The Last Guardian: 5 Storytelling Secrets

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The Last Guardian: 5 Storytelling Secrets

Team Ico titles — that’s Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, to date — are among the few games out there to have genuinely made gamers shed a tear thanks to their emotional, impactful narratives. And that’s an approach that The Last Guardian is looking to continue, as it tells the story of a young boy and his large and loveable animal friend, Trico. You’d have to possess a heart made of colossi stone if you’ve not been moved by some of the beautiful game footage shown so far.

But if you’re wondering how Team Ico has mastered the dark art of the emotional gut punch, we’ve got you covered. PlayStation.Blog had a chat with The Last Guardian Creator and Director Fumito Ueda.

1. The Power of Visual Storytelling

It’s easy for any storyteller to fall in love with their own words in telling a tale, but Ueda is more for letting the pictures do the talking, especially given the boy and Trico have no common language.

“They can only communicate via gestures, motion, and reactions, so visual storytelling was the best approach to making the game and showcasing the tale,” he says.

“I’m always looking at ways to convey human emotion with technology but at the moment I thought a great way to achieve a range of emotions and expressions was via an animal.”

2. Team Ico’s First Voiceover

While there’s a strong emphasis on visual narrative, The Last Guardian does something no other Team Ico title has done before.

“At the start of the game we use a voiceover of the boy when he’s older,” explains Ueda-san.

“It helps provide a sense of context when much of the communication is non-verbal. It brings the player closer to the boy because you can get direct access to his thoughts. It also gives us a natural way to deliver hints, information, and exposition to the player.”

The Last Guardian, PS4The Last Guardian, PS4

3. Make the Player and Character as One

The Last Guardian’s human protagonist may not have a name, but there are other ways to bring you closer to him as a person.

“One of my favorite things about the game are the ‘eureka’ moments; when the boy is trying to get Trico to understand something and he finally gets it,” says Ueda.

“That not only binds the characters, but also you as a player because you feel the same nice moment of accomplishment the boy does.

“We also wanted to give you more of the young boy’s backstory to discover, compared to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.”

4. Save the Cat-bird!

Anyone who’s studied film will have likely heard of “Save the cat!” — a term popularized by screenwriter Blake Snyder. It’s a technique where the protagonist of the story does something kind to endear you to them. And the first thing The Last Guardian asks you to do is to pull two broken spears out of poor Trico’s body, instantly making you a hero but also putting the genesis of their important relationship directly in your hands.

“Their developing bond is the key theme across the game,” explains Ueda. “But the big difference between this and the relationships in Ico and Shadow of the Colossus is that there’s a more dynamic range between the boy and Trico. From that first moment in the game, the boy is uncertain if Trico will be a friend or foe, and you immediately start trying to work out how to bridge that communication gap.

“But rather than the more straightforward relationships seen in Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, you’ll see both dramatic peaks and troughs in their relationship…”

The Last Guardian, PS4

5. Enemies Aren’t Just Obstacles

The frightening foes of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus often reflect the strong themes of Ueda’s tales — which is why there aren’t lots of them compared to other action adventure games.

So what do the enemies in The Last Guardian represent?

“Partnership,” smiles Ueda. “The boy doesn’t possess combat skills, so you need to work together with Trico to overcome these threats.

“With Ico we focused more on the puzzle elements to keep Princess Yorda safe, and in Shadow of the Colossus we focused on driving you to defeating colossi, at a cost. With The Last Guardian we examine the changing relationship between the boy and Trico, and the challenges that represents as you try to discover the game’s mysteries.

“But we also achieve a lot of that during the quiet moments of the story — without those peaceful beats we probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve the scale and variation of their relationship, and their payoff moments.”

There’s no doubt we’ll see more examples of just how The Last Guardian will deliver its emotional story when it launches on October 25, but in the meantime Ueda-san personally challenges you to go back to the E3 2016 trailer and get analyzing.

“There are so many little details which are hidden in this trailer — so look through it closely and you may discover a few things which we’ve not talked about yet…”

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  • Can’t believe this is finally coming. ICO and SOTC are in my top ten games list, I simply adore them for their uniqueness. Just four months left, unbelievable. Unfortunately the collector’s edition has already been sold out, hope there’s more coming. Too bad Ueda-san will finally leave Sony after this game but I hope Team ICO will continue to produce amazing games.

  • I can’t wait to finally play this for myself! After so much time, and the rollercoaster of information leading up to this point, it’s almost hard to believe the launch is actually coming in a few short months.

    I’m tempted to pore over every detail from that trailer, but I want to be as surprised as possible by the game, so it might be time for me to start going into The Last Guardian information blackout mode :-)

    • But you did watch the trailer, so it there wouldn’t be any challenge in you discussing it, if you were indeed a true fan. However, you are not a fan of this game or any other. You comment on literally every single post in a desperate attempt to be “noticed”.
      But why? Are you trying to prove that you can say something positive about every game, in hopes that you will be offered a job here?
      It isn’t going to happen, and what you are doing is highly disrespectful to the developers.

      I have been wanting The Last Guardian for more years than I can remember. I learned of it before I even owned a PS3. I bought Ico and Shadow of the Colossus based solely on reviews and screenshots, because people praised them and because they looked so beautiful, and they ended up being life-altering experiences. I bought the individual games on PS2 and bought the collection on PS3. The video interviews, included in the PS3 collection, are arguably worth the purchase price. While you pretend to care about this game, there are people like me who have been truly anticipating it for 7-8+ years. Please don’t plague this post with your generic comments and agendas.

    • @Pan: I prefer paulogy’s positive comments to someone like Hakumen__, who went to literally every E3 post and complained “Where are the Vita games?”
      Why does it matter to you what his “motives” are? He’s being positive, and nothing he said is offensive. Even if it was somehow offensive, it’s not like that does anything in the slightest to you or anyone else.
      Lastly, you have absolutely no evidence to support your claim, and so come off as a huge jerk, attacking someone for commenting.
      I’m in the same boat as you, having played Ico and SotC on PS2 and then bought the HD collection on PS3. I’ve been waiting a decade for this game. paulogy’s comment pretty much summed up how I felt, so I wasn’t even going to bother posting. But then here you are, attacking him for no good reason, except one you’ve made up in your paranoid, cynical little mind. How about you move on and leave other people alone who aren’t doing any harm.

    • Hi PanTheMan16. Since it seems you’re wondering, The Last Guardian is my most anticipated game of the year, if not of all time.

      It’s become this because after I bought and played both ICO and Shadow of the Colossus on PS2, they both earned their way onto my short list of all-time favorite games. Like you, I suspect, they moved me. So I eagerly awaited Team ICO’s follow-up on PS3, and have watched that reveal trailer probably hundreds of times since, but the game unfortunately never materialized. I was devastated hearing the (false) rumors it had been cancelled, and audibly cheered when it re-emerged at last year’s E3 conference. And now after hearing about all the turmoil that led up to now, I am quite frankly amazed that we’re only a few short months away from finally playing it for ourselves. Given how important this is to me, I know I want my experience to be as fresh as possible, so while I did watch the E3 2016 trailer, I have so far resisted the temptation to pause through each frame of it. [1/2]

    • And as for this Blog, I do try to be positive (or at least neutral) here, and elsewhere, because I think developers and those that post here appreciate the thoughtful feedback. If I do have concerns about the way early footage looks, or determine a game just isn’t for me, I don’t see the point in adding to the pile of people already brandishing their disdain. If anything I hope my comments inspire others to be more thoughtful and constructive, as it’s usually harder to do that than be negative. [2/2]

    • @AizawaYuuichi – I know you mean well, so I’m not going to criticize you, but I don’t think you are aware of what Paulogy is doing here.

      @Paulogy – You don’t don’t play very many games, nor do you play very often. It’s clear that, although you comment on what seems like 90% of the posts here, you aren’t genuinely interested in the games and you likely won’t buy them. And, if you do buy them, you won’t play them, or you won’t play them for very long.

    • (continued)

      “If I do have concerns about the way early footage looks, or determine a game just isn’t for me, I don’t see the point in adding to the pile of people already brandishing their disdain.”
      Nothing wrong with voicing your concerns, especially if you can do it in a constructive manner.

      “I think developers and those that post here appreciate the thoughtful feedback”
      And that’s the thing. Your feedback is “nice”, but it isn’t genuine or thoughtful. It’s the same, generic, cookie-cutter nonsense on every post. The sad thing is that the developers have spent years on these games and are grateful for the positive comments because they think they are real. Yours are not real, however. I’m not certain what your agenda is, but anyone who’s observed you for a while knows that you have one.

    • Lost part of my post, along with my train of thought, but I doubt anyone’s reading it at this point, anyway.

      I’m not popular because I’m frank, and that’s fine. At least I’m honest. If I see something I strongly disagree with, I’ll say so. And I don’t just fling insults – I’ll state my reasons. Likewise, if I am excited for a game or really appreciate something that a poster has done or said, I’ll express that, too.
      My comments, like ’em or not, are genuine. Saying “This looks great!” in every post is absolutely meaningless.
      Do you have any real opinions? Are you desperately seeking employment here? Or are you desperately seeking recognition from game developers because you view them as celebrities of some sort?
      As I said, I don’t know what your agenda is, but your lack of anything genuine, while making a point to show up in nearly every post just makes you look like a troll.

  • Thanks to this post I’m having a look at the contents of the Collector’s Edition for the first time.
    I fall in love with it and look for more information online. Most links lead me to announcements in the US where the CE is up for preorder at $119.
    “That’s amazing. Only around 85 pounds here in the UK then.”
    I keep digging and eventually find that the Collector’s Edition is now up for pre order from two retailers here in the UK… for £104…

    What’s up with the crazy price disparity?
    I know the UK always tends to get shafted when it comes to game prices. But a ~£24 difference is insane.

    And unfortunately will be giving the CE a miss if that’s the actual price.

  • “There are so many little details which are hidden in this trailer — so look through it closely and you may discover a few things which we’ve not talked about yet…”

    No thank you. I know precisely as much as I want about this game until it releases. I know enough to know I want the game, the rest can wait until it comes out.

  • I’m really looking forward to this one. Can’t believe it’s actually going to happen!

  • I have waited patiently for this game for a long time. I hope as soon as it is released, Team ICO starts noodling on ideas for their next game. Maybe something in VR.

  • Shadow of Colossus was a life changing game for me. The first game that changed my life for the fact that I stopped playing. I stopped playing due to questioning why I was killing. Which not many games before had made me truly examine the designer’s motives. It is one the games that lead to my interest in Game design as well as philosophy, control and politics.

    Previews are mixed for the Last Guardian and I am happy about that. They feel the controls are difficult. I like that. I like holding onto the sliver that is R1 for my life so I dont fall to my demise. I like the contextual controls rather than the simplicity of pressing one button. It connects me more to the world rather than feel like I have a piece of plastic in my hand and can accomplish the simple task with one press of a button.

    I am ready for the puzzles and all that they are not showing us. I do hope as hinted after this tutorial area of temples there is a wide open area. The sense of exploration and lonesomeness that united me to Agro. Also I don’t think Trico will die,but maybe just maybe he becomes a Colossus :)

    I have my limited edition preordered and may get digital too so I can play it right away while I wait for shipping

  • Cannot wait to play The Last Guardian when its released on October 25th! I’ve been excited for this game ever since it was first announced from Fumito Ueda and his team! I already know its gonna be an amazing game! Fumito Ueda never disappoints in his masterpiece of video games. I just really hope on Sony’s behalf that you guys properly market The Last Guardian very good! Like how you guys do with your other big exclude video games that recently came out. Because you owe it alot to Fumito Ueda and his team and lastly to all the fans that been waiting for years to play this game Sony! So I think his game deserves the most spot light around the globe. Thanks! Fumito Ueda and his team keep up the amazing work you guys do! ^_^

  • Well, now we know the boy will survive the story. To some that may be a given, but I wasn’t so sure. It was also a mistake in the E3 trailer to show a second creature. But I’m still looking forward to this game at last!

  • This game might make me cry but i’m ready Lets Do This.

  • Collector’s Pre-Order. Ueda games have a special place in my gaming heart. I was a fan day one with the ICO demo.

  • Sony’s gotta make more Collector’s Editions available.

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