In a recent Famitsu, Fumito Ueda talked candidly about The Last Guardian. The Japanese article was far too much to translate for even the mighty Google, so it’s with great relief that we’ve finally come across a proper translation of the whole thing, starting with the name of the game, which is “The giant man-devouring eagle Toriko” in its native Japan. The story tells of a very unusual tale of friendship between the boy, with strange marks all over his body and a giant creature, which is a mixture of bird-like feathers and limbs and a feline face.
“We knew we could create a natural looking and moving animal in a game. We did it with Agro in Shadow of the Colossus. But when you’re familiar with a particular animal, say a cat, you’d notice any little abnormality it will display on screen. You can notice it because you can compare what you’re seeing with what you have at home. To avoid this problem, we decided to create an entirely new creature. The team and I refer to it as Oowashi (Giant Eagle) but it has little like an eagle ignoring the feathers and tiny wings!”
Ueda admits that even he finds the creature “weird-looking”. “Creating something that cannot be recognised as an existent animal,” he says, “is what we were trying to do in the first place. We want to create something strange but having it move and behave naturally.” And then there’s the boy, fate bringing the two characters together. “You could think that the relationship between the boy and Oowashi is very like the one between Wander and Agro in Shadow of the Colossus.”
“You’d be right in a way, because the first thing we wanted to do with our new game was to make that kind of relationship the very heart of it.”
“Even though the relationship aspect might start off familiar, as soon as you get that controller in your hands you realize it’s a completely new type of relationship. Oowashi is not like [Agro]. The bond between you and him is not very developed as the duo have met for the first time very recently. You might have some difficulty even to grab its attention, perhaps needing to throw something at it to make it look at you. You’ll need to learn the pattern of its behaviour, which unlike Agro’s is very complex. Getting used to these patterns and then using them to your advantage will be the key to success.”
Ueda follows this with an example: “Say you’re in a situation where you need Oowashi to stay still in order to proceed. It might not be simple because he has the habit of moving around. This creature is not trained. It is smart but not accustomed to humans and their whims.” He goes on to explain more: “You can feed it, and take out those nasty spears your enemies used against it. You’re free to interact with Oowashi at any given time, but as it might become a chore for the player to take care of all these things all the time, we’re trying to find just the right balance.”
“All animals are surrounded by a veil of mystery. You never really know what your cat is thinking. This is one of the reasons why we decided to make animals one of the central themes of our game. We opted for a theme full of character. We have learned much about AI thanks to the our work on ICO, and we then explored how different things and characters can interact with each other in Shadow of the Colossus. With The Last Guardian, we’re taking these two facets of gameplay, combining them together and bringing them to a whole new level, allowing us to create a truly living and breathing world, even surpassing our first two games.”
We can’t wait.