The Last Guardian has been in development since 2007. The game was revealed in 2009, and took six years before it reemerged at this year’s E3. We now have insight on what it was that took so long for The Last Guardian to be developed, as well has some of the changes that the team behind the game went through.
In an interview with GameSpot x Kinda Funny at E3, PlayStation executive Shuhei Yoshida spoke about the status of Team ICO, and indicated that the studio had splintered into smaller teams. He states: “It depends on how you define Team ICO. Many members of Team ICO — which was originally a small team of around 20 plus — moved on to Shadow of the Colossus. After that [Fumito] Ueda-san became independent, but worked with creation team.”
In 2011, it was reported that Shadow of the Colossus director Fumito Ueda had left the development team for The Last Guardian and Sony. According to Yoshida, this was just a “rearrangement of the relationship.” He states: “Now Ueda-san has established his reputation, he [wanted] more freedom on how he spends his time. He may want to work on other concepts, so he chose to become independent, but also still work on The Last Guardian. [It’s] the main project he’s working on.”
In regards to the rumors that Ueda was fired, Yoshida states: “So, Ueda-san was not fired. That was totally bogus. He chose to become independent.”
When The Last Guardian was shown at E3, a new studio called Gen Design was attached to the project. Yoshida revealed that Gen Design is comprised of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus developers. The team is working with Sony’s own Japan Studio. He explains: “Gen Design’s president used to be the lead programmer on Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Core members of the Shadow of the Colossus, under him, became independent, to do creative stuff. But the main development team is still in Japan Studio.”
Yoshida also touched on the lengthy delay in bringing back The Last Guardian, confirming that the game going from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4 required much of the game to be rebuilt. “The project went on so many technical changes. We decided to move the project to PS4 in 2012, but because the PS3 code was so optimized for SPUs on that console lots of code had to be thrown away and rebuilt.”
“It was a tough decision to move from PS3 to PS4 because it was running on PS3. But not at the perfromance [level] we needed…We knew [we had to decide] whether to continue the game on PS3 with a compromised vision, or move to PS4.”
“During that time Ueda-san and the core creatives were continuing to work, but without the game up and running, they had a long time to wait. The setup was very good, in that they had a little bit of their own space, and could work on some new other concepts, but main development is [being done] in Japan Studio and Gen Design providing lots of creative contributions to the project. Ueda-san is directing the overall creatives.”
When asked if Sony ever thought of abandoning The Last Guardian, Yoshida said that the response from fans helped Sony commit to the project. “I believe in the concept. Ueda-san and the core members always wanted it to be released. But what made us continue to work was the encouragement from people. Journalists always asked us every year [about it]. We knew lots of people were intrigued by the game and were waiting for it to arrive. Because of that I felt it was my responsibility to get it completed.”
Sony decided to re-reveal The Last Guardian based on its confidence in the game, and its 2016 release window. Yoshida states: “The project is in a really good state. We moved the project to PS4, and we could have said that the project was now on PS4, but I didn’t want to do it until the time we were confident about our [release] window and we can show it running on PS4.”
“My thing was, when we re-announced The Last Guardian, we had to have it totally running on PS4 at the right performance and be confident about the release window that we announced. In our mind, we have the tech, vision, and design down. Lots of levels have already been made, so we are confident about 2016, so we [announced] it.”
The Last Guardian will release on the PlayStation 4 in 2016.