With a track record of exceeding expectations and assumed limitations through games like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, it shouldn't come as a surprise to hear that Fumito Ueda's next project The Last Guardian will be vreaking through even more boundaries. In a recent interview, Team ICO's creative director explained the ways that the newest game would be pushing both the hardware of the PS3, and the emotional power of game design to its limits.
While development on The Last Guardian has been kept tightly under wraps since it was first announced, all signs are pointing to it offering as stirring and baffling an experience as Team Ico's previous titles. The latest stunning screenshots are proof enough that the developers of the Playstation 3-exclusive title are using every bit of power the console holds to drive the incredibly detailed and stylized imagery.
But those familiar with Fumito Ueda are likely aware that the enigmatic designer wouldn't be satisfied with simply releasing a beautiful game.
Ueda has recently revealed that the mechanics and artificial intelligence of the game won't be built around the visuals, or even puzzle-solving or combat. There will be problems to solve and enemies to defeat, but all of those elements will be taking a back seat to the relationship of the two main characters.
Ueda has given some details on The Last Guardian's use of teamwork and emotions as a building block of gameplay, but has now revealed to CVG that the goals of the development team are even higher than many may have assumed:
"With Ico, the way the AI was implemented was a challenge, and in SOTC, the way you could climb those bosses was another... In this game, I'm implementing both together while applying a huge brush-up that pushes the PS3 to its limit. This is quite a task, and we still have a lot of work to perfect it.
"I want to create a character that is as perfect as possible. I mean, as natural as possible. I'd like players to feel it's really alive... I'm certainly trying to make that perfect living character."
Creating a real emotional connection between the player and a character is no easy task, and modern developers seem to rely exclusively on story or character design in their efforts to do so.
It seems odd to think that few have attempted to forge those relationships through creatively allocating a console's potential, but that is the goal that Team ICO has set for itself:
"This is a great platform that has a lot to offer, but it's not a question of machine power. It's more about how you get emotions out of a virtual character.
"All my games feature a wall. In the first, it was about language, while the second was more about the thinking. This time, it goes beyond that, with a creature that can't speak and has its own behaviour. So they were about situations. I'd like to come to a point where I could really communicate with a character through words in a very natural manner."
Whether or not The Last Guardian succeeds in its attempts to forge a natural connection between the player and the game's protagonist, or between he and the great beast Torico, it's already clear why the game is among our most anticipated titles of this year.
A game that plans to harness the power of the PS3 for both visuals and greater artistic purposes has our attention, but what are your thoughts?
The exact release date may be subject to change, but The Last Guardian is currently scheduled for a holiday 2011 launch, exclusively for the PS3.