If you've been following the site for a while you know we're become quite enamored
with Enslaved, to the point where we will harass innocent PR people until they give in to our demands for an interview. I'm not saying this is the case with this interview but Chuck has admitted to being quite persistent about badgering Namco for the opportunity to talk to the folks at Ninja Theory, which was good because he was able to secure this short interview with Tameem Antoniades, a co-founder and Chief Creative Ninja at Ninja Theory.
What lessons did you learn from Heavenly Sword that you applied Enslaved? Both games feature two main characters, is this a coincidence or the result of a design decision?
We learned a huge amount from Heavenly Sword and from the feedback that we received on the game. We really cut our teeth with Heavenly Sword and gained a lot of skills that we could take into ENSLAVED. All of our experiences went into making ENSLAVED a bigger, deeper and longer game than Heavenly Sword was.
Having two main characters again was by no means a coincidence; it is something that has been at the heart of ENSLAVED from its very inception. I really liked the relationship that we built between Kai and Nariko in Heavenly Sword and this was something that I wanted to explore further. After Heavenly Sword had been released we were inundated with mail from people telling us how deeply moved they were by their story. People were talking about them as if they were family or old friends. So in ENSLAVED I wanted to push the emotional experience on to the next level and delve deeper into the relationship between two characters. I wanted to see if we could evoke the whole range of feelings that you have when you’re in a real relationship.
What motivations were behind the scripting of Trip and Monkey's personalities from the game's inception, and was that maintained throughout development? Being that the two start off on conflicted terms, how is the audience supposed to feel about the characters? Is this a Bonnie and Clyde relationship? How does the relationship evolve through the game?
Trip is desperate, vulnerable and sharp witted. She knows she doesn’t have the strength to take on the mechs, but she knows that Monkey does. Monkey is more aggressive, he knows his way around a mech or two. The two characters are thrown together in this relationship. Monkey is forced to protect Trip. In protecting her, he is protecting himself. We want the player to be Monkey, to feel what Monkey feels. So of course initially you’re going to be thinking “Why should I help this girl who has just put this headband on me,” but you’ll quickly realize that Monkey needs Trip to survive just as much as she needs him. So as the audience you’ll be taken on a bit of a ride. A lot of credit for the story of Monkey and Trip has to go to Alex Garland, who was a co-writer on the game, and the fantastic actors that we were able to work with.
Do we encounter other enemies than robotic ones? If so, what kind of creatures are they? Can you talk about what went into designing the enemies?
The primary enemies that you face in the game are the mechs that lie dormant, a bit like land mines that have been left over from a forgotten war. There are lots of different mechs in the game, ranging from smaller mechs, not much bigger than Monkey, to some huge mechs, like the C-dog.
We’ve got a really talented team of designers and artists who put a lot into designing the mechs. We were really focused on making sure that each of the mechs has their own character and style, which is a key component of the combat. You need to know how to tackle different mechs and have a plan of how to deal with their different defensive and offensive tactics. If you go into battle with three or four mechs without a plan, you’re not likely to survive.
What is the benefit of keeping the player-controlled character as strictly Monkey, rather than giving the option to play as Trip as well? How do boss levels take advantage of the dual-character play model with Monkey/Trip working as a team?
Monkey and Trip are two very different characters. Monkey possesses raw strength and agility whereas Trip has technological know-how. It’s really the classic combination of brains and brawn. Keeping the player as Monkey is key to creating the impact we want the game to have on the player. We want you to be become Monkey and go on the journey with him. Playing as Trip would take you outside of this and dilute the story driven experience.
You’ll quickly learn in the game that not only does Trip need Monkey, but Monkey needs Trip as well. Trip can be really useful when taking on the mechs. For starters she has the DragonFly, which is a kind of flying CCTV camera. She can send this into an area before you enter to check for danger. This can buy you invaluable thinking time before you awaken the mechs. She also has the ability to distract enemy fire, which gives Monkey the opportunity to try and find a route to get close in on the enemies.
Does Trip construct other useful gadgets other than the dragonfly camera that are useful for gameplay, or is this her sole gadget contribution?
There are many ways that Trip can assist Monkey. Some involve gadgets and some don’t. Along with the DragonFly she has a hologram that she can send into the sky to distract mechs from a distance. She also has a powerful EMP that she can use to stun mechs if they get too close.
We'd like to thank Tameem for taking the time to answer our questions as well as Alicia for helping to coordinate the interview.