It's been two and a half years since Famitsu magazine dropped the first hints of Fumito Ueda's first PS3 game, and several months since it was revealed as The Last Guardian. Although there's been nothing to see so far but some impressive trailers, the hype is already huge - not surprising when you consider Ueda is the man behind cult classics ICO and Shadow of the Colossus.
Those hoping for more at this year's Tokyo Game Show may have been left disappointed to get a new video, but not much else in the way of gameplay explanation, let alone hands-on time. However Eurogamer did get the chance to sit down with Ueda, and his nice translator lady, to ask him about his games - past, present and future.
Eurogamer: Why do you think ICO and Shadow of the Colossus are still so popular with hardcore gamers, all these years after their release?
Fumito Ueda: I don't really know myself. Actually, they were originally designed for the Japanese market but they spread to the US and Europe afterwards. That was fully analysed but even now, I don't really know what the reason was for the games spreading so much to other regions.
Eurogamer: Did you find that Europeans had more in common with Japanese gamers than you perhaps thought?
Fumito Ueda: Actually, I knew there were commonalities between Europe and Japan, so it wasn't a big surprise.
Eurogamer: David Cage has said he sees you as an "artist", but you've said you don't see it that way. Why do you think people say that about you?
Fumito Ueda: I majored in arts in college, so I'm very honoured to be described as an artist. Since I joined Sony I'm working for them as an employee, so I'm more orientated towards developing a product rather than artistic work.
Eurogamer: But your games are not so obviously as commercial a product as, say, a sports game with a famous footballer on the cover. They're quite distinctive and different from most titles out there. So how do you strike that balance between producing artistic work and producing a commercially successful product?
Fumito Ueda: I don't really think about that kind of balance. Basically, I just try to create something that I would enjoy playing myself. I don't play football games myself, so maybe that's one reason.
Eurogamer: Regarding the leak of the Last Guardian E3 trailer prior to Sony's conference - do you know where that leak came from?
Fumito Ueda: No, I don't know where it came from. Do you?
Eurogamer: It wasn't me... Was the leak disappointing? Did it make you change your plans for revealing the game?
Fumito Ueda: Yes, it was slightly disappointing. Everybody was working so hard to make that trailer for E3, staying up the whole night - then the next day it was leaked, and everybody was so surprised.
Eurogamer: Is there any significance to the fact the music used in the trailer is from Miller's Crossing?
Fumito Ueda: It has nothing to do with the movie. I liked the movie from the start and I had the CD soundtrack on my table, and I found the music matched with the image of this product. That's why I picked it.
Eurogamer: Are you hoping to also use the music in the finished game?
Fumito Ueda: It's just being used for the trailer.
Eurogamer: Is The Last Guardian set in the same world as ICO?
Fumito Ueda: I don't know yet.
Eurogamer: So you haven't decided - or you're just not saying?
Fumito Ueda: I haven't decided yet. Originally even for ICO and Shadow of the Colossus, we didn't plan to have the same setting between the two, but they ended up sharing the setting by the end.
Eurogamer: Is there any possibility we might see characters from those games appearing in The Last Guardian?
Fumito Ueda: No, I don't think so.
Eurogamer: Many people would describe ICO as a puzzle game with combat elements. Would you say the same description applies to The Last Guardian?
Fumito Ueda: I think there will be a bit less combat in The Last Guardian.
Eurogamer: So there will be more of an emphasis on puzzling?
Fumito Ueda: Yes.
Eurogamer: Will the game feature the same exploration-based puzzles we've seen in previous titles? How does introducing the character of Torico change the dynamic?
Fumito Ueda: We'll have larger objects in this new game, and that will be a big difference compared to previous titles. It will be a more dynamic type of game.
Eurogamer: How does the full physics engine in The Last Guardian help you to develop the gameplay?
Fumito Ueda: We've used a lot of physics elements in the previous games, but this time around we've introduced a full-scale physics element into the game. So that generated some consequences and features that we never expected to see. I think this will mean the game turns out to have some good things we never expected before.
Eurogamer: Have you had a chance to experiment with the PS3 motion controller?
Fumito Ueda: Not at this point.
Eurogamer: From what you've seen in the demonstrations, do you see potential for making the motion controller work with The Last Guardian or perhaps another project?
Fumito Ueda: I have an interest in it, but I have no plans at this point.
Eurogamer: Can you explain the thinking behind the design of the Torico character?
Fumito Ueda: When we came up with this animal, we wanted to make an attractive and cute kind of character. We also created this design to match up with and comply with the game design itself. So that's how we decided on the size, the quality of the character and its physical capabilities - it was about fitting with the game design.
Eurogamer: Did you consider using any other animals?
Fumito Ueda: We ended up having this animal which was much closer in style to the cat, but we also had some other options - a dog-type of cat and also a camel-type character.
Eurogamer: I understand you can't control Torico directly, but you take advantage of the animal's characteristics to interact with the environment. Can you give us an example of how this works?
Fumito Ueda: For example, if you have access to one of Torico's favourite foods or objects, you can throw it to a place where you wouldn't be able to go in normal circumstances.
Eurogamer: So let's say I throw the food to a ledge across a big gap - I can then jump onto Torico and the animal will take me across?
Fumito Ueda: Exactly.
Eurogamer: People often try to describe the visual style of your games, but how would you describe it?
Fumito Ueda: It's basically based on my senses. I haven't really analysed what my visual style is like. As I go through the process I decide - I like it this way, or I don't like it this way - and that's how I develop my style.
Eurogamer: What lessons did you learn from developing ICO and Shadow of the Colossus? Is there anything you want to change or improve upon in The Last Guardian?
Fumito Ueda: Basically, my theory is to complete what I intended to do. It's the same theory I always employ. And because the development cycle was so long for this product, I threw in a lot of trials and errors and faced a lot of problems along the way. I tried to remember what I wanted to do originally for this game through the whole process and to try to complete that. Whatever I achieved in the past was evaluated and appreciated by the market, so that's what I focused on throughout.
Eurogamer: I've been looking at the list of games in the Tokyo Game Show brochure and next to each one, there's a little box with a figure denoting what percentage of the game is complete - 30 or 50 or 80 per cent... But in the box for The Last Guardian, there's just a question mark. Is that your choice?
Fumito Ueda: Yes, that's right, because I don't want to say much about it yet.
Eurogamer: I guess in that case, you won't tell me when the game is being released either...
Fumito Ueda: Exactly [laughs]. We want to avoid releasing an incomplete version.
Eurogamer: Are you hoping for a simultaneous release in Europe and Japan?
Fumito Ueda: I hope to see that, yes.