Special symposium with the staff
of The Last Guardian Part 2
Fumito Ueda×Masanobu Tanaka
(Interviewer) Masami Tanji
Special symposium with the staff
of The Last Guardian Part 2
Fumito Ueda×Masanobu Tanaka
(Interviewer) Masami Tanji
The Last Guardian
Adventure / Action
For HD TV Enhanced games, players can benefit from
increased image clarity, faster frame rates, or more.
Disk version $19.99
Downloading version $19.99
Publisher : SIEA
Developer：Sony Interactive Entertainment World Wide Studios JAPAN Studio
We got a lot of questions through social media. Thank you! We got more than expected and we won’t be able to answer all of them but we will try to answer as many as possible.
(Bold text: Masami Tanji)
This studio was formed by bringing together lead staff involved in the development of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, beginning with Fumito Ueda. Under his guidance, it was responsible for the entire creative aspect of The Last Guardian.
All of the creative direction, including game design, animation, level design, modeling, etc., was completed by a small number of elite staff.
We finished talking about “Projection Trico”, so let’s start answering the questions.
It's been a long time since the release of "The Last Guardian" and a lot of people have already finished it, so there are a few spoilers!
So read at your own risk or come back after you've finished the game!
―Again, congratulations on winning the grand prize in Entertainment at the Japan Media Arts Festival! That's amazing. By the way, Shin Godzilla won last year, right? And the Animation Award went to Your Name.
Tanaka Everybody was talking about both of them. I was surprised when I heard that we won the grand prize this year.
―Although it’s been a while since the release of the game, there are still a lot of people talking about The Last Guardian.
Even famous people in their respective fields were talking about The Last Guardian in various media like magazines, social media, radios, etc...
―So, to commemorate winning the Japan Media Arts Festival Entertainment division grand prize, we collected questions about The Last Guardian from social media, and I was thinking we could answer them.
Tanaka Did a lot of questions come in?
―Yes, there were quite a few! Taking a quick look at the questions, there were more questions about the setting and storyline than I expected.
Ueda What do you mean?
―From a staff point of view, I'd say that we usually like to talk about the technical aspects of the game, right? Modeling that part was tough and so on. Those kinds of things. But when I looked at the questions, I felt like people were more interested in the dramatic side than I expected, like details about the characters for example.
Tanaka There are a lot of things implied in Trico’s world, and they are not all described in the game. So what kind of questions were there for example?
―There were a lot of questions about the name of the boy in The Last Guardian, or whether Trico is male or female, that kind of thing.
Tanaka Ah, I see.
―People really wonder about the world’s details that aren't clearly laid out. So let's start looking at the questions if you don't mind.
The first question is something I was also wondering about: the Japanese title of the game, Trico the Great Man-Eating Eagle. That title really makes an impact because it doesn't feel like a typical game title. Was there something you were picturing when you chose it?
Ah, I see. It was chosen quite early on, so we got used to it and didn't really go back to think it over.
We were in a hurry to show the trailer at E3, so we needed to have the title in time for that.
―It’s not to say that the title was decided from the beginning.
But the first game is named “ICO” and the second “NICO”, therefore, the third game is “TRICO”, right?
Ueda Yes, we decided it from the beginning as an implied rule.
*NICO : The first title for “Shadow of the Colossus” during the development phase.
―You might have decided it fast, but that title is really good.
What did you picture while deciding of the title?
I think the first thing I imagined was children's literature.
The books we read as children had these crazy words that we didn't normally use ourselves and left an impression of innocent cruelty—that's the flavor we wanted it to have.
Tanaka I think that the screenplay wasn't completely nailed down at the time either. I remember being surprised, like... "It eats people!?" And at the same time as creators we were really excited to see what kind of story it was going to become.
―Speaking of which, Wander and the Colossus, the Japanese title of Shadow of the Colossus, also sounds a bit like children's literature, doesn't it?
It's straightforward but people also feel some uncertainty when they can't tell what a game is about just from the title.
That, and we also wanted to have a title that not only sounded literary, but was catchy at the same time.
We thought using a disturbing and strong expression like "man-eating", a really eye-catching combination, would make quite an impression.
For example, like Galaxy Express 999, rather than Night on the Galactic Railroad.
Just The Great Man-Eating Eagle would be fine, but then it really feels like literature, like Night on the Galactic Railroad.
If you want both straightforwardness and a sense of excitement, you want to add words that are memorable even if people don't understand the connection.
Like the feeling with Galaxy Express + 999 (three 9s).
It is a combination of words that anyone can understand, that everyone has heard, but they cannot clearly understand what it means.
―Ah, Galaxy Express 999. You're right, it is catchy. That is your typical way of thinking. I think the title takes on a deeper significance once you actually play the game.
Tanaka Speaking of the title, I also think that the logo was interesting, with various fonts combined to just barely reach a sense of balance.
―Still talking about the title, in English it is translated to “The Last Guardian”, right?
That “Last Guardian”, who is it depicting?
Tanaka I don’t know either. Who?
―So Tanaka-san doesn’t know either.
Fans on Twitter are promoting various ideas, like it’s indicating “The guardian of the valley”, “the boy”, even “Trico”, etc...
We decided of the English title at the same time as the Japanese title, but to tell the truth, I didn’t come up with “The Last Guardian”, SIEA suggested it.
Actually, I also wanted to put “TRICO” in the English title, but I did not go through with it because we weren’t sure of the pronunciation and the meaning is hard to convey.
※SIEA : Sony Interactive Entertainment America LLC.
―Wow, so that was not Ueda-san’s idea.
When the title was first suggested, I was still wondering about how to end The Last Guardian, and this title is interpretable in multiple ways, so honestly, I was completely fine with it.
Anyway, even after deciding of the ending, I still thought that this title felt quite natural.
The English title is matching the content of the game, so I’m surprised to hear that it was suggested by SIEA. The word, “Last” conveys mystery and triggers the imagination.
Ueda So “The Last guardian” might be “the boy”, “Trico” protecting the boy, or even the valley. Each player can interpret it their own way.
―I see. Player themselves might be “The Last Guardian”. (laughs)
Ueda The English title of “Shadow of the Colossus” was also suggested by SIEA.
―This is also surprising.
This title is also open to interpretation and with “hidden meanings”. I thought that it was clearly a strategy to make it elegant and mysterious, compared to the Japanese title.
―I’m surprised by the first answer. Let’s move on from the title discussion and focus on one of the popular questions. So the number one most frequently asked question was whether Trico from The Last Guardian is male or female.
...Did you decide that from the start?
Ueda Well... Once we decided that this game was not going to be a boy-meets-girl story, my own image of Trico's sex would change from time to time during production. So no, I didn't decide on one from the start.
―So you mean that you didn't decide the sex before starting working on it, right? It seems to me that while developing it, if you knew the sex it would be easier to picture how it moved.
Ueda Do animals have basic differences in their movement based on sex?
Tanaka No, I can't imagine that.
―Oh, is that right? (laughs)
Ueda From a creator point of view, there isn't much benefit in limiting it to one or the other. Besides, the biggest reason was that we didn't want to restrict the freedom of ideas in gameplay by giving it a specific sex. We didn't want to restrict the way players understood it. And there's also the fact that we wanted people to feel that the virtual character was appealing and realistic as a living creature.
―I see, you didn't want to limit the possibilities by deciding of the sex.
Ueda In that way there’s a big advantage because both sexes can be included; you can make players feel that it is strong like a father, gentle like a mother, cute like a girl, and innocent like a boy.
Tanaka I was never really conscious of Trico's sex either. If it were limited, the image of human male or female movement might have had an influence somewhere. We wanted to prevent that kind of anthropomorphized presentation as much as possible and focus on the mystique of the animal characteristics.
―Although I remember once when we were brainstorming ideas and decided whether it would be male or female in the end. It was just a casual chat that we didn't share with the other members of the staff. More than sex, we thought it was important to make Trico be "Trico-like."
Ueda Well, now I want to know: is there any benefit to limiting it to male or female?
―Well, hmm. I feel like you're right that there is no benefit. But from the user point of view, they do want to clear up the things they were wondering about. So, Trico's sex is a mystery. (laughs)
―...Another common question was about the name of the main character in The Last Guardian. That was also decided during production. I think it was written in the script, too. But it wasn't shown in the subtitles...
Ueda Well, the boy who is the main character is supposed to represent the player, so we decided to go along with creating a game in which giving a name was unnecessary. When we reached the storyboard stage, we realized that we needed to quickly decide on a name because when the villagers see this boy - who they know well - is about to be kidnapped or spit out by Trico, it would be unnatural if they didn't call out his name.
―That's true, there are many scenes where it would be most natural in the flow of conversation to call out a name.
Ueda Yes, if they don't call out his name, their relationship doesn't seem natural, and the continuity of the story is harder to convey. When the boy returns to the village at the end, some people would read too much into it, thinking that it was a different village, or that it was a different reality, or that hundreds of years had passed and it was a different generation of people, like in the story of Urashima Taro returning from the Dragon Palace...
―But you don't want to go ahead and reveal the name here?
Ueda No, it's not really that. (laughs)
Tanaka It's actually in the dialogue, so isn't it more fun to play again and pay close attention to that part? (laughs)
“We kept the subtitles to the minimum necessary, and completely cut out the rest.”
―Even though we said we were bringing on the spoilers, most of the answers we're getting are "It's a secret"... But I feel like that shows something about the creation of The Last Guardian itself. The world was designed with great detail, but not all of it is revealed...
Tanaka There are several other times when lines are in the script but not shown in the subtitles. When the boy reaches the flat part of the tower and says, "We might be able to reach from here..." and so on.
―Some of the lines themselves were actually removed in the final version. Some parts where the meaning was understandable without the line, even hints, were deleted.
Even so, there is more dialogue in The Last Guardian than in Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, so some of the genDESIGN team members thought we might be over-explaining.
Honestly speaking, you can start to doubt yourself mid-way through production about whether there is too much explanation or not enough... And after working on it for a while, those parts can get stalled.
So in the final stages we looked back at our original intentions and decided to have the player guess what they were talking about. We worried that even with choosing to show simple subtitles, it might become too wordy, when the meaning could be somewhat understood by just hearing the voice.
―Originally, there was about twice the amount of subtitles, right? Still, The Last Guardian has very few lines compared to other games.
Ueda We adjusted the number of hints after seeing how the playtests went, but it was still extremely difficult to determine the correct amount.
―Yes, it was. We worried that if it moved along quickly, it would make it too simple. But Ico and Shadow of the Colossus had even fewer lines and hints, right?
Ueda Before, with Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, we were trying not to explain too much in order to just hint at things as much as possible, but with the improvement of the expressiveness of the characters’ visuals, there were times when we felt that not explaining actually felt unnatural.
―That’s true. Previously we needed to compensate with imagination, but now we can clearly see those parts.
Ueda Originally, we would produce a natural effect by having characters not speak, but these days it sometimes actually backfires. For example, in order not to have the character speak, they would have to make movements like playing charades.
―You mean you match the level of abstraction of the scene with that of the information?
Ueda That's right. And just having characters that do not speak is not "narrative."
―Even as a "narrative designer," I can say that the definition of "narrative" is vague. I don't really know what it is...
Ueda Actually, I don't know the precise definition myself, but if we compare it to serving a meal to a customer, the screenplay is like enhancing the flavor of the food offered to the customer, and the narrative is like making the customer realize how hungry they are. That's the image I have.
―It's hard. (laughs) With games, you can't have as much one-sided control of information as with movies.
Ueda That's right. Even if success depends only on the "flavor of the food," there's no game where the creator can control everything from start to finish as if it were a movie.
―So does that mean concentrating your energy on another part?
Delicious well-plated food served at the restaurant, and bonfire home-cooked food are the same “delicious” food.
The best food is not always the best food you ever tasted but the circumstances during which you’re eating it strongly influences its “deliciousness”.
You can’t compare with taste but you can compare with the subjective feeling of “deliciousness”.
―The meal will be delicious if you’re hungry and make efforts before eating. Creating a situation that emphasizes "deliciousness" is a game's strength. This is what "narrative" is.