The Thoughtful Design of LocoRoco: Tsutomu Kouno Speaks
March 2, 2009 Page 2 of 4
Something I've been thinking about is that just because a game is simple, doesn't mean it can't be deep. Also, just because a game is complicated doesn't mean it is deep, necessarily. There's a balance you have to strike. Could you talk about making a simple game, but one that has depth to it?
TK: I think that's true. I wanted to start with a simple control scheme to bring as many people into contact with it as possible, including people who'd never played games before.
But when you dig into it, and say, try to clear everything in the game, you're really going to have to use your head. I wanted the game's appeal to work like that: something that draws you in initially, and then gets more interesting as you invest more time in it.
You made this game for the PSP, not the PS2. What changed in the way you thought about making the game when it came to making it for PSP rather than a home console where the user could sit and concentrate for a long time?
TK: When the PSP was first announced, it seemed to me like everyone was gearing up to make these complicated games for it, like sequels to games that had been on the PS2. I wanted to break that mold and make a game that really seemed at home on the PSP.
That had been my thinking ever since I heard about the portable. Coming up with the idea for LocoRoco right around the PSP launch was good timing, and I was lucky the control scheme worked so well.
It's like, if you don't make something new these days, gamers are likely to complain that your game is "just another sequel," or that it borrows from something else. I know I've often felt this way as a gamer, myself. So as a developer, I felt that pressure to make something new.
With LocoRoco, I wanted every aspect of the game, from the music to the first visual impression you get, to be unique. Polygons, complex character models, realistic shadows and lighting have become the standard for games today. I wanted to go the other way, and use a simple, effective 2D approach that would make even non-gamers say, "Hey, that's cute, I'd play that."
It's also common in games for the player to have direct control over their character, but this isn't the case in LocoRoco. The LocoRocos themselves often don't do what you want them to. It was sort of an experiment, looking back, but my hope was to create something that if done well, would introduce a new way to enjoy playing games.
Let me put it this way: It seems like most PSP developers try to replicate a PlayStation 2 game -- not necessarily a port or a copy, but the same style of game with 3D graphics. At some point, unless they think about it very carefully, the control fails to work right, or the game can't be played easily on the go. With that perspective in mind, I'm curious to see how the development proceeded to avoid those types of problems.
TK: Well, take the music, for example. I wanted to use music that you wouldn't normally expect to hear in a game -- music that reminded me of songs I was really into at the time.
But even with this, if you go with Japanese songs, foreign players can't understand the lyrics. I wanted the songs and their lyrics to contribute to the game's overall feel. We ended up creating a sort of LocoRoco "language" and used these made up words in the music to try and punch up the game's uniqueness.
As for the character design, we eventually ended up with this [points to promotional materials behind him], but originally we played around with a more claymation style of animation, and tried out all sorts of different textures, like fabric, for example.
We also had to stay within budget, though. So the challenge became, as a small team, how could we give the game the visual style we wanted, and keep costs down? We realized that if we made the LocoRocos like this [indicates final design], there'd be no need for fancy textures, and also that we could make them as big as we liked.
I knew that if we could nail down this aspect of the design, making the rest wouldn't be that difficult.
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