When DailyGame went to E3 this year, we got a good look at a diverse group of adventure titles. One of these games, Cypher: The Sequel to Traitor’s Gate really stood out from the pack. Its unique environments, powerful graphics and cool “super-spy” sensibilities really impressed us, so much so, we awarded it our “Best of Show: Adventure” award for E3. Recently, we were able to catch up with Nigel Papworth, a member of the Cypher team, and he was kind enough to give us some more info about the game, which we’re sure will interest just about any adventure gamer.
DG: First off, please introduce yourself and your place on the Cypher team.
I’m Nigel (Papworth), the originator of the Cypher idea, designer of gameplay and the world’s worst skidoo driver (fell off of one and broke my leg in eight places).
DG: For those readers who aren’t familiar with the world of Traitor’s Gate and Cypher, can you give us an overview of the storyline and the major characters?
Our main protagonist is a strange fellow known as Raven, who works for PIAD (The Pentagon Internal Affairs Dept). Raven is his code name, his real name being only known to a select few. He is called upon to solve potentially lethal or embarrassing problems involving some kind of security breach or crime at the Pentagon. The nature of his academic background and the somewhat unusual tasks he is given mean that he often finds himself in strange and exotic situations, while people around him are doing their best to neutralize his vital life signs (kill him!).
DG: Is the storyline for Cypher inspired by any particular films or books? From what we’ve heard, it sounds a bit like “Mission Impossible” meets “James Bond.” Were you inspired by any elements from these films, or do you consider the story for Cypher completely original?
The first game, Traitors Gate, was inspired by an article I read on the Tower of London in a National Geographic magazine, where it was set (I honestly wasn’t looking at the picture of the Tongan woman on side 46). The idea for Cypher was the result of a more eclectic (I read it somewhere) combination of influences. I wanted something Old Worldly combined with something very contemporary. I was reading an article on cryptography technique at the same time as a book on Babylonian history. The plot just grew from these two unrelated subjects.
DG: What role does the player take on in Cypher? What kind of special abilities or skills with the player have access to?
Raven is primarily an agent in the classic cinematic sense, though he has an undeniable “Indiana Jones” side to his skills but without the Michael Jackson hat. He is equipped with some general and some specific gadgets for each mission, and it is the combination of the intelligent use of these, with a smart gaming strategy, that will lead to a successful conclusion of the mission.
DG: From what we saw at E3, the entire game takes place inside a large Babylonian temple. Within the confines of the temple, how many opportunities for free-form exploration will there be?
I really prefer games where you don’t have to solve a puzzle to open a door, and then get stuck if you can’t solve the puzzle. I try to keep the choice of route and challenge order as open as possible. The temple complex is built like a simple spider web, where you can move fairly freely along the strands of your choice.
DG: How much research went into the setting of the game? Was there an actual Babylonian temple that it was modeled after?
I am slightly masochistic when it comes to the research bit. As a result, I have delved into Babylonian culture to the extent that I can read and write a bit of Cuniformic script (the Babylonian alphabet) and have even read some of their great religious works such as the Enuma Elish (story of creation). Although much of this detailing is far too obscure or downright boring to be used directly in the gameplay, it does give the environments depicted and the overall visual style a sense of realism (I hope).
DG: Cypher seems to be moving beyond the traditional adventure title with its elements of action and stealth. How are the action elements and combat implemented within the game to keep it from becoming more about the action and less about the adventure?
I think that games with a strong storyline and challenge content must begin utilizing the powerful techniques that are available to a game designer. These techniques have been used mainly for FPS and action/racing games so far. When we apply them to puzzle/adventure scenarios, we find that we have a lot of cool tools to use. This allows us to create a lot more dynamic content that with point and click techniques. We can support the adventure content with more realistic reactions from both animate and inanimate objects in the game. This enhances both the game play and the overall immersive feel of the title.
DG: Every good adventure is filled with puzzles to solve. What sort of puzzles can players expect to run across in Cypher?
Oh yeah, like I’m going to give up those little secrets?. Suffice it to say the Babylonians were a culture renowned for being the originators of modern science, government, mathematics and social order. At the same time they were a culture that sacrificed living children to their gods. Both these sides of the Babylonian nature, the civilized and the unsavory, will be fully reflected in the complex and daunting challenges the player will face if they have the guts to enter the temple complex.
DG: Since Cypher is a fully 3D adventure, what graphics engine are you using for the game? Had you considered any other engines? If so, why did you choose the current engine over the other options?
We are using something called the ‘Gamembryo’ from NDL. As usual it all cracks down to time and money. As for its merits as a piece of technology, look at the game and tell me what you think!
DG: We understand that the soundtrack will be entirely original. Are there specific musicians working on it, or is it mostly studio work? How would you describe the overall theme of the score?
We are using a local lad, Stefan Lindberg, to score the music and do all the sound effects for the many and marvelous contraptions in the game. Musically, we wanted something that married the feel from ancient downtown Ur on a Friday night with a funky upbeat 60’s Spy theme (at least that’s what the poor guy got for guidance).
DG: How many hours of gameplay should players expect from Cypher?
That will depend on the player, but I would hazard a guess at somewhere between 23 and 41 Hours.
DG: Wrapping it all up, is there anything in the game that you see as setting Cypher apart from everything else in the adventure genre?
I think the nature and physical scale of the puzzle and challenge moments will be something most people haven’t encountered before.
– Our thanks to Nigel and the team at The Adventure Company for taking the time to give us the lowdown on Cypher: The Sequel to Traitor’s Gate, which ships this October. From what we played at E3, we’re pretty sure this will be the adventure title everyone will be waiting for.