Traitors Gate II: Cypher

Interview of Nigel Papworth

by Laura MacDonald


Daydream Software developed two games in the 90’s, Safecracker and then the original Traitors Gate. Traitor’s Gate employed an innovative format that combined adventure with stealth, guile and an intriguing alter ego. After its release, Nigel Papworth, the developer of these games and the founder of Daydream, made some interesting observations about the American gaming market. He mused that perhaps, European culture was more cerebral, less trigger fingered. He also noted that quality non-violent titles are far more difficult to develop than straight shooters. In fact, both of his earlier works focused on strategy and puzzling over the twitch factor. Despite this emphasis on the more cerebral gaming elements, both involved some interesting more adult oriented themes. The main character in Traitors Gate had motives rooted in duty to country and world security, but his means were questionable. By making the main character the proverbial unknown soldier or the expendable agent, an element of risk and danger was added without once resorting to a gun. Good choice. The idea of being a hero, even an unacknowledged one is a popular theme in movies and books. So it worked well with adventure gamers. The addition of graphics that were realistic and detailed, coupled with a present day orientation and an array of high tech gadgets produced a game with surprising energy.
In Cypher: the sequel to Traitors Gate, we once again meet up with the intrepid Raven. He is a member of a clandestine deep cover organization, within the Pentagon of the United States. His newest incarnation has been described as the classic movie agent with a touch of Indiana Jones. Unlike its predecessor, Cypher is 3D and said to incorporate action components along with traditional challenges. So questions naturally arise… how different is Cypher from the games originally created by Nigel Papworth and company?  Has he modified his earlier views on designing adventure games to encompass elements from edgier action games? With all this in mind, it was a pleasure to get the opportunity to go to the source for answers.

So I calibrated my GPS, locked and loaded my crossbow and took off to invade the mind of Nigel Papworth.

Failure to get the answers is not an option.


I really want to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about Traitors Gate II: Cypher.  It is a real pleasure to have this opportunity to get some inside info on what looks like another great title.

NP: Thanks and no problem.


How long have you been involved in the game development industry and what do you enjoy the most about it?

NP:  I started Daydream Software and began developing ‘Safecracker’ in 1995. At the time I knew absolutely nothing about game design. I’m happy to say this situation hasn’t changed much. I’m still inclined to work on gut instinct and try at least to find my own solutions to game design questions, which will hopefully lead to the gamer having a unique experience in the game itself.


What is your role within 258 Productions and the Cypher creative process?

NP:  My role is concept originator, game designer and Creative Director at 258 Productions, my present employer. That means the majority of ideas start with me, then are sketched by me, and after the process of building, texturing and scripting, each moment is finally approved by me. As you can probably guess, I’m one big-headed pain in the *#!!=?.


* laugh * I have heard that you’ve given up on a possible career as a professional skidoo racer. Any other perilous moments?

NP:  Not recently, touch wood! It’s an old story…I basically was testing a snow-scooter for a previous game title and wrapped it around a tree or two at high speed. Breaking one leg into eight pieces in the process. A painful but potent lesson: Stick to adventure games!


Well of course! Many gamers know about Raven from his first mission, Traitors Gate. For the un-initiated, how would you describe Raven and his mysterious employers?

NP:  Well, Raven is basically a policeman with an aptitude for archeological conundrums. In that his job is allied to Pentagon security, he doesn’t deal in what one would call normal cases, he is almost always to be found sneaking about in some ancient, derelict ruin while he pursues the scum of the political and criminal world.

He is proud to be effective at his job without excessive violence or bad language. Great agent, but I wouldn’t want to sit next to him at a dinner party.


No kidding. Truthfully - other than his name, you really never learned much more than that in Traitor’s Gate.  Are we are going to learn anything more about Raven and his past in this game?

NP:  Well maybe not so much in the game, but I can tell you he is from Idaho and his first dog was named Troy. He has one hobby, collecting personal artifacts of infamous historical villains. He has a toothbrush that belonged to Hitler and a commode that was the personal property of Pol Pot. It’s true I swear!


OK Look sharp folks, you heard it here first !  I noticed from the screen shots, that Traitors Gate II: Cypher appears to be built in 3rd person rather than the 1st person perspective in the first game. Is this the case?

NP:  We are using full 3D for this game, which gives the whole experience a slightly different feel. The good news for the gamer is that the gameplay can be far more dynamic and in the 3D environment there is a far better sense of scale, which suits the scenario perfectly. This is something that 258 and The Adventure Company are very excited about.


The plot synopsis for Cypher sounds absorbing. What can you tell us about Raven's newest mission?

NP:  Well, the basic idea is that some sophisticated scientists in a, shall we say, unfriendly country have developed a simple but very effective encryption virus. This they plan to introduce into the communication satellite system causing untold chaos to navigation, economic traffic, military defense systems etc.

 Being bad guys in the classic sense, these wayward scientists have a highly sophisticated underground lab. This is seemingly impervious to attack and full of all sorts of nasty bits and pieces. Raven must find a way into this lab and obtain a copy of the virus, before seeing to it that the lab itself ceases to exist.


That sounds great! The story reminds me of "24" and “The Agency” - perhaps Bond also. Was there a particular character or movie that was a source of ideas for your games? If not where do you get the ideas for Raven and these games?

NP:  Raven basically was designed as a character that lives in a world half way between James Bond and Indiana Jones. I really like mixing well researched historical content with the high tech spy stuff. This leads to me looking for scenarios where I can logically mix these two elements.


In Traitors Gate other than some limited shots of guards and such that you have to evade  - it was a fairly solitary game. In Cypher, will Raven interact with other characters? And, if so, can you tell us anything about them.

NP:  Well, the lab part of the game has scientists and armed guards who are not exactly there to welcome Raven with open arms. The journey to the lab takes Raven through a lost temple complex where his skills are pitted against the devious ‘test of character, stamina and strength devices of priests who died thousands of years ago.


Is it important to have played Traitors Gate to fully appreciate Cypher?

NP:  I don’t think it’s imperative to have played Traitors Gate to enjoy Cypher. The only advantage would be to already have an established feel for the character and perhaps an idea or two on what to expect. Necessary? No. A good idea anyway? Absolutely! J


I've heard that this is a game combing stealth, exploration, espionage and gadgetry. Are there mechanical puzzles involved in the "gadgetry"? Are there slider and maze puzzles in the game as well? And, what is meant by an "environmental puzzle?"

Well that really is a mess of questions all shoved together. (laugh) Maybe it would be easier to just describe the sorts of challenges we will come across in the game. :)

NP:  Raven has a number of unique gadgets that he caries with him, designed to help him in the latter part of the game when he reaches the lab. The ‘gadgetry’ in the first part of the game comprises of the devises the ancient priest have constructed to test initiates into their cult. In that the temple complex has lain undiscovered for so many generations, nothing Raven has in his backpack can help him here. He must use his inherent skills and his wit to thwart the challenges that await him.


Does the game employ keyboard or mouse navigation, or both?

NP:  The game has both keyboard and mouse navigation. We try to keep the keys used to a minimum, mainly because I have such a lousy memory for such things!


Could you describe the inventory system and saved game space?

NP:  You can save the game at any point, as long as you’re not in mid action of course. The inventory is pretty standard in that you start the game with all the kit Raven has in his pack and then he picks stuff up as he goes along. He also has an old notebook from an archeological dig just before the First World War. This is a translation of the ancient priestly writings pertaining to the temple and contains everything he needs to know to navigate the temple complex successfully.


TG had a number of red herring inventory items. Are we going to have the same challenge of assessing what to add to our over loaded backpack in Cypher?

NP:  We have much more to do in this game so I have kept the useless objects to a minimum.


That’s another good thing to hear. On a replay of TG a few weeks ago, I discovered that some items I had in past game play thought useless, actually could be used to unlock some in-game surprise passageways and such. Will there be hidden eggs or unlockable features in Cypher?

NP:  No comment. J


AHA… well I’ll just have to wait for the release on that. I understand that an ancient Babylonian temple is the lair of the bad guy, though I also saw some screen shots that seem to show outside areas. How many environments are featured within the game and how free will the player be to roam around and explore?

NP:  The game is divided into the two main areas of gameplay, the ancient temple and the modern lab complex. The outside areas are mainly visited in cut scenes that set the stage for the game. Once inside the two environments, the player is fairly free to move as they wish.


From the detail already visible in the early screenshots - it appears that a good deal of research must have occurred. Is this true and if so could you tell us about it?

NP:  I always go a bit over the top on the research side of things. I basically accumulated all I could on Babylonia and the digs of the early part of the 1900’s. I learned the cuneiform alphabet and numerical systems and much of this is now woven into the gameplay.


Many adventure gamers have concerns over timed sequences rather than action or physical puzzles. Are there moments like this within Cypher? How about Games Over moments?

NP:  Saving is always a good idea, especially when a false step can prove fatal. The timed elements in Cypher are inherent to the construction of the challenge itself rather than a ticking clock.


I think the addition of more exciting elements to certain adventure games can be a big plus. The real issue is how to add elements of stealth and action to the game without losing the qualities that gamers look for in adventure games. Your thoughts on this and how is this addressed in Cypher?

NP:  It’s always a problem and all one can do is try and find as perfect a balance between these elements as possible. When used correctly, stealth, action and challenge items can be used to drive one another, creating a better experience for the player.


Have you estimated Cypher's actual playing time for the gamer?

NP:  Estimating game time is always a tricky thing to do. How long is a piece of string? How intelligent is a gamer? But I would hazard a guess at between 30-40 hours. Just don’t email me if you finish the game in ten, send an application to Harvard instead.


Good answer (laugh) The graphics look quite impressive from the screen shots I have seen.  What game engine and methods were used in development?

NP:  We use an engine called ‘Gamebryo’ as the base platform and then built onto that ourselves. All the environments are built in ‘Maya,’ one of the leading 3DF modeling programs, and then directly exported into the game engine.


I read where the game has an original sound track. Will there be more music interplay in Cypher and will it be similar to the rousing score from TG?

NP:  The composer we use is very secretive so I actually don’t know the answer to that yet.

But, yes we will have a running soundtrack to enhance the gameplay and fell of the locations within the game.


Will we be spending much time in the sewers? <g>

NP:  No sewers. Which is good, as I couldn’t stand the stench!


Sorry about that – I just had to ask. Heh-heh If you had to sum it up - what makes Cypher stand out from the rest of the games out there?

NP:  If I had to pick something, and I guess I do, I would go for the contrasting elements of historical content and the high tech spy story. This allows me the potential for creating cool and original challenges for the player and gives them an insight into worlds that they could otherwise only find in between the covers of some dusty old book.


Thank you so much for sharing your insight about Cypher. Any last thoughts, for the gamers out there?

NP:  Don’t be shy in using your brainpower, it’s the most lethal weapon you have.

Which reminds me, I must go and stock up on ammo.

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