Traitors Gate: Interview with Nigel Papworth

tgbox.jpgSwedish developer DayDream Software released Traitors Gate towards the end of last year, but it has only now been released in North America. So, with this in mind, we thought this would be the ideal time to interview Nigel Papworth, Daydream's Lead Game Designer.

Quandary: With Traitors Gate just released in North America by DreamCatcher it seems appropriate to ask first up how important is this market for European designers?

Nigel: It is still seen as the paramount market to crack, even though the combined sales in all the other world markets would be equal in volume.

Quandary: We all know about the difficulties faced by adventure games in the current games market. So what about your experience? How difficult was it to find a publisher for an adventure game?

Nigel: The difficulty is more in convincing journalists and stores that there is still a burning interest in this type of game. There are still a few really dedicated publishers who love the genre.

Quandary: Currently adventure games are having a really tough time in North America and seem to be enjoying much more popularity in Europe. What are your thoughts on this?

Nigel: Maybe the European culture is a little more cerebral and a little less 'trigger finger reaction' based than in the US.

Quandary: We note that a part of your philosophy is to create non-violent titles, could you expand on this?

Nigel: Our main aim is to broaden the choice available to the gamer. We have no soapbox we preach from about non-violence, rather we want the choice of quality non-violent titles to be available. They are, incidentally, far more difficult to do than a straight shoot-em-up.

Quandary: Just a thought here, you don't promote violence, but you do allow breaking and entering in your games. :) However, we notice that in both Safecracker and Traitors Gate you provide an 'honourable' motive for breaking and entering and stealing ... was this a conscious decision?

Nigel: Everybody wants to be the hero, it's a dramatic tradition that goes back to the Greeks. Who are we to flaunt 3000 years of narrative history?

Quandary: Turning to Traitors Gate itself, what made you choose the realistic setting of the Tower of London for your game? Is it easier to begin with a given location than to create an imaginary location?

Nigel: No, exactly the opposite. You begin with a really high goal, to reproduce as accurately as possible this existing and very complicated location. Who can criticize the Quake fortress for being inaccurate? But anyone can go to the Tower and walk around the locations in the game.

Quandary: How did the CIA-Mission Impossible scenario come about? Was it locked in at the beginning of development or did it come later?

Nigel: The scenario had to be believable. It had to be grounded in Logic. A Russian or Arabic agent, for instance, could have shot his way around the tower. Because of the special relationship that exists between the US and Britain we could place some restrictions on our agent Raven's behaviour. This in turn forces the player to be a little more clever in their gaming tactic. It was one of the first decisions we made in the game design as it sets the rules for everything that follows.

Quandary: In our review of Traitors Gate we noted that at times we caught a glimpse of someone wandering around in the White Tower. A 'ghost' we thought. Was this based on any story of the tower being haunted? Or are you going to tell us that it was just a figment of our imagination :-) .

Nigel: No idea what you're talking about ;-)

Quandary: The Tower of London is a fantastic setting for your game and you took over 5000 photographs. How long did you spend on location compared with the time it took to sort through and deliberate on all those photos?

Nigel: It took eight people three days to blanket photo the tower. One guy three weeks to sort the photos and five people about two years (60 hour weeks) to turn the reference into fully textured 3D computer models.

Quandary: Were the Tower's authorities cooperative and helpful?

Nigel: For the most part they were surprisingly helpful even giving us full plans over the security system and safety measures to guard the jewels (just kidding). They did request some changes to the physical proportions and room lay out around the vault area, as the realistic quality of the graphics worried them a little. We decided that this didn't affect the game play in a negative way and we were glad to comply.

Quandary: Were any areas out of bounds for security reasons? Could we, for example, use our carefully drawn map of the sewer maze as a blueprint for breaking in and relieving Her Majesty of a few baubles?

Nigel: The sewers are based on the position of the actual manholes on site (with a couple of exceptions) and the information that is publicly available (Archaeological diggings etc. For the rest, we just joined the dots. So our answer is....give it a try.

Quandary: Traitors Gate is very much like your previous title, Safecracker, in that you are challenged in both games to break into secure premises. One of the main differences between the two is the type of puzzles or problems posed. In Safecracker there are many abstract puzzles, but in Traitors Gate you have opted for in-context challenges. Is it a lot more challenging for designers to design in-context puzzles?

Nigel: Yes it was far more difficult to design within such specific restrictions. We did about one years research and basically read and catalogued all the information that was publicly available at the time.

Quandary: Finally, when you start to develop an idea for a game how do you think about its potential audience? Do you consider what sort of person might play the game or do you develop a game that you would like to play and hope that other people might also like it?

Nigel: What we do is look at the existing games and see if we can detect a hole, something that is missing. With Traitors this was a photo realistic, real place, present time, agent scenario with realistic means to achieve the game completed. We didn't want wizards, aliens and time travel or some home-made up scenario in some fictitious country.

(Quandary would like to give special thanks to Daydream's Jakob Nyman who made this interview possible.)

Also check out our reviews of Traitors Gate and SafeCracker.

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