Quick Q&A: FrozenByte’s Lauri Hyvärinen

By Jim Rossignol on May 12th, 2009 at 4:04 pm.


In typically backward fashion, I managed to arrange a Q&A with FrozenByte‘s Lauri Hyvärinen before I’d actually played their gorgeous platform game, Trine. Yeah, I’m a pro like that. Anyway, I’ve had a blast with our preview version of the game, as described here, and Hyvärinen makes things a bit clearer in his replies to my questions. He talks about the nature of non-essential co-op in the game, Crayon Physics, and the possibility of supporting “multiple mice and keyboards” for PC. Read on for more about this intriguing game, which looks like it belongs somewhere on the Venn diagram where Diablo, Lego Star Wars, and Crayon Physics overlap.

RPS: Can you tell us about what you’re trying to achieve with Trine? What sort of game is it?

Hyvärinen: Trine is a physics-based jump’n'run game that features three characters in a quest to save the fantasy kingdom from evil. So basically it’s a platformer game for the modern era infused with action and puzzle elements, with a fairytale atmosphere.

RPS: How do the three characters work? Perhaps you could explain by giving examples of the kinds of problems you overcome with them?

Hyvärinen: The Thief is the master of ranged weapons, and also capable of swinging herself over gaps and obstacles with her grappling hook. A typical situation for the Thief would be a jumping sequence requiring both accurate grappling hook usage and swift movement, or a fight where the Thief first escapes to a higher platform, then blasts the monsters with her various different arrows. The Knight is the melee weapon master, capable of whacking the undeads to thousands of pieces. His primary use is to destroy everything (sometimes unintentionally), but he can also solve puzzles by carrying and throwing objects, and this way, if he’s lucky, build a bridge, jam a wheel or just get something stuck to spikes in order to proceed. And finally, our Wizard has never graduated the wizarding school and is only able to create some non-lethal items into the game world. Boxes and planks luckily turn out to be very handy in the world of Trine, allowing both very simple bridges and the most clever, interactive solutions where your creations interact with the game world. And sometimes a box or two might accidentally fall on a skeleton, crushing them too… Sometimes not so accidentally!

RPS: People have mentioned Okami and Crayon Physics as having similar mechanics, were those games inspirational to you at all?

Hyvärinen: Trine has been a collaborative team effort. I’m sure it’s been influenced by many titles because each and every member of the team has put his or her personal touch to the game. But if we think about the project’s starting point, it wasn’t written in the “the most popular game right now meets the most popular game from 10 years ago” format. Trine has evolved through many iterations and I think it’s become a very unique blend of its own.

Fun fact though: Crayon Physics guy Petri worked for us when he was just starting Kloonigames. Crayon Physics is a cool game (or toy) and it showed what kind of possibilities physics can have, and I wouldn’t rule out some subconscious influence on Trine. But when you play Trine, I think it’s clear that it’s a very unique game of its own.

RPS: Can you explain how the co-operative game works?

Hyvärinen: The game has been designed to support multiple ways of advancing. Although there are no puzzles that would require co-op, it really opens up some amazing new possibilities. Things you didn’t even think about in singleplayer suddenly leap at you in co-op. One of my favorite examples is the Knight’s throw ability, which is used to throw around rocks and boxes in singleplayer. In co-op other players can jump on top of these rocks and stand on them as they fly in the air. That’s one cool way to getting new heights – the other is of course the Wizard’s levitate spell, as he can also levitate the objects while other players stand on them (but not himself – that was just too much of a gamebreaker in our tests).

On the technical side it’s very simple – players can join by pressing the START button (on PS3, anyway). So basically you can be playing alone, and in the middle a friend comes to a surprise visit, and he can join right in without stopping your game at all. You don’t need to open any menus or anything like that. Leaving the game works the same way, although we may fine tune this mechanic a little bit before release, because we’ve found that you can cheat the game a bit by repeatedly using join in/out – but we’ll see. We’ll try to add a similarly easy logic for the PC version as well, although it’s slightly more complicated thanks to the myriad of controllers out there. We’re also looking into supporting multiple mice and keyboards (USB), for which we had support in Shadowgrounds Survivor but we never could test it much or write proper instructions on how to get it working. This could be after release, though.

Trine will be released in July.

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20 Comments »

  1. Rook says:

    Never did figure out how to get multiple mice/keyboards working in shadowgrounds

  2. Wirbelwind says:

    I’ll buy this as soon as they patch in online co-op, not before.

  3. D says:

    I’ll buy this as soon as it comes with a free hat.

  4. Vinraith says:

    @Wirbelwind

    I find myself in the odd position of agreeing, although I’m normally an SP gamer that couldn’t care less about online fuctionality in his games. In this particular case, so much thought and emphasis seems to have been placed on the coop aspect of the game that not having the ability to play with friends online seems completely absurd. It feels like a game built with a console mentality, but a PC port requires support for the way PC gamers play.

  5. DrazharLn says:

    A free hat does seem like a good idea. A wizards hat would be good, or perhaps a reversible hat so it can be a knight’s helmet too…

  6. abhishek says:

    Jim, you forgot the most important question! When is this game releasing?

  7. Wulf says:

    @Wirblewind

    I completely agree, it seems like such a missed opportunity not to. This could be the next big thing when it comes to multiplayer experiences, but without online multiplayer it reduces itself to a level of mediocrity it could otherwise escape.

    Without online co-op, it’s just a very pretty single-player 2D platforming game, and one which will very rarely get played in multiplayer (trying to play co-op on one PC isn’t very fun, trying to play co-op on a laptop is even less so). But with online co-op it could realise its true potential.

  8. Dominic White says:

    Just reminding people that this is primarily launching on the PS3, where local co-op is a selling point, not a reason to run and hide. There’s pretty much zero chance that they’d patch in online multiplayer, as that’s a helluva lot of work for almost no payoff.

    If your monitor isn’t some tiny, impractical little thing, just get yourself a couple of friends, some beanbags, and a couple of cheap USB gamepads.

  9. Vinraith says:

    @Domonic White

    “If your monitor isn’t some tiny, impractical little thing, just get yourself a couple of friends, some beanbags, and a couple of cheap USB gamepads.”

    Yeah, I’ll get right on that. That or, you know, just skip this game. I wonder which is more likely?

  10. Jim Rossignol says:

    @abhishek, oops. I actually did get that info, it’s July, but no firm date.

    I’ll add that to the article.

  11. MyEyes! says:

    The copious bloom! Goggles do nothing!

  12. Markoff Chaney says:

    I enjoy my single player puzzle games, personally, and I’m still really anticipating this one. I was a little saddened when I first read that you don’t have all 3 characters interacting together a la Lost Vikings. The more I read though, the more interested I become about seeing how the different avatars can overcome challenges with their own skill sets. I think that will also provide more replay with greater experimentation and no singular set way to accomplish your goals.

    Multiplayer of any kind is a bonus. Of course, network multiplayer is always far more desirable with the PC, but having two of us play Bionic Commando (to give an example of a relatively recent co-op on one screen game) really wasn’t that bad and was actually quite fun since it opened up totally different play styles and tactics. Whether it was on the 19″ monitor or the 32″, it worked well. There’s something really nice about having someone next to you when you try to puzzle things out. It takes me back to the old person A tries something and dies and passes the controller to person B to give it a shot communal puzzle solving. It may be easier, and usually more practical, but on-line co-op can’t quite give the same feeling. Having local and on-line, of course, is the best of both worlds. (Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge)

    Regardless, go go gadget July!

  13. Vinraith says:

    @Markoff Chaney

    “Multiplayer of any kind is a bonus.”

    Normally I totally agree, SP is the most important game mode by far to me. In this case, though, it really sounds like you’re missing out on a large part of the gameplay if you can only play it single player. Creative solution-finding seems very limited if you only have a single character on screen, whereas they’ve outlined in detail how many new possibilities are opened up by having another player.

    In short, I’m slowly becoming convinced this game is really optimized for MP, and PC gamers are basically getting hosed by only realistically being able to play the far less diverse SP mode.

  14. Dominic White says:

    How tiny are your monitors if you can’t reasonably have someone sitting beside you!? Seriously. There seems to be this massive blind-spot for PC purists (don’t get me wrong here, I started gaming on a PC, back in the age of CGA displays and beepy PC speaker audio) for local multiplayer

    On another forum, there were people cheering because they took out the split-screen multiplayer option (OPTION, you don’t have to USE it) from the PC version of Left4Dead. How in the hell does that even make sense?

  15. Jim Rossignol says:

    The single player game was fun as it was – I’d probably pay money for that alone. Full review on the way, mind.

  16. DarkNoghri says:

    @Dominic White

    That makes no sense at all. I’ve used the splitscreen multiplayer option several times, and only wish that it was better supported than it is.

  17. Ian says:

    Will look forward to what RPS’ Wot-I-Think-O-Tron makes of this.

  18. Wedge says:

    I’ve got a 42″ TV to play local multiplayer on… not sure if my significant other wants to play this, but still. Be interesting to see if they can work out multiple KBM, since I worry how playable this will be with a controller. Though I suppose all the characters except the wizard with his object creation should work reasonably well, so I suppose a KB/M + Controller should work alright.

  19. Dominic White says:

    Wedge: The PC is the secondary platform for Trine. It’s primarily a PS3 title, which means that gamepad controls should be ideal.

  20. Vinraith says:

    @Dominic

    I would never object to people having the option to play split screen on a PC, and indeed am somewhat baffled that it isn’t more common than it is. However, in my case, online MP is much more practical because of the distribution of my gaming friends.

    @Jim Rossignol

    That’s good to hear, I look forward to your review. If the SP really is sufficient to justify the asking price, that would be good to know. I’ve just gotten the sense, based on what you guys have written about it thus far, that I’d be missing some huge component of the game by not being able to play it MP. If that’s not the case, I’d very much like to know it, as the game itself looks fantastic.

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