Fumito Ueda answers questions, details the development process, and more for The Last Guardian
The Last Guardian finally landed in our hands earlier this month after a decade of waiting. Even though many have played and beaten the game, there are still lots of questions floating around about a number of things.
Director Fumito Ueda sat down with Gilxel to answer some burning questions on the minds of gamers including the process of designing the realistic Trico, the connection between Ueda's other games and TLG, and much more. You can read some of the highlights below.
The booklet also shows a set of plastic toys: a tiger, horse, and an eagle. Are these the animals that you combined to create Trico? I had heard somewhere that during the development of the game, you would bring in videos you'd recorded of your cat, and asked the team to study the footage.
These figures were mostly used as visual reference for storyboarding and as a model when writing instructions for the team. I had them on my desk so that I could reference them at any given moment. For animal movements, I referenced YouTube a lot, but most of my inspiration comes from various pets we used to have at my home growing up, until I left at around the age of 20. My family had a cat and dog, and even a duck and a small monkey. By designing Trico not around fantasy characters that you'd see in video games or movies, but by animals we commonly see, I suspected that it would give the creature both an unpredictable quality and a sense of familiarity.
Can you speak to the process that went into Trico's creation?
As you can suspect, Trico's movement is an area that we put a lot of effort into. We didn't use motion capture, and instead used procedural animation, which is where we used key-frame animation drawn by animators and used programming to combine the movements. However, I have a wealth of ideas when it comes to animal movements, and we also have knowledgeable staff on the team. Overall, I would say that it was moderately difficult to create Trico.
Trico's eyes have an emphatic style that resemble a dog's runny eyes. Was it to make Trico look sadder, and elicit more emotion from the player?
Expressing the mysterious quality of the eyes was one of the goals of this project. Due to hardware and software limitations, we were limited in the design of the eyes of the colossuses of Shadow, but I intended to make more realistic eyes from when we started developing on the PlayStation 3. I was inspired by [photographer and filmmaker] Gregory Colbert's exhibition in Japan in 2007.
There's so much that can be interpreted through their eyes even without movement. That exhibition made me think that it was possible to express Trico's feeling through the eyes and this was something I focused on bringing into the game.
Many people have been frustrated with how Trico behaves in the game. He doesn't listen to all of your commands and can be a bit annoying. Some have chalked it up to him behaving like an actual animal and it's smart game design. Other say it's poorly designed, buggy AI. Ueda decided to address this issue when asked about it.
Does Trico have an obedience level that increases throughout the game? The creature is sometimes finicky and unresponsive, but seems to take direction better over time, especially in subsequent playthroughs.
Trico has a barometer for "trust" and "hunger." However, it is not affected by the game's advancement. I didn't want to include it into the advancement of the game because then it would make it a "cultivation" game where the object of the game would be to nurture Trico.
Ueda want on to speak about the world and characters of all his games and how they connect.
You've said in the past that all three of your games tie together somehow. The characters from each game all wear similar tunics. Do Ico, Wander, and the boy all exist in the same world?
There's a lot of time and distance between the stories, but I make them hoping that they are from the same world.
Is there a reason why the boy is nameless? Often games make the main character mute, so the players can imprint their own persona onto the character. But the boy speaks in The Last Guardian. Is there's another reason?
The boy does have a name, but we just don't use the name in the subtitles. At the end, when the boy returns to the village, the villagers call his name but there's no caption in the ending so it's not apparent in the game what his name is. One reason is that I want the player to become the boy, so by omitting the name, the player is more likely to relate to the boy. Another personal reason is that it's a little embarrassing and makes me feel self-conscious. These are characters that don't really exist. Ico, Wander and the villagers, etc. The act of giving these characters a name makes me feel self-conscious.
So, I've always avoided giving characters names. Ico didn't originally have a name – we just referred to him as "boy." But, when we announced the game title in the US, people mistook the title of the game as the name of the main character, so we went with it. So, I don't really have an attachment to naming my characters and in [The Last Guardian] this preference pulled through until the end.
Do you feel it's maybe too self-important to name something?
Maybe it's a Japanese thing. For example, little kids will name their toys when playing with them. These are imaginary objects that don't really exist but children name them and play pretend. That's the impression we get in Japan. It's child's play. I think in Europe and the US, there's more respect toward creativity and imagination. I personally have the impression that naming a character which doesn't exist is childish and a little embarrassing.
You've created these unique in-game languages in all your games. Do all three share the same one? Are the markings also part of the written language you've developed for the games – is there a code we could use to decipher them if we had it?
[The markings in] Ico shouldn't have been too difficult to decipher, but I think it would be impossible to decipher the language in Shadow Of The Colossus and The Last Guardian. Each language was made by my team and myself using a conversion tool. The three use a similar conversion tool, but they are not identical. I designed the boy's tattoos and the spells that the enemy releases in The Last Guardian.
While some questions are still lingering in our mind, there may be something coming early next year to help answer those questions. In February, a brand new hardcover book titled "The Last Guardian: An Extraordinary Story" will be released detailing the world, story, and development of the game. You can learn more by clicking here.
The Last Guardian is out now, exclusively on PlayStation 4.