreams are awesome.
Jake Baardse: I hope you aren’t watching those.
Sabrina: I watch the condensed version.
Jake Baardse: Okay, yeah we did a 24 hour livestream, at least I did one, when was that? Was that a week ago now?
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Yes that was…
Jake Baardse: Yeah it’d be Monday now, and yeah needless to say we were up for 24 hours, everyone was a bit loopy.
Sabrina: So are you guys able to work on this full time now?
Henry Meyers : I have quit one of my jobs so far, so that’s the plan for me starting at the end of the Kickstarter.
Nick Turinetti: I think one of the first things we’re gonna do once the Kickstarter concludes is we’re gonna have to go back and kind of re-hash just about everything we had planned to do and sort of reassign you know funding here, and funding there, because we just have so much more to work with now than I think we even ever expected we would. So it’s good problems.
Sabrina: Definitely. So which stretch goal are you most excited to have reached?
Jack Turner: Depends on what you mean by excited, right? In terms of general heart rate and cortisol, like release of adrenaline, it’s the multiplayer. At least for, yeah, but you know in terms of pleasant excited feeling for me it would be the genetic variant skins.
Garret: Oh yeah that’s a cool on e. You have, what are the different ones? There’s like an albino one and are there, have you released what the different ones are gonna be yet?
Nick Turinetti: At this point we’re looking at doing at least albino, melanistic, and piebald mammals, mostly because those three are ones you can actually find even if it’s very rarely in the natural world. And there’s one or two others that we’re toying with at this point, but at least those three will be available.
Garret: What were the last two you mentioned? I didn’t recognize those.
Nick Turinetti: Melanistic, which is animals that have excess pigment. Like black panthers are just melanistic leopards or jaguars. And the third one is an animal; a piebald animal has actually like blotches of skin on their body that are without pigment. They’re white but they’re sort of like these weird sort of very precise edges on an otherwise like patterned animal.
Garret: Oh that sounds cool.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah, and what’s kinda neat about genetic skins is that it’s our intent to have them actually have an influence on how you play. In the wild many animals that are albino have a more difficult time finding mates because other members of their species kind of aren’t entirely sure how to react to an animal that looks as different as an albino does. And they’re also much more visible unless you live in like the Arctic or something like that. An albino animal in the middle of a forest kinda stands out quite a bit. So anyone wanting to play as an albino is gonna have a bigger challenge on their hands.
Garret: It’s like wearing hunting camo like bright orange.
Nick Turinetti: A little bit, yeah. Except in this case the deer can see better than you can, so…
Garret: So last time that we talked you were talking about Acheroraptor, and you were kind of hinting about Dakotaraptor which is…
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Oh my god I remember that.
Sabrina: Yeah I was so excited when that came out.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah. They didn’t really like me for a long time because…
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Because you were dangling it in front of our faces, and you reveled in the fact that you knew something that none of us did. And every chance you got you were like no guys, this new dinosaur’s gonna be great.
Henry Meyers : There was graceful and ungraceful way to do that, and you were very much on the ungraceful side of it.
Garret: And Alejandra was talking about how much she liked Acheroraptor, and I was thinking like how did she react to now it being switched I guess to Dakotaraptor, or is that basically what you did, or did you make a lot of changes to go along with it?
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Not that many changes had to be made because the way it’s programmed. In terms of setting it up as a playable. And I love Acheroraptor but I also love Dakotaraptor because it’s like a big fluffy Acheroraptor. It’s great, it’s all good things.
Nick Turinetti: I actually found out about Dakotaraptor a couple months before it was published, and I was sworn to secrecy by the person that told me to the extent that I couldn’t even tell other people about it. And needless to say it’s a little frustrating on my end, and I may have taken out that frustration by dangling it in front of other people. So…
Jake Baardse: He is the worst kinda person to have secrets.
Nick Turinetti: I am. But I mean once it was public, I mean I think that was one of those, if you guys read the blog post we put up, you know that’s a direct quote from Henry when we told him what it was. That’s unadulterated Henry, just: “Dakotaraptor! Dakotaraptor! Dakotaraptor!”
Henry Meyers: Yeah I was freaking out.
Garret: Yeah as soon as I heard about that dinosaur I was like this is maybe the coolest dinosaur I’ve ever seen.
Nick Turinetti: It is really really really cool just because of how essentially mysterious and absent it’s been from the fossil record up until this point. And one of the things that has kind of started to come out now that Dakotaraptor has been published is that there are probably little bits and pieces of it that have been known for a significant amount of time, they just have never been identified as belonging to a large dromaeosaur. Apparently there are even some teeth that are from a formation in Canada that’s about 15 to 20 million years older than the Hell Creek formation that has teeth that are very close of those that were assigned to Dakotaraptor. So this animal and its ancestral stock may just be a very rare part of late cretaceous North American dinosaur fauna that’s just been unknown until now, which is even cooler.
Garret: Yeah, that’s really neat. So I know you were saying that the Acheroraptor could go about 15 miles an hour, but I’ve read some stuff about Dakotaraptor that it might’ve been really fast. Is that how it’s gonna be in your game? Is it gonna be like faster than a T-rex, or have you decided yet?
Nick Turinetti: It’s not necessarily just a matter of what we decide in the sense that we’ve animated the Dakotaraptor. It can run around on its own. When we first did it, I think Bryan got it up to something about 35 miles an hour, I think is what he managed to get it running at where it looked like it was still believable. And we sent that animation off to John Hutchinson, who’s an expert in animal locomotion. He’s been the person that we’ve gone to when we had questions about like our tyrannosaur locomotion, or triceratops, or any of those other animals. And he looked at it and he thought, you know, I think this animal is still taking too rapid of strides, it’s still moving too fast for an animal that’s, you know, bigger than an ostrich. And he suggested that we slow down its stride length, maybe shorten its stride length a little bit, and what we wound up with is an animal that’s running at about twenty nine to thirty miles an hour, and it’s just slower than what we have our sub-adult tyrannosaur running at right now.
Nick Turinetti: And I think that’s one of the things that’s interesting about Dakotaraptors. It’s definitely built more like an animal, a small dromaeosaur basically. Something more akin to like […] (00:11:14) or some of these other smaller lightly built dromaeosaurs. The only difference is that it’s big, and despite that it still has those real dromaeosaur characteristics of relatively, probably has really short foot bones because it’s also going to have to use its feet as part of its predatory technique, I guess you could say. And that probably means that Dakotaraptor was capable of moving quickly, but it’s nowhere near capable of running for distance in the way a tyrannosaur or an ornithomimid might be able to. So it’s kinda this neat little sprinter that it’s gonna be fast over short distances, but it’s not gonna outrun something like Jane the Tyrannosaurus, because her legs just go on forever.
And if you ever get a chance to check out Bryan, Bryan set up a scene that he shows in his livestreams from time to time where he basically has all the animals racing each other, and you look at how fast dacotahraptor’s running, and you look at how fast Jane is running. Jane doesn’t look like she requires anywhere near as much energy to maintain her speed as it takes Dakotaraptor to, so…
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: But Jane has leg for days, it’s great. She’s so leggy.
Sabrina: That’s awesome.
Garret: Are there any other dinosaur abilities or anything that you’d like to share?
Nick Turinetti: What’s kinda really cool is that we’ve also, one of the other aspects of Dakotaraptor that we also were planning to do with Acheroraptor is climbing. And climbing and Dakotaraptor is something that’s unlike kind of what we showed in the trailers. Like we’re really gonna try and emphasize that it’s young Dakotaraptors that are capable of climbing, or are really good at climbing, and the adults maybe only climb rarely just because it’s still talking about an animal that’s probably 200 kilograms plus hoisting itself into a tree.
So what’s cool about it is that we know from the shape of dromaeosaur claws that they’re perfectly built for hooking into something and supporting weight. And they’re sort of like climbing crampons in that sense. And it’s been argued for quite awhile that dromaeosaurs do not have a whole lot of physical characteristics of a climbing animal, but this claw might be something that indicated that even if they’re not well designed to do it, they were still capable of climbing. And since Dakotaraptors are the first dinosaur that people are gonna be able to play as, it’s kinda cool to hype it up. And there are a couple of other abilities that are coming with some of the other animals that I think will be kinda nice surprises, so…
Garret: Awesome. Well, we’ll let people get surprised by those then. So last time too you were talking about there was a little dinosaur, or not dinosaur, a little lizard that was running around that you were trying to chase. Do you still have that thing running around and hiding and…
Nick Turinetti: Henry it’s your baby.
Jake Baardse: It’s impossible to see.
Henry Meyers : Oh Scuttlebuns, Jamops.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Yeah.
Henry Meyers: I mean he still exists in the project. We didn’t put him in any of our recent builds just because he’s almost impossible to see. It’s so hard to find it. It’s something that you’re really only gonna be able to see at the younger stages I think. And even then it’s gonna be really difficult.
Garret: So it’s almost like an Easter egg or something.
Henry Meyers: I mean it’s not that, it’s just that you know it’s so small and there’s enough foliage that it’s really hard to…
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Hard to catch […] (00:14:31)
Nick Turinetti: Yeah, Jamops is actually kind of a really good lesson for us in like the limitations of what you can do when you’re making a game where the size of the animals you’re playing as varies from something that’s you know the size of a human to something that’s the size of a bus. We’ve kind of made Jamops basically our de facto nothing in the game really can be smaller than this. Because Jamops by itself is already difficult to encounter, to the point where I think we ran around in a map that was like barely foliated and it lost us quite easily. So you know to continue to have Jamops, Jamops is obviously not going anywhere, he’s gonna continue to be part of the game, but we may have to kind of get a little creative about how players perceive some things around them that actually just sort of make Jamops visible in many cases. But essentially nothing in the game is gonna be smaller than Jamops. Jamops is somewhere between 60 and 80 centimeters in total length.
Garret: Yeah that’s pretty small if you’re a T-rex.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah. Like barely bigger than your teeth.
Garret: Okay, so then I gotta get to the biggest question that I have.
Nick Turinetti: Oh boy.
Garret: You have the goal for the new dinosaurs, and you said you were gonna do one herbivore and one carnivore, and it’s gonna get voted on by backers, and I saw a couple of days ago you put on an Anatosaurus slash Edmontosaurus, depending on who you ask, and Anzu wylei and Ankylosaurus, which is my personal favorite dinosaur. I’m assuming those are all herbivores, or is Anzu gonna be a carnivore, and then do you have any idea which carnivores you’re gonna be putting in for the vote?
Nick Turinetti: Well I think we were a little bit hasty when we made that initial statement. What we’re looking at doing right now is actually something where we’re looking at including one herbivore and one omnivore, just because the other carnivore options in Hell Creek that we know of at this point are Acheroraptor, who’s already kind of really pushing the small end of things if you’re gonna make it a three or four life stage playable. And beyond that most of the other animals that are comparable to it are of about the same size.
After you get through growth stages of Tyrannosaurus and Dakotaraptor, they really have you know large predator, medium sized predator niche pretty well locked up. And so what we’ve looked at is instead of an herbivore and a carnivore we’re gonna offer people a choice between an herbivore and an omnivore.
Garret: Okay, so Anzu will be one of the omnivores most likely?
Nick Turinetti: Yes. The other animal that we’re looking at strongly for a potential omnivore would be the Hell Creek ornithomimid. And there’s not a whole lot of agreement as to whether or not it’s properly called Ornithomimus or Struthiomimus or if it might be something else altogether. North American ornithomimids are really in need of like somebody to just make it like their doctoral thesis or something, just go through all of them and see exactly who’s related to who.
If it does turn out the Hell Creek ornothomimid is not Struthiomimus or Ornithomimus we have a name that’s ready for lobbying though, so… Awhile back when Jake first sculpted the ornithomimid we sort of threw out the idea of the name of like dinorithomimus, and it’s a little bit of a dumb joke because you can kinda take two different meanings out of that. One of the genus names for moas is Dinornis. So you could say that dinorithomimus is a moa mimic. The other one you could use if you treat it the same as the same root as dinosaur, so it’s dinorithomimus, you could have it be like terrible bird mimic.
The other root meaning of dinos can be like fearfully great or awesome, so it’s either the terrible bird mimic or the awesome bird mimic, but that’s kind of like neither here nor there. Somebody has to study it and decide yes, this is actually something different. And if they do we have a name ready for them.
Garret: That’s good.
Sabrina: Good. You mentioned before Jane is the Tyrannosaurus. Do all of the playable dinosaurs, have you named them personally yet?
Nick Turinetti: Not yet. The tyrannosaurs in particular all have names, because for whatever reason tyrannosaurs are just sort of so popular that everyone seems to think they all need names, so you know who knew? Right now we have kind of like little code names for them. The smallest one is Chomper because it’s based off of a specimen at the Museum of the Rockies called Chomper. The juvenile we’ve called it Jordan because it’s based on the juvenile specimen at the Los Angeles County Museum which was found in Jordan, Montana. And before it was named it was called the Jordan Theropod. And then there’s Jane, so…
Jake Baardse: And Stan.
Nick Turinetti: And Stan, yeah, is the adult that we based our sculpt off of. And we haven’t really gotten around to making too many of the other growth stages yet. We haven’t really picked out names for like the trike growth stages, other than the little one is Ugly.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: I wanna take this moment to put forward calling the adult Dakotaraptor Bob.
Nick Turinetti: Bob.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Yes, he’s Bob.
Jake Baardse: I’m down.
Jack Turner: We’ll take that name into consideration.
Jake Baardse: Yeah we only really named the T-rex ones just because it was what everyone […] (00:19:54). Like the adult is Jane. It’s the specimen name, it’s kinda the popular one, but there’s none of that for the other ones. We’re just gonna probably call them sub-adult.
Garret: Spoken like a true engineer.
Nick Turinetti: With Pachycephalosaurus though we could probably, because Pachycephalosaurus is pretty well agreed upon in the scientific community now to have what was formerly known as Dracorex and Stygimoloch are just the juvenile and sub-adult growth stages of Pachycephalosaurus. So that’s another case where we kind of have names for them but we haven’t really used them yet because ours is still in the works. So…
Jake Baardse: We based our Pachy on Sandy right?
Nick Turinetti: Yes, the adult sculpt that we have now is based off of a specimen that hasn’t ever been formally described, but has been 3D scanned, and is usually referred to as Sandy.
Garret: Cool, yeah and Dracorex and Stygimoloch are just fun to say so that would be a good choice.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah, for whatever reason, like all the dinosaurs that get sunk in Hell Creek have the cool names.
Nick Turinetti: You know, because like they’ve sunk Anatotitan. They sank Tatankaceratops. What else have we sunk recently?
Jake Baardse: Manospondylus kinda sucks as a name.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah. Yeah there’s all sort of these ones that have kinda cool names. Oh there are two growth stages of tyrannosaurus that were at one time called Dinotyrannus and Stygivenator. And both of those are gone too, so you know…
Jake Baardse: Wasn’t Dynamosaurus a thing too?
Nick Turinetti: Yeah, Dynamosaurus almost was the official name of tyrannosaurus if it wasn’t for where it showed up in the publication.
Garret: Oh yeah.
Nick Turinetti: It was published after Tyrannosaurus so…
Jake Baardse: Dodged a bullet there
Sabrina: Yeah I was gonna say. Maybe it wouldn’t have been as popular.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah, I mean if it was Manospondylus I don’t think anyone would be talking about it today.
Jake Baardse: Manospondylus is awful.
Sabrina: Just really quick going back to the Dakotaraptor. So we saw one of your rewards is a paleo plushy by Rebecca Groom, and I looked her up. She’s an artist that sells soft sculptures of dinosaurs on Etsy, and we saw a picture of the plushy and we’re like oh my god that’s amazing. How did you end up teaming up with her?
Nick Turinetti: I’ve actually kind of casually known Rebecca for a couple of years. She and I kind of frequent some of the same paleo chat groups and Skype groups and stuff like that. And when we were thinking about Kickstarter rewards it was literally like hey, she does plushies. She did a bunch of like Velociraptor plushies about a year and a half ago. She actually Kickstarted having them produced, and she’ll do like small batches of plushies periodically of all sorts of stuff. It think the last one she did was like of Tiktaalik, which is that like really early tetropod like fish I guess you could say.
Garret: Oh yeah, yeah.
Nick Turinetti: So I just literally just said hey Rebecca, wanna make some Daktotaraptors? I know you’ve made others before. And she was like, she was really excited. She’s really into doing this, and she’s been a really big backer and supporter of Saurian and the concept behind it for a long time, so it just kind of, you know, asking your friends to see if they wanna do anything to help you out. And it’s unfortunate that she only really has the ability to make six of them, because I know everybody wants them and it’s really a matter of it’s not that she couldn’t make more, it’s…
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: I want one.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah. It’s not that she couldn’t make more, she just said I don’t want to have people waiting like a year and a half to get a plush, because that’s probably how long it’s gonna take her to make some of these. So…
Garret: That’s what Kickstarter’s all about, it’s okay.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah. She’s really enjoyed it. She actually just finished the prototype and she’s gonna send it to RJ so he can get some pictures of it in like an actual redwood forest.
Jake Baardse: You have no idea how hard he was pushing for getting the prototype by the way. Every other day, yeah, every other day he was like you know if we need, like I could buy it and like you know like take a picture of it in the woods near my house. If we need it. Every other day. Like he was doing us a favor or something.
Sabrina: Of course, of course.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: I mean he’s gonna take one for the team, really.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah. Don’t worry guys, I got this.
Jake Baardse: You know, if you guys need I could take a picture of one of those Dakotaraptor claws like any time, you know?
Sabrina: Well that’s awesome. I was gonna say you guys have a lot of really cool friends who are related to dinosaurs because, well obviously you’ve got all the connections with the paleontologists and stuff.
Garret: Yeah and that paleo art is really good too.
Nick Turinetti: Well thank you.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Dinosaurs brought us together.
Sabrina: Yeah, that’s the cool thing about them.
Henry Meyers: I mean the paleontologist thing took a little bit of time. I guess we kinda had to build a reputation for that, but…
Nick Turinetti: That’s actually been one of the things that’s been most gratifying about this, is that the way that you can communicate with somebody. Like we’ve had paleontologists start coming to us and say, you know, we might be interested in contacting you guys for, you know, illustrations for scientific papers, or even like commissioning animations. And that’s really, really cool from our perspective just because you actually get to work with people who are pushing science and knowledge forward.
Sabrina: Yeah. That’s awesome. Have you had a lot of people, like artists contacting you lately saying like hey can I help you out?
Jack Turner: I’ve been in the video game industry awhile, and when they saw that I was leaving my high-status job to work with these maniacs that were all about dinosaurs they were pitying me. And then they saw like how well the Kickstarter was doing, and all of a sudden I’m getting like hey do you guys need an extra artist? No, go away!
I think the most requested position has gotta be for composer. I have probably had a dozen different people offer to like compose music for Saurian. And it’s hard because Francisco does such a fantastic job. Francisco is our sound designer and composer. He’s basically created all the dinosaur sounds, and he’s also now handling the soundtrack. And you can hear a little bit of his work in the Kickstarter trailer, but we did post to our website like the first sample of one of the tracks that’s gonna be used in the game. And he’s just a phenomenal composer and sound designer.
And you feel bad turning people down, but at the same time it’s like we have a fantastic person working on the team already. And he’s around all the time. Francisco’s just like imma do this, imma do that, do you need anything now? I’m bored. I’m gonna go record a bunch of sounds and then turn them into things you can use in the game.
Sabrina: That’s awesome.
Saurian Team: He actually, Henry actually contributed to the soundtrack as well.
Sabrina: Oh yeah? For what?
Henry Meyers: Yeah I played some violin, made some violin samples and sent them over to our sound designer Sisco, or Chico, who used them to make a dope track.
Sabrina: I wanted to ask, I was gonna as you about the soundtrack, but also who’s writing your Hell Creek Field Guide to the World of Saurian?
Nick Turinetti: The Hell Creek Field Guide is a little bit of a collaborative work between Tom Parker, and I don’t remember if Tom was in the interview last time or not, but Tom in addition to handling a bunch of the research behind the game is also one of our primary map designers. And sort of on the side he also is working on writing this guidebook along with myself and a couple others. And that’s been a lot of fun, we’re really looking forward to that coming together.
But I think what’s most cool about that is just how many extraordinarily talented people have been willing to jump on board and just provide us a piece or two of their own art based on Saurian concepts, and I think that’s what’s really gonna make the book shine is that you have some really, really talented people who are involved with it.
Sabrina: That’s awesome. So now for my Gerry question. If you know, because I know Bryan’s not on this call, but how’s he doing and are you gonna have to pluck feathers out for your backers or have you guys, or has Bryan I guess slowly been collecting them over time?
Nick Turinetti: Gerry’s doing all right last I heard. He’s, I haven’t seen him on Gerrycam recently but I know that Bryan is an excellent Emu master. And basically one of the things that we hope we’ve stipulated well in the Kickstarter is that all of the feathers that Gerry will be sending people are ones that he’s naturally molted. They’re just ones that Bryan has collected and been collecting for probably six months now. He said he’s got something like a huge plastic bag of them that we’re ready to send off when the time comes, so…
That’s one of the things that I’ve really liked about the Kickstarter and our fans is just like how many people are just stoked about Gerry, or like seeing Gerry. Like I think any time Bryan streams, there are people who ask about him multiple times over and over again. So…
Garret: Yeah I saw you added extra Gerry feathers, and we were thinking like how are they gonna get 250 of these feathers? But it makes more sense that they’ve been collected over a long period of time.
Sabrina: You were anticipating it.
Jake Baardse: Yeah, the secret truth is that we just hang him upside down.
Garret: Shake him?
Jake Baardse: Yeah. He’s on a rack somewhere. Bryan’s drumming his fingers together underneath him.
Sabrina: So how close is the game to being ready now?
Nick Turinetti: We have a lot of work ahead of us, we’ll put it that way. Jack, Alejandra, and Henry I think can speak better to this than I can, so…
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: We are much closer than we were nine months ago. That’s something.
Nick Turinetti: Yes, this is true.
Nick Turinetti: We’re much closer than we were three years ago.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Yes. I think we’re on a good track; we’ve got a good outline of where we want to go, what we gonna have, like, what we want to have for our first release for the axis, and we’re working towards that so that’s been helping out a lot.
Nick Turinetti: Another big thing too is that we finally have resources available to us that will make this development pick up pace quite a bit.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Yeah.
Sabrina: Yeah that makes sense. I know this might be kind of a little touchy subject Henry, sorry but I wanna ask about the AI. Like now that you have funding will you be able to start working on that again?
Henry Meyers: The learning AI? No, the reason that I stopped working on it wasn’t because of funding. The reason was because it was an experimental architecture that was just too risky. I was trying a lot of new things to try and make it work with such an open-ended open world setting, and yeah it’s just I had no guarantee that it would work as opposed to traditional architectures which I do have a guarantee will work and I know how they work already. So it was something that was done kind of conservatively for the safety of the project. You know, rather than taking a big swing and taking the risk of missing, take a little swing and make sure we hit it.
Nick Turinetti: Which isn’t to say that Henry doesn’t wanna go back and revisit it someday…
Henry Meyers: If I can eventually, I absolutely will.
Sabrina: Awesome. Do you see Saurian as, once it’s out obviously you know you’ve gotta maintain it and stuff, but do you see it having a lot of updates to correlate with whatever science, you know, uncovers in the future about the Hell Creek formation and specific dinosaurs?
Nick Turinetti: Well my hope is that we’ve done a pretty good job up front about covering a lot of our bases. Just that one can hope that’s not a specific guarantee. I think in the short term we can definitely sort of adapt and tweak to fit new things that are discovered, but expecting like a perpetual update on the Hell Creek formation is probably not realistic. At some point in time Saurian will have to wind up being a snapshot of what we knew about the Hell Creek formation circa 2016-17ish. So our hope is that we’ve done a good enough job interpreting the data that it ages gracefully at a certain point.
Sabrina: Yeah, well it sounds like you have at least from what we’ve seen.
Garret: Yeah and all the animations and stuff look great and very realistic.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah those are definitely Bryan’s babies. He spends a lot of time making sure they look great.
Sabrina: Otherwise Gerry will get mad.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah yeah. I think the best part, and Garret you mentioned that Ankylosaurus is your favorite model so far, I think Jake probably spent the most time on that of any sculpt you’ve done for the game?
Jake Baardse: Yeah probably. There was a lot of back and forth with the paleontologist we were consulting on that one.
Nick Turinetti: Well and there was also the fact that you did all the scales by hand.
Sabrina: Wow, how long did that take?
Jake Baardse: We did it over the course of a stream…
Sabrina: Right, but your streams can be 24 hours.
Jake Baardse: Yeah, they can be a long time. Yeah I would say on average it takes me about eight hours to make a model, so it, yeah it might have taken 16. Who knows? There was a lot of just listening to music and drawing one scale at a time.
Nick Turinetti: The results definitely speak for itself though because that thing looks fantastic.
Garret: It does.
Nick Turinetti: And we were working with Victoria Arbour (00:33:14). She was exceedingly helpful with both our Ankylosaurus and our Denversaurus, and you know that model is probably the best representation of Ankylosaurus produced. And that sounds like it’s, you know, bragging, but I absolutely think that based on her feedback and Jake’s skill.
Garret: Are there any specifics about it that you’re really happy about or that you know are a little bit unique to it?
Nick Turinetti: Some of it has to do with the fact that Victoria did share some data that is based on her own observations, and she’s seen more ankylosaurs with intact and preserved armor than just about anyone I can think of. And so she kind of lent some of her personal observations and even a little bit of unpublished data to help us make this. And there’s some different interpretations about armor arrangement in the model than has been frequently portrayed before. I think we wound up having to completely redo our first model because we based it off of an old publication that she said was, you know, a couple things in here aren’t quite right. And there’s never been a model that’s come anywhere close to how precise this one is, that I’ve ever seen at least.
Sabrina: Yeah, that is cool.
Garret: Precision and scientific accuracy usually isn’t in the forefront of game development. It’s usually more about is it scary enough or…
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Yeah, does it look cool?
Nick Turinetti: And to be perfectly honest people who say that haven’t encountered a tyrannosaur in the middle of the night.
Garret: Yeah. Yeah that’s like the whole thing about not being scared by a T-rex with feathers. It’s like you really think if you encountered a T-rex with feathers you’d be like ah it’s just a little bird, I’ll just stand here and not run away.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah.
Jack Turner: Anyone that’s listened to the sound test that we have up on YouTube of a T-rex, not even roaring, just sort of general communication between T-rexes, just their clearing of their throats essentially sounds so terrifying that it makes the little monkey mammal in you just wanna scurry under a rock.
Garret: That’s great.
Nick Turinetti: When we posted that there was actually kind of an interesting discussion that came up on our YouTube comments of all places. And usually YouTube comments are like the worst place in the world to go and talk about something, but somebody mentioned that they thought this sounded really, really good in terms of like what we could reasonably expect a dinosaur to sound like. But they went even further to say that we know that in […] (00:35:57) for example, and emus as well, that a lot of the sound that they make is infrasound. It’s below the level that we can hear, and it’s wavelengths are so long that you don’t even hear them, you feel them more than anything else. Like Bryan has said before that when Gerry, emus make a sound that’s sometimes called booming. And he said that you don’t always hear an emo boom, but you can always feel them boom. Like you can literally feel it in your chest when they do it.
And here’s an animal that’s, you know, 30 times the mass of an emu. If this animal is communicating in infrasound, the person pointed out that it’s potentially possible that an animal that large making a loud enough sound could be like detrimental to your heartbeats. Just think about like what a whale does when it makes low frequency sound. I’ve never been in the water with a whale but I imagine that sounds pretty terrifying too, if you can feel it more than you can hear it. So…
Garret: Yeah, I also like just the idea of using a noise that isn’t that exact noise that Jurassic Park made and everybody’s been using for a T-rex since then.
Jack Turner: Yeah. Or some poor copy of it. I heard somewhere that a real T-rex can’t roar like that.
Jack Turner: Yeah. Like it can’t push that much air through its lungs like that, so…
Nick Turinetti: I think it’s more a matter just that most dinosaur sounds that people hear in cinema and popular media are still based on mammal noises, and you know mammals make noises in a different way that birds and crocodilians do.
Garret: Yeah we talked about that T-rex noise because we had some article where they talked about how they made it, and I think it was a combination of a whale, a lion roar, a… what else was thrown in there?
Jack Turner: Sounds like a freight train.
Garret: Could have been. It was like all these things that they smooshed together, kind of like Star Wars or something, and just sound designed the craziest, loudest noise they could come up with that had nothing to do with what a bird or a dinosaur would sound…
Sabrina: Turtles too.
Garret: Oh yeah turtles.
Sabrina: Turtles mating I think. One of them. I don’t…
Jack Turner: Oh God.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Mating turtles. Sound you gotta put in Henry.
Nick Turinetti: Henry you can leave now.
Henry Meyers: Okay.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: No Chico’s been very good about not making them sound like popular culture makes you think they will sound.
Garret: Yeah that’s great.
Sabrina: So what’s been the biggest challenge for you guys up until now?
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Multiplayer.
Nick Turinetti: I think there’s been a lot of like small challenges. I mean the biggest one has just simply been lack of resources I think, that you know people want to work more on it, we know we need to work more on it, there just hasn’t been the ability to support the people who need to do that. I mean going beyond that there’s also I think a little aspect of learning that you have to let go, that at some point you just have to let people see what you’ve done and be willing to share it with them even if you look at it and you can spot all these things that you don’t necessarily like about it that you wish you could tweak further, but it’s just time. So…
Sabrina: Yeah, makes sense. So I know you guys are probably really busy with all the Kickstarter now, but I guess as soon as that ends what’s gonna be the next like big thing to work on.
Nick Turinetti: Alejandra?
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: The game.
Nick Turinetti: I was gonna say this is your cue to yell multiplayer, but…
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Oh God, multiplayer, multiplayer of course, it will be multiplayer until we actually have a player build out.
Sabrina: That makes sense.
Garret: I’m hoping you get to the VR level, because we have an Oculus Rift and playing as a dinosaur sounds so fun.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: I’m hoping we get to it too, because I want an excuse to get an Oculus Rift.
Nick Turinetti: Bryan has a Vive, and he’s already played around with some of the animations he’s made using the Vive. And he has had really exciting results from it I guess you could say, so we’re excited about that prospect too.
Garret: Cool. I hope you make it.
Nick Turinetti: Cross your fingers. And you know thank you to everybody who’s pushed us this far. See how much farther we can go is I guess the best I can say about that.
Sabrina: Well thank you so much for taking the time. I know you guys are all crazy busy right now, but we’re excited we got to hear the updates. Best of luck with the rest of the Kickstarter, it was great catching up.
Nick Turinetti: Yeah, thanks. Thank you for having us. I guess one thing that I would report too is that we are definitely gonna look to have at least one, probably two more livestreams before the end of the Kickstarter, so definitely hope people are on the lookout for that and we’re excited.
Jake Baardse: Subscribe in the Twitch.
Alejandra Soto-Sauceda: Yes.
Sabrina: Yes, oh I saw you’re also on Discord now right?
Nick Turinetti: Yes we do have a Discord.