Thursday sees the PSN release - for a mere GBP 3.19 / EUR 3.99 - of Noby Noby Boy, the new game by Katamari Damacy's creator Keita Takahashi.
Noby Noby Boy is an interactive playground where players control both ends of a stretchy character called BOY and just fool around, interacting with the structures and bizarre inhabitants of randomly-generated maps. All the BOY-stretching done collectively by all players across the PlayStation Network is reported to a GIRL in space, who grows in turn, connecting the Earth to the Moon and Mars, and opening up new environments to explore.
It's not an easy game to explain - so we're pleased to present five exclusive videos and a chat with Takahashi that will, hopefully, shed some light on Noby Noby Boy's strange and wonderful world.
Eurogamer: I was in the audience when you showed Noby Noby Boy at Nottingham GameCity a little over a year ago. Back then, it was just a grey world, a BOY, and a pig - but it was still fun to play with. What have you added since then?
Keita Takahashi: Were you at the event? Well, that's kind of embarrassing for me... The version shown at GameCity was not completed at all. There were 3 BOYs shown back then, and the structure of BOY wasn't finished - like the way collisions between BOY or the pig and the environments worked. The game as it is now is a totally different game. In short, the game sequences were not finished and I was working until the very morning of my departure from Japan to make the game as polished as possible, even though it was clearly impossible to show something completed.
So, one year later, I am here with this game hoping that people will enjoy it!
Eurogamer: Tell us about the relationship between the BOY and the GIRL. What does the GIRL do? Is she the BOY's GIRLfriend?
Keita Takahashi: When BOY grows, he informs GIRL about it and her body grows accordingly. GIRL lives in space and is trying to link all the planets of the solar system. I think that she is trying to link all the planets of the solar system together to make all the people living there understand each other, and have a good relationship with each other.
As earthlings are not getting along with each other very well, that's where things should start. However, I believe that if the whole solar system gets along better, then earth will get better too. Well, maybe with this will and energy people on Earth will get along better!
Regarding the fact that BOY and GIRL might be more than friends, I can't answer this question, as it is a private matter.
Eurogamer: Why did you choose to have all the players on the PlayStation Network work together to unlock everything in the game, rather than have each one do it on his or her own?
Keita Takahashi: Right now the trend for online gaming is online co-op. However, with BOY's body growing as it does, and with the engine managing the physics of the moving objects, it would have needed a huge server to manage everything at the same time. We met this issue at the beginning of the development, so we came up with this idea of a network mode which is not a multiplayer mode. We had a lot of other ideas, but we ran out of time and could not implement them in the game.
Apart from the technical reasons, we wanted to show players how it feels to achieve something when everybody shares the same goal. I think that it will be fun - but I think that there is something more to it.
I am really looking forward to seeing the players' reactions, as this is something that I cannot do or even imagine before the game's released.
Eurogamer: Are there any techniques or secrets to being able to stretch your BOY super long?
Keita Takahashi: There is a super technique, which consists of leaving the game on and not touching it! When you don't control BOY, he wanders around freely by himself. So if you leave the game on during the night, he might have grown when you wake up in the morning.
Eurogamer: There are a lot of love hearts in the screenshots. What do these mean? Can you make friends with the people and animals?
Keita Takahashi: Sorry, there is no special meaning except that he is happy! It is just an effect that pops out when BOY is walking. Usually in games we use an effect with dust flying in the air, but I think it's boring. So I wanted to use something that would make me happy if I were walking in the real world. That's why I decided to use hearts
Even without the flashy hearts displaying, you will notice that in Noby Noby Boy's world, people are already on good terms with animals too, so not only they will ride on BOY's back, they will also ride on animals' backs sometimes.
Eurogamer: You can eat things, and also poo them out. What's the purpose of this? Does it change the way the BOY behaves if he has eaten a lot?
Keita Takahashi: I just thought that changing the shape of BOY was funny. There is no real aim... If you keep eating, a change that you can easily imagine will happen, but I would like you to check it out yourself by playing the game.
Eurogamer: What will happen when you leave the Earth and get to other planets?
Keita Takahashi: You can then play in the planets that you've reached, and that's pretty much about it!
Eurogamer: Do you have any plans to extend the game with more downloads in future? Perhaps new levels, objects, planets, or modes?
Keita Takahashi: Yes, we will make a big update approximately two months after the release. I think we will be able to present the content pretty soon.
At first I wanted to make more updates, but the development got longer, and I want to keep the price low. Without having a lot of people playing the game, I don't think that the decision-makers at the company will allow another update. So I want many people to play the game.
Please allow me to keep updating the game!
Eurogamer: Did your bosses at Namco complain when you said you didn't want the game to have objectives?
Keita Takahashi: As my hierarchy only complains and only talks about the so-called "right things" to do when creating a game, I just tried not to care about what I was being told. To be honest, I don't really remember. But I was told something like "make it look more like a game", "make it easier to understand", "make it more accessible" I think.
Eurogamer: How do you want players to feel when they're playing Noby Noby Boy?
Keita Takahashi: I want them to relax. It is OK to fall asleep while playing it, too.
Eurogamer: What does Noby Noby mean?
Keita Takahashi: It is about being laid back and free. It means having no restrictions to your actions, being who you are, feeling easy.
It also means postponing things, being late and taking a long time to finish something.
I love both meanings, even though one of them is bad, but it sums up my situation with this game perfectly.
Eurogamer: Can a simple game like Noby Noby Boy have a bigger meaning? Or is it just for fun?
Keita Takahashi: Though a gorgeous game is not only for fun, and is often said to have "a meaning", "significance" or "merit", I wonder if this is really relevant. As I don't really understand the true meaning of the word "meaning", I can't really give you a good answer on this. Sorry...
Eurogamer: In Katamari, you could roll up almost everything you see into a ball, to make the ball bigger. In Noby Noby Boy, you can eat almost everything you see, and stretch longer and longer. Why are your games so concerned with consuming things and growing? Are you hungry?
Keita Takahashi: Exactly, I am hungry! Even though I am a 33-year-old guy, I believe that I still need to eat in order to grow up.
When it comes to games, there are obviously some things I like and some things I don't like. But for foods, I like everything. All foods are delicious.
Eurogamer: Have you seen Flower, also on the PlayStation Network? That's a game you might like. You play as a petal, caught on the wind - it's very relaxing. Is it easier to make different kinds of games now that you can sell them for download?
Keita Takahashi: Yes, Flower is a fun game. It's the first PS3 game ever that I've played from the beginning to the end. For download-only releases, developers have the opportunity to control the retail price, which may make things easier. I also think that this makes the challenge easier for most of the games.
Getting some visibility in stores for games that aren't famous, or that forecasts are bad for, can be a problem. Download-only releases definitely solve this problem. I would like to see a lot of stupid games being released, just like during the PS1 days.
Eurogamer: Apart from making Noby Noby Boy, what else have you been up to lately?
Keita Takahashi: Well, I am not doing the job that a producer is supposed to do, I participate in the actual creation of the game. As I am the only project lead, I unfortunately don't have time to get involved in other projects.
Apart from the game, I will make a speech at the GDC in March, so I started preparing that. I am also making Noby Noby Boy t-shirts.
Eurogamer: Can you draw us a picture please?
Noby Noby Boy is due for release on PlayStation Network tomorrow, 19th February, for GBP 3.19 / EUR 3.99.