Few games can build so much hype with such little information as a Team ICO title. The latest from the elite developers, The Last Guardian, made its presence known at this year’s Tokyo Game Show, and took the time to explain why it passed E3 without even so much as a mention earlier this year. Production lead Fumito Ueda spoke to the crowd on the game’s PR delay and its current state of production as its tentative (newly revealed) Holiday 2011 release date approaches.
“On the last [two] titles, the team worked on R&D and production in parallel and so the game was delayed. This time we decided to do the R&D first, lock the core elements, and then progress with the production of the game.” Ueda told the audience, “I’m quite satisfied with how the production has been polished… It’s time for us to go into full production crunch mode.”
“First and foremost, I want to clarify some of the rumors that are floating on the internet these days. Those of you who saw the last trailer… may have speculated another sad ending,” Ueda speculated . “However, it’s open-ended, and for you guys to figure out. We’ve been working on the R&D side, and the Trico character [the griffin] has a lot more character to it now…Obviously, you will see the boy character and the Trico character, initially they have a very unfriendly relationship, and as the story progresses — we don’t want to tell you too much — they’ll naturally find a bond. Let’s leave it at that.”
Speaking on how Team ICO’s new design process has affected Last Guardian, Ueda said that, “…looking at the Trico character, for example, I and my team wanted to focus on the function, and how the character moves. We wanted to make sure it’s flexible and adjustable to any sort of level design…Another [element] would be looking back at Ico or Shadow — a lot of times the level designs were generated by one artist… We’ve restructured our workflow to allow for flexibility. These elements sound easy but they take a lot of time.”
Speaking on gameplay, “…although the clips were very short, if you watch it over and over again, it will be quite self-explanatory. It goes back to the boy and Trico — it’ll be about elements where you find that bonding. Emotional attachment is a key to progression. We don’t want to give too much away, but the PS3 has a lot more power, and the trailer was designed to show that gameplay.”
And in answering an attendee’s question, Ueda detailed the Trico/boy relationship further by saying, “One thing that I’d like to clarify is that it’s not like Trico will not listen to the boy every single time… Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. This is an animal you’re talking to, and in real life, this happens too. However, the important part is the emotional attachment, as we mentioned earlier, and how that builds.”
Also on display was the first official trailer of The ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection, the oft-rumored HD boxset of the team’s previous work on one blu-ray disc. The set will feature the fuller “European” edition of ICO and will be compatible with 3D televisions.
“Naturally, the assumption would be that we took the PS2 version and just ported it to PS3. It’s obviously not that simple. We’ve had to work with the texture up-res as well, and I’m very happy with the progress we’re making so far,” Ueda said, “I’m being honest with you — looking back at the Shadow of the Colossus days, there are some areas where I was not happy with the framerate. With this time around, with the PS3 generation, to be able to have a solid 30 frame experience, I’m very happy with the overall gaming experience. This is something I’d originally designed the game for, in terms of gameplay.”
On the Collection’s 3D capabilities, “They [the two games] were very 3D-centric designs… Where it gives the player a good perception of depth. A lot of these elements come to life with real 3D implementation on the PS3. It’s another area where I’m very happy with how we’re making progress.”
Ueda rounded out the Q&A session by answering a retrospective question from an audience member, “I’m looking back on that game, and how I designed it. There are some areas that I look back and say, ‘Why did I spend so much time concentrating on this part of the game?’ With more history behind me, I realize those things. There was an awkward balance of energy I tried to extract from myself, maybe, and put into the game. And those are the things I look back upon.