The Making of the Colossi

Posted By at 7:36 PM on Monday October 17, 2011

These 15 members of the development team can’t miss an opportunity to talk about Shadow of the Colossus. Starting off with the voices of Mr. Fumito Ueda and Mr. Kenji Kaido, the men in charge of the game’s direction, we present to you an updated version of the interview published in the December 2nd, 2005 issue of Weekly Famitsu.

Fumito Ueda (Director)

Involved on all fronts of the game’s development, including the design, plot, and storyboards. His favorite Colossus is Minotaur A (#1). “It’s an important Colossus because it acts as the game’s hook. I worked on it since the very beginning. It took a lot of effort.”

Kenji Kaido (Project Manager)

Served as manager for the project and the development team. His favorite Colossus is Gecko (#8). “I like Bird (#5) as well, but Gecko is the latest trend. I like the way it feels like a pet, and the gas it spits.”

Feedback From the Development Process

At what point during the making of Shadow of the Colossus did you feel it was going to be a game that came from the heart?

Ueda: It was the moment that the posture and timing of Wander’s falls from a moving colossus became real due to the shifting and changing grippable targets in Wander’s surroundings, something we called “transforming collision”, When I saw how his reaction would change depending on where he fell, I thought to myself “There hasn’t been a game like this before.”

Kaido: For me, it would have to be when I lost the impression that the Colossi were moving according to obvious AI algorithms. I felt it all of a sudden one day while I was testing the gameplay. The Colossi didn’t feel alive, and they didn’t feel like animals, but they weren’t machines, either. That felt right to me.

Ueda: If you think of the Colossi as living beings, you might feel kind of sorry for them. You could say the game becomes too graphic. I once had the idea of grabbing onto a Colossi’s eyelids to attack it, for example… I tried to make the game abstract, so you wouldn’t know whether the Colossi were structures or animals, in order to ensure it wasn’t cruel and unusual. If they were nothing like animals, though, it would be weird for them to be growing fur.

Was it necessary for them to be growing fur?

Ueda: We’d decided on the player being able to grip fur and moss. There was a stage in early development when we questioned whether we’d be able to display fur on the Playstation 2, however. The game needed to have the density of a painting in order to give the player a sense of vastness. We worried that by trying to simply mold things out of polygons and add detailed protrusions we wouldn’t be able to draw them in the right size. We were thinking that the player wouldn’t be able to feel the density when we lightened the data load, but we realized that they’d get a sense of vastness if we used fur. In Shadow of the Colossus, the world is huge, and so are the Colossi. We might’ve been able to pack Colossi in more densely, but then the sense of distance would have decreased.

The Number of Colossi and the Game’s Density

Were there always 16 Colossi?

Ueda: Actually, at first there were 48. That was the number I had in the back of my head when I was planning the game. Putting in that many would have been impossible, however, so I cut it down to 24, half the original number. That’s when I began actually modeling them and coming up with ways to defeat them. We might’ve been able to get 24 done within the development period, but it would have been difficult to implement them while maintaining their quality, so we settled on the present 16.

What basis was used to decide which ones to keep and which to reject?

Ueda: When deciding which Colossi to keep and which to reject, we evaluated their level of completion at the time and ensure that the way they were defeated didn’t overlap with the method for another Colossus. We tried to have it so that you could beat the Colossi that appeared in the beginning without using the terrain. Eventually, you make use of the surrounding environment and the Colossi themselves become trickier. Working within these bounds, we removed the Colossi that had were defeated by similar means.

Kaido: We would condense the individual elements of two Colossi down into one. That way we weren’t just throwing them away, but rather combining them together to make trying to figure out how to defeat them even more interesting.

Ueda: During development, we also came up with the idea of having optional Colossi you wouldn’t need to defeat. That meant they wouldn’t be connected to anything, story or otherwise. While it would have been interesting, I gave serious consideration as to whether the game actually needed something like that. The epic battles between Wander and the Colossi are fun, but having optional Colossi just didn’t suit the game.

What sort of Colossi were there, in particular?

Ueda: At first public debut of Shadow of the Colossus, several Colossi were displayed in material distributed to the press. The bird-type Colossus and spider-type Colossus were nearly completed. Spider was meant to be defeated by slashing it with your sword while riding Agro, but that would have required us to put in a special motion just to battle that Colossus, so I didn’t think it was very elegant. However, the idea for defeating that one was resurrected in Turtle (the 9th Colossus). I have the tendency to ask myself whether or not something makes sense and whether or not it’s elegant in terms of game design. Like pruning tree branches, It’s necessary to cut things out in order to improve the quality of a game.

Kaido: I think that the number and the mere existence of Colossi shape the game’s design. That means that when the number of Colossi increases, material gets reused, and it’s better to leave players a little unsatisfied than to thin out the game.

Consistency and Going Back to the Basics

So, you’d say the game’s quality improved as the number of Colossi decreased.

Kaido: I figured that since we could add however many Colossi we wanted to afterwards, we might as well go ahead and start by creating the ones Ueda had in mind. Personally, I just thought it was interesting to do something this drastic. It’s easy to make something according to a set format, but then it won’t be very important. Ueda and I were thinking along the same lines in that we wanted to do the opposite of whatever other games ordinarily did. That went over with no issue at the company, so I didn’t have any uneasiness about the content of the game. I worried about the schedule and the budget instead. I was anxious about whether we’d be able to create everything Ueda was aiming for within the amount of time we had. When whittling things down from our initial ideals, we stuck to the schedule in the end thanks to the efforts of the staff. I’m really glad it went well.

Ueda: It was me that worried the most… For example, when I’m deciding whether or not to put something in the game, I’m always looking for meaning behind it, no matter what. Like, does it make sense to put smaller enemies in the game just so you can get items and experience points? I wouldn’t have been able to forgive myself if I’d had a Colossus you wouldn’t be able to beat without some item you’d get defeating smaller enemies, meaning the player would have to go back out into the field again once they figured out they didn’t have the necessary elements to defeat it. I had the idea of being able to warp through the use of an item, for example, but the huge field would have become pointless. There are two ideas central to the game. Colossi you have to climb and defeat, and an enormous field. I think that once we kept the overall consistency in mind, it was inevitable that the game would turn out like this.

Kaido: There were, of course, times during the making of the game when we’d lose sight of the cardinal rules of game design, which is accomplishing what we’d pictured at the beginning. That’s when we’d always try to go back to the basics. We’d fix things up by focusing on what we wanted to do at the beginning. That’s what ties everything together at the end. If you forget or depart from it, you’ll stray from the path and the final product won’t be orderly. In our case, we’d watch the pilot movie we’d made in the beginning and reaffirm our initial intentions.

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