Develop UK: LocoRoco's Kouno Talks Innovative Design
Starting the final day of the Develop conference, in a charmed talk, LocoRoco designer Tsutomu Kouno revealed some of the thinking and development process behind the novel PSP title.
The initial sketch that kickstarted in entire concept was drawn on his PDA during his daily commute into work in Spring 2004. And for several weeks, this was the place where Kouno further developed his ideas about a game based on soft, rolling blobs.
Of course, he was already an experienced developer having worked as a level designer for Sony on titles such as Ico and The Legend of Dragoon. But getting LocoRoco into development, wasn't a straightforward process.
Rejected twice by pitch meetings, it was only when he returned for a third time with a simple demo of the game's tilting mechanic that he was given the resources to develop a full prototype. "The change in everyone's reaction was so dramatic, I realised I had to create a demo for the game to get this new idea across," Kouno said.
The prototype took eight staff three months to complete and fixed most of the game mechanics such as eating fruit to grow, the role of choral singing for the different colours of LocoRoco and the ability to split apart and recombine LocoRoco to move through the level.
"There were three things I really wanted the game to be; easy to play, fun and to have dramatic visuals even only using 2D graphics," Kouno explained. "I think there are too many complex games. I wanted to make a game for people who don't play games. I wanted to make a peaceful game."
The game could have looked very different however, as Kouno brainstormed various ideas - such as claymation, paper collage and watercolour - before it went into full production.
"I wanted something that looked unique and would have global appeal, but that would also have a low production cost," he said. But, after creating a simple movie of how the game would work, Kouno fixed the bold look that now is characteristic LocoRoco. "I designed the look and actions so they looked silly and mysterious," he said.
When it came to character design however, he used his interest in the natural world, drawing on the behaviours of animals as viewed on Natural Geographic channel. The character of MusuKusu was based on his pet fish, while Mojya was originally created for previous music/rhythm game Kouno designed for PlayStation 2, but that never got made.
As for the future, Kouno said he couldn't say much about his future plans or he would be told off, but he did show what appeared to be PlayStation 3 version of the game, which demonstrated much more complex environments full of moving machinery or plants. Dozens of LocoRoco of different colors were spread throughout. The tilting mechanic wasn't in evidence however.