ICO – 2002 Developer Interview
The first of these two ICO interviews covers Fumito Ueda’s development philosophy and the challenges of making an unconventional game like ICO. The second interview was conducted in 2011 at a special event called “Great Scene Sharing”, where fans voted on their favorite scenes from ICO and Shadow of the Colossus, and Ueda (with special guest Keiichiro Toyama, the director of Silent Hill) then talked about those scenes in front of a live audience.
Fumito Ueda – Director
Kenji Kaido – Designer
Ueda: After graduating college I bought an Amiga computer and studied the Lightwave 3D design program on my own. I then found a part-time job at WARP where I could use the Amiga, and there I created graphics and animation. After that I found a job at a Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) doing CG, and that was also the first time I was given the opportunity to do planning and design work.
The first thing I created for ICO was a short movie (3~ min) for use in a presentation. I borrowed equipment from SCE to make it. It didn’t show any gameplay; rather, it was more like a CG animation of the story. I didn’t yet have any notion in my head about what the limitations of the game hardware would be. However, I think the foundations of the game that ICO became were all to be found in that movie.
At that time, games with AI were very popular. One of my themes for the ICO development was to try to include AI, but see if I couldn’t put my own spin on it. Many games back then had AI characters in-game taking direction and orders from the player outside the game.
But I wanted to do something that would effect more direct communication between the characters in-game, and that’s how I came up with the “holding hands” mechanic. The world of the game lies inside the monitor, and I wanted the experience to be taken as non-fiction within that world. Or you could say that within the framework we’ve programmed, I wanted players to feel like they could intervene in a variety of ways and help shape the story. That was where we were at with the development in 1998, for the Playstation 1.
As for building the world of ICO, I don’t really think consciously about the world as a whole; it’s more like I go one by one through the background items, and ask if each part has that special “sizzle” to it. For example, I might look at a certain picture and think “This is lacking in green tones.” Then I’d take a look at the scene and maybe add some trees… that’s more my kind of work process. Maybe an area is too open and I need to add more blocks, or there’s too many straight lines and everything looks flat, so I’ll add some curves.
I did do some rough sketches for ICO, but since I originally worked in 3D graphics, I mostly just created everything directly in 3D. Also, because I can draw, I often end up making some selfish requests of everyone. (laughs) I know what I want, and I have a logic behind it, but I don’t know how to explain it very well. So what ends up happening is if I think something isn’t good, I’ll just touch it up and fix it myself. Whether it’s animation, or the stage design, or whatever… I’m like, “let me see that for a minute” and then I spend all night fixing it up how I want. I’m sure it probably caused the staff a lot of problems. (laughs)
For a long time, I was very worried whether a game created in this way would be accepted by players. There were no stats, no scoring… would players really accept a game that only had a story and a realistic map/world? But rather than take a left-turn into some compromised vision, I thought it would be best if we push ahead with the original idea as planned. Whether it was the girl’s animation or the details of the map, I didn’t hold back on removing and subtracting elements as needed. If something felt unfinished or lacking, then I’d remove it.
If Yorda’s movements didn’t look like they were actually thoughtful, guiding her around would be an annoying chore for the player. If that happened, would I have to resign myself to the game becoming more like the boy’s solo journey? I was prepared to have to make that compromise, but thankfully, I didn’t have to spend time managing the budget or schedule. Someone else did that for me, but if I had had to do it, I may have had to compromise my original vision of ICO.
You could say that our very youth and inexperience was a big factor in our not having to compromise. The planners, designers, and even myself were almost all inexperienced. If there had been more experienced members on the development team, the game might not have turned out this way.
It’s often said that ICO resembles a Western game. I did play a lot of Prince of Persia on the Gameboy, and I also love Out of this World and Flashback. I also played a lot of Megadrive games, and that influence is probably there too.
Kaido: When Ueda creates a game, it’s very obvious that his logic is different from your typical developer. He doesn’t begin with a story or world, he just suddenly starts crafting his vision, gradually shaping it into its final form. He doesn’t feel bound by the kinds of games that exist today, he asks instead asks himself: “well, doing things this way would be cool too, right?”
My role is to ask questions like “Maybe the game should be a little more game-like here?”, but he never listens anyway. (laughs) As a result, I don’t mind saying that I think we’ve created a game with an originality unique to the capabilities of the Playstation 2 hardware.
ICO – 2011 Developer Interview
originally featured as part of Sony’s “Great Scene Sharing” campaign
Fumito Ueda – Director
Keiichiro Toyama – Silent Hill / Siren director
—To start off, please share some of your memories of ICO with us.
Ueda: It was my first time doing game design and directing, but there was so much stuff I didn’t know that I mostly remember the struggles. Now that it’s being re-released for the PS3 with a higher resolution, the textures and sense of three-dimensionality have been improved, but what I personally most want players to experience is the same thing I intended in the original. I hope this new release will be nostalgic for those who played the PS2 version.
Toyama: If I can ask directly, what do you think is the biggest change in the new HD version of ICO?
Ueda: Well, like I said above, the increase in resolution is the main thing, and there are some small details that have been changed accordingly, but other than that it’s a faithful reproduction of the original.
Toyama: There’s actually an “original” version that predates that original: the PS1 version of ICO that you were developing early on before switching over to the PS2. I remember seeing a video of the PS1 version, and what surprised me is how the gameplay then was exactly the same as the final version. Even seeing the enhanced visuals on the PS3 today, I’m surprised at the consistency. 10 years ago when ICO was created, games were all about having more and more items and longer and longer playtimes. It’s very impressive that you released ICO in that climate.
Ueda: Yea, this is also something I’ve said a lot, but when I originally entered the game industry, I wasn’t someone who knew anything about the fundamentals of games, so-called “game design,” or how to go about directing a game. Later when I moved to SCE, I was given a chance to make a game myself… Toyama, I think you were someone with a ton of experience in making games, even then, and I wondered to myself if I could make something different that could contend with a profitable, commercial release created by experienced people such as yourself. As a result, I was going to make my game by removing all the “game-like” elements from it that I could. I think partly it was my youth, but I wanted to do the opposite of what others were doing. Those were some of my very first ideas when it came to creating ICO.
Toyama: It was a style of game that Japanese players had never seen before.
Ueda: Yeah, you’ve told me that before. It’s funny how only very recently did we start talking and going drinking together. Before that, even though we worked on games on the same floor at SCE, about the only relationship we had was when you saw ICO in a magazine and said it looked just like something developed overseas.
Toyama: That’s right, I remember that. When I moved from Konami to SCE, the first project I was involved in was Yoake no Mariko, which was not a survival horror game. It had the same release date as ICO actually.
Ueda: December 6th, 2001.
Toyama: Yeah, so when I saw that article about ICO in Famitsu, I was curious because it said it was an SCE game, but I thought it might have actually been developed by a Western studio and brought to us for publishing.
Ueda: And then you learned it had been developed by the same company you worked at. (laughs)
Toyama: That was a surprise. (laughs)
—Ok, and how about Shadow of the Colossus? What are you memories of its development?
Ueda: The gimmick I used with ICO, that you were in a castle with a very consistent level design, was something I had worked on so long at that point—four whole years. All that time I spent had an influence on Shadow of the Colossus. I do think the puzzles in ICO were good, but… I’m not sure how to put this into words, but I felt like I didn’t want to make another game with small, compact puzzles. In my next game, I wanted the action sequences and the gameplay itself to involve more chance and spontaneity. That was my starting point for Shadow of the Colossus. Actually, it was originally going to have online functionality, but as the development went through numerous changes, it eventually ended up as the offline game it is today.
Toyama: I believe you were developing it right when I was releasing Siren 2. For every two games I put out, you put out one. (laughs) I remember how just before the release of Shadow of the Colossus, our boss at the time was politely asking around about how the development was going. I said “It has amazing boss fights! Although it doesn’t look like they’ve finished any part of the game except the boss fights.” (laughs) I was wondering what would become of it all, and then I learned it was intentionally meant to be a game where you only fight bosses. (laughs)
Ueda: At the time, I was often told by others how bold a decision it was. Not just the fact that the game was only boss fights, but also that we had this huge open world, and normally you’d expect there to be enemies there, but there weren’t any. (laughs)
Toyama: I don’t think there’s been a game like Shadow of the Colossus before or since. Also, another amazing thing about it is the influence it has had on other games. In particular, many Western developers, including the creators of God of War, have said they were influenced by it.
Ueda: It’s a great honor to hear that. But rather than simply having enemies that are huge, I had thought we’d start seeing more games that focus on player interaction with such huge creatures… but it didn’t happen. “Well, if it hasn’t happened, I’ll just have to do it myself!” That was the thought that led me to my current project, The Last Guardian.
—Toyama, did you play Shadow of the Colossus to the end?
Toyama: Of course. (laughs) Right now I’m looking forward to playing the HD version. Actually, I thought I probably should replay it once before this event, but I’m holding off until the PS3 release. (laughs)
—For this Great Scene Sharing campaign, we’ve asked many different players about their favorite scenes from ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. We’ve also asked you both, Toyama and Ueda, about your favorite scenes, so let’s start with those. First, Toyama, you said your favorite scene in ICO is the “Crumbling Bridge” scene.1
Toyama: Yeah. When I played ICO, what surprised me was atmosphere of the ruins.
Ueda: You like ruins eh? (laughs)
Toyama: It’s part of my job description to like them. (laughs) I’ve actually gone to different ruins to do research, and that desolation you can feel on your very skin, that sense of danger and excitement, was something I thought the world of ICO expressed very well. It left an impression on me.
Ueda: People have asked me why I made this scene. By having the bridge collapse and Yorda hanging suspended, I wanted to convey a message to players: “Please keep holding my hand, whatever comes ahead.”
Toyama: I remember a long time ago I asked you, “You must have visited a lot of different ruins to get ideas for ICO, right?” And your reply…
Ueda: I said I’ve never visited any. (laughs)
Toyama: That really shocked me. I asked him then too, “how were you able to create something so expressive without doing any research?!” and he just bluntly replied, “I had a complete picture of it in my head already, so I guess I just didn’t need to.” (laughs)
Ueda: (laughs) I just have a lot of ideas in my head. But for Shadow of the Colossus I did do one bit of research, on horse riding. That proved really useful. It helped get the animation right for your horse companion Agro, as well as the right sensation of horseback riding. When you drive a car and control the acceleration yourself, there’s no fear of the car “bucking” or going wild. But you can’t control a horse directly, and it’ll suddenly buck the rider off… I researched those things and added them into the game.
Toyama: Another thing I think is wonderful about this scene is the camerawork. 10 years ago, most games didn’t feature camerawork this extensive. But the way ICO used wide angle lens and long shots to establish height, space, and depth was really something.
Ueda: Games before ICO had mostly prioritized visual consistency and simplicity in their design. As ICO progresses, though, there is a part of me that wishes I had made the camera move a little faster. Luckily there weren’t many complaints about that after it was released. I was like, “phew.” (laughs)
—Continuing, Toyama, for Shadow of the Colossus you selected as your favorite scene “The Final Blow is one of Sadness.”
Toyama: By this scene, I mean the sequence of events right after you make the final blow on the last boss. The part where he starts to collapse, and then those tentacle-like things reach out and envelope Wander: everything up to there. In a normal game this is supposed to be a moment of triumph for the player, but it feels really uncomfortable and wrong, like you’ve done something dishonorable.
Ueda: There’s an interesting anecdote related to this scene. When we started developing the game there was no music composed yet, so for that scene when you beat him I added something provisionally, some sad music from a movie soundtrack. When I did that, all the staff who saw that scene burst out laughing. (laughs) To have a scene like that, where you would expect some triumphant trumpet fanfare, but instead you hear sad music… it must have seemed like a mistake to them. I remember that experience very vividly. You know, deciding things by majority has its merits, but I think there’s a danger that lies in that too. After we had officially released Shadow of the Colossus, I asked players if they felt anything uncomfortable or awkward about that scene, and they said no… Yeah, lots of memories surrounding that scene for me.
—Well, moving on to your favorite scenes, Ueda… for ICO you selected the scene “Don’t let go.”
Ueda: What I’m about to say will be a somewhat detailed bit of game design talk, but in this scene, there’s nothing that tells Ico that he needs to jump. You’ve been travelling with Yorda all this way, and I put this scene here as something to leave up to the player to solve: “well, what will you do?” I thought everyone would try to jump, and when I finally saw the game released and read reviews and such, I saw many players say “I jumped there.” As far as level design goes, this was a big success for me. But we did struggle a lot on this scene. We had to figure out how to use the surrounding environment to get the player emotionally involved, and as it turned out so successfully, it’s a very memorable scene for me.
—For Shadow of the Colossus, you selected the “Crumbling Bridge” scene from the ending.
Ueda: It’s actually the entire ending that I like. As for why it sticks out in my memory: the music for Shadow of the Colossus was composed by Kow Otani. For the ending, he took all the songs from each scene in the game and used a phrase from each one, remixing them all into a new piece on his own. Some parts were a little weird, but after hearing it many times I became confident that this was a really cool way to use the game’s music.
Toyama: ICO had a crumbling bridge too, you know. (laughs) Ueda, I’m wondering if you had some formative experience with ruins and the aesthetics of ruined things?
Ueda: No, there was nothing like that. I think it’s simply that a setting of ruins is easy to work with because it provides a consistent design. …but who knows, maybe I did have some formative experience with bridges or something.
Toyama: Usually when something collapses or falls apart in a game, developers will use a physics engine to model it in CG. But I was surprised to learn that in ICO you actually animated all that manually, by hand.
Ueda: We did. But with the game hardware of that time, it was pretty much impossible to do that kind of physics modeling in real-time. And the 3D tools you would need to render it weren’t very reliable either. If you wanted to show such large rocks and boulders falling, you had no choice but to do it by hand.
Toyama: Oh, so it wasn’t like you tried it the other way and it didn’t work. Doing it by hand was the only way?
Ueda: That’s right. Also, to be honest we weren’t planning to have the castle collapse entirely like that. We were originally thinking to have the ending of ICO be much more modest, but somehow it didn’t give you a feeling of resolution that way. And so we decided “Ok, let’s make everything crumble into the sea then.” (laughs)
—Since everyone in the audience today also participated in the Great Scene Sharing event, I thought we’d take a moment to hear from a few audience members about their favorite scenes.
Audience: In the crumbling bridge scene in ICO, I was trembling at the thought that he might let Yorda’s hand go and she’d fall. After that I never let go of her hand.
Ueda: Just as I planned! (laughs)
Audience: The scene in Shadow of the Colossus where Wander approaches Mono and touches her cheek was really memorable.
Ueda: Yeah, there’s really not any scenes where Wander and Mono touch each other. That scene was us thinking “well, we can at least do this much.” Maybe even showing that was too much. (laughs)
—In the Great Scene Sharing survey conducted on 9/1/2011, the most voted on scene for ICO was “Imprisoned Maiden.” Was there anything you paid special attention to in designing that scene?
Ueda: It’s the scene were Ico and Yorda meet, so they don’t know each other yet, and I was hoping to express that sense of distance between them in this first encounter. The camera pulls back and you have Ico on the right and Yorda on the left, they don’t rush up to each other, but she slowly approaches him, footstep by footstep. By pulling the camera back like that, I wanted the player to feel like an observer who is watching something about to happen.
—In order to not harm the player’s image of Yorda, were there any measures you took?
Ueda: Yeah, too many to count. (laughs) Not just limited to this scene either: there were many particular requests like “don’t show her face from this angle.”
—The second-place scene for ICO was the Crumbling Bridge scene. And for Shadow of the Colossus, the audience voted #1 scene was the same as Toyama’s favorite, “The Final Blow is one of Sadness.” #2 was “Together with my Friend, We Will Make the Earth Shake.” Tell us about this scene.
Ueda: Ah, the scene with Agro. When I heard the opinions of those who actually played through Shadow of the Colossus, I realized just how many people had such a strong bond with this horse. When I was creating Agro, I didn’t think people would end up feeling that way about her. In this scene, for instance, you need Agro to win the fight, and there aren’t many Colossi that require that. In the context of that scene, there’s no communication as such between Agro and Wander, but the player has spent so much time adventuring with Agro by now that I think one’s imagination fills in the gaps and the player has really come to love the horse.
Toyama: You love motorcycles, don’t you Ueda? Do you feel like there’s something in common between that and the player’s relationship with the horse in Shadow of the Colossus?
Ueda: I love both motorcycles and animals. So maybe that is true, yeah. What I was thinking of when developing the game, though, is that Agro was neither your pet nor your friend. She was more like your partner, and I don’t want to be misunderstood here, but she was like an implement to be used, or a second set of legs for Wander. Partly I wanted to portray a relationship with an animal that had that degree of firm hierarchy to it, like a dog and his master.
Toyama: I think you did a good job conveying that subtle sense of communication between Agro and Wander, in which mutual understanding cannot be fully established, and the player is never fully in control. I suspect that theme will be carried over to The Last Guardian too.
Ueda: Exactly. When I realized that the relationship between Wander and Agro had gone beyond what I imagined, and that it was so memorable for players, I thought I could make a game that more consciously explores that theme. That was one of the reasons I began work on The Last Guardian.
—Since we have the two of you together at this event, I’d like to ask a few more creative questions now. How do the both of you approach your work?
Toyama: Ueda and I have talked about this over drinks many times, but I don’t believe we’ve been asked this by players before. With Ueda, his worlds are so striking, it’s easy to think that his process involves trying to reproduce the aesthetics of that vision. But in fact, when I talked to him, I was surprised to learn that he starts more from the game mechanics.
Ueda: I’ve never made anything according to a traditional game design planning document. But strong visual images do come to me, and play a large part in my creative process. In ICO, I thought the image of a boy holding hands with a girl taller than him had a strong visual impact. In Shadow of the Colossus I had this image in my head that I thought was really cool, of a boy sitting astride a horse in a vast open grassland.
That said, at the same time I also think about the game mechanics. For ICO that was the hand-holding mechanic, and in Shadow of the Colossus it was riding a horse, and battling and climbing atop huge enemies. Those mechanics were of primary importance, and as Toyama said, things like what kind of world the game takes place in, how big that world is, or what clothes the characters wear, all take a backseat to the functionality and consistency of the game mechanics. After that is dialed in, I look at the aesthetic ideas we’ve come up with and select the best ones.
Toyama: You mentioned earlier that you weren’t planning to have the castle collapse at the ending of ICO; it was just something that came about due to the exigencies of the development. And I don’t think that’s a backwards way to go about things at all. You have a background in media arts, so perhaps that accounts for your focus on technology and expression.
Ueda: Toyama, you and I are about the same age. In older video games, there was a sense of technological progression in that “video game == technology.” So for our generation, it’s difficult to think outside of that framework and ignore the technological side. I sometimes think we’re the last generation that will have this almost romantic view of technology. Good or bad, it’s something we can’t escape. Toyama, how do you bring your images to life, and what is your creative process like?
Toyama: There’s a lot of similarities to yours. Visual imagery starts to build up in me over time. Tie that to a gimmick and it’s the basic model for a game. I remember a memorable conversation I had with you when we first met. I was working on Silent Hill, and in that game you can only illuminate your surroundings with a flashlight, and you told me “this game has a unique worldview”. It made me very happy to hear that. But that hadn’t been my initial intent. If you wanted to depict a realistic world on the Playstation hardware, it was only powerful enough to show the foreground imagery. In dealing with that limitation I said, ok then, I’ll make everything in the distance completely dark. I remember talking to you about that, and the conversation then turned to the world of ICO.
Ueda: I remember that. We couldn’t depict distant imagery in ICO either, so I decided to enclose the surrounding world with an ocean and use thick fog. Doing so would mean I didn’t have to show details.
Toyama: AI took a lot of processing power back then too. I think it’s interesting in your games how you don’t try to have a bunch of character or enemy AI, but instead narrow everything down and focus on just one partner.
Ueda: You’ve got to know how to spend your resources. We also had a small staff. In ICO we put all our money on Yorda, and in Shadow of the Colossus, I would say it was the collision detection and getting that right.
I remember when Silent Hill came out, I was still in the middle of working on ICO. I had known for awhile that I wanted ICO to have non-traditional game music, maybe use popular music. But I didn’t know the means to convey that. In that bemused state, I remember hearing the opening music of Silent Hill and thinking “yes! this is the feel I’m going for!”
Toyama: At the time we were fortunate to have Akira Yamaoka on our staff. I was very young and had become a director, and felt that since I had this opportunity, I didn’t want to do the same thing everyone else had done. I wanted to do something that wasn’t usually done in games.
Ueda: I’m similar in that respect. There’s the spirit of the artist that wants to create it’s own work, and there’s the knowledge that your creation must succeed in a business context. If you’re going to create something in a company with others, you need both those. But the balance isn’t easy to find. There are people who only want to create their own vision, and there are also people who only talk about business, business, business. I think what you need is a mix of those two extremes.
Toyama: I think our generation was very blessed in one sense, to have experienced all these dramatic evolutions in hardware, each improvement opening up a previously unseen vista. It was like looking over a vast blue ocean, and it gave you the sense that you could create something new. In that sense, it’s a very different and difficult climate for game developers today.
Postscript: Media Interview
conducted directly after the Great Scene Sharing audience event
—Please share your feelings about today’s Great Scene Sharing event.
Ueda: It was more fun than I expected. Since Sotoyama was my partner today, I was able to talk about games in more detail than usual, without much nervousness.
Toyama: I was really nervous, but I think it came off rather well. When it was ending I realized we had so much more to talk about. This was really, really fun.
—ICO and Shadow of the Colossus were both hits, but neither ever had a proper sequel. For the HD re-releases, you didn’t tamper with the original game systems; did you not want to mess with something you’d already created?
Ueda: That’s right. Shadow of the Colossus was released in 2005. Naturally, it’s not like I didn’t have ideas of things I could add to it, but if I did that people would think “what, the original wasn’t complete?”, and that would be somewhat tasteless. Plus, my top priority right now is The Last Guardian, so I didn’t want to spend too much time on these re-releases.
—I imagine this is the first time you’ve had a casual conversation like this in front of your fans. What was it like hearing their voices today?
Ueda: At first, I honestly wondered if anyone would show up. (laughs) But once I came to the meeting hall and saw everyone…
Toyama: You realized how sincere everyone was about this event.
Ueda: Yeah. These are not new games; they were released a long time ago. When I was making them, it was my hope that they would be cherished for a long time to come; I didn’t want to make something disposable. So to see so many fans here in person today made me feel like I had succeeded in that goal, and I’m very happy.
—What do you like about each other’s games?
Ueda: I like the games Toyama creates, but I actually think we have a lot in common as game designers. Take Siren, for example, with the “Sight Jack” mechanic. By basing the game around that mechanic, the game suddenly became much more difficult than a typical survival horror game. Then, after you thought about it, like me, you decided you didn’t want to make your game easier. And when people around you started pressuring you to change it, that’s when you dug your heels in. I can really relate to that.
Toyama: For my part, I really like the strong “human” quality to Ueda’s games.
Ueda: You mean the intuitive/instinctive quality?
Toyama: Yeah. They aren’t about exploring all the facets of a gameplay or rule system, but rather about the way your feelings change as you experience the actual game. You go extremely deep on that, and I think it makes you a rare and valuable game creator.
—Were there any new things that became possible for you to express, now that ICO and Shadow of the Colossus have been upgraded visually to HD?
Ueda: No, not from HD. However, these games were originally on the PS2, and for both of them, we coded more information than the hardware of the time could display on-screen. At the time, it probably seemed like a waste of time to people, but now that the visuals are upgraded to HD, all those details are now visible for the first time. I think there will be some new discoveries there for those who played the originals.
Toyama: The stereoscopic 3D support is completely new, too.
Ueda: Yeah. We did a lot of fine-tuning for the 3D. Shadow of the Colossus is especially suited for it. I want people to play it with Sony’s headmount display. (laughs)
—3D has become really popular, in movies too. Was that an influence?
Ueda: To be honest, I like the old style of 3D, like in Captain EO, where things flew out at you, more than the stuff today. Part of it is that I was young, no doubt, but that had a big impact on me. Recent 3D is more subdued.
—Please tell us about any movies that have influenced you.
Ueda: There’s been so many, it’s hard to pick out particular ones. Regardless of genre, I like movies that are both commercial and critical successes, movies that the average person enjoys seeing. The Dark Knight would be a good example.
Toyama: Likewise for me, there’s too many to choose from. Probably things I saw when I was a kid have been a big influence, I’d guess.
Toyama: Yes, definitely horror. I remember some old television commercials that really traumatized me, too. (laughs) When I was a student I saw Moebius’ comics and those really gave me a jolt. I knew I wanted to someday try depicting those worlds in a game, and I’m happy to finally have that chance with my current project, Gravity Daze.
—A moment ago, you said there was a lot you had in common as game designers. In contrast, what do you think are your differences?
Ueda: Hmmm… can you think of anything?
Toyama: I’ve got one. (laughs)
Ueda: Let’s hear it. (laughs)
Toyama: Your nerve and composure is amazing. When my team comes to me and says “I think this part would be better this way,” or “This should be more like this,” I tend to be swayed by their words. But your conviction never wavers.
Ueda: I see. (laughs) But you used to be that way too, didn’t you? You think you’ve changed?
Toyama: For me, as long as my basic concept is preserved, I don’t mind if things turn out looking differently, or a different approach is taken.
Ueda: In that sense, yeah, the desire to interject myself into all the nooks and crannies of my project is probably still very strong in me. Even so, I think I’ve mellowed out considerably over the years.
Toyama: Have you recently gone in and tampered with the game data?
Ueda: Not in the last few months!
—Do you do that because you want to be sure you personally understand what’s going on in the project?
Ueda: Yes, naturally. But when there’s something I really want to express, if I (or someone else) have a better idea than what’s currently there , then I just get so filled with the desire to make that choice, eventually I can’t take it anymore and will just go do it myself.
—Now that ICO and Shadow of the Colossus have been remastered in HD, do you worry that the original impression players got from the original, low-res graphics will be different?
Ueda: For the things I wanted to convey, no, I’m not particularly worried about that. However, thanks to the higher resolution, various things that were covered up or unable to be shown in the original low-res graphics were revealed when we remastered it. There were a number of things we had to fix.
Toyama: You weren’t worried that it looks too crisp and clean now? The low resolution sometimes allowed certain things to look nice.
Ueda: A little bit, but if I had spent time changing all that, it would have interfered with my work on The Last Guardian. (laughs)
Toyama: So it wasn’t as bad as you thought?
Ueda: No. Shadow of the Colossus held up surprisingly well in HD. ICO, being my first game, had certain parts that were technologically inferior, as you’d expect. Many scenes took touching up. But for Colossus, there was very little to do.
—You were talking about 3D a moment ago. Are there any scenes that you really want players to see, now that they’re in 3D?
Ueda: There’s two scenes in Shadow of the Colossus. The first is the scene when you’re riding on horseback through a large open plain. You can really feel the depth now. It was always supposed to feel like the ground was rushing away from you as you rode, but in 2D that was very difficult to convey. Now in 3D, it has both depth and a sense of speed. Second, sometimes Agro will kick up rocks and pebbles. Those now look cool as they fly out at you. One more scene I like would be in the colossi fights, when you look up, there’s more presence and realism now. For ICO, in various points throughout the game you can look down and viscerally feel how high you are. The 3D was very effective for that.
—Finally, could you please each give a comment about each other’s current projects: The Last Guardian and Gravity Daze?
Ueda: It might be tough for Toyama to comment on The Last Guardian at this juncture (laughs), so I’ll start. I’ve known Toyama has been working on a non-horror game for a long time, and I’ve been waiting for him to announce it and surprise everyone. Lately I hear it’s really starting to come together, and the staff around me have been telling me it feels really great… I’m eager to get my hands on it!
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The names for these scenes, as far as I know, are not canon. They are simply the names used to identify the scene for the purpose of fan voting.↩