VGB Feature: Trine Q&A With Frozenbyte CEO Lauri Hyvärinen

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Late last year in the thick of the holiday crush, indie Finnish development house Frozenbyte came out of pretty much nowhere to announce its latest project, a fantasy platform/puzzle game for PC and PS3 (via PSN) by the name of Trine. Not much was revealed at the time except for a teaser trailer, but that teaser got us so excited that we just had to find out more. So we reached out to the Frozenbyte team and were recently able to squeeze in some interview time with studio CEO and lead designer of Trine, Lauri Hyvärinen, and now we’re glad to share what we learned and hopefully help spread the word on what is shaping up as one of the most promising original titles due out this year.

VGBlogger: First and foremost, for those who may have missed the Trine unveil and haven’t heard about it yet, what type of game is Trine and what’s the game’s back story?

Lauri Hyvärinen: Trine is a fantasy action platformer where three characters have been bound to a mysterious, magical object. Each character has unique abilities and the player can freely choose who he uses to solve various physics-based challenges. The characters meet accidentally when the Kingdom has fallen into chaos, and their fate gets sealed by the mysterious Trine, which bounds their souls together and sends them into the middle of skeleton-infested lands.

VGB: Trine is a very different game from your previous work on the Shadowgrounds series. What inspired this drastic change in direction and what’s being done to cater to your core Shadowgrounds fans while also appealing to a new audience?

LH: While fantasy platformer is new to us, the 2.5D viewpoint is something where we feel we are very strong. Also stunning audiovisual representation and fun action sequences are something we are known for, while the new physics-based gameplay and puzzle solving indeed are new conquests for us. But again, we are focusing on solid core gameplay with lots of fun and surprises. We want to make games that are fun, regardless of genre.

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VGB: Side-scrolling platformers have always been popular, but as of late the genre seems to have entered a renaissance with games like Bionic Commando Rearmed, Mega Man 9, LittleBigPlanet and some others performing exceptionally well. Have you noticed this trend as well, and if so did the success of the aforementioned games play into making Trine an action/platform game?

LH: We are happy to see the genre we have picked performing well especially on console platforms and online distribution. While all games affect our games to a certain extent, the core idea of Trine has been clear to us before we saw the titles you mention, and this fact has actually given us more confidence that we are on the right path.

VGB: From the unveil trailer it appears there are three different character types to switch between. Is that indeed the case or are there additional characters that weren’t shown?

LH: Trine indeed features three different characters: the sword-wielding Knight, the shadowy Thief and the Wizard who creates various objects into the game world. The player can switch between the characters freely, and choose whoever fits any particular situation best.

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VGB: What are the character types, officially, and what unique abilities does each have to offer?

LH: The Knight is specialized in melee weapons and he is usually causing destruction and mayhem everywhere, sometimes unintentionally. The Knight can also pick up objects and throw them around to solve a puzzle or smash an enemy. The Thief uses her bow with different kind of arrows, and is also able to use a grappling hook to ascend/descend between platforms. Finally, she is also able to slow down time in the world in a way which allows very special physical interactions. The Wizard is the character who never learned to cast the fireball, but even with this “miserability” he is still able to summon various objects for use in the world, helping the adventurers to pass various challenges.

VGB: With the ability to change between characters on the fly, how difficult has it been balancing levels around each character’s skills? Do the levels require changing to certain characters at set points or is freedom given to the player to choose how they want to approach any given obstacle?

LH: For the most part, players are given the freedom to use any character they want, but many puzzles are made easier to solve with a certain character or certain character combination. Of course, if one character dies, the player has to continue with the remaining characters until the next checkpoint resurrects the dead character. Ultimately, every puzzle in every level has many, many ways to solve it and I’m sure players will invent tons of fun ways we never thought of.

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VGB: Does the game share technology with Shadowgrounds or was a new engine developed specifically for Trine?

LH: The technology behind Trine is the same we used in Shadowgrounds, but of course with many, many improvements. I think there’s been lots of rewriting too. PS3-specific code has been written from scratch for Trine.

VGB: Trine has only been announced for PC and PS3 at this time. Any particular reason why these two platforms were chosen to launch the game on? If fan demand is strong enough (and it seems like it is reading around the forums!) will we see a release on Xbox Live Arcade?

LH: Of course we can’t make any promises but I’m sure fans’ voices are heard. There’s many issues at play here, but if there’s lots of people asking for an XBLA version, I know that at least we would do everything we can to make that happen.

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VGB: Regarding the PS3 version specifically, is the Frozenbyte team exploring remote play functionality? Trine seems like a game that could work extremely well on the PSP…

LH: We have entertained some thoughts and we’re open to all kinds of ideas from the community. In reality there’s probably not enough time to do many new things at this stage, but these kind of things are something we might consider for downloadable content.

VGB: Any ideas being kicked around for possible multiplayer modes or maybe even some form of level editor?

LH: The level of multiplayer features and other things will be announced before the game launch.

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VGB: Are there any plans in the works to do a beta or demo on either or both platforms?

LH: I think a demo is a good idea so that’s probably happening for both platforms. Most likely it will be released shortly after the full game’s launch, because we’re using all the time we have to make the full game as great as possible.

VGB: How far along in development is the game and what’s the latest outlook on its release schedule?

LH: Every day we complete something new but there’s still work to do. We’d estimate the release on PSN to be somewhere around May-June.

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VGB: And hey, what’s up with the website launch? We’re midway through January and still nothing!

LH: I’m going to tell you a secret. We actually had the website ready to go before the announcement… But the expectations have gone up, so now we want to make it better! So I think it’s going to be February after all. However, once launched, it will have tons of new material and info about the game.

VGB: Sweet, thanks for the tip. We can’t wait to see the site and more about the game!

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!