June 19, 2018

E3 2018 - A Chat with Paul Yan for Spyro Reignited Trilogy

At E3 I had the chance to see a Spyro Reignited Trilogy demo, with Paul Yan leading the presentation, I also had the chance to ask the man some questions about the game, read the interview below.

Maxi-Geek: Can you introduce yourself?

Paul Yan: Hi, I am Paul Yan, co-studio head at Toys for Bob and we are developing Spyro Reignited Trilogy and am super excited to talk about this.

MG: So why Spyro now?

PY: This September marks the 20th anniversary of Spyro’s debut on PS1, so that’s two decades and three console generations, a lot of time has passed and now we’re finally ready, it’s the right time to bring him back, all scaled up in high definition.

MG: What are you showing off here at E3?

PY: On the show floor at E3, we are showing off two levels, Toasty and tree top and we have a special level just for you guys but will start off first with Toasty.

MG: Given how games have evolved over the years, what can you tell people about these levels?

PY: Toasty, as with all of these levels come from the first game, Spyro the Dragon and Toasty branches off of the first home world called, The Artisan home world and was really important for us at Toys for Bob, because we used this as a benchmark, for what does it mean to bring him up to modern day quality and what does it mean to embellish on the visuals. So, this is a huge benchmark for us and when we looked at the original game, there was the original Insomniac crew, was doing a lot to push the PlayStation One back in the day, this is one the first open world games in 3D at the time and they were able to push the landscape, the draw distance was really far out there for its time. When we look at it from modern sensibilities, the worlds are really sparse and there’s a huge opportunity for us to add details and lushness to things. If you immediately when you start to just notice the grass is one of the first things, we render individual blades that part as Spyro walks through it, you can now interact with it and singe it as well.

We paid attention to things on the details, you can see the islands in the background, the shimmer of the water and even looking at elements like the buildings in the background, just he individual tiling and the flags that are now waiving in the wind. The same is true for Spyro himself, he is actually over 100 times the geometry of the original and you will see that in cutscenes as a lot of that went into his facial animations, so now we can get a much wider array of expressions and personality.

MG: So visually the game is looking great, but what about how it plays. Have you made adjustments to that as well?

PY: Well, we wanted to make sure that if you’re familiar with the game, the original games and you pick up the Spyro Reignited Trilogy, all of the muscle memory will just come rushing back. The way that we wanted to accomplish that, was paying attention to all of the details, now we didn’t have access to the original source material or any of the source code, so what we did was, one of our engineers named Steve, actually wrote a tool that we affectionately call Spyro-Scope and that means taking the original Spyro game and putting it under a microscope, so we can actually analyse all the hard data. Looking at all of the stuff, the tool was able to extract hard coordinates, the exact layout and elevation of the levels, the scale to the characters, the placement of all the gems, we are looking at details like Spyro moving around, what is his run rate, what is his run speed when he is jumping. We have frame analyse, so that one frame 3, how high is he actually, what is the speed of his travel and his velocity, even looking at the enemies, what is the rate of movement and what is their pathing as well. So, all of those little details, you won’t even be thinking about it, it will just come rushing back to you as you start to play through it.

MG: So, this is a pretty faithful recreation of the original games. Was there any desire to expand upon what was created initially?

PY: There are some ideas that suggested by the original game, so Toasty is part of the Artisan home world and we wanted to take this idea further and that the dragon’s that exist in the Artisan home world are Artisan dragons, so each of them have a particular craft, so you might see a sculptor dragon, you might see a chef, or in this instance Nevin, is a painter and we imagined this space as a little gallery and his little homage to his fellow dragon buddies and places that he has visited as well.

MG: Visually the game looks amazing now, but what about the audio, how much did you have to do there?

PY: Well we remastered Stewart Copeland's recognisable soundtrack, we did all of the instrumentation and transcription, piece by piece, cause we didn’t have all of the original instruments. Some of the community actually helped us identify some of the more obscure instruments, there was an instrument called a Chinese Pipa, which was a type of lute and we were having a hard time trying to find that. We have added some nuance and dynamics to the music as well, just really subtle hints of it and it has added more range to it, the music will actually change contextually, that if you are in an interior space the music will add a little more ambiance, you will hear some echoey flavours on top of the music, all preserving the sound, but when you are doing things like charging, we actually add a little bit more percussion to the bottom end of it, it really gives it more depth, so you feel sonically that sense of speed.

MG: You mentioned the games mechanics before, will feel as they did for returning players, but what about new features, taking advantage of the modern consoles features?

PY: One of the things that exists in the first games, is Spyro’s ability to roll left or right, but it does not exist in the second or third games, so we added that to all the games, again thinking of the trilogy as a cohesive thing, allowing that in the second and third game as well. We have done other things like in the UI, making that experience cohesive as well, we have also added a way to fast travel to different levels as well, so you don’t have to hop to the base home world and venture your way to the particular level, but that option is still available for those who want to do that. Also, important to note, that when Spyro debuted on the PS1, that controller didn’t actually have analogue controls, so we were, as an industry, still figuring out 3D, and camera control was actually on the bumpers, moving left and right, that was one of the first things that we wanted to do, bring up the quality of life to this game by introducing it back to the right analogue stick. And that it’s no longer in 4:3, we can take advantage of what widescreen has to offer and make sure that it works well with the existing controls.

MG: Crash Bandicoot released a previously cut level, can we expect to see anything like that for the Spyro Reignited Trilogy?

PY: Well today, we are just going to be talking about these levels and we’ll save some of the other stuff for later.

MG: So that’s technically a yes, just no details.

PY: (laughs)

MG: Any plans for the collection to be released on PC and Switch?

PY: We are just talking about Xbox One and PlayStation today.

MG: Thank you for speaking to me and showing the game as well.

PY: You are welcome.

My thank to Activision for allowing me the chance to speak with Paul and check out the game as well.

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