In celebration of a highly anticipated new update to their upcoming first-person puzzler TRI, Jana Reinhardt of Rat King Entertainment agreed to answer a few questions about the future of TRI, its lenghty development and what they were up to while TRI was in hibernation.
Hey there, thank you for taking the time to tell us about TRI. Who are you, anyway?
We are Rat King, a two-headed indie developer that consists of Friedrich Hanisch (Game Design and Programming) and me, Jana Reinhardt (Graphics and GameDesign). We make games together since our studies in 2006 and founded Rat King in 2010.
So, TRI… what exactly is TRI?
TRI is a first-person 3D game with environmental puzzles and an immersive atmosphere. Experimentation is the key, thus players can create their own geometry to solve puzzles and reach hidden places in weird constructions. Those geometry or triangles (we call them TRIs) can be placed everywhere to overcome abysses or to walk on walls what will also cause a change of gravity.
After announcing TRI and making a playable alpha build available for pre-order last year, you actually took some time off from developing the game. What have you been up to?
Money! We started a co-operation with the local zoo and another design studio in order to create a serious game. This game deals with issues like the deforestation of the rainforest in Borneo and the extinction of the Sabah rhinos. I think we somehow achieved to make a fun game out of it that actual teaches – in a very tight way – how the circle of devastation there works.
In this building game you play the ranger of a forest station that searches for rhinos, allures new animals with the right combination of plants and banish poachers and bulldozers. Try it yourself!
But I must admit that this creative hiatus build up a lot motivation to solve all the problems we had with the first version, too.
Now that you are working on the game again, what has changed about it, what features had to go, what’s new?
The current version contains six brand new levels plus an introductory tutorial. In fact: Every level and most textures of the last versions have been dumped so far. We also removed some of the gameplay for the present, like the crystals, lasers, and light rays. But they will all be back again in future updates. Removing them was necessary to bring a bit more structure into the level design and create a better pacing for players to understand the elements we created. There will be 18 levels once the game is finished.
The art style of TRI is new, and also the way we create levels. Both are in a stricter grid, which was inspired by the first version of TRI – Friedrich’s 48 hour game jam. With the previous version players often couldn’t distinguish between decoration and usable objects. Having this rigid color set makes things easier to recognize – and for us to create.
In terms of narrative, the first playable version of TRI was a bit, well, underdeveloped. There’s more to the game’s story now, right? Can you to tell us a bit about it, without spoiling the plot?
Since the first prototype the gameplay of TRI was set. But the hardest part, to build an interesting and motivating setting around this gameplay, lies still ahead of us. I think we changed story and setting about six times from mad scientists to magicians to the story we have now. What I can tell you at the moment is, that the game will have a lot to do with foxes. The whole story was inspired by Akira Kurosawas Dreams” and the story line about the marriage of the foxes.
I would like to give you more information, but the story is not solid yet. We still discuss a lot about how many characters we are going to put in the game, what the main story line will be and which character plays which role and how much we are actually capable of creating for the game. Ultimately, this won’t be an epic story, but just a bit of filler to keep the player entertained. We’re lacking experience in those things, but we try.
As far as I am concerned it is enough for the story to create a certain atmosphere for you to feel comfortable in the game world. It doesn’t have to be epic every single time – quite the contrary.
I actually believe that the “usual” epic story is easier to create than a good and simple plot that only uses a few elements. Take Portal and GLaDOS, for example. It’s genius and won’t be recreated so soon. Whereas the old epic blah with the hero saving the kingdom and leveling up and so on is easier to do, because it uses all of these worn out stereotypes. And a lot of games nowadays try to cover their lack of quality in storytelling with quantity.
Is it just you two working on the game or do you get some outside help for stuff like music and sfx?
It’s just the two of us working on the core game. But Friedrich’s brother Ludwig is composing all of our music, since forever. I’m searching for sounds during development, which isn’t an ideal situation, because sound is SO important. But music and sounds sadly are the item where you might save money first.
When playing your first alpha version I got this strong “Thief” vibe – any other influences? And while we’re at it: what are your favourite videogames?
Really? Very cool, Thief is in fact one of our main influences. The exploration down to the smallest and most solitary niche is a main component of the game. Other influences are the dungeons in Zelda (Switches, Levers, Crates, this kind of stuff) and of course, who would have guessed – Portal. In Portal we found this pure use of gameplay without all the bells and whistles. Something the sequel “destroyed” in a way through too many cut scenes and linear floors you just walk listening.
Our most favorite games of all times? Here’s Friedrich’s List: many parts of the Ultima series, Gothic I+II, Thief I+II, and Deus Ex I is great, too. My personal favs are Gothic I+II, Thief, Morrowind, Shadow of the Colossus and Settlers II.
When do you think TRI will be finished? And will you make new updates immediately available to people who pre-ordered, so they can closely follow the development?
We plan to release the completed game somewhere in Q3/2013, hopefully in August. We hope to have smaller updates more often, at least monthly.
Slightly off-topic: you’re pretty active in all kinds of game jams. I can imagine them being tons of fun, but do they help you in any other way? Don’t they even distract you a little?
Distraction in this form can be helpful to keep up motivation for such a long-term project. Moreover, game jams teach you to know your limits, show you what can be achieved in a short amount of time and often therefore created concise ideas are the better ones.
Thank you for your time and good luck with TRI. We’ll be watching (and playing) for sure…
If this has made you curious – and it should have, just look at those screenshots! – you can pre-order TRI directly from Rat King’s own online store or from Desura for just $5. If you’re still on the fence, there will be a new demo version out soon (of course you can still try the old, outdated one. It’s fun!)