The Journeyman Project

Posted by David Tanguay.
First posted on 27 October 1997. Last updated on 31 December 2012.
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The Journeyman Project
Menacing robots on Mars will try to stop Agent 5 from completing his mission.
The Journeyman Project
The beautifully rendered World Science Center is a treat to see.
The Journeyman Project
Time travel is the key to save the world.

The Journeyman Project Turbo!

Released in 1994, The Journeyman Project Turbo! is an update of the original The Journeyman Project. The update features faster graphics and reduced load times as compared to the original.

In 1992, Sanctuary Woods released The Journeyman Project. The original game suffered from great performance problems with slow animations and excessive long load times. An updated version, dubbed The Journeyman Project Turbo!, was released in 1994. This update claimed to be more than 300% faster than the original. Despite the performance improvement, key design flaws and extremely short gameplay still prevented the game from living up to the hype it once generated.

You play Gage Blackwood, Agent 5 of the Temporal Protectorat and an agent of the Temporal Security Agency. Your job is to police history and to prevent others from manipulating or profiting from the past. Since the TSA is thought to have the only time machine, your work also includes historical research. It is the year 2318 and Earth is about to receive an important alien delegation, to negotiate Earth's entry into the Symbiotry of Peaceful Beings, the alien equivalent of the UN. Just before they arrive, however, someone has changed history so that Earth's first contact with aliens (eight years prior) was hostile instead of peaceful. It is up to you to go back in time to prevent the changes and restore history.

Your first step is to go back 200 million years, where the TSA has stored information about the correct history, to help you determine where and when history has been changed. You then travel to three different epochs to stop various robots committing sabotage—the Mars Colony in 2185, the World Science Center in 2310, and a NORAD base in 2112. Finally, you return home to Caldoria in 2318 to stop the villain from disrupting the negotiation.

The Journeyman Project Turbo! is one of the first games to use high quality rendered graphics. It bills itself as the world's first photorealistic adventure game. There is a small amount of live action video thrown in as well. All the graphics in the game are pre-rendered. Animations are played inside a small window.

In the production of these animations, quick conceptual sketches are drawn from the gameplay summary, followed by final drawings which show the objects from several views. Detailed 3D models are then created based on the multiple views of each object. Next, elaborate texture, bump, and transparency maps are added to all of the models. Once an entire environment is modeled, test rendering is begun to confirm object placement. Animations are then choreographed, and lighting is set up for final renderings. At this point, the renderings go through a touchup process, where shadows and other details are manually added, the color levels adjusted, and the bit depth reduced to 8-bit system palette. The final images are then brought into the main program shell. Here, the environments, QuickTime movies, and animations are assembled and the complicated interface code written. Finally sound effects and mood music are scored to match each environment and animation segment in a process similar to that used in professional film productions. Over 1,600 different views are created and used as a basis for hundreds of overlaid animations. This entire production process took more than 15,000 man hours of work.

The Journeyman Project is originally designed for the Macintosh and uses Apple QuickTime for video compression. When the title is later ported over to the PC platform, the videos are recompressed into Microsoft Video for Windows format. The original version suffers from severely dithered graphics. Fortunately, these are corrected in the updated edition. Navigation is animated in a frame based fashion. However, stills images for each location are still stored together in a single movie file rather than separately as image files. Most audios are stored separately and are played back concurrently with the movies. All sounds are digitized in 8-bit mono at 22 kHz. A third remake of this title, dubbed The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime, is only available for the Power Macintosh and Sony PlayStation but not the PC.

The Journeyman Project Turbo! employs an unusual game interface. Your character spends most of the game in a time travel suit that is like a deep sea diving suit. There is only a small view port to the world, with suit controls underneath it. Movement is done by clicking on a directional rosetta. The inventory system is handled via the suit interface too. Puzzles are unusual in that each of the three key scenarios in the time zone has both a violent and a peaceful solution. The game encourages peaceful solutions by offering an additional "Ghandi" bonus if all zones are completed nonviolently. The player's final score is based on the restoration of the time zones, the number of times the player jumps to a time zone (the fewer the better), and the amount of energy the player has left upon completing a time zone.

The graphics in The Journeyman Project Turbo! are very good and effectively used. Some live action videos are mixed in well to enhance the storytelling. The dithered 8-bit graphics do not do full justice to the quality of the original animations. Still, the greatest strength of the game is its background story. It is a well developed, thoughtful science fiction story. One must give credit to the development team for the revisions put forwarded in the updated edition. It plays significantly faster with smoother animations. The opening animation and the time travel animation are quite impressive to watch. An animated tutorial is available to explain the game controls. Several pre-saved games are also included for players who may choose to skip ahead certain places. This game has been translated to at least two languages. The manual is well designed and heavily laid with beautiful drawings. A movie trailer and some printed documentation are included to show a sample of the behind the scene production processes for this game in Presto Studios. It lets one to appreciate just how elaborate and time-consuming this production has been.

Unfortunately, all the efforts have perhaps wasted on the eye candy and story, leaving the actual gameplay all but forgotten. The game is extremely short. I think most players will finish it in 1-4 hours. It is also very linear. The puzzles are not very inventive and not well integrated into the story world. There is also a single difficult arcade challenge as well as several other gratuitous uses of time constraints. There is even an annoying maze.

By itself, The Journeyman Project is not worth bothering. However, it has a good background story which further develops in the excellent sequel The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time. It may be worth spending the time on this game if you plan on playing the sequel, provided you can get it at a shovel ware price!

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