The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time

Posted by David Tanguay.
First posted on 04 November 1997. Last updated on 15 May 2014.
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The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time
The Death Alter lies inside the caverns under the Mayan temples.
The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time
The studio of the master inventor DiVinci hides trouble.
The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time
Home, sweet, home!
The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time
The hand drawn design shows the incredible details of the game's visuals.

In this sequel to The Journeyman Project, Gage Blackwood returns as Agent 5 of the Temporal Security Agency. Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time builds on the successful elements of its predecessor while correcting most of its failings. The result is a classic adventure game that rises beyond the original to give the gamers an immersing gaming experience that is rarely found.

It has been 6 months since your last journey in time. Earth has already been accepted into the Symbiotry of Peaceful Beings, and a conference is scheduled to discuss the issue on whether Earth should share its time travel technology with the Symbiotry for fear of abuse by the aliens. As an agent of the Temporal Security Agency, your job is to protect history from tampering and to conduct historical research. One day you get a visit from yourself 9 years into the future. It seems that somebody has framed you for a crime, making it appears as if you have stolen historical artifacts for profit. While under house arrest, your future self escapes to bring you an advanced time travel suit. He charges you with the mission of finding evidence that he has been framed at the temporal sites he has been conducting his research. After giving you the suit, he is promptly arrested by another future TSA agent.

The Jumpsuit or the Time Displacement Unit fits like a skin tight spaceship, with an onboard computer, extendable with biochip enhancements, a null space pocket (for infinite inventory), limited life support, and an invisibility cloak to hide you from the locals. With this suit, you travel to the space laboratory of Dr. Farnstein, a future genius who has created advanced artificial intelligence. There you pick up Arthur, an artificial intelligence being who can live in your suit's computer biochip. Along your journey through time, Arthur provides you with a wealth of historical information as well as many droll insights. Other destinations you visit include Chateau Gaillard (King Richard's castle in France), Leonardo da Vinci's workshop, and Chichen Itza (a classical Mayan city). Once you have assembled all the evidence, you must pursue the culprits to an alien world to retrieve the artifacts. You then present the evidence, acquit your future self, and bring the true culprits to justice.

Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time uses 640x480 high resolution graphics with up to 16-bit color. The world is drawn with rendered graphics, with Full Motion Video transitions from location to location. Smaller video clips are also overlaid on the graphics to present people and actions. The game also has effective sound effects, both ambient and active. The acting is rather stiff, but there is little of it so it is not annoying. The voice of Arthur, however, is well done. The nonlinear storyline moves through 7 intensely researched, finely detailed worlds that include the the Blackwood Home, Farnstein Lab, Chichen Itza, Chateau Gaillard, Da Vinci Studios, Missile Silo, and Krynn Habitat.

Presto Studios has an ambitious goal for this sequel—to create a total cinematic experience for the game players, with a complex, yet logically consistent, story that unfolds like a movie. The development begins with a full 5 months of script development by professional writer David Flanagan, Michel Kripalani (president of Presto and the project's director and producer), and Phil Saunders (creative director and industrial/conceptual designer). When the writing is complete, Saunders (who also designs Nissan cars by day) creates the fanciful game worlds by applying his industrial and conceptual design expertise to the story's visuals. The design team envisions and then diagrams in details all of the worlds in the game. To bring the historical worlds back to life, Saunders researches them for details. For instance, the medieval castle in the game is based on the actual 13th century stronghold of Richard the Lionheart. Although the actual castle, built in 1197, has already been destroyed, Saunders is able to find books about the castle and recreate it, brick by brick, through his sketches. In contrast, for the futuristic environments, his pure imagination replaces diligent research. By the time the game is finished, the design team has hand-drawn over 500 sketches. From these hand-drawn designs, Presto engineers then create computerized 3D models for each environment, including each researched object inhabiting that world. Next, they "texture" map every surface on every object in the models. A 3D artist then takes the textured models and assembles all the objects in a single environment, registering each object precisely. For instance, the artist makes sure that the walls, chairs, tables and items on the tables are all lined up correctly before adding realistic lighting to the room. Finally, each finished scene was rendered by the computer, making millions of calculations to simulate the effects of lighting, reflections, and so forth on every item in the scene. Presto Studios claims that there are more than 25,000 frames of animation in the game, each of which took approximately 20 minutes to render.

For The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time, the developer enlists professional actors dressed in Hollywood caliber costumes. In particular, All Effects Group (a special effects company for the film industry) is charged with building a vacuform plastic biosuit worn by the actors as they portray time traveling temporal agents in the story. One of the actresses in the game is Michelle Scarabelli, whose credits include the role of the mother in Alien Nation and Data's girlfriend in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Other casts include Todd McCormick who plays Gage and Matt Weinhold who is the voice of Arthur. All the costumed actors are filmed against a blue "chroma" screen, a common video technique that allows the blue background to be filled later with another background such as one of the game worlds. In combining computer generated backgrounds with video footage, Presto Studios faces the huge technical challenge of integrating the two techniques into a single, visually believable environment. This is because they have to precisely match the camera angles, perspective, and lighting for the two disparate techniques to make the final product look seamless. Foley (sound effects) and a professional music score are added to the game by musician Bob Stewart. The process of creating the sound effects involves a time-consuming process of editing and recording effects, playing them in sequence with the video, and then reediting them to fit the animation as closely as possible. The goal is to create effects that are so accurate as to be transparent as if the sounds are coming from the computer generated images themselves.

Finally, all of the video, animation, and audio resources are brought together, during which time the game's code is programmed. On the Macintosh, the game's shell is programmed using Macromedia's Director. On the PC, it is programmed entirely in C++. Programming holds some unique challenges of its own, such as accounting for all of the possible comments that Arthur (the player's sidekick) can say at any given moment. The programming team accomplishes this by tracking the player's progress and marking certain milestones in a table. This table is then checked every time the player moves to see if Arthur has something to say. The final product combines stunning photorealism with a compelling story worthy of a page turning science fiction novel.

The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time offers two modes of play—Adventure mode and Walkthrough mode. The Adventure mode plays just like a standard adventure game. The Walkthrough mode simplifies the gameplay, offering hints to help novices through the story while still leaving the exploration to the player. The player is given subtle guidance throughout, and most of the puzzles have been either simplified or removed from the game entirely. This mode is suggested for novice adventure gamers or those who just want to experience the story without the full-scale challenge. However, as several scenes have been omitted in the Walkthrough mode, the player must play in the Adventure mode to experience the full game in its entirely. There is a maximum possible score of 15,000 points, allocated under the headings of critical evidence, supporting evidence, puzzles solved, research bonus, completion bonus, and hints.

Throughout the game you are bounded inside your time suit. The main view of the world is from a first person perspective, through a visor that takes up less than half of your actual display. Around it are suit controls and displays. Navigation is done via an onscreen display of arrows. By clicking on the arrow you can turn left or right, look up or down, or move forward. You suit also contains a number of slots for biochips, which extend the facilities of the suit's onboard computer. Selecting a biochip changes a display panel, allowing different actions, such as language translation, invisibility cloaking, and even the game controls (save, exit).

On the positive side, the sequel is a delight to play. Arthur, your artificial intelligence hitchhiker, adds just the right amount of humor to the game. He is the best in game hint facility ever—useful and yet unobtrusive. The background story and the details of the time places you visit are very rich in detail. The game has a solid science fiction story and enough historical fact that if you are not careful, you might actually learn something. The developer chooses to use the computer technology and film techniques not as extraneous punctuation but to support and enhance the quality of its storytelling so to give players a memorable adventure game experience. The opening animation is impressive, as are the trailers, the galley, and the overview sequence. The Director's Cut Demo is equally fun to watch.

On the negative side, the interface used in the game is awkward. The suit only gives you a small window onto the playing world, less than half of the total screen. Navigation through the directional arrows is a bit clumsy, though you eventually get used to it. There are several places where you can die suddenly, with little or no warning. Some areas of exploration have a time limit, but you must still do a thorough search of these areas. This can easily result in getting stuck because you cannot find an object in time since you are in a hurry to get through the area before the time limit expires. While you can always come back to complete the task, the backtracking becomes tedious. Much of the gameplay involves evidence collection. It is not until the very end that most of the story is flushed out. It may be more attractive if these details are revealed gradually for the player to absorb.

As a sequel, The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time succeeds its predecessor admirably. While this game still has some faults, they are very minor compared to its strengths. The game is published originally by Sanctuary Woods in June 1995. As of 1996, the title is no longer published by Sanctuary Woods but directly by Presto Studios which becomes the developer of the game. Overall, this game is a beautiful, well rounded, traditional adventure that manages to be interesting, challenging, educational, and fun.

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