Trico  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Trico  RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Cracks in the Stained Glass -- The Flaws of The Last Guardian Sun, 22 Jan 2017 23:52:42 -0500 Kris Cornelisse (Delfeir)

After a long development period of nine years, which saw many followers assuming the game would never release, we were finally graced with The Last Guardian at the end of 2016. General response was quite favorable overall, and the game has become quite loved, garnering reasonable critical response even here at GameSkinny.

You might, however, be astute enough to notice my take on the game in the review’s comments… and unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I could not bring myself to love the game as so many others did.

A little over a month after sinking my teeth into it, I feel it’s time to come forward and deliver a second opinion. I’m hardly the first to point out the negative features of the game, but I feel there are a couple of big arguments that simply must be made both for those who have yet to play The Last Guardian and for any future games that try to emulate it.

Genre Misdirection

First, let’s strip back The Last Guardian for what it is at its core: an exploration and physics-based puzzle game, which has the gimmick of controlling two characters at once.

When you describe it like that, the concept seems fairly bare bones. Obviously, there is more to it than that, but the kind of game at the core of this title is not particularly unique. There are other puzzle games out there that utilize exploration and physics, but almost all of them are somewhat niche titles. Barring a few exceptions like Portal, it’s rare that this genre garners large sales figures and general critical response like The Last Guardian has.

It may seem obvious that it’s clearly a puzzle game when you look at it closely, but somehow this was not something that came to mind when I first picked it up. I honestly didn’t know what kind of game I was getting into. What I did know was that whatever it was, I was going to travel alongside and experience the virtual life of Trico throughout it. The genre and general style of the game didn’t really occur to me, and it didn’t factor in how I was processing it at first.

The developers did a reasonable job in obscuring what is a very niche style of game with a more mainstream sense of appeal. They are taking something that wouldn’t necessarily appeal to many gamers and have effectively blanketed the core gameplay with an interesting concept and aesthetic to intrigue people into playing it.

It’s benign misdirection, mind -- not the kind of harmful or potentially malicious lie that a developer might make in order to sell you a game that is missing promised features. It’s simply that they have crafted an experience that can supersede what the game truly is.

The problem with creating this situation is that for The Last Guardian to succeed, it absolutely had to sell you this misdirection. It couldn’t afford to lead you halfway. You needed to believe it and be swept up by it wholly and completely. If you didn’t, that’s when the cracks in the formula start to show. And in the end, despite a valiant attempt at doing so, the cracks shone through enough that I started to see through the veneer and into the core game underneath.

Immersion is Everything

From the very start of the game, the Boy is placed in a room with a bound Trico, and with only a few very gentle (yet strangely constantly recurring) tutorials, the game sets you off on this adventure.

This is arguably the most crucial point in the game because it is what pulls you into the experience that will hopefully stay with you until the end. The immersion needs to be built here, and generally, I think the opening segments do a reasonable job of this. Players who ultimately end up disfavoring the game seem to rarely come to that conclusion this early.

Despite the controls feeling out of date and unresponsive at first, the opening segment provides enough engagement for players to get a sense of how to work with them and further engage in the immersion of it all. They continue to be irritating at times, but unlike many of the primary complaints about The Last Guardian, this wasn’t the deal breaker for me… not completely, anyway.

Most importantly, you start to get a sense for Trico. You figure out how it moves, how far it can go, what motivates it and how it will react to certain things. Can it swim? Will it swim? What kind of ledges and jumps can it make? Can you hold on while it does so? This is the kind of question you will ask yourself, and every question starts to drag you further into the game.

Before long, I found myself immersed. The Last Guardian stopped being a game that I’d purchased and became an experience, one that I was fully focused on. The “lie” had been successfully sold -- now it was paramount that the immersion was maintained.

To its credit, the game really did try. With the stirring orchestral soundtrack, fantastic sound design, gorgeous scenery and a tremendous sense of scale to the stone ruins you’re climbing through, it’s a game you really want to like. The way that Trico moves, feels and reacts to things only furthers this, which I’ll further touch on momentarily.

The Last Guardian needed to immerse you so much that you completely forgot the nature of the core game.

In the end, however, the facade simply wasn’t able to hold. The sheer magnitude of the immersion required to keep players satisfied with the game and keep oneself in the heart of the experience was always going to be a challenge to maintain, and for some players, it just didn’t seem doable.


Literal Breaks in the Flow

As long as the misdirection applied, the immersion would hold. Unfortunately, there are enough problems that become apparent if you look at them too long or they occur too frequently. The oft-maligned controls and terrible camera are the most commonly cited, but they’re not the only ones.

There were multiple times where I stumbled upon the solution to a puzzle, only for the game to not register it. This was usually because Trico didn’t want to respond, and admittedly, Trico sometimes has a mind of its own for how to proceed. That stops being charming when you stumble upon the actual solution, but Trico breaks and simply chooses not to execute what’s necessary.

It wasn’t a case of having a mind of its own. Finding the solution to a puzzle but then the solution not working is a problem. It encourages players to move away and start looking for other answers to a puzzle that’s already solved. It’s only when after a few minutes of messing around for alternatives that you inevitably get back to the correct solution, and this time Trico decides to cooperate. At this point, it’s not a charming personality quirk - it’s a broken puzzle and a frustrating experience for the player.

Other times, the physics choose not to work appropriately. Things that are supposed to drop or be thrown in certain directions can get completely stuck and force you to restart, instantly breaking the immersion. Throwing barrels is what most people would think of, but there are times when I’ve gotten chains stuck on ledges that won’t drop down to let me climb them. What if Trico’s tail needs to be climbed but gets wedged in a gap and won’t drop to you? Or when a cage that I’m within and need to roll becomes lodged on a rock and will no longer budge? More cracks in the glass.

Personally, the entire mechanic of running from the stone soldiers felt needlessly frustrating. They weren’t especially fast compared to you, but they were difficult to avoid, often had to be negotiated in tight corners that didn’t allow much room to work with, and could only be removed completely by Trico. In theory, you can roll into them to cause them to stumble, but quite often they will simply be unaffected by this or recover faster than you do, and now you’re in their clutches.

Once there, what do you do in order to escape? You button mash repeatedly to struggle against it for just long enough to be irksome. Meanwhile, it carries you further away from your goal, right until it drops you… and the next one in sequence is right there to pick you up again.

The amount of times where I just got sick of the endless chain of grabs and futile running in circles needed to evade these guards was considerable. More often than not, I got so frustrated with these segments that I just wanted to put the controller down and stop. That’s another break in the immersion that could potentially have been designed or handled better.

Performance issues are often a minor problem for me, and one that I’m willing to overlook in favour of gameplay. However, there are times when The Last Guardian’s frame rate will plummet to single digit numbers, and when this is happening in an intense action sequence it becomes extremely jarring and frustrating. It’s hard to appreciate a chase through a collapsing ruin over a sheer drop when it’s presented as a slideshow.

Each of these problems becomes a small crack in the beautiful but fragile stained glass window that is The Last Guardian. A few tiny cracks might not ruin the picture, but there are a lot of them, and they occur regularly enough that it’s hard not to notice them. If the image in the window isn’t compelling enough to hide how damaged and broken the glass actually is, can it really be considered true artwork?

The Chimera in the Room

I’d be remiss if I spoke at length about The Last Guardian without speaking of Trico. Thankfully, this majestic creature is definitely worth speaking about.

The delays in the game’s troubled development cycle feel like they have gone almost entirely towards two things: the physics responsible for much of the movement and environmental puzzles, and the AI that controls Trico. That said, this focus shines through tremendously, because the game’s biggest positive point is just how believable Trico really is.

It feels almost impossible to NOT bond with this creature. It’s expressive in its actions, movements, and sounds it makes. Trico is a creature with its own aims and desires, but staying with the Boy quite apparently becomes its primary one before long, and it’s endearing to watch it do its utmost to follow you. It’ll try to get through tight squeezes, jump across massive chasms, and fight off hordes of guards in order to stay with you. There are times where I had to part with it ever so briefly in order to open the way, and it legitimately felt hard to do.

At some point, it ceases being a program to the player, and starts being… well, Trico.

As the primary feature of the game from both a narrative and mechanical standpoint, nothing else factors more on maintaining the immersion of The Last Guardian than Trico. If Trico didn’t work, then the game simply wouldn’t have worked at all, and it’s truly a tremendous achievement in game design that this creature feels so convincing and alive.

This is, unfortunately, a double-edged sword. Since Trico working is so tantamount to the immersion being maintained, any time when it doesn’t becomes utterly devastating to the player’s suspension of disbelief. Nothing pulls the veil back faster than when something within the creature breaks.

I’ve seen many come to the defence of this point and say that ordering Trico to do something that it simply doesn’t want to do will naturally not work. Since the creature will spot its own pathways and figure out points of interest that are often guides for the player to investigate, trying to brute force what you think is a solution will see it ignore you. That’s not the problem, though.

The problem is thus: there are legitimate times that Trico’s AI simply breaks or doesn’t respond, and it immediately pulls you from the game. I outlined an example above where despite being the only way to proceed, Trico chose not to jump up a ledge even though it was looking towards it. Giving up and assuming an alternative solution proved ineffective, yet next time I went to that same spot, Trico worked. This happened on multiple occasions, and it was frustrating to feel like my time had been wasted in an attempt to solve a puzzle that I’d already bested.

Other times, comparatively scripted events won’t work, and Trico won’t respond as seems necessary. It seems especially tentative about striking with its claw at your command, and there were multiple times where it just didn’t. Once, it decided to completely ignore the enemies carrying me off and let me run around in circles without responding until I reset, where it worked just fine.

Again, the technical efforts behind Trico are not to be understated -- they’ve done an amazing job with the creature, and the game is worth watching or experiencing somehow just for that sensation of bonding with a virtual animal. But, like the entirety of The Last Guardian, it needed to work with as few breaks as possible to maintain the immersion, and in the end Trico couldn’t do so.

Left With Broken Glass

While it might quickly succeed in applying the misdirection and immersing players early on, it’s so crucial that the immersion is maintained to disguise what the game truly is. It was a monumental undertaking to try and get there, but ultimately it just couldn’t quite achieve it consistently.

At the end of the day, it feels like whether you liked The Last Guardian or not is largely up to what ended first: the game, or the player’s patience. Those with high tolerance for frustration and the patience to persist through all of this ended up enjoying the game. Players who lacked that tolerance like myself seem to be less common (or at least less vocal), but I’m certainly not alone in this.

It’s also a common argument that those who liked Shadow of the Colossus will like this game, but I believe this to be pointedly untrue, and as someone who thoroughly enjoys SotC then this article should serve to dispel that belief. I could write almost an entire article on this point alone, however, so for now all I can say is that I consider that notion fervently untrue.

(If you haven't played Shadow of the Colossus by now, you really should)

Many cite that the experience of playing The Last Guardian is worth all this, and I’d almost hesitantly agree… yet instead, I almost think that it’s better to watch a playthrough of the game than to play it for yourself. Doing so allows you to bypass many of the frustrations you might experience and hold on to the suspension of disbelief longer.

There’s a fantastic piece of artwork made out of stained glass to be had here. Unfortunately, it is fragile, damaged, and relies perhaps overly much on player perception of the glass to properly reveal itself.

You might look at it and see the art in the window… but in the end, despite waiting for the game for nine years and trying my hardest to enjoy and perceive it as it was… all I can see are the cracks in the glass.

Since my opinion on the game doesn’t seem to match the outspoken norm, what did you think of The Last Guardian? Did you enjoy it, or do you share my thoughts? Whatever your stance, I’d love to hear your comments on it.

The Last Guardian's Trico Isn't Trying to be a Jerk Fri, 06 Jan 2017 11:00:02 -0500 Emily Parker

It's really no secret that AI in most video games is just terrible. Our least favorite quests are of the escort variety, our least favorite levels are the ones that require keeping an AI companion alive and, when storage is allowed, they turn into nothing more than glorified pack mules. It can be infuriating being even temporarily saddled with a computer sidekick. I'll ask you to keep these fond memories in the back of your mind as we consider The Last Guardian's heroic attempt at a computer controlled, progress essential, gloriously feathered game partner. 

The Last Guardian is a beautiful game for patient people. The gameplay centers around puzzle solving and the style is heavily influenced by Studio Ico's previous two games, ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. While the game struggled with a lengthy production, the finished product is polished and stunning. The driving mechanic is the relationship your player controlled character, "the boy", forms with his giant dog/bird creature, Trico.

The puzzles exist in two scales: player sized and Trico sized. Previous games depended on simple AI partner abilities to progress, while The Last Guardian accomplishes a more natural approach. The game instead focuses on the size and requirements of the world around you, and requires constant interaction with the computer-controlled beast. This requires Trico to have a subtle intelligence and eventually the ability to follow commands. Simultaneously Trico is meant to be obstinate at times, which adds a layer of complexity.

The side effect of these two factors combined is that Trico comes off as a real jerk sometimes. Trico has a very delayed (for video game standards) response time, ambles around seemingly aimlessly and, every once in awhile, ignores you all together. This has come under some heavy fire by more impatient players, but the argument here is that both the intended and unintended frustration is a valuable and core mechanic of the game.

Not only do these inconveniences help to forge a bond between you and the creature (or adversely an undying hatred), they force the player to pay attention to their AI counterpart. Trico is meant to help guide the player, as well as follow, and it's easy to get frustrated if you ignore her clues. Patience is part of the process with any animal, and the fact that this AI design can mimic that experience is incredible.

Additionally, Trico's follow and catch AI never gets old. Leaping off buildings is as fun as a Leap of Faith, and finding different combinations to see if Trico will still catch you is highly entertaining. If you hadn't already formed a bond with your feather dog, executing some stunts is a fun way to do it.

So the next time you're irritated with Trico, see if they are trying to show you something, or enjoy watching their feather butt roll around in the grass for a few minutes.

Disclaimer: I have absolutely no defense for the The Last Guardian's camera. 

Did you experience a strained relationship with Trico? Did it get better as you played through, or worse? Let us know in the comment section below.

The 7 Internet Theories that Explain The Last Guardian Mon, 19 Dec 2016 10:51:39 -0500 Sergey_3847

How many more secrets are there?

There are definitely more secrets in The Last Guardian than meets the eye. So, how many more secrets are there?


A lot, it turns out.


For example, what is the source of the Symbols in the Glass? (You know, those stained glass things that Trico is so afraid of.) It seems that their main function is to keep all the Chimeras away from getting too close to the main tower’s entrance. But it is never revealed how exactly they function, and why the beasts are instantly affected by them.


Another question is: What do all the tattoos on the boy’s body mean? Are those the same symbols that appear on the surface of the Master of the Valley’s inner core? Unfortunately, all we know is that they appeared on the boy’s body after he got swallowed by Trico. But no other clues have been presented in the game as to what they mean.


The last thing we have to mention is the mirror that the boy uses to activate the Trico’s tail. The boy finds it in the chamber at the beginning of the game that looks suspiciously like that one particular location from Shadow of the Colossus. Does it mean that the games share the same universe? Well, we know for sure that Fumito Ueda never admitted this. Oh well…


Let us know what other cool things have you noticed during your walkthrough of The Last Guardian. Share them in the comments below.

What is the secret ending?

If you want to know how to get to the secret ending in The Last Guardian, then just watch the final credits roll to the very end. Just be patient and soon you will see the post-credit cutscene that actually reveals a few interesting moments.


To begin with, we see a grown-up man picking up a magic mirror from the ground and being able to use it. Secondly, he is all covered in those peculiar tattoos that we could see on the boy -- the game’s main protagonist. Does this mean that this man is the grown-up boy who survived the journey in the valley? Many fans of the game believe it to be so.


But that’s not it! At the very end we see Trico’s eyes in the shadow and a familiar growl. However, the last few frames show another pair of eyes glowing besides Trico. This could mean that he found a mate for itself. But most importantly -- it means that Trico is well and alive.

What is the game actually about?

There have been many questions as to the title of the game -- The Last Guardian. Who exactly is referred in these two words? Is it the boy or is it Trico?


Most people believe that it refers to the boy, since he was the last one who brought the ending to all the child kidnappings. As you know the children have been turned into the blue goop that functioned as a source of energy for the protectors of the valley -- the armored knights. So, one could say that the children have been turned into the Guardians of the Valley. Since the boy was the last child to be kidnapped -- he is the Last Guardian.


Another theory suggests that the title refers to Trico -- which also makes a lot of sense. Throughout the entire game Trico thoroughly serves and protects the boy from all enemies, apart from the times when it gets hypnotized by the Master of the Valley’s mechanisms. But other than that, Trico was the Last Guardian for the boy -- it helped him get to the main tower to destroy the Master and return back home safely.


Who knows, maybe the title refers to both of them, and in this sense both the boy and Trico serve as The Last Guardian for each other.

How to solve the Master of the Valley puzzle?

The Master of the Valley is the main antagonist of the game, and it is a weird one. You cannot say if it’s a living being or some alien AI, but you can definitely kill it.


It takes a few steps in order to solve the puzzle of the Master of the Valley. The first time you get inside the Master’s chamber, you will see that it is being protected by a black energy field. Use your mirror to dissolve the field, so that you can get closer to the glowing inner core.


This will reveal the spot on the upper platform, but you have to be fast here or the field will grow back and knock you off. As soon as you reach the upper rotating platform, insert your mirror into the slot and watch the rotating mechanism slow down. This will allow you to go up onto the roof, where Trico is expecting you.


The Master of the Valley will try to protect itself and send a signal that attracts all the Chimeras from around. They will attack Trico and tear its tail off. You need to stop them, and so you must go back down into the Master’s chamber.


As soon as you reach the Master once again, use your mirror on the inner core and watch it explode. This will kill the Master of the Valley.

What are the Blue Doors?

Throughout the game you will notice gates framed with blue color, and thus referred to as the Blue Doors. You cannot actually go through those doors, but they seem to be available to the armored knights, who erupt from the other side as soon as you come close enough.


So there are two things you need to know about the Blue Doors. First, they serve as a sign of danger and the close proximity of enemies. Secondly, if you get caught by the knights and don’t manage to escape from their clutches, they will take you through the Blue Doors -- which is where you will see the Game Over screen.


In many cultures, if you see the doors painted with blue color, this would mean that they protect something important -- like a safe or a vault. Probably the developers have been inspired by some of these folklore stories and adapted them in The Last Guardian.

What is inside the barrels?

You can find small glowing barrels all over the places, and you need to feed them to Trico -- otherwise he won’t move any further. You will also notice that the barrels are filled with the same greenish-blue goop that you encounter in pots, cauldrons, and even inside of armored knights.


So what is that glowing blue substance inside the barrels? Well, it turns out that this is one of the most disturbing secrets in The Last Guardian. In order to understand the meaning of the substance you need to finish the game.


As soon as you reach the top of the main tower at the end of the story, you will see many other Chimeras coming from all the directions and spitting out children from their mouths into the tower canals, where they are being reprocessed and turned into an energy source that looks like that blue goop inside the barrels.


Most fans of the game agree with this theory and consider it to be the most unsettling twist in the entire game.

What/Who is Trico?

There are two sides to this fantastical beast in The Last Guardian. One is the mythical qualities of the giant animal and its fictional lore. The other is the technical side of the character, how it was created and brought to life.


In the fictional universe of The Last Guardian, Trico is a Chimera -- a hybrid of other real-life animals, such as a cat, a bird and a dog. In the very beginning of the game you can see the slideshow of various hand-drawn Chimeras, such as the Unicorn, the Phoenix, the Dragon. The very last one shown is Trico.


This means that the developers have created him with all the rest of the mythical animals of the ancient times in mind. Also, since The Last Guardian is a Japanese game, the name Trico (Toriko) could be derived from the combination of two other Japanese words -- Tori (bird) and Neko (Cat).


However, this amazing creature wouldn’t be possible if not for the most work that the animators and the AI specialists put into it. Here is what the creator of the game Fumito Ueda has said about Trico (full interview):


“To give him that kind of independent nature was very important because if Trico was just going to do everything you tell him to do, straight away, that kind of takes away the point of giving him AI. However, you end up giving gamers a lot of stress if he’s not listening to you all the time and doesn’t do what you want it to do, so the team attempted to strike that good balance between Trico doing his own thing and also listening to the boy”.


Warning: Spoilers ahead!


Since the announcement of The Last Guardian, people have been wondering about its world, characters, story, and other details. However, even after the release of the game earlier this month, many questions are still left unanswered.


The Last Guardian doesn’t give you any clues about the events of the game up until the very ending. It turns out that the game is much darker and twisted than many were expecting -- as some really disturbing revelations are taking place in the world created by Fumito Ueda.


So, if you want to know what is really happening in this little weird game, then here are the seven most burning questions that the community has been theorizing for the last week:

  • What/Who is Trico?
  • \n
  • What is inside the barrels?
  • \n
  • What are the Blue Doors?
  • \n
  • How to solve the Master of the Valley puzzle?
  • \n
  • What is the game actually about?
  • \n
  • What is the secret ending?
  • \n
  • How many more secrets are there?
  • \n

Enter the internet theory. Supposedly, the worldwide web has it all figured out. Keep reading to find the answers to all these questions!

Why you won't see much more of The Last Guardian Wed, 04 Nov 2015 10:42:58 -0500 Joe DeClara

After going off the radar since 2009, Team Ico's The Last Guardian was shown off at Sony's E3 press conference this past June. Following a seven minute gameplay trailer featuring a boy and his giant bird-dog hybrid, Trico, it was announced that the game will be coming to PlayStation 4 in 2016. 

No further footage of the game has been shown off since the re-reveal in June. And according to Shuhei Yoshida, we shouldn't expect any different leading up to its release.

Speaking to Gamespot about The Last Guardian's absence at TGS 2015, the President of Sony's Worldwide Studios said that footage is being purposefully kept under wraps in order to preserve its story:

Development is going well, but because it's about the story, we don't want to show too much. We wanted to show that it exists, it works, it runs. It's not like we won't show anything before launch, but I think we will try to limit what we show about the game.


The Last Guardian is no stranger to this tight-lipped treatment. Originally planned for a 2011 release on the PlayStation 3, Team Ico's third game was delayed numerous times before going completely dark by 2012. During an interview held at E3 2015, Yoshida was asked about the game's elongated disappearance. According to him, this was due to The Last Guardian switching from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4 midway through its development. This was allegedly done for the game's technical benefit.

Because of the limitation of the hardware performance, the team was doing their best ... but we knew — from a design standpoint — in order to run it on PS3, the team would have to make some compromises in terms of the number of characters and these things ... So, that's the decision that we made some time in 2012, and after that, the team went back to the drawing board in terms of the tech, because the architecture is so different.

However, this statement was somewhat contradicted a few weeks after the gaming expo by The Last Guardian's creator and designer Fumito Ueda. In an interview with Game Informer, Ueda gave reason to believe that the switch to PS4 might not have been for the sake of the game.

I probably would have been comfortable with the end result – originally, this game was designed for PS3. Assuming that all of the game architecture and all of the game design was suited to deliver the experience I envisioned, given those assumptions I think it would have been a good product ... The PS3 was not restricting me from doing something. It was pretty much a corporate decision by Sony.

The Last Guardian will be Team Ico’s third title developed exclusively for a PlayStation platform. Their first two titles, Shadow of the Colossus and Ico, released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2005 and 2001 respectively. Both games met critical acclaim, with Shadow of the Colossus making its way onto many “top games of all time” lists.