After exploring fairytale castles, goblins-infested ruins and haunted woods, the cult action platforming series Trine is heading to a far more terrifying place for its third instalment – the howling wastelands of Early Access. I recently chatted to Frozenbyte’s Kai Tuovinen about the upcoming Trine 3.
GameWatcher: With Trine 3 you’re heading down the Early Access route for the first time. Why did you decide to do that this time around?
Kai Tuovinen: It all comes down to how long it’s taken us to do the 3D transition. We started a few years ago developing the game the same way as the previous two, continuing with the 2D and adding new environments and character skills, but then we decided to do something more ambitious and make it 3D. That’s taken us considerably longer than it would otherwise have, than we anticipated. That’s the main reason I guess. We wanted to get people involved at an earlier phase.
GameWatcher: The previous games have a well-established formula that people really seem to like. How will the addition of 3D environments change the gameplay up?
Kai Tuovinen: Quite a lot actually, though at the same time we’ve tried to keep the game faithful to the series. There’s a lot of scenes where you can move in full 3D; though the game’s still got a fixed camera, we’ve been able to make completely new kinds of puzzles, fights are much different. Players have always wanted to be able to go into the background of the levels, and now they can do that at certain points.
GameWatcher: Have you changed the balance of the game at all, is there more of a focus on combat now that you’ve got 3D movement?
Kai Tuovinen: I think the balance remains roughly the same between combat, puzzle-solving and platforming. They balance each other out, I feel.
GameWatcher: Have you added a lot of new character skills for Trine 3, or are you concentrating on refining the characters’ familiar powers – the wizard’s telekinesis and the thief’s rope, for example?
Kai Tuovinen: I think a bit of both. In the later version of Trine 2, the Goblin Menace expansion for example, the skill tree was kind of bloated. Each character had a lot of skills, and some of the puzzles were a little bit too easy because of those skills. For Trine 3 we’ve lowered the number of skills, and we’ve tried to concentrate on the most fun ones. We’ve also added some new manoeuvres, like the Knight can now do an ‘air stomp’ move where he jumps up and comes crashing down, knocking enemies over. The Thief has a new use for her grappling hook, she can use it to attach two objects together rather than just using it like a ninja rope. The total skills have been reduced, but there are more ways to use the most enjoyable ones.
GameWatcher: What sort of new environments can players expect? Are we headed away from the more traditional fairy tale forests and castles for the third game?
Kai Tuovinen: Well obviously players can expect a lot of new areas. There’s going to be some familiar places, like the Astral Academy from the previous games, but most of it will be completely new. I don’t want to spoil too much, but the artists have been given free reign to do what they want, and they always want to make stuff that they haven’t done before. So it’s going to be a mix of completely new stuff, and maybe another look at some familiar places. We’re going to go underground, we might see some giants, lots of really cool fairy tale stuff.
GameWatcher: How are you approaching multiplayer this time around? Are there any changes that fans of the game’s co-op can expect, new modes and so on?
Kai Tuovinen: I think we’re going to go pretty much back to what we’ve done previously, so nothing really different from what players expect. Obviously the new character skills change things up a lot in terms of what you can do in each level, but the modes remain the same; classic mode, unlimited mode, which lets you and your friends choose the same character. Of course because this is Early Access we may decide to add some new things down the line, but for now players should expect a similar approach.
GameWatcher: How about the Challenge Levels? They’re a new addition in Trine 3, how do they work?
Kai Tuovinen: So far from the ones we’ve made there are character-specific levels, so you’ll be playing as certain characters like the thief or the knight using their special abilities, and you’ll unlock those levels when you gather experience from the story levels.
GameWatcher: You’ve talked before about not being one hundred per cent satisfied with the storytelling in the previous games. Is the narrative more of a focus in this game?
Kai Tuovinen: I think there’s going to be an improvement in the story for the third game. There’s a lot more opportunity for us to use cutscenes to involve players in the storytelling, and I think the story is also a bit more clear and better-written. Because we’ve been developing for so long, our writer has had more time to prepare for it. So it’s going to be much more interesting, but you can still skip the story if you want to concentrate on the game itself. But yes, it is more of a focus in this game.
GameWatcher: You’re giving fans access to the level editor this time around, is community modding something you really want to push?
Kai Tuovinen: Yeah, we did put out some mod tools for Trine 2 last year, but the games had already been out for a few years, so it was a little late. For this game we wanted to have them on release, we wanted to have it ready for launch. I also think it’s quite a nice fit for Early Access. You have the chance to check out some levels, and then you can head into the editor to see how we came up with them. Even though the game was already a few years old we had some great player-created maps for Trine 2, so hopefully by handing out the tools early on we’ll get even more for Trine 3.
GameWatcher: Is modding in general something you want to really encourage for this game? Trine seems like a perfect fit for integrating community content.
Kai Tuovinen: Absolutely. We’d love to see all kinds of mods, and they’re all possible with the editor. It’s not just a level designer, you can dig around and change everything about the game, come up with some kind of crazy Minecraft mod or something. It’s the same tools we use to create all of our games, so within certain limits there’s a huge amount of things you can do. Yeah, we’d love to see what modders come up with. We have a few ideas ourselves, a few things planned, but for now we’re focused on completing the game, so we’ll let the modders come up with the crazy stuff.
GameWatcher: What will players have access to when they pick up an Early Access copy of the game? What’s your current plan for a release schedule?
Kai Tuovinen: So to start off you’ll have access to two levels from the story mode, one challenge level, and then there’s one crazy level we’ve made with the editor to show what you can do. It’s a kind of three-part level with all sorts of crazy contraptions and physics, so sort of a level where you can see what you can do with the tools. You also get access to the editor itself. The release itself will be later this year, so Early Access will probably last a few months. I think sometime in the fall we’ll be releasing the full version.
Many thanks to Kai for chatting to us. Trine 3 is out April 21 on Steam Early Access. Oh look, that’s today.