Nick Turinetti is a font of information on dinosaurs.

When he was young his parents had a hard time finding books on the topic that were scientific enough for him. In conversation, he can wax about the dinosaur kingdom down to its genetic level, and his authority is imbued with passion.

"When you spend a lot of time researching something," said the 28-year-old Duluth resident, "you know a lot of stuff with ready recall."

So it's no surprise to learn that "Saurian," the dinosaur-themed video game he's developing with an international team of like-minded souls, is rooted in scientific data and scholarship. The Tyrannosaurus rex in the game, for example, will feature feathers.

"That's what the data indicates to us," he said.

Turinetti is crediting authenticity for the success of a Kickstarter campaign that ended this week after raising more than $220,000 and will fuel production of the game that's currently being designed for desktop computers and virtual reality.

"It's one of our biggest selling points," Turinetti said about the motivation for 6,570 backers to contribute to the massive online fundraising campaign that raised about $150,000 more than its initial goal.

The money will be used to pay the game's developers for continued work they've all been doing on the side for the past three years. It'll take the project from free-time development to full-time, said Turinetti, who is assistant operations manager for the North Shore Scenic Railroad; he's worked for the railroad for seven years.

The group developing Saurian met online while playing another popular dinosaur video game. But that game is a shoot-'em-up and hardly a nuanced look at dinosaur behavior. In online chats, the new game's developers would lament the flaws and talk about all the things a dinosaur game could be.

So it was that Saurian was born.

Saurian is being developed by Urvogel Games LLC, of which Turinetti is 1/10th owner. It eschews humans and puts the gameplayer in the dinosaur's skin - living a life from hatchling to adult in a test of survival in the western North America dinosaur hotbed of Hell Creek, an area including Montana and parts of the Dakotas and Wyoming. In the game, managing stamina and hunger without becoming victim to the harsh environment or a meal for another hungry dinosaur is the key.

While the framework for the game is conceived, it will now enter a roughly six-month process of being built. The money will allow developers to take Saurian from concept to product.

It's come a long way from the notepad Turinetti would carry around and scribble ideas onto during fits of inspiration.

"I'm really proud of him," said his fiancee, Shannon McEvoy, 26. "He's so focused. He's been talking about this for eight years and he's set forth to create the game he wanted."

McEvoy plays video games herself and Turinetti will consult her on elements of Saurian's gameplay.

Not a coder or designer himself, Turinetti has taken the role of project lead on the game - consulting, marshalling ideas, timelines and logistics and continuing to research the dinosaurs and environment of Hell Creek from some 150-170 million years ago, the period just before dinosaur extinction.

"I've never met any of them," Turinetti said of the team that includes a sound designer from Portugal, an Australian researcher, designers from Germany and Argentina and a host of others from across the United States. The nearest team member is in Madison, Wis., and Turinetti would enjoy the chance to meet her, he said, while acknowledging, "It might be weird at this point to see someone from the team in real life."

Instead, they bicker and challenge each other like siblings, Turinetti said, while carrying out their communications online.

If the original Hell Creek edition reaches an audience as fervent as the game's early supporters, future versions would feature new settings - such as the Morrison Formation, another vast Jurassic location in the U.S. centered in Wyoming and Colorado, the site of the country's most fossils.

"I've only got one fossil," Turinetti said, describing a tooth the size of a butter knife.

In fact, Turinetti said there's a paucity of dinosaur memorabilia in his home. It appears his dinosaur infatuation is all in his head.

"I've got a couple of models on a shelf in my office," he said, "but that's about it."

Learn more

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