Trover Saves the Universe 1-year anniversary interviews: The dev team

Trover Saves the Universe is about to turn one year old and we had a chance to sit down with the dev team for an exclusive retrospective interview.

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Trover Saves the Universe has to be one of the most unique games I've ever played. It's a whimsical combination of improv comedy and creative gameplay unlike anything I've ever seen before. It was also the first outing for the fledgling development team at Squanch Games. Now, one year later, we had the exclusive opportunity to sit down with a few of the folks who made Trover possible and take a look back at the process of bringing the game to life and the unique experiences they had making it. Please take a moment to check out what Design Director Erich Meyr, Lead Narrative Editor Anthony Bosco, and Gameplay Designer Steve Cha had to say about their time making Trover Saves the Universe.


Erich Meyr, Design Director at Squanch Games

Shacknews: What role did you play in Trover's development?
Erich: I was the Lead Designer for Trover Saves the Universe.

Had you worked on other games previously?
Erich: Prior to Squanch Games, I worked at Insomniac Games for many years on titles like Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time, Resistance 3, Sunset Overdrive, and Song of the Deep.

Shacknews: What was unique about working on Trover?
Erich: Developing a game that has immersive comedy as one of its main goals definitely created unique challenges and opportunities. We often had to think of ways to solve design problems in an immersive, 'natural' way, typically through dialog, and while sometimes that made things harder it also lent itself to our style of loose improv comedy. We had to develop a process of laying out beats and rough versions of experiences and then iterating on them through our recording process. I've never worked on a game that allowed its script, and even gameplay, to be changed in the recording booth and while it was at times chaotic, it often led to genuinely hilarious and surprising moments.

Shacknews: What did you learn while working on the game?
Erich: In game design we tend to iterate and refine ideas over and over again, especially when it comes to gameplay. When it came to the style of comedy for Trover, sometimes the best ideas were the ones that came naturally and spontaneously and overthinking them would actually kill the joke. I had never approached games in this way and it was definitely something that at first felt backwards. However, we noticed that as we tried to rework some segments, they just lost the charm of the initial joke or idea and we would pull them back to keep the essence or the looseness of initial dialog or design. This wasn't the case for everything as we still did some major iterations to many parts of the game, but some of my favorite moments were prototyped as funny jokes and kept through to the end without having to be overthought.

Shacknews: Do you have a favorite in-game moment?
Erich: I think the ending of the game is still my favorite part. I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't played it (come on, it's been a year!) but the whole idea for the ending made me laugh from the moment it was pitched. Justin was adamant that all the characters needed to talk about how 'euphoric' they felt and to keep using that word. The idea of everyone going on and on describing how they felt in the exact same way was so stupid and funny and something that only works in a game like Trover. I recall playing through a prototype of the ending with my wife and we laughed at every character epilogue. I guess it just hits my sense of humor - being at once nihilistic, stupid, and questionably perverse. She couldn't get over Mr. Popup and how he was wearing socks.

Shacknews: What do you love most about Trover?
Erich: I love that we made a character, Trover, that has a very unique identity through his design, voice, and gameplay. Whether you love him or find him annoying, you gain a closeness with him over the adventure through his constantly running mouth but also by how you control him. It's like having a character in a video game talk back to you! While it may not be a novel concept, I like to think we pushed it farther than most games are willing to go.


Anthony Bosco, Lead Narrative Editor at Squanch Games

Shacknews: What role did you play in Trover’s development?
Anthony: I was the Lead Narrative Editor on Trover Saves the Universe. I recorded (along with my co-pilot Spencer McCurnin, our Writer) all of the dialogue. Then I took all of the ramblings of Justin Roiland and the rest of our cast, cut up the audio files, and made sense of them all in video game form.

Shacknews: Had you worked on other games previously?
Anthony: Before joining Squanch, I was working at Activision Blizzard (publishing side), but my background is in film and television.

Shacknews: What was unique about working on Trover?
Anthony: The biggest attraction for me to work at Squanch Games was for the opportunity to create something with Justin. We’ve spent countless hours in the recording booth, and that is a unique experience...especially when we’d bleed into the next morning.

Shacknews: What did you learn while working on the game?
Anthony: That telling stories in video games is so much harder when compared to film and television.

Shacknews: Do you have a favorite in-game moment?
Anthony: I left a lot of outtakes in the game. During Mixworld (final level), since the universe is coming to an end, Trover starts going down memory lane. Spencer wrote this fantastic joke about Trover’s band, Pocket Lady Cramps. Trover breaks down their sound (which was 27 different genres, haha), and when Justin got to ‘four co-coworkers with amnesia singing Happy Birthday to each other,’ everyone lost it in the record. While everyone was laughing, I had Trover play his ‘laughing’ animation to match what was going on behind the scenes.

...That was a long answer. Thanks for reading the whole thing, and if you didn’t, you missed a hilarious story. I cannot help you.

Shacknews: What do you love most about Trover?
Anthony: The silly story. When people ask me ‘what is Trover about?’ and I open with ‘a giant beaked monster steals your dogs and plugs them into his eye-holes to give him cosmic powers so he can take over the universe,’ their face goes from ‘I was just asking to be nice’ to ‘tell me more right now!'


Steve Cha, Gameplay Designer at Squanch Games

Shacknews: What role did you play in Trover's development?
Steve: Most of my work on Trover Saves the Universe was as a narrative designer, so I worked with the writers to figure out how to make the story interactive, prototyped and implemented a lot of the NPC behaviors. My main goal was to bring a lot of these characters to life in a VR experience.

Shacknews: Had you worked on other games previously?
Steve: I've worked on a few games before Trover Saves the Universe, including: Skullgirls Mobile as a producer; and some cancelled mobile games and experimental VR projects as a designer. While I was in grad school, I also made a slew of weird, personal games of the IndieCade variety.

Shacknews: What was unique about working on Trover?
Steve: The directive to create irreverent, vulgar, out-there stuff made working on Trover Saves the Universe very different from any previous games I have worked on. Also, working initially in VR meant that we faced design challenges unique to headset experiences. We couldn't force players to look at anything in VR, and we had to factor in physical comfort.

Shacknews: What did you learn while working on the game?
Steve: People do not like it when you tap 'em on the shoulder while they're in VR.

Shacknews: Do you have a favorite in-game moment?
Steve: One of my favorite moments is when Mr. Popup interrupts you mid-jump by blocking your vision. I'm not sure if players enjoyed this, but I sure got a kick out watching them deal with Mr. Popup.

... I also don't know what this says about me as a person, but I think it says I'm a troll...

Otherwise, aside from Mr. Popup's peskier antics, I'm a big fan of the awkward scene where Trover tells the player that he loves them.

Shacknews: What do you love most about Trover?
Steve: I love that Trover Saves the Universe constantly surprises players. There's a whole bunch of narrative events that fire off throughout the game because of the most random reasons. Trying mashing your buttons and hitting mailboxes while talking to the Old Chairorpean, or playing with the various objects in Bathtub Guy’s room. The plot also takes some delightfully bizarre left turns. I think Trover really delivers on the promise of a hilarious, world-jumping adventure.


That's all the Trover reminiscing we have set to go today, but come back tomorrow for an exclusive interview with CEO & Co-Founder of Squanch Games Tanya Watson. And we'll have some extra-special surprises for Trover fans this coming Monday as well. Until then, keep on doing it for Shacknews. 

Reviews Editor

Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, www.cartoonviolencemusic.com. If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

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