What Happened To The Last Guardian? Ueda’s Latest Update Raises Questions
Team Ico’s The Last Guardian is going through what we’d call development hell, or even Duke Nukem Forever syndrome. It has a long, frustrating history that dates back to 2007, five years ago. In January 2008 it first became public with a job listing on Sony Japan’s corporate website which showed a single screenshot for the game, but only in March 2009 did something noteworthy get said about it by lead designer Fumito Ueda, who claimed that the game ”might be something similar to what’s been done. The essence of the game is quite close to Ico.” But it wasn’t until May 2009 that the game was seen.
This was through a video released on the PlayStation Lifestyle Blog that showed early footage of the game, back when it carried the codename Project Trico. Only at E3 of 2009 was proper footage shown of the game to the public, while a second trailer was later shown at the Tokyo Game Show in 2009. This led fans to believe that development was coming along nicely as it was expected that more would be revealed in June 2010 during E3, but there was nothing. Two product marketing employees from Sony, Scott Rohde and Ron Eagle, claimed that The Last Guardian wasn’t at E3 2010 because it wasn’t yet at a state to present to the public with all the other major announcements made about it at the time. The game was then shown months later at the 2010 Tokyo Game Show, and it was revealed that the expected release date was to be in late 2011. Finally, fans had a workable release window.
I’m really skipping through time here to avoid writing a thesis, but the next notable point was designer Ueda saying the team was now in ”full production crunch mode” towards completion of the game. A short demonstration was reportedly made available to select members of the press before Sony’s Vita was released, and this was in late January 2011. Ueda revealed that he considered including the demo in the Ico and Shadow of Colossus collection, but it didn’t end up making it in. During interviews in February 2011, Ueda said Team Ico was planning to ship the game worldwide by the end of the year, but there were design decisions that remained in question. These ranged from whether an HUD would be in the game to whether a visible strength or stamina meter would feature, and Ueda was ”still anguishing over” that choice. Then the real shocker and cause for concern came when Ueda announced that he was leaving Sony as of December 2011, but would still remain committed to completing The Last Guardian as he was contracted to the company. More bad news came when the game’s executive producer, Yoshifusa Hayama also announced his leave from Sony around the same time, and it was unknown if he would still be involved. What a royal freaking mess you could say.
The next update came in February of 2012, where Sony said that the game was making progress, but was undergoing “scrapping and rebuilding”, which meant further delays. Later that same month, we learned that Sony had called in Western developers for help with the game, which included technical support help from Santa Monica Studios and other worldwide studios. A release window was off the cards, and the game didn’t appear at E3 in June 2012 either, which Yoshida said was because the game’s development was experiencing ”technical difficulties”, but work was being done to resolve them. Just when you thought this story couldn’t get more unbelievable, right before Gamescom in August 2012, it was reported that The Last Guardian’s trademark in the United States had gone over the critical 3-year milestone as no product had yet been released to fulfill the name-booking, and as such it expired. Many thought it was the end for The Last Guardian, but a month later in September 2012 Sony promised that The Last Guardian was still alive. To even more dismay, later at Gamescom it was revealed that the game had been in a playable state, but technical issues had risen that halted this. Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida then said that committing to a 2013 release is difficult, as they are afraid of ”disappointing many people”, pretty much failing to realise that the ship had long sailed for that.
Then there was that further worry that the game could be pushed back to 2014, and I’m sure by then fans were pretty much over it completely. That was back in mid-October of last year. And now, four months later, we’ve finally gotten another update, cruelly as many have just probably given up hope of ever seeing this game. The update has come from designer Fumito Ueda who, if you’ve read this article so far, still works on the game despite having left Sony as he needs to honour his contract.
The extremely recent update, from Fumito Ueda’s official page, reads as follows:
To All Interested Parties
As some of you may have heard, I left Sony Computer Entertainment Japan Studio some time ago to pursue my creative passions. Nevertheless, I continue working on The Last Guardian as a freelance contributor.
While it’s been a long time coming, The Last Guardian remains under my creative supervision and is still in development by an incredibly talented team.
I should also mention that details regarding The Last Guardian’s release is solely decided by Sony Computer Entertainment, not myself. Please keep an eye out for their official announcement.
Moving forward, it is my intent to continue my involvement with The Last Guardian project, as well as pursue new creative projects with a fresh perspective. As I rekindle my passions as a creator, I look forward to seeing where it will take me, and I deeply appreciate your support during this transition.
Naturally, it doesn’t really tell us a whole lot about the game. But it does raise a few questions if you think about it for a little bit. Given the game’s abomination of a development history, and the strong possibility of it being pushed back to as late as 2014, I have to say I’m personally starting to wonder if it will end up being a game for the next-generation console, in other words the PlayStation 4. I’m sure many gamers, who still believe in the project, might have strongly considered this already.
Now, understandably the quick reaction to this would be glee and excitement, but it has the potential to pose significant problems. While the jump to next-generation consoles might not initially be as drastic as that from the PlayStation 2 to current-generation, it certainly skyrockets the potential of gaming on consoles, and this could seriously compromise the game getting finished if the developers suddenly decide they want to make more use of the potential they now have at their fingertips. Of course the possibility exists that the game has already begun its move over to next-gen, since the team obviously can’t talk about it until Sony’s next console is officially unveiled. That would help the issue, but for me the game is actually finding itself in a rather dangerous situation. Previously, it’s been hindered greatly by technical problems, so what would the implications be of moving it over to the new console?
However, with all that to ponder, there does exist something great that could come out of this. History tells us that Team Ico’s games are extraordinarily unique. This could be exactly the kind of game that the PlayStation 4 will need during its launch period, as it will bring significant attention to the console. Nothing quite catches the eyes of both admirers and skeptics better than the words “it’s like nothing else out there” or “it’s never been done before”, and The Last Guardian encapsulates these phrases quite well. However, there’s a little snack for thought in the idea that the game could be pushed back to 2014, because the speculation fire is alight that next-gen consoles could not just be unveiled this year, but also released by the end of it. Do you see the issue? If The Last Guardian is targeting a 2014 release, it might not be a debut title for the Playstation 4, but if next-gen consoles won’t be launching this year, then it could be telling us that Sony’s PS4 will be out in 2014. Hectic stuff, wouldn’t you say?
As each day goes by, I am getting more sure that this game won’t release on the PlayStation 3, but then I’d certainly hope it releases early for the PlayStation 4, because it could be a huge lift to the console, and Sony as a publisher should know this. New console launches often carry only a handful of games, with maybe one stand-out if you’re lucky, so imagine the boost this could give Sony if The Last Guardian is out during the new console’s early days. Ultimately, The Last Guardian’s history paints a large amount of doubt over it being released any time soon, but next-generation consoles being on the horizon strongly brings back the possibility of it being alive and aiming for the PlayStation 4. Time will tell of course. I strongly suspect that this year’s E3 will be a landmark not just for The Last Guardian, but for next-generation consoles as well. Exciting times are ahead, and Team Ico and The Last Guardian fans can only hope that this game plays a role in the future. With all of the information here, especially the history of this game, it’s very possible that the impending arrival of the PlayStation 4 even saved the project from development doom, as now there’s more inspiration for it to be released.
As long as you’re taking everything I’m saying here, bar the run through of the game’s development history in the beginning, as speculation and not fact, then I’d like to think that we’re good. Chilled banana beans. Cool potatoes. It’s all certainly very interesting, and the next few months could be pivotal for The Last Guardian, especially if anything regarding Sony’s next console comes to life. Until then, I hope this was an interesting read at the very least, and I’ll be sure to revisit The Last Guardian as soon as something gets said about it. That’ll probably be when the first zombie gets sighted.