The Graphic Designers Tell It Straight (Part 4)

Posted By at 5:22 PM on Monday January 23, 2012

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The Animations That Breathed Life into the Models

Agro’s animations looked very lifelike.

Fukuyama: At Ueda’s suggestion, our team went horseback riding for a day to get some actual experience. Poor animations underwent countless retakes.

Tanaka: I think it can be interesting when a horse doesn’t want to listen to you.

Ueda: Originally, Agro was less inclined to listen to your commands. For example, if you were galloping along and suddenly attempted to reign in, Agro would resist you two or three times. Practically speaking, however, it got annoying, so we gave up on that idea.

The Ico Team Talks

Is Agro a boy?

Ueda: A girl.

Fukuyama: That’s the first time I’ve heard him say that outright. [laugh] I always felt she was female, but Ueda never came out and said so.

Ueda: Regardless of gender, I felt it was best to give players the sense that her center of gravity wasn’t fixed. She supports her heavy body on such spindly legs, but you can’t help but feel that she’s got a lot of strength.

Fukuyama: We stuck with our initial image right till the end. Her running animation was redone countless times. We were ordered to widen her pace, and no matter how many times we redid it, we were still unsuccessful. You’d often hear “Give it here!” and someone else would take over. [laugh]

Ueda: But not as many times as Wander. [laugh] Ico was an innocent sort of character, but with Wander, we went the “cool” route, so we had to make sure he looked cool when he moved. That ended up being really tough.

Tanaka: Wander is more grown-up than Ico, and he has to look good, no matter what he’s doing. He ends up falling over a lot, though. [laugh] In order to ensure that Wander was capable of the same actions when holding a bow, no matter whether he was on the ground, his horse, or a Colossus, we needed to create special animations for each situation. It was difficult. Not to mention the enormous variation he has in his more detailed animations.

When you were creating animations for the Colossi, did you actually act them out?

Tanaka: In order to express how heavy they were, Fukuyama would often walk around carrying his bicycle. [laugh] We’d also make the larger Colossi move in slow motion, but it wasn’t enough for them to be slow, we had to express their size as well. This was influenced by everything from the special effects to the scenery. Even a change in the camera angle could affect people’s perceptions, so we had to keep tinkering with it.

Fukuyama: Back in early development, we didn’t have the concept of physical strength. Whether or not you’d fall depended on the speed and acceleration directly exerted on the player, however. We create something, test it, and tune it. It was tough.

Tanaka: There are a variety of different Colossi, so animating them was basically done in one take.

Ueda: During development, the Colossi wouldn’t watch what Wander was doing. Even when Wander got close to them, they’d be staring off into the distance. Then, at a certain time, they’d crane their necks to look at Wander. That’s when they started to feel alive.

Team Ico Staff Hard at Work

What was it like, making the cutscenes?

Fukuyama: Ueda would drawn up all the storyboards, and we animators would use them as a base. When we first received the storyboards, I thought we had about the same amount as Ico, but their number steadily increased.

Ueda: I think the number of cuts was the same. I just asked them to put in as many guards as they could.

Tanaka: Villagers and black silhouettes. He told us that right at the end, so it was a lot of trouble. [laugh]

Fukuyama: The ending changed, too…

Ueda: In order to bear the responsibility, I did all the animations for the smaller animals… I was actually thinking of putting geckos into Ico. Fish and bats, too. But we weren’t able.

Not only is Dormin huge, the player can control him. Was that hard to do?

Niwa: We began making Dormin back when there were still 24 Colossi. Its design included features from the 24 Colossi that existed at the time. We used the design to create a base model, but the polygon count was through the rough. [laugh] The number of Colossi was reduced in the middle of development, so we also went to a lot of trouble to remove their features.

Ueda: Dormin appears at the end of the game, so we had to make his design beyond the players’ wildest imaginings. I was trying to figure out how best to do it, so he ended up being pitch black.

Niwa: Ueda and I swapped ideas about that. Ueda ended up using what I had created as a base and processed the rest.

Ueda: It wasn’t implemented, but the player can control basically every Colossi. If you connected two controllers, two people could play. [laugh]

Wander & Sleeping Mono

The girl was asleep right till the end. Did you ever think that you wanted her to move around a little more?

Fukuyama: No, not really. I was thinking “Please let her sleep till the end.” [laugh]

Ueda: Naturally, I think players would have been happy if we had. But I didn’t want to just make Ico all over again. No matter the situation, the most difficult thing is always achieving consistency. For example, if you ask yourself why the pedestal the girl is sleeping on has pillars coming down from the top, the answer is that they’re there to prevent the player from standing on it. Most things in the game are there because that’s the only way we could achieve consistency. Even the Colossi designs. It’s the toughest part of making a good game while working with limitations. I find it interesting.

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