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October 6, 2010
3 Min Read
Talking at GDC Online on Wednesday, Sony Japan Studios creative director Tsutomu Kouno (LocoRoco) discussed his history in the biz and the making of Loco Island for the PlayStation Home online world service. With 16 million registered users on PlayStation Home, and over 120 developers currently working with the Home development kit, Sony continues to push the PlayStation 3-specific service. As part of a sponsored day of Home-specific content at GDC Online, Kouno explained the private Home space and its related public space, which opened earlier this year in the West. Loco Island, which debuted earlier this year, is one of the 'stickiest' spaces in PlayStation Home, according to Sony. It consists of a tropical tree-topped island with slides, in-game characters, board games, collectible in-world 'Pickories' currency, and multiple things to unlock. Kouno explained his background in the game industry, noting he started at Sony on the action RPG Legend Of Dragoon on PlayStation 1, showcasing his design sketches for the game. Next up, he worked on Ico, generating low-polygon level design for the seminal Fumito Ueda-directed PlayStation 2 action adventure title. Next after that, Kouno moved on to his own franchise, the popular LocoRoco, which he created to "make people around the world laugh or smile" - and to make sure the game was accessible for those who have never played a video game before. Kouno showed a sketch that he drew on the train in Spring 2004, of multiple smiley blobs. During his commute, he continued to refine his ideas, and worked on game design, character design, animation, level design, and writing the lyrics for the in-game music. There are now four titles in the LocoRoco series across PSP and PS3, and now there's a space in PlayStation Home for the Loco Island service. The space was intended to create "good karma and a relaxing feel" for players, Kouno said, pointing out recurring motifs in his games around childlike play, such as slides. He noted that slides have been featured in many of his games, including both Legend Of Dragoon and LocoRoco 2 -- joking that for the Dragoon-specific slide under a castle: "Some members of the team asked - 'why is there a slide attached to this castle?'". But he stuck to his guns and it stayed in the game. Other interactive features in LocoRoco Island include the fact that the LocoRoco on the island will follow you around if you dance in front of them, and if you gather them all together, they will sing a song to you. Other characters give you 'Pickorie' fruit that can be redeemed for virtual items, slingshot you to the top of the tree, and give you new 'gimmicks' such as a beach bed, a jukebox, and even Reversi with LocoRoco characters. In addition, there are hidden LocoRoco stamps throughout the island, and there's a MuiMui Ship area anchored off the island with other custom mini-games -- it's a free public PlayStation Home area where people can check out the Loco Island private space from afar, before going ahead and buying the island in PlayStation Home. Kouno praised the relatively easy Lua programming aspects of PlayStation Home, the ability to make things in the existing engine with a short development time, suggesting that PR and marketing for existing franchises also works well within the space. Of course, it's important to keep people hooked into the space, so they don't visit once and then not return, and Kouno noted that the design was intended for longevity by having the Pickorie currency within the island. Having new virtual items on a regular basis also helps people to return.
About the Author(s)
Simon Carless is the founder of the GameDiscoverCo agency and creator of the popular GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter. He consults with a number of PC/console publishers and developers, and was previously most known for his role helping to shape the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference for many years.
He is also an investor and advisor to UK indie game publisher No More Robots (Descenders, Hypnospace Outlaw), a previous publisher and editor-in-chief at both Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and sits on the board of the Video Game History Foundation.
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