The Graphic Designers Tell It Straight

Posted By at 5:16 PM on Monday January 16, 2012

The Staff Talks SotC

What do the graphic designers have to say about creating the Colossi and ancient lands that drew players into the world of the game?

Creating, Testing, and Tuning the Models: A Cycle of Repetition

Design Sketches

Design Sketches from Shadow of the Colossus

Were the characters that appear at the beginning of Shadow of the Colossus the first to be created?

Ueda: The human characters were the first to take shape, but the Colossi were the first to be completed. I was always the one responsible for the human characters, but I asked the staff to handle turning the Colossi into 3D models.

Niwa: We’d get ideas from Ueda and expand on them ourselves. Questions would arise about what kind of arena would be necessary based on what form a Colossus would take, so the character design team and the field design team began working together.

Suzuki: We didn’t have any particular design in mind at first, the game sort of came to be the way it is today through our fumbling efforts…

Ueda: The design of the Colossi is closely related to how you go about defeating them. That meant that even we were successful in designing them, we wouldn’t know whether they’d work in-game or not before actually modelling and testing them out.

Niwa: When things didn’t go well during testing, the Colossus’ design would be changed and we’d end up having to alter the arena as well. That meant there were frequent exchanges with the field design team. A really small error on our part would sometimes create huge problems elsewhere.

In what order did you design things?

Suzuki: We’d start by drawing up a simple document that detailed the shape of the Colossus and where fur would be growing on its body that the player could use to climb up. We also wrote down how the battle would flow and information about the Colossus’ arena. There was never any rule that said we could only use a particular design. All Ueda told us was the size of the Colossus and the pixel resolution of the screen, so as long as we kept those limits in mind, we were free to do as we pleased.

Niwa: Looking at designs from early in development, there’s one Colossus that’s just a giant bird. The balance between living creatures and inorganic ones is something that we were gradually able to achieve over the course of the game’s development.

Suzuki: When we first started making the game, we didn’t know how far we could take things. We had specifications for Colossi that threw things and Colossi you’d climb after lassoing them with a rope. We’d make bits and pieces, then problems would arise and we’d give up on trying to implement them. We were still trying to fit things in right up until just before the game’s completion.

Ueda: We steadily applied different ideas in order to increase the players’ sense of scale and the pixel resolution of the screen. If the players don’t get an idea of these things, it’s impossible to achieve consistency. The simpler the grip points are, the less problems occur, but the resolution and sense of scale disappear when you look at the game as though it were a painting. It’s difficult to find a balance.

Suzuki: Consequently, we wouldn’t know if something worked until we tried it. This lead to a repeating cycle of creating something, testing it, tuning it, and testing it out once more. Also, players had to be able to defeat a Colossus by using the method we’d decided on. There were times when someone would find another way to defeat it. On other occasions, there would be places you shouldn’t have been able to get to but were able to reach through the movements of a Colossus. We went to a lot of trouble trying to make sure that players wouldn’t be able to reach anywhere they weren’t supposed to be.

Games

What sort of smaller objects did you create?

Niwa: I modeled things like bows, bow guns, and small animals like birds and fruit, in addition to all the times you get in Time Attack mode. I did the smaller animals according to Ueda’s specifications. I wanted to make a cow, though…

Ueda: Even if you had, there’s no way I would’ve put it in. [laugh]

All: [laugh]

Niwa: The forest once had a lot of birds in it, but they were all cut due to memory limitations, unfortunately.

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