If you know the Trine series, you’re already salivating: the first downloadable content (DLC) for Trine 2 is now available! If you’ve not heard of Trine at all, then prepare yourself for a visual feast.
Trine is a physics-based action game in which you can switch amongst three characters – each with distinct attributes – to come up with clever solutions to an array of challenges created by hazardous puzzles and threatening enemies. The platform-style gameplay is based on fully interactive physics - each character's different abilities and tactics can be used to invent new ways to overcome obstacles and save the kingdom!
The original game was a bit of a dark-horse success - out of which has grown a cult following for its successor, Trine 2, which improved upon the original in every conceivable way. In terms of 3D, it is a showcase title for 3D Vision, having been built from the ground up to make the most out of the extra dimension.
The first DLC for the series, Goblin Menace, brings the following to the screen:
- Improves the original game with six new abilities (all playable in original game), including the Time-slowing Bubble, the Kitesail Shield, object magnetization and Prison Box!
- A new adventure featuring the Heroes struggling against new goblin villainy
- 6 new levels chock-full of new puzzles, hazards, enemies and contraptions - Completely new environments ranging from burning desert to snowy mountains to the insides of a giant sand worm
- Even more improved visuals and a completely new soundtrack
- New enemies and bosses, including the lethal goblin war-machine
NOTE: We have six Steam keys for Goblin Menace to give away to Trine fans. Use the comment field below to tell us what you like the most about the series and you just might score a free key to unlock Goblin Menace!
To find out as much as we could about the “secret sauce” that makes the Trine series so appealing, we picked the brain of Juha Hiekkamäki – senior graphics programmer at developer Frozenbyte.
The original Trine was a wonderful game, full of fun and lots of great puzzles. What made you decide to add stereoscopic 3D to Trine 2?
It all dates back to the original Trine. The game was launched successfully and then back in the summer 2010 we bought a 3D Vision kit for our office. We tried running Trine with it, and it was pretty incredible to see the effect it had on the visuals. As a graphics programmer I had naturally been staring at the graphics for a long time, but I noticed myself spending several days just wandering around the levels and staring my screen. Not only that, but it was hard to resume working as most of our office was forming queues behind me to try it out themselves. We had to upgrade our meeting room with a 3D Vision projector and a new computer to let people play around with it. Pretty impressive considering most people were skeptic about 3D in the first place!
There were some rendering issues with the automatic conversion, so we decided to add a proper native stereo support and release that as a patch for first Trine. This was something we got a really good feedback from.
From that background, it was a natural decision to support stereoscopic 3D as a launch feature for Trine 2. We rewrote the game engine and a lot of other technology for Trine 2 but the 3D implementation in Trine 1 was already quite modern so we were able to simply build on that with Trine 2.
How early in the development process was this decided and how did that decision influence the evolution of the game?
Very early. We had already started developing Trine 2 when we did the stereo work on the first Trine, but as soon as we saw the results we wanted to add support for Trine 2 as well. It actually didn't have a big impact on other development areas, as the side-scrolling/platformer game genre is very stereoscopic-friendly by default. Everything happens from a relatively constant distance from the screen - it pretty much just works right out of the box. Obviously our artists were very impressed with Trine 1 in 3D, so that has affected some of the choices they have made in Trine 2 - finding the right balance for objects in the foreground and just adding a tiny bit extra detail in places that will pop out in 3D.
What are the greatest challenges when designing a game for 3D?
In our case it has been extremely easy. In fact, for the main development we haven't had to do anything special. Our level designers and artist don't even have stereo monitors to play with for development. Naturally we still test the game with stereoscopic 3D to see that no problems come up and the artists check their special creations from time to time. In the new expansion Trine 2: Goblin Menace we had to add some controls to override convergence in some of the cinematics in the expansion, as otherwise the camera zooming produced way too much pop out.
The user interface has been the only part which had real issues we needed to solve. For example, floating 2D elements can be quite distracting on top of a 3D world. Not only that, but our cursor is placed at character depth which means it can go inside 3D objects and that is very stressing for eyes. To work around these, we do things like increase the UI transparency and by default reducing the size of the characters' health bars when in 3D mode - and we allow players to reduce the size further or even completely remove the user interface elements. Also, if UI elements such as the cursor go inside the 3D world we apply a strong transparency to mask out these parts, which greatly helps with eye strain while allowing you to still see what you are pointing at.
Also, by default we place the UI slightly inside the screen which feels more natural than having it exactly at screen level.
For people who played Trine 2 what's new in the expansion pack from a 3D perspective?
With Trine 2: Goblin Menace everything gets slightly upgraded - even in the regular Trine 2 campaign. We have increased the rendering quality in many areas, where the most notable one is a significant quality upgrade to our shadow system. There are a lot of other smaller improvements as well which don't do miracles on their own, but overall the game is prettier than ever!
In general the amount of graphical details is also increased in the expansion. Every level is unique and different from the main game. We also render up to 1.5 million polygons per frame and while it looks pretty anyway, you can't really see all the detail without stereoscopic 3D.
And did I mention the new cinematics? Trine 2: Goblin Menace is perhaps our most story-driven campaign so far, and we use in-game cinematics with the game characters to tell the story (in addition to the painted videos, loading screens and character banter).
Does 3D influence the gameplay or puzzles in any particular way?
It's easier to see some elements in 3D. For example, in the second level - Deadly Dustland - there's a puzzle at the end where the player needs to match symbols in the background to the symbols on the door. In 3D it's a lot easier to see what's going on. The same applies to almost everything - 3D gives you a better understanding of the game world.
Are there any scenes in the Trine 2 expansion pack that you are particular proud of that look wonderful in 3D?
From the stereoscopic 3D point of view my personal favorite part of the expansion has to be the cinematics. We now have great cinematics with detailed animations, proper close-ups and nice camera runs. They've been designed with 3D in mind and they look fantastic - and bring a new level to the storytelling.
Are there any technical features that are specific to 3D Vision users?
3D Vision is our default 3D implementation and the one that we always focus on. 3D Vision 2 with Lightboost in 1080p is our preferred way to experience stereoscopic Trine, and that's the setup we run here.
You offer a great deal of custom settings for 3D - separation, convergence, UI depth - any particular settings you would recommend for your "best possible 3D experience"?
I would recommend starting with the default settings, and simply increasing the separation to suit your personal preferences. This gives the intended experience, and these are the settings we properly test for. Another thing that might be worth trying is scaling down the character UI, and if you are an experienced Trine player then possibly removing tooltips.
We try to make sure that by default there isn't too strong of a pop-out effect or any geometry clipping the edges of the screen, as that tends to be very distracting for players new to 3D. That said, if there's anything we've learned along the way it's that many advanced users prefer tweaking the 3D effect to be just right for their preferences. We support that by exposing UI depth and convergence controls.
Can we expect to see more DLC content for Trine 2, or will your attention turn to a Trine 3, perhaps?
We will definitely return to the Trine world in the future, but right now after Trine 2: Goblin Menace, I think we will take a small break and focus on a couple of other projects. One of those is our much-awaited so-called smaller game, Splot, which is shaping up very nicely. With some luck and tweaks it will work in 3D too once we get the PC version up and running properly, even if it's not quite as advanced graphically as the Trine series.
What are some of your favorite 3D games and films?
Personally with films I was really impressed by the graphics in Avatar, and I generally watch films in 3D if there is an option for that. However, I'd really like to see films moving to a higher frame rate for a smoother experience. Games-wise I haven't had as much time as I'd like to try them out, but Witcher 2 on PC is great. I also really like what stereoscopic 3D does to Wipeout.
We thank Juha and Frozenbyte for taking the time to answer our questions in the midst of releasing Goblin Menace. Trine 2 is available now on Steam for $14.99 and the Goblin Menace is currently only $6.79. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better 3D gaming value.