Q: Could you please introduce yourself and explain in what capacity you worked on Trapt?
Hitoshi Hasegawa: My name is Hitoshi Hasegawa, I used to be the CG Director and Project Manager of Project Zero. In Trapt, I also worked as Director of Development and Promotion.
Q: The gameplay of Trapt is highly unique. How would you best describe it to gamers who might be unaware of it as yet? And what were the influences behind its striking combination of action, strategy and torture?
HH: Trapt is the latest in the so-called Deception series, which is a trap action title based on the concept of the player being a disreputable character. In the game, trap combos are triggered if you place and hit consecutive traps, and discovering the best combos is the most fun part of the game. It's something that all players can enjoy even if they aren't aware of the series as a whole.
In Trapt we have introduced a series of big, special traps called the Dark Illusions, and we've designed the layout of the game so that the player can design their strategic plan using a combination of Dark Illusions and normal traps.
Q: Did the development team research any medieval torture devices for the game? And where did the ideas for some of the more outlandish ones come from - ie, the killer clock?
HH: We collected a lot of art books and photo material of torture devices for our reference. We then set about designing the traps based on existing historical items and then modified them so that they would be good for a videogame. Some of the traps were inspired by comic books and films. However, most of the traps are ideas that emerged from members of our staff. As for "the killer clock", that was inspired by a scene from a specific Anime.
Q: Between the central personalities and the enemies that infiltrate Allura's castle, there are a lot characters in Trapt. Was it difficult developing back stories for them all?
HH: All the enemies in the game have their own back stories. This is one of the features that the Deception series is renowned for in Japan. As a development team, we're of the opinion that it's fun rather than a chore to build histories for all of these characters. Even the minor enemies have their own reasons to fight and their own unique way of thinking. We want the player to defeat their enemies, but to also feel guilty about doing this. This is why we made such detailed back stories even for the enemies. I personally want the players to have acknowledged the enemy's life before defeating them, to realize that the enemy about to die does have a life of their own.
Q: The plot, while apparently a simple tale of royal revenge, also has a lot of complexities woven into it. Can you explain the supernatural influence that occur in Allura's story and, in particular, give some insight into the motivation behind the Fiend?
HH: Ultimately, everything is attributable to human will. This is the core theme of the plot. Every character in Trapt has their own purpose and will, and those around them become affected by these forces. Many of individuals' wills and purposes are deeply interwoven, and Allura's task is to question and test what it means to be human through these interactions.
The supernatural power (manifested in the Fiend character) that Allura becomes tangled up in by chance, is attributable to the hatred of some of the individuals in question. I shouldn't really tell you the details such as motivation behind the Fiend before you play. However, let's just say they are deeply related to our human will and purpose.
Q: There are also two sets of side stories that can be accessed by the player. Can you tell us how these connect with the central plot?
HH: At the beginning of the developmental process, the main story was too huge and it made the playing time way too long. So, we reduced the main story. The side story supports and explains the main story and within this tale other unique characters start to appear. If you want to get through the game quickly, then we suggest you stick to the main story. If you'd prefer to understand the whole plot you should play both the main story and the side story at the same time.
Q: Can you give us a brief description of how the trap combinations work, and can you let us know what the maximum number is that can be triggered at any one time?
HH:Okay, here's an example. A room has floor needles that shoot out when enemy steps on it. You can then use a spring floor section to throw an enemy onto the spiked part of the floor, or you can use a moving section of wall to push an enemy onto this area. As such, you can make a two hit combo as part of your opening trap combination.
The player can have only three active traps at any one time. However, by combining these with the environmental traps in each room they can make a maximum 99 hit combo.
Q: Each room of the castle has its own unique trap. Could you describe how these interact with the traps that the player sets?
HH: The traps owned by the player per mission can only produce a limited combination. As a result, you need to combine the room specific traps with your own to generate greater damage. This is a feature that creates a flexible style of play for the player.
For example, if you pass an electric current through to the water area, the whole area becomes an extended electric shock trap. If you push an enemy into a fireplace with another trap, the enemy burns. So, it is important that you take time to study each feature of the traps, and then strategically select and combine them. The most fun part of the game is to create your own original trap combos.
Q: Does the development team have a favourite trap at all?
HH: The Hanging Chain is the one. The trap hangs the enemy by his legs, and it's kind of humorous watching them struggle. It also captures the enemy for a long time, thus, you can combine other traps and easily create a massive combo.
Q: The dark illusion traps are incredibly powerful. How does the player gain access to them?
HH: The conditions under which the player gains access to The Dark Illusions are specific to each variation. You have to find the right conditions through an understanding of the features of the room and its structure.
For example the room that holds the Dark Illusion 'Melody of Scream' has two candles, and one of them is turned off. You can activate the Dark Illusion by turning on the candle with the aid of the normal 'Pendulum' trap, and then bring your enemies to their knees with the effects of this powerful device. So, as in this example, you have to find the right conditions by watching carefully and using your imagination.
Q: Was it difficult tailoring the enemy AI to ensure that they didn't just blindly stumble into all the traps the player sets for them?
HH: Yes, it was difficult. We had an especially hard time making the individual moves of each enemy based upon their character. Some of the enemies remember where they have been trapped before, and next time they avoid passing through the same area. Some of them make comical moves to avoid traps. We definitely had a lot of fun tailoring and adjusting the AI to suit these funnier moments.
This kind of adjustment and refinement is a key process in developing videogames. It's not just a case of simply finishing the game, you then have to adjust the AI stats from the moment the trap springs right through to their final movement. The enemy reactions really do add to the overall charm of Trapt.
Q: The enemies arrive at the castle with a number of means of attacking Allura. Some use melee weapons, some projectiles and some magic. Can you say which are the most problematic for our heroine to deal with?
HH: In the later part of the game, all enemy attacks by the enemies can inflict huge damage on Allura. The magical attacks that have a long range are the most problematic.
When Allura is attacked by magic, she can become caught be a condition penalty - like being frozen - and thus get repeatedly hit by the enemy. If the players aren't careful, they can easily lose all her life in a minute.
Q: Can you explain how the game's boss battles come about and how enemy immunity to certain traps adds to the challenge in these situations?
HH: I cannot explain all the variations in detail. Let's just say that you quickly realise the differences when you face the bosses through play. The game has several endings, and you may not reach the true final boss the first time you finish. Also, it is difficult to defeat the ultimate boss unless you find his weakness first.
Trapt is due for release in the UK on Friday 24th February.