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Quick Q&A: FrozenByte's Lauri Hyvärinen

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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Jim Rossignol

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