Fumito Ueda is considered to be one of the great artists of the Japanese video game business, as the creator of Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and The Last Guardian.
Each of his games has won great acclaim. But the latest title, The Last Guardian, took more than a decade for Ueda’s GenDesign studio to finish. Ueda spoke on stage about his process of designing games with fellow game developer Rami Ismail of Vlambeer at the recent Gamelab conference in Barcelona.
Ismail did a good job trying to pull information out of Ueda, but it wasn’t easy as Ismail spoke in English, a translator translated his questions to Japanese, Ueda answered in Japanese, and then the translator spoke in Spanish to the audience, while another translator translated the Spanish answer back to English for Ismail via a headset.
I shared interview time with Robert Purchese of Eurogamer. Ueda spoke through a translator to both of us. We tried our best to extract some wisdom from Ueda, but it wasn’t easy working through the translator. Here’s an edited transcript of our story.
GamesBeat: Are you involved at all in the PS4 remake of Shadow of the Colossus?
Fumito Ueda: With the remake, I’m overseeing the process of updating the characters, as well as other content, and the tuning of the new version. But I’m not directly involved in implementation. They’ll be following the original version for the PS2.
GamesBeat: Are Sony making any changes to the game, that you know of?
Ueda: I’d actually like to change some things myself, but I don’t know if it’ll be possible to make all the changes I’d want.
GamesBeat: I’m sure your fans would like it if you could make your games more quickly, but are you happy with how long your process takes?
Ueda: It took a very long time to finish my last game, but that wasn’t what we wanted. It’s the result of many problems. I’d like to finish another game as soon as possible. Everyone working on this game is looking for a quick finish.
GamesBeat: What would you have to change about how you make games to do that?
Ueda: There may be some things to change in our process. In the case of The Last Guardian, there were some elements we couldn’t manage. Traditionally, when we start to make a game, we have to begin from zero. But nowadays, there are many tools to facilitate the creation of games. We may have to change our method to take advantage of that.
GamesBeat: There was a lot of content in Shadow of the Colossus that didn’t make it into the final game. It was interesting hearing you say that there were some things you’d like to put into the remake. Would you put more bosses in, something like that? How big could those reinstated features be?
Ueda: The things I mentioned I’d like to change — I can’t mention anything specifically. If I mention something that doesn’t end up in the final version, that’d be a problem. But in the game, there are 16 enemies, and the story is about 16 enemies. To change that part of the story, I don’t think about that. That part of history is finished. It’s okay with 16 enemies. I can’t imply very much about the remake, though. I’d rather focus my thinking on our new project.
GamesBeat: It sounds like you’re not interested in doing sequels. But do you have a feeling about how sequels should be done, so that they’re better than their predecessors?
Ueda: I don’t think much about what should be done. If I think about what should be done, I just get depressed. What I do is listen to the players, what opinions they have about games. That influences what I do.
GamesBeat: How far are you into your new project? Do you have an image of the game? Is it in production already?
Ueda: I can’t say many things about my new project right now. It’s already very much a visual image for me, but right now I’m changing a few things about the process of putting together a new creation. I intend to build a prototype, because there are many tools available to me to facilitate building a prototype. I’ll try to make a version like that and compare it to my other projects.
GamesBeat: Do you think this will be recognizably in the style of your other games, or will it feel like something very different?
Ueda: In the last three games we created, I didn’t intend them to be very similar to each other. When I start to create a game, I always think about creating something different. But as I look back on those three games, there are some similarities of feeling. In the process of creation, there are moments where the link with each other. I didn’t mean for that to happen from the start. It’s just part of the process. Now I’m thinking about creating something very different again, but as to the result, I can’t say.
GamesBeat: The Japanese console game market is shrinking while the mobile game market expands. What do you think about the way the market is changing? Do you think there’s a way to expand the console market again?
Ueda: Although it wasn’t intentional from the beginning, my games have become accepted all over the world, not just in the Japanese market. So I don’t worry or think too much about the video game sector in Japan.
Disclosure: The organizers of Gamelab paid my way to Barcelona. Our coverage remains objective.