Interview with Darren Yager, Producer of ICO
Arnold: First off, ICO has gone from least talked-about 1st party title, to possibly being the most memorable. Creating a larger following day-by-day -thanks to the Jampack demo-, ICO looks to be the game of 2001. Obviously the pressure has been set, the game's been touted as the "Zelda killer" among other tags. The question is: what goals are you aiming for with ICO? Anything immense in particular, or are you trying to keep it low-key?
Darren: The goal with ICO was to create a world of its own within the television screen. We also wanted to design a game that could feature communication without a language, by providing a storyline through gameplay while still maintaining an immersive feel.
Arnold: What was the inspiration behind ICO? The game plays phenomenally, it's extremely intriguing, and looks like a title that's been in development for a while.
Darren: It's often said that ICO appears to be influenced by movies. But we rather feel its style is more documentary and nonfictional. The design of the game was influenced partially by the fusion between European scenery and that of Japanese rural or suburban towns. Also, as we felt that many of today's games can be complicated, we wanted to create a simple game that would stimulate the minds of gamers and force them to think strategically and imaginatively.
You're right, ICO has been in development for several years, originally as a PS one title. However, after realizing how much detail we really wanted to add to the game, we switched to the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system. With the PlayStation 2, we were really able to harness all that the system has to offer.
Arnold: Aside from dungeon crawling, does ICO feature weapon upgrades, magic spells, item shops in villages, and etc, to give the game somewhat of an RPG presentation?
Darren: Again, the goal was to make a very simplistic game. ICO definitely has many RPG elements and gamers will find it to be very immersive, but not in the sense of magic spells and tons of weapon upgrades. While there are several different weapons the boy will have access to, there are many elements of surprise in the game. But, I don't want to give any secret away. I encourage you to play for yourself to find out what those things are.
Arnold: How accustomed have you become with the Playstation's 2 hardware? Care to share the systems advantages, and if you had any technical problems along development of ICO?
Darren: The PlayStation 2 has so much potential and so much to offer - we were able to do so much with the system. I think it really comes down to the great powers of the programmers and designers - you're only as limited as your imagination.
Arnold: What kind of atmosphere is ICO targeting? Is it more of "the damsel in distress" or 'Zelda' with a little Castlevania thrown in for spice?
Darren: ICO is really this heroic adventure, where this brave boy decides that his mission is to rescue this princess from the evil residing inside the castle. It's a game where players need to be creative - they need to do some thinking. They don't need a manual to pick it up and play, and there is a minimum of things they need to remember. It shouldn't be a stressful experience, as we hope players will enjoy the process of thinking when they experience the battle or puzzle scenes.
Arnold: In all utmost honesty, what are your predictions for the next-generation console war? What do you think of the new hardware presented by Nintendo and Microsoft?
Darren: It's no secret Sony Computer Entertainment has been the leader in this market, and there's no doubt in my mind that we will remain the leader. It's the number 2 position that is being fought for, and that fight will take place between the other two consoles. As for what's up next for Sony, gamers can look out for a number of amazing titles, including Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Frequency, Drakan: The Ancients' Gates, OKAGE: Shadow King and Kinetica. And of course, ICO.
Arnold: Darren, on behalf of PSX Extreme, I wish you all of the luck with ICO. You certainly deserve it!
Darren: Thank you.