Interview with ICO Producer, Darren Yager

RPGamer was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to chat with Darren Yager, producer of the recently released ICO.

RPGamer: How long have you worked for Sony Computer Entertainment America, and what other projects have you been involved with?

Darren Yager: I've been at Sony Computer Entertainment America since January 1995 and have worked on many projects, including recent titles such as the Syphon Filter series, ICO and Drakan.

RPGamer: How long has ICO been in development?

DY: ICO has been in development for several years. It started as a PSone game, but 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. I think that gamers will be very pleased with our efforts.

RPGamer: Did the fact that ICO features an unique combination of Adventure, Puzzle, and RPG elements make the project more difficult to work on than the average PlayStation 2 title?

DY: I don't know if the combination of genres caused the title to be more difficult than other titles. The cross-genre gameplay was one of the many unique points of the game and something that we, as a team, strove to create. The pure simplicity of the game was probably the most difficult part of the development process because it is all too easy to throw in extra items or interface objects, but we wanted to make the game unique.

RPGamer: Certain puzzles and tasks (such as the bridge jump) in the E3 demo often elicited gasps from the players and audience alike. Was a conscious effort made to include scenes that would create an emotional link between the player and characters?

DY: Definitely. The game design took up much of our early work on the title and the goal was to create a world of wonder and intrigue. I think a good example of that is the windmill level from E3 that many gamers saw. The goal is to get Ico and Yorda into the castle, but smaller details have been detailed intricately. The birds will scatter when you approach, the windmill turns and the water ripples and reflects. Not all of these items have to do with the gameplay, but they add a degree of immersion to the game.

RPGamer: How many of these "death-defying" scenes can we expect the complete game to have?

DY: I'm not sure if 'death-defying' is the right term, but there are many times when Ico and Yorda are in high places and must get to another area through jumping or moving from precipice to precipice. Both Ico and Yorda 'save' the other from falling if the jump is too far. The sense of height is amazing, especially for those of us that are scared of heights.

RPGamer: Will it be possible to finish a level/solve puzzles multiple ways, or will each puzzle have one solution?

DY: I don't want to give away too much, but it is suffice to say that gamers should always be aware of what's around them. If the gamer is in one area, he/she can look up and see high above the castle walls. Later in the game, they'll be up in the higher area, looking down at where they were before. The entire castle is interconnected beautifully.

RPGamer: Are there any side quests or hidden tasks/scenes for the player to find?

DY: There aren't really side quests, per se, but there are many hidden areas and scenes that are part of the regular gameplay. The entire game is so intricately designed that it will require players to fully observe every area for ways out of the castle.

RPGamer: Have you been surprised by the attention ICO has garnered in the press?

DY: Honestly, I've been telling everyone all along that this game is one of the best I've ever played. And I'm saying that completely non-biased. The game was designed by a new team at SCEI, completely focused on this project for the past few years. I think you can see the results now. I'm just really excited that the game has launched.

RPGamer: Given the fact ICO is a "different" sort game, was there concern it might not appeal to the average, North American gamer?

DY: We've found that the Adventure and RPG gamer love this game and that the game's mass appeal is growing through incredible buzz and hype. I really think this is a game for all gamers.

RPGamer: If you had to sum up ICO in just one sentence, what would you say?

DY: I think the tagline that we've been using on packaging and advertising discusses the game best - 'Solve the puzzles or join the tormented souls forever.' Simple, yet a puzzle. Just like the game.

ICO has been garnering a lot of media attention of late, most would say deservedly so. For RPGamer's opinion of the game, check back with us this weekend for our full review of this innovative title.

by Alex Wollenschlaeger    
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