So many people have stopped by to check this interview out that I thought I would do another post where I answer some of the same questions, only about Shadow of the Colossus. I don’t imagine a western developer weighing with their take on a Japanese developer's game is as intriguing or exciting as when the situation was reversed. But what the hell…It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, right? Plus I am such a huge fan of their games that I love any chance to talk about them.
I am also going to do a post after this that answers the questions the curious gamer form Illinois posed in the comments. That will be coming soon, until then; here is my interview…with myself. This seems to be a growing trend…me interviewing myself. Which is lame, I know, but it seems no one else is interested in asking me questions.
Q: Have you finished Shadow of the Colossus yet?
Yes. When I first picked the game up, we had an early copy floating around the office, I played through a large portion of it in one sitting, but then things got kind of hectic at work so my play time had to slow down a bit. After a month or so I got the retail copy of the game and started over, playing sporadically over the course of a few weeks. Then I stopped for awhile, went back to it, and got to the final boss which proceeded to kick my ass. I knew exactly what to do, but I kept falling off when I would finally get tot the head. After a few times of that I frustrated and stopped, knowing I would come back again at a later time when I was fresh and finish it off. What I didn’t know is that wouldn’t be for like 8 months. But now, I can say I have finished the game and I loved it.
Q: What was your first impression of Shadow of the Colossus?
Unlike my first experience with Ico, Shadow grabbed me right away. With Ico my first experience did not grab me right away, I needed to step away from that game and come back to it to really appreciate what it was they were doing with the development of the relationship between Ico and Yorda. Once I did I was blown away with how much the ending of that game affected me as a player. It was quite possibly one of the strongest moments I have ever seen in a game.
With Shadow I was more prepared for what to expect, and I was immediately pulled into the experience. I was in awe of the scope and scale of the world. It felt like my little playground. The presentation and art style really sparked something in my imagination and I immediately felt connected to this world. It took me a while to find my first Colossus since I really did not understand the whole gleaming sunlight off the sword mechanic. I kind of wandered around on the horse for a long time marveling at the scope of the world. I found the forest, and got off Argo and walked around a bit. I played with calling the horse mechanic, which was really simple but it was doing something on such a subtle level I almost missed it. During all of this exploration I was establishing my relationship with Argo. As cheesy as it sounds, we were discovering these things together. When I would run him at full speed towards an upcoming cliff he would come to a skidding stop. He was telling me his limits, which served to flesh him out as a real character to me. Perhaps I am overanalyzing this, but I really do think this kind of interactive character development that Ueda and his team do is second to none. Very few games can get you to care about a bunch of polygons without using words.
Finally Argo and I stumbled on an area that looked like I could platform on. So I got off Argo, and left him down below as I ascended up into the unknown. As I was climbing up I was struck with mixed emotions. It was the first time I felt a small hint of concern for leaving Argo behind, as well as being the first time that I really felt that I was onto something. For the first time in a long time, I really felt like I was exploring in a game world, and it was amazing. Making the final jump up I knew something big was about to happen, but I was totally unprepared for what did happen. Seeing that first colossus has been burned into my brain. The music swelled perfectly as this gigantic colossus lumbered out through the fog. I was feeling the same sense of discovery that the character was feeling. That same sense of discovery I had when I played the original Tomb Raider, or when I was wandering around the various areas of Morrowind III. This sense of discovery was immediately followed with a smile when I realized I could run up to this thing and actually climb on it.
The mechanics for the climbing were perfect, simple and somewhat intuitive. I say somewhat because the grip meter took me a bit of time to really adjust to but once I figured it out it was no problem. That is the thing about this game; so much of it is about the players’ discovery of not only the world and its characters, but the mechanics and play as well. There is a patience to the design and pacing that, to me, is hard to do right. If you do it wrong it makes the game feel boring and uneventful, but if you do it right it is really something spectacular. The Shadow/Ico team has a sensibility, a subtly to their approach that may take a little patience to see but is so unbelievably worth it.
Q: Perhaps this sensibility opened your eyes, right?
Yeah it did. I think a lot of people would say that God of War is a bit more of the in your face ‘Hollywood’ movie style presentation, which for the most part is considered a western style of presentation. Although I don’t think that is totally accurate since there are so many great eastern films that have the same intensity and over the top quality. I mean, look at Hard Boiled; I wouldn’t say that is very ‘Hollywood’. It’s a style all its own, one which westerners immediately began incorporating or copying.
What they did with Shadow, the sheer simplicity of their approach really made me take a harder look at how I approach various aspects of making a game. I don’t think I will ever make a game in the same way that they do, because that is really just not my style. But there is so much I learned, and am still learning, from what they do.
With God of War, we want the player to always feel like they are experiencing something new, and that everything you are doing is clearly part of the bigger picture. In that respect, we will tend to try and find clever ways to guide or lead the player without them knowing that is what we are doing. Essentially we are leading the player along by a thread, once which we try hard to be as invisible as possible. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it does not. With Shadow and Ico, there is a sense of cutting that thread and empowering the player to freely explore, while still remaining on a somewhat straight narrative path. It’s not sandbox but, especially with Shadow, it kind of feels like it. I loved that. Even though our games are not that similar, there is something to be learned there.
Q: Has Shadow of the Colossus inspired you in any way?
Very much so. I mean the opening of God of War II was partially inspired by what I saw in Shadow. We knew we were not going to be able to do the full on climb on the Colossus thing, but the sense of scale, the whole David vs. Goliath thing they captured so well in Shadow, was something I wanted to achieve in the opening of the game. But I wanted to do it with our own sensibility, our own style.
Another thing they did so brilliantly is, with very few words, they made me care more about a character than I ever have in a video game. In that regard, I am so completely inspired. I hope that I can evoke the same emotional response that they did with Yorda and Argo in all the games I do in the future. To me that is the holy grail of games right now…getting players to feel something other than fear or anger.
I have to say that as much as I admire those guys, and feel I have so much to learn from them, I don’t think I could make the same type of games they make. Perhaps it is because I have such a ‘western-short-attention-span-need-some-ridolin’ mentality? Probably not though, I love to play their games, but I love to make a very different type of game. You know…the type that punches you in the stomach in the first five minutes, as opposed to one that slowly creeps up on you. Both are very effective, the latter is especially effective when handled in the way Ueda and his team do it.
Ok...I need to get back to work now. Stayed tuned for more.