The creator of Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and forthcoming Last Guardian got a cat when he started making his new game. He talked to Kotaku about feline inspiration, a recent nightmare and how to make his games more emotional.
Watch the trailer for Fumito Ueda's next game for a while and you'll be left with questions. His team's new game is an enigma, a PlayStation 3-exclusive successor to Ueda's pair of PS2 games, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Those games were quiet, softly-lit adventures in crumbled castles and open fields. This one appears to follow suit, posibly — Ueda won't confirm more than what our eyes can see — following the adventures of boy and his large, furry creature companion.
The creature has proved to be captivating to those getting excited about the game.
"The idea behind the creature, for me, it is based on a cat," Ueda said through a translator during a sit-down chat with Kotaku in a meeting room at this year's Tokyo Game Show. "Whether it looks like it or not is up to the viewers of the game. But to me it looks like a cat, mixing in other elements from household pets like birds and dogs, mixing in some of the cute aspects of those types of animals." Gamers could be forgiven from seeing a lot of bird in it. The creature is called Torico in Japanese. "Tori" is the Japanese word for bird.
Torico, or Trico as it is being called in English, is, nevertheless, a cat to him. What Ueda thinks it is is important, of course. But the fact that its creator seems unbothered that other people might see it differently is an Ueda signature. His games are not made to declare, but to suggest. Maybe the boy hunting colossal giants is a hero. Maybe he is a villain. The lines of definition are soft, the sunlight on the scene grayed.
During our interview in Tokyo, Ueda himself defined just general aspects of The Last Guardian, offering the shapes of his ideas but not the details within them.
The new game will be single-player, he said. Its title will mean a lot of things, none of which he is ready to reveal. Despite the fact that its star creature is called Trico (an allusion to "third Ico"), the new game is not necessarily closely linked to its predecessors. "Narratively there is no initial connection there," Ueda said, "But there might end up being some connection there."
The game has been anticipated by games since the 2005 release of Shadow of the Colossus. Long awaited, this project's debut nevertheless proved awkward. On the eve of its official trailer unveiling by Sony at this year's E3 trade show, a similar trailer featuring more primitive art, leaked online.
That trailer leak was a hurtful moment for Ueda, who still doesn't know how it happened. "We were really working hard to make the movie on time for E3," he said. "I had slept in the office the day before. I woke up, and, in the morning, we saw this information on the Internet. It really felt like a nightmare, because we were just waking up."
Earlier than expected, the leaked trailer had forced Ueda to process the anxiety he had about the game's debut. "Because Shadow of the Colossus was more of a combat-focused game and Last Guardian, from the trailer, looked more like Ico — and had a more of a subdued tone to it — I thought maybe there would be some negative feedback to that," he said. "But there wasn't really much of that... I was happy because there were generally good comments about it."
The trailer's echoes of Ico implied that the new game would share with the old game themes of companionship and exploration, moving at a slower pace. "It wouldn't be wrong to interpret it like that, but with Ico we had some technical limitations to what we could do with the PS2. There's a lot more we can do with the PS3 so there can be more dynamic developments in the game."
Many game designers talk about the opportunity for this generation's gaming hardware to make their games look better. Ueda believes that his team's first foray on the PS3 can the improvement in visuals his team can attain on the machine will improve a key aspect to his games. "I think with the added capabilities of the PS3 can increase the feeling of something[in the game]really existing," he said. "I think you can create more emotion with the story as well as with the characters."
While the PS3 may help his game feel more alive, there's something else, of about the same size as Sony's console, that might also help The Last Guardian feel more alive: His cat.
"I started to own a cat around the same time as starting Torico and it's been kind of a sample reference creature for me," Ueda said. His cat's named Royce, and while she likes to be petted when she wants food, she's otherwise content to leave Ueda alone.
Ueda apologised for not being able to say more about the game. Who knows what his cat even knows about it? He promised more information for the future, but at TGS, it was just his presence and vision that may convince gamers that The Last Guardian is on the right path.