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Discussion with Trine's Developers

April 6, 2009

1st DISCUSSION WITH TRINE’S DEVELOPERS

Lauri Hyvrinen, Designer with Frozenbyte answers some questions of the new Action/Jump'n Run game Trine coming to PC and Playstation Network


The team

Could you introduce your team in few words?

Frozenbyte consists of a team of 20 game enthusiasts, located in Helsinki, Finland. We are most known for our Shadowgrounds action game series, although behind the scenes we have also helped other developers with their games.

Your team is based in Finland. It’s not common. Could you give us some information about the video-game industry in Finland?

Finland is a home for a lot of high technology expertise, and our game companies also utilize this knowledge to the max. The best known Finnish game series must be Max Payne, although such titles as FlatOut, Super Stardust and Alan Wake might also be familiar to someone. The gaming business in Finland is increasing at a tremendous pace. For example when Frozenbyte was founded in 2001, there were only a handful of game companies, and now there's over 50 companies related to the game business.

The game

How came the idea of Trine?

Trine has been a team effort. The idea has been forming and changing during development. Trine was originally initiated by our lead gameplay programmer but it soon evolved a lot and ultimately became the game that we now know! Usually, design can inspire artists, who create such fantastic art that inspires level designers, who create great gameplay that inspires designers again, and so on. We also have regular design evenings with the team, which usually means good ideas in the beginning of the evening, and more wild ideas as the night goes on. Ultimately, the programmers are the ones who have to implement all the ideas everyone else comes up with, so our producer is working hard to eliminate the not-so-good ideas.

What are you references for the creation of Trine?

The characters are based on our art team's vision, and there must be a dozen different reference images for each part of each character, combining a total of hundreds of images used to create just one character.
The gameplay is based around the idea of “what if the player could freely create physical objects into the world”. This spinned most of the Wizard character. With other characters, we had tons of very good gameplay ideas, such as the grappling hook and the mighty weaponry of the Knight, and we just thought splitting all this to different characters. Eventually, three totally different characters not just by their personality and looks but also by their abilities became the core of the game.

What is Trine?

Trine is an old artifact which has been placed in the Astral Academy, protected by powerful spells. However, the peace of the kingdom has been disturbed, and the undead armies are marching, and suddenly the protection around Trine weakens. At this same moment our Thief had a cunning plan to steal the Trine, and she already has made her way to the object, when the Wizard and the Knight run into her, causing a ruckus that ends up binding their souls to the Trine – and changing the course of history.
Our three heroes, now bound to the Trine, with only one character being able to be outside the Trine at a time, start their journey by looking for clues what the Trine might be, why they have been trapped inside, and what they must do to get out. Not to mention the undead armies, who are destroying the whole kingdom and also causing some obstacles for our heroes on their journey.

What was your 1st objective when you started the development?

Our main idea with all our games is to make solid entertainment in terms of gameplay, visuals and new ideas. We felt we had everything we wanted working in the concept of Trine, so we decided to proceed with the development and full production. Now it seems that Trine has a lot of potential to not just be the most beautiful fantasy action game, but also to have lots and lots of fun for the player to experience.

The game used a new version of you own graphical engines. Why did you create your own engine?

We have looked at many engines on the market but they always have some problems. Ultimately our engine has evolved to be one of the best engines for the games we have created, as Shadowgrounds and Trine are technology wise very similar games. It has proven to be the best option for our future games as well. It gives us a lot of freedom and we already know the engine inside out, so new features can be added quickly.

Thanks to your engine, what specific thing (In Trine) can the player do?

Trine has almost all of the latest visual effects and new ones can be added easily, but the best part comes from the solid attachment to the PhysX engine for the physics in the game. Unlike normal games, we use physics as major gameplay feature and the player can freely create physical objects into the world in addition to normal interaction with physics. In other words, physics for us is not just eyecandy, but you simply cannot advance in the game if you don't use the physics simulated objects or machinery to your advantage.

An heroic&fantasy theme is not common for a Jump’n run game. What are the reasons of this choice?

The fantasy setting suited Trine perfectly. It allowed great gameplay in the form of magic and the physics objects, and we also fell in love with our characters. The theme allows the artists to create mushrooms that are just as magnificent as they want, too. We also felt it would be cool to make something so beautiful it almost makes you cry, after we had done Shadowgrounds which is a rather dark sci-fi game. Who knows what we do next! :)

For you, what are the most important and fun features of the Trine?

The most fun in Trine for me is the creative and clever use of the three characters, but every player will find their own way of satisfaction. One of the most impressive features of Trine is the fact that there are hundreds of solutions for each puzzle, but figuring out just one of them takes a while, and usually the easiest solution is the hardest to do, while the most clever solution might make the puzzle a walk in the park... if you just figure it out! Due to the physical nature of the game, test players have solved puzzles in ways that we never thought of, which is very fascinating.

Playing in coop is not common in a Jump’n run. Nobody has included this feature before. How did you get the idea of 3 available characters and the possibility to play up to 3 players at the same time?

We had some sort of co-op in Shadowgrounds, and thought it would be perfect for Trine also. Of course, given that the game has only three characters that is also the maximum number of players in co-op. The co-op allows players to invent super hilarious solutions to puzzles, for example the Knight throwing a box in the air while the other players stand on the box, allowing them to fly very high with the box. In our test sessions the co-op has proven to be awesome fun with all testers, and we hope players will also find this great game mode.

In similar titles, you must choose the right character and do the right action when you’re stopped. In Trine, you always have some possibilities. Is it hard to do?
One of Trine's finest features is indeed the possibility to use any one of the characters or tactics in any given puzzle, although with some characters solving certain puzzles are much, much harder than with the others. Creating puzzles which allow clever use of all the characters and puzzles which favour different characters and which doesn't offer solutions that are too easy is somewhat challenging, but our level design team works really hard to improve each level to be challenging enough while still keeping the fun and flow of the game.

If the game works, have you got more projects (sequel, spin-off, add-on) for Trine?
Yes, we have a number of plans for Trine in the future as it's definitely turning out to be a nice game! The world offers so many possibilities that we just can’t stop here. :)

In Trine, what are you the most proud of?

Our team's combined effort to create a great game must be that. We have made everything with high production values and great ambition. We have poured our hearts and souls into the game, if you allow such a cheesy expression, and I think it really shows. You could say that Trine is a game that has been created with love and a lot of hard work.

Around the game

A lot of developers explained that developing on PS3 is hard. What do you think about that?

That's what we also heard and we must say our programmers took us by surprise by having the game and the technology running on the PS3 in just a matter of weeks. Of course a lot of optimization needed to be done – and we also rewrote the whole graphics engine - but it has been completed and now Trine runs really well on PS3. PS3 is a powerful platform and we are very happy to be working on it.

What are the differences between PS3 and PC versions?  Graphics, gameplay, trophies, content…

The biggest difference is in the control method, which on PC allows the use of keyboard and mouse. Trophies are PS3 exclusive, but otherwise both versions feature the same very fun gameplay and beautiful looks.

Conclusion

To conclude, what do you want to say to the gamers?

We hope gamers enjoy playing Trine as much as we enjoy creating it!

Gw
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