Interview: Lauri Hyvärinen Talks Trine
Written by Dana Olson
Published at 2009-03-05 04:42:05
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Trine is an upcoming side-scrolling PSN game in development by Frozenbyte, and will be published by Nobilis. We took some time to ask Lauri Hyvärinen (Trine designer and Frozenbyte CEO) some questions about the game, and kindly, he obliged.

Dana Olson, TAWKN.com: Trine looks to be a beautiful side-scrolling platforming game with lots of little puzzle situations, which players solve using the various characters available to them. Would that be an accurate description of what players should expect from the game?

Lauri Hyvärinen, Frozenbyte: The heart of Trine is the three characters, who are bound to this mysterious device we call the Trine. Only one of the characters can be outside of the device at time, but the player is able to choose freely which one he has outside, given that the character is alive. The various puzzles, action sequences and other challenges are built in a way where many characters can solve them, but each puzzle usually favors one or two of the characters. Ultimately, the play style is created by the player but a single repeatable tactic is not possible due to the vast diversity of the encounters.

TAWKN.com: How did you come up with the idea for the game? It doesn't immediately remind me of any other, aside from maybe Lost Vikings - a little. Were you going for something totally unique, or are there games you can point to that directly inspired Trine?

Lauri: Lost Vikings is something we hear a lot, and for some members of team that would be ideal for inspiration, but I must say that we've always had a great desire for our own and unique games. You could say Trine draws inspiration from dozens of games, and that is mixed up in our own, unique way, adding also a secret ingredient of our own.

TAWKN.com: Being a programmer myself, I'm going to ask a bit of a "geeky" question... What technology (programming language, toolkit, etc) are you using for the game? Is Trine built with a modified version of the Shadowgrounds engine?

Lauri: A very heavily modified Shadowgrounds engine is used for Trine. All of the PS3 code has been written specifically for Trine, and it's completely new. We also rewrote the graphics engine to run better on PS3 and now it runs like a dream. All programming is made in C++ (and shaders in HLSL as far as I know), and we use the most common programming software such as Visual Studio, along with our own tools.

TAWKN.com: There had been talk of the PS3 being difficult to develop for. Have you found this to be the case, and if so, how have you gotten over these hurdles? Has Sony been easy to deal with and helpful?

Lauri: Coming from a PC background and with the Shadowgrounds titles under our belt, we had feared that the PS3 might be a tough platform. But it was relatively easy after all! I don't know if our programmers are some sort of supermen or what (actually, I know they are!). They got the game running so that it could be played in about a month and now it's running real smooth. Of course there still remains a lot of work to be done but all the major technical issues have been solved.

Sony has been awesome with all the feedback and support. Their comments have been very constructive and we have actually improved the game with their help, which is really cool. We can't wait to have Trine published on PSN.


TAWKN.com: How many people are working on Trine at the moment? Is it your whole studio, or are you guys working on multiple projects at a time?

Lauri: We have a small team working on our next big title, and currently there's 17 people working on Trine. We've always liked a multi-project approach and it seems to work for us.

TAWKN.com: Does Trine have a story with an ultimate end goal? Or is it more focused on the puzzle-solving aspect?

Lauri: We have a simple yet strong story, and great-looking art supporting it. The end goal will be included in both the story and in the final level. Trine is definitely a game with a story and a goal.

TAWKN.com: Can you elaborate some on the gameplay details, such as division of levels, number of lives, checkpoint/save system?

Lauri: The game is divided into 16 levels, and each has been divided to 4-5 checkpoints. The player characters can get killed along the way, but the player is able to continue with the remaining characters, and reaching a checkpoint will revive all dead characters. This feature of the game allows us to also boost the challenge level a bit, because losing a character doesn't automatically require loading to the previous checkpoint.

TAWKN.com: About how long, for an average gamer, should it take to complete Trine? What incentive do you give gamers to replay it when it's all over?

Lauri: Our testing sessions have shown that it should take approximately 10 hours of gameplay for the first completion of the game. Completing the game once unlocks not just new difficulty levels but various other play modes. We have also a strong replay value feature still to be announced, and it's hopefully announced soon. :)

TAWKN.com: Is there any kind of collectible item or unlockable powers, or anything of the sort?

Lauri: Yes - the game has both big and small collectibles, big meaning new weapons and abilities for the characters, and smaller meaning items that boost the characters in various ways. Enemies also drop experience shards, which can be collected and used to upgrade existing weapons and abilities to have new, special moves and uses. Each upgrade is built in a manner that the player really benefits from them, and various upgrades also have an effect on the puzzle solving.

TAWKN.com: We know that trophy support is mandatory now. Have you decided on what kinds of trophies will be in the game, and if so, could you give us a couple examples?

Lauri: The "normal" trophies include finding certain secrets, but some of the challenging trophies includes using only one character to solve a certain level, or pass a level without killing any monsters. Also many of the character special abilities and their very special use have received their own trophies.

TAWKN.com: Can you tell us about the different playable characters, and what types of situations would warrant using which character?

Lauri: The Knight is the melee handyman, who is most suitable for killing all the monsters. He can also carry and throw heavy objects in order to smash enemies or to solve puzzles. The Thief is a master of ranged weapons, and the grappling hook she has is perfect for reaching far away places, and fast. The Wizard is perhaps the most unique of the three - he never learned the fireball he's been trying to learn so hard, and now all he can do is summon various physical objects into the game world. Luckily, his abilities become very important in the world of Trine.

TAWKN.com: Have you worked out how players will draw shapes on the screen yet, in the PS3 version of the game (I know you were considering motion controls at one point)? Also, since the PS3 supports mouse and keyboard input, had you thought of allowing for that option as well?

Lauri: Yes, this was one thing that we thought might cause us some problems. But surprisingly, none of our test player have had issues with drawing these gestures using the thumbstick. It works really well. Most likely we will go with this, as the gesture system has multiple positive aspects (the player can easily affect the size, location and angle of the object to name a few). We will most likely also support keyboard and mouse for those players who feel they want to use them. But I must say that playing with the controller is at least on par with a keyboard and mouse combination.

TAWKN.com: Let's talk about the music for the game. The score in the trailer sounded very pleasant. Is Ari Pulkkinen doing the soundtrack for Trine, as he did for your previous titles? Also, will the soundtrack be available outside of the game, as a download or retail disc?

Lauri: Ari is again doing the music and audio, and what we have heard so far it will be awesome again! Traditionally we have released a separate physical soundtrack and some tracks on the internet, and I know Ari wants that to happen again, so most likely Trine makes no exception.

TAWKN.com: Frozenbyte has been around for a few years now, and Trine is the third title you've worked on. What are the chances of your previous work resurfacing on the PlayStation Network?

Lauri: Shadowgrounds is our self-owned IP, so if or when we do sequels for it, PSN is definitely one of the platforms. We are very much into the downloadable channels, so PSN, XBLA and PC are our main focus. I have to mention that we have a strong commitment to our own new IP as well - after Trine, expect to see new game announcements from Frozenbyte!

TAWKN.com: Are there any planned expansions - perhaps level packs, or sequels?

Lauri: We have planned all kinds of additions to Trine and I would say it's quite sure that there will be at least an add-on pack, but ultimately the add-ons and the possible sequel are decided when we see the initial sales numbers of Trine. That's just the harsh reality but judging by the signs and all the positive comments, it looks like we have nothing to worry about!

TAWKN.com: Judging by the short video we've seen so far, it looks like Trine is a single-player-only game. Is there any kind of multiplayer in the game at all, perhaps co-op? If not in Trine, would you consider some online co-op puzzle levels for a sequel or expansion?

Lauri: Multiplayer features, if they exist, will be announced during March/April. :)

TAWKN.com: How far along is work on Trine and when can we expect to be able to download it?

Lauri: Development is going great. It's the final stretch now, although for us that means that new cool stuff is still added, instead of just fixing some minor bugs. We're a little unorthodox in our development methods but it has worked well in the past, at least if we look at the quality of the games!

So if all goes well, Trine should be released on PSN and PC in June this year.


TAWKN.com: On your forums, a PC demo was confirmed. Does this also extend to the PSN?

Lauri: We will release a demo on both PSN and PC after release, probably PSN first. The exact date is still to be confirmed, and of course these things depend on our publisher and Sony as well.

TAWKN.com: Have you settled on a price as of yet?

Lauri: The price is up to our publisher and Sony, and it hasn't been decided yet. That's actually a great thing about PSN - the pricepoint can be almost anything. I'd say Trine is a very high quality game with lots of content and a great player experience, so the pricing will probably reflect that.

TAWKN.com: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Is there anything else that you would like to touch upon that I neglected to ask about?

Lauri: Thank you for your questions! We have high hopes for Trine, and so far it seems that the players have also! If anyone has any suggestions or comments, the best way to reach us is via our official site and forums at http://trine-thegame.com/. The site will get launched properly in March (finally).


A special thanks to both Lauri Hyvärinen and Joel Kinnunen of Frozenbyte, Inc. for making the interview possible, and for this very neat game, coming our way in [hopefully] just a few months' time!



6 comments:


Wow , that trailer looks great and the interview was great also.
This looks like a title I'm going to have to pick up (I've gone from never hearing about it to going to buy it in one interview and video, nice).

Awesome! Kudos on the interview. Game looks great, I'm looking forward to getting it.

Wow, same here

I looks much better than Braid, honestly... And reading of the developer's ministrations not only gives me respect for programmer-kind, but also a sense of anticipation... Trine has potential.

Also, and this goes without saying, good job Dana on the scoop. Jus wait for all those *other bastards* to start quoting this interview...

Good stuff.

Very nice interview.
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