What The Last Guardian developers learned about long game dev cycles

The Last Guardian's Fumito Ueda explains to Kotaku how he remained motivated and focused after nine years of game development.

"The longer you play, the more logical you tend to try and make things, and that’s something we have to resist."

The Last Guardian designer Fumito Ueda explaining one of the struggles of working on a game for nine years.

Nine years is an incredibly long time to work on a single video game, but somehow Fumito Ueda has pulled it off. After delays and a platform change, The Last Guardian will finally be released this fall, ending a long journey for Ueda and his development team. 

Speaking with Kotaku's Patrick Klepek, Ueda explained that developing one game for this long a time period meant both keeping himself and his team focused on their original design goals, and resisting their fluctuating instincts as their relationship to the game changed over the years. 

In particular, Ueda says he felt a need to constantly discipline himself against what his original vision for The Last Guardian was, and not letting his changing instincts interfere with that vision. He gives one example relating to interacting with the game's titular creature Trico. "Since I’ve been working on this in development for years upon years, I’ll go ‘c’mon, just come over.’ I get irritated." 

"Then, I have to remember: if I’m a player who’s never played this game before and they call Trico over and he doesn’t respond, that’s the more realistic response. Trico’s an animal that doesn’t follow logic, the logic that we humans would, so it’s actually a positive thing."

Ueda tells Klepek that his original vision was to build on player feedback from Shadow of the Colossus which emphasized how close players felt to their horse, and that throughout The Last Guardian's 9 years, he had to consistently check his original notes and documents to remain fixed on that vision. 

So streamlining interactions like the ones Ueda described---which would have boiled the relationship down between the player and Trico to something more akin to the anonymous horses of the Assassin's Creed series---represent the conflict Ueda dealt with between his original vision and the progress of long game development. 

Be sure to read more of Ueda's thoughts on game development and developer/player relationships over on Kotaku.

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