The Last Guardian, announced in 2009 for PS3 and shown again to shocked PlayStation fans at E3 yesterday, became a PS4 game in 2012. So explained Sony's head of game development, Shuhei Yoshida, as we finally chatted about what has been happening with Sony's game about a boy and his giant animal friend.
The game made its debut at E3 in 2009, stunning gamers eager for the next creation from Fumito Ueda and his team responsible for the quiet, lovely PS2 adventures Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. But it's been missing in action for years, turning into Sony's very own Half-Life 3.
Yoshida said that when the game was announced in 2009 for PS3, they thought they were making good progress.
"But in 2011 the progress became super slow. There were lots of technical issues. The game was not performing at speed. The video we showed, the trailer on PS3, was specced up. The game was running at a much lower frame rate. Some features were still missing.
"So it was clear that the team had to make a compromise in terms of features and number of characters so while they were taking time, the engineering team ported the code on the SPU [processors of the PS3] to improve the performance, but it was taking lots of time.
"But, in the meantime PS4 arrived, the development environment was available. So in 2012 it became apparent we should move it to PS4 to achieve the visual [ideal.]"
Yoshida said that the rumour that veteran game designer and programmer Mark Cerny had been brought in to save the project were incorrect. "Mark has been consulting many of the first-party teams and projects, giving advice on the tech side — not just him but other central tech groups we have from the U.S. and U.K. have been helping the team as well."
Ueda, who technically left Sony in 2011, is still very much involved in the game. Yoshida said he is in charge of art direction, animation direction, game design direction, among other things.
Why finally show the game?
"The game is totally playable," he said proudly, noting that Sony simply didn't play it live during their E3 presentation because the artificial intelligence behind the big animal can't be expected to behave in the most stage-demo-friendly way all the time. "We have a certain level of confidence about the launch window, which is why we showed it."
The Last Guardian will be out next year on PS4.