In Part One of our interview with Unravel™ Two Creative Director Martin Sahlin, he explains how the game’s co-op system came to be, and how players inspired it. Unravel Two is out now, and a lot went into weaving this whimsical platforming adventure together – a lot of planning, some tough decisions, a few dark warnings for folklore, and at least one embarrassing Yarny-making lesson. Check out Part One below, then learn about Unravel Two’s development in Part Two and the Yarnys' dark folkloric inspirations in Part Three.
You went out of your way in Unravel Two to create a game [that] stars two different characters. How come you decided to do that?
It was based in part on just watching people play the first game, because we noticed that so many people played it together. Even though it was a fiercely single-player game, it was still something that people shared . . . so we just felt that was natural to let them play together.
It’s also something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, because I like playing games with my kids and there’s not just enough local co-op games, so I wanted to make one. And the stars just sort of aligned on this one.
I definitely saw where there was time and attention paid to making puzzles that worked whether you’re playing by yourself or with two people. How much thought went into that and how difficult was it to design puzzles that way?
Pretty early on we decided that was going to be the challenge: all of these problems have to be solved cooperatively. Whether you’re playing on your own or whether you’re playing with someone, there’s always two characters on this adventure tackling all these problems and trying to overcome all these obstacles. So, we designed it right from the start [to be] about working together. All of this is about co-op, whether you do it single-player or with someone else.
So, it wasn’t hard in that sense, it was just more, “This is the path that we chose,” and that’s what we designed for. And I think it’s really nice that we have that feeling [that] you’re always helping each other out, you’re always building and strengthening that bond between two characters and just – everything you do, you do for each other.
And that informed the design? Even if I’m just sitting here playing by myself, it’s about the relationship between the two characters?
Absolutely. So, it’s kind of like – when you’re just navigating through the world, when you’re platforming, jumping around, swinging around, if you’re playing by yourself then you will sort of carry the other player along with you. Then as you get the more problem-solving areas or puzzle areas, you can split apart into two and you can work together to solve those things. It feels very natural to switch between the quick movement and problem-solving.
I love their little interactions that they do. When one has solved a puzzle and the other one manages to get over to the end, they’ll like clap and be like, “Hooray, my friend made it!”
They’re clapping and they’re cheering, doing flips and stuff, and they’re just failing miserably at doing high-fives all the time.
Oh my gosh, I haven’t actually caught that one.
Yeah, they try to do it all the time and sometimes they make it, but other times you see someone bring their hand up to do a high-five and the other one just runs right past.
“I still love you, but I’m hurt.”
It made me sad the first time when one of them got blown out of an air vent and the other one freaked out and was like, “No, my friend!”
We put a lot of work into what we call the ‘awareness system’ to make sure that they’re always – they’re acting like they live, like they know what’s going on around them, and they know what’s going on with each other. They have tons of different triggers they can react to and just like – behave like they’re real. And I think that’s really important when you’re trying to build empathy for the character that you make them feel alive.
There was already some of that in Unravel, but I noticed it a lot more in Unravel Two, probably because there were way more opportunities for actual interaction.
Yeah – once we decided that we always were going to have two characters on screen, we knew that they would have to interact with each other. They can’t just be not aware that there’s someone else there, because then it doesn’t feel like they’re having a bond. Then it just feels like, “Okay, they might be occupying the same space, but they’re not actually both there.”
So, that’s why they’re always looking at each other, pointing out things to each other, or when the other character is in danger they will react to that. If they’re standing close to a ledge and the other character is running towards them, they will [be] like, “Watch out, there’s an edge here.” There’s tons of little things that they do to act like they’re real and act like they care there’s another character there.
That’d adorable. I’ll need to watch out for that one.
It doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s one of those things – there’s a hundred different things that could happen, but it happens not so much that you get tired of it, because then they look like robots. But at any given moment there’s probably something going on.
So, did you program in a lot of different interactions?
Yeah, for sure. It’s Jakob [Marklund] who does most of the animation programming, and Sam [Addo] who does all the keyframe animation. They have been spending a lot of time on doing all those little things, so some of it is canned animation that we did beforehand, and some of it is procedural animation. Like how they [the Yarnys] kind of flip when you’re swinging on the lasso, they kind of do some somersaults so it feels like you really stuck the landing when you just flipped into it, and when they’re in a good mood they will also do little cartwheels and stuff when you’re jumping. They put a lot of love and fun into that system.
Swing into an adorable adventure – Unravel Two is available now!
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