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The Last Guardian, known in Japan as Hitokui no Ōwashi Trico is a video game developed by Team Ico, published exclusively for the PlayStation 4 video game console by Sony Computer Entertainment. The title was being designed and directed by Fumito Ueda, and is expected to share stylistic, thematic, and gameplay elements with his previous titles, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, though it is unknown whether it will be directly related to either. In May 2009, a purported proof of concept trailer became publicly available online, weeks before it was formally revealed at E3 2009.
The game will revolve around the developing friendship between a boy and Trico, a giant, feathered creature resembling a griffin, referred to as a "sea eagle" in the Japanese title. The creature has spears and arrows stuck in its back, and is initially bound to a chain. Later, it is freed and is shown attacking an armored soldier. Screenshots, as well as the E3 trailer, show the boy attempting to sneak past and attack other soldiers.
The Last Guardian is a third-person perspective game that combines action-adventure and puzzle elements. The player controls the unnamed boy who can run, jump, climb, and perform other actions similar to the gameplay in Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. The player may also need to use the environment to silently move around or defeat guards. This is augmented by interaction with the giant creature which the boy can climb upon and ride. As stated by Ueda, the creature is driven by animal instincts, and it is up to the player to guide the creature, "taking advantage of his natural behavior", in order to complete puzzles. For example, the player may have the boy throw a barrel that gains the creature's interest, causing it to move to a specific location. The player may also need to find the way for the creature to sit still in order to allow the player to complete a section, while the natural tendency of the creature is to run ahead of the player. According to a recent issue of PlayStation: The Official Magazine, the creature will initially be hostile to the player, but eventually warm up to him. The player will also have to care for the creature, either by feeding it or removing spears and arrows that are stuck in its body. In an interview with Fumito Ueda, it was stated that the game will feature no multiplayer component.
The creation of The Last Guardian was partially based on the interaction between the player and the horse Agro in Shadow of the Colossus. Ueda desired to make this interaction and relation more of the central concept for the next game. Ueda also wanted to create a virtual creature that behaved as realistically as possible, avoiding "the unnatural idiosyncrasies of the virtual animal" that normally appear when virtual animals are attempted. The final creature is an amalgam of several different creatures and the approximation of their behavior within the limitation of the game's engine; the design was "deliberately unbalanced because looking strange was important here", according to Ueda. The team wanted to avoid making the animal "cute" and instead focus on achieving realistic-looking behavior with "animal-like expressions". The name of the creature, Trico, can be taken to mean "prisoner", "baby bird", or a portmanteau of "bird" and "cat"
The game uses a full physics engine, an aspect not included in Team Ico's previous games. Ueda said that one scene in the trailer which shows the boy throwing a barrel at the creature who then bites down and eats it is fully based on that physics engine, including the contact of the barrel with the creature's beak. The game's engine builds on the team's previous development of AI processing from Ico and transformative collisions from Shadow of the Colossus. Ueda claims within the physics engine, the effect of wind is modeled separately for each of the creature's feathers.
Existence of the game was first hinted in a January 2008 job listing on Sony Japan's corporate website, which depicted a single screenshot of the upcoming third Team Ico title for the PlayStation 3 and advertised open positions for the development team. In March 2009, Fumito Ueda, the lead designer of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, said the new game, "might be something similar to what’s been done.... The essence of the game is rather close to Ico." Yasuhide Kobayashi, vice president of Japan Studio, stated that they gave The Last Guardian an English name to appeal to the larger demographic markets in the United States and Europe for the PlayStation 3, hoping to avoid similar cultural problems in title and artwork that were attributed to Ico's low sales in Western countries.
A video released via the PlayStation Lifestyle blog in May 2009 shows early footage of the game with its working title, Project Trico, reportedly from a proof of concept trailer that had been circulating internally at Sony for over a year. The video, featuring the music from the opening titles to the film Miller's Crossing, shows a young boy befriending a griffin-like creature. An extended version of this video, featured a different-looking boy highlighted from the surrounding world by a non-photorealistic rendering style, more photorealistic rendering on the remaining world including the large creature, and numerous added details was shown at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2009, during Sony's press conference, though otherwise shares most of the same scenes. Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide, stated that he was "disappointed" with the leaked video, feeling that Team Ico was waiting to show the footage and "wanted to feel comfortable that the vision they created could be delivered", but noted that everything shown in the trailer was rendered using the in-game engine. Another trailer was released at the Tokyo Game Show 2009.