In a talk delivered at the 2009 CESA Developer's Conference, or CEDEC, in Yokohama, Sony Computer Entertainment producer Tatsuya Suzuki and researcher Jun Fujiki outlined the development of echochrome
, which has its roots in one of Fujiki's research projects.
Suzuki says that he admitted defeat when he first saw the "OLE Coordinate System" at the Japan Media Arts Festival back in 2007. This technology, which detected a character's environmental interaction based on camera positioning, was the prototype of what would later become the PS3/PSP title echochrome
. It was originally created by Jun Fujiki, a researcher at the Kyushu University and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.
Suzuki immediately contacted Fujiki to propose a game based on his work. Looking back, Fujiki humorously described his initial reaction: "Is he really
someone from Sony?"
With SCE as the publisher, the production consisted of about 10 people from various companies -- external contractor Will served as the developer, with a designer from Sony's Game Yarouze project and sound production by Noisycroak. Fujiki himself was the supervising editor, providing ideas and opinions throughout the development, as well as test playing and experimenting with the game interface.
The OLE Coordinate System was originally created under DirectX and had to be switched to OpenGL. Therefore, Fujiki had to recreate most of it from scratch -- and with the help of Will, gameplay elements were then added. He also contributed a lot of work to the editing interface.
A mouse was used to create and edit maps in the OLE prototype, but the game had to be accommodated to work with control pads. The snap feature also had to be redesigned, since it initially snapped too often, giving the users too many options for possible solutions; that value was subsequently reduced.
With the OLE on display to the public, it was certainly no trade secret, and other companies approached with an offer. Suzuki required a quick turnaround if they were to put out a product ahead of the competition. From their first meeting in March 2007, promotions for the game were laid out by July and September for E3 and TGS respectively and the game was released in March 2008 in Japan, and in May in the U.S.
Since its release, the submissions of user-submitted stages have come from 45 different countries, with the U.S. ranking at the top with 14,899 submissions. A total of 5,780 users submitted 28,080 stages.
Also, after the patch released in December 2008, which added Trophies to the PS3 version, users can acquire a Trophy by creating five stages using the level editor. Before the Trophy, most users created fewer than five stages, but after the Trophy, not only did the number of users increase, but there were more users who created more than five, 10, or 20 stages. This demonstrated that as they learned to use the level editor, they were more likely to create more stages.
Although not a smash hit, echochrome
's influence can already be seen; there is a 2D mobile version in Japan, a spin-off of sorts (since neither Suzuki nor Fujiki is directly involved) called echoshift
which is published by SCEA. Of course, clones can be found on the web.
Fujiki has also received more invitations to art galleries and events -- not just in Japan, but in other parts of the world as well. Being a researcher, he was grateful to see his work evolve through the development of echochrome
, with its effects and influences not just as an art form, but as a video game.
Suzuki and Fujiki briefly showed what may be a hint to their next idea for echochrome
. On the monitor were three different stages, slowly disintegrating pixel by pixel. Although they did not elaborate further, Suzuki said that, "Users will suddenly feel like it's a different game, when you change the rules to an existing game."