THE LAST GUARDIAN
Developer SIE Japan Studio
We spent four years working on Ico, and three-and-a-half years working on Shadow
Of The Colossus. Much of that time was spent trying to overcome the technological difficulties. For my next project I didn’t want to spend nearly so much time on technical issues. Rather, I wanted to spend that time on game feeling, design, and the visualisation. Yes, I wanted to spend the time on fine-tuning and finesse. The same applies to the movie industry. In the early years, so much time was spent on technology. But after a certain point, technical accomplishments in film no longer draw the audience’s attention. People naturally became more and more interested in characterisation, plot and story. It’s sort of the same in games. I felt we had reached the point where the focus needed to shift. And I also wanted to make the game quite short, because I didn’t want to spend a long time on development. Well. Obviously that didn’t work out. Despite my best intentions The Last
Guardian had a very long development. Why? It just took so much time to create the game engine. It took so much time to tune it to a point that was satisfying. This held us up greatly because we couldn’t progress to the next stage in the creative process till the engine could do everything we needed it to. The engine is the basis on which everything else in built, so it has to be right. Contrary to what you might expect, the time I felt most stressed during The Last Guardian’s development was at the beginning of the project, when we didn’t know whether we could build an engine to support the vision. It took three years to get the engine to the point where we could progress to creative work.
The target I had with all three of my games was to attract people who do not usually play games. I wanted to appeal to a wide audience through universally accessible stories, foundational plots, almost. For example, Ico is a boy-meetsgirl story, familiar to everyone. For Shadow
Of Colossus, the story’s theme centres on sacrificing yourself for a greater purpose. And in The Last Guardian, the core of the story idea revolves around the elemental fear of being taken from your bed by a mystical creature. Everybody has had that dream at some point in their life, I think. You see it echoed in all kinds of fiction, from Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro through to Spielberg’s E.T.
From my original plan to create a very short game, the story expanded into quite a traditional three-act structure. In that sense it’s more complex than Ico and
Shadow Of The Colossus, both of which have stories that occur in a single extended act. At the time of making those games I was not as famous as I am now, so I had to work within a more limited budget. But with the production of The
Last Guardian I had reached a point in my career where I was given the scope to work on a broader canvas. I was able to do something more ambitious in terms of the plot development, creating much more of a journey in terms of the relationship between the two protagonists.
I don’t think my fans will like to hear what I am about to say. Before I made games, when I’d play Super Mario Bros. or some other game, I’d imagine that the game represented the creator’s true and final vision. I thought that they must have carefully considered every aspect of its creation, and the game represented the best version of their vision, where every decision was intentional. All these years later I realise that this is never the case. There is always compromise. There are always aspects to a game that are unintentional. You can’t control everything. Sometimes you’re forced into creative decisions because there’s no other way to resolve an issue. That’s true in my games, I’m afraid to say. Perhaps it’s true of all creative endeavour: every work represents a compromise between a creator’s vision, and the practicalities of the medium and process. I wish I’d understood that sooner.
“SOMETIMES YOU ARE FORCED INTO CREATIVE DECISIONS BECAUSE THERE IS NO OTHER WAY”