It’s only a few weeks until the release of oft-delayed The Last Guardian, the third in a series which is undoubtedly a game animation masterwork – always pushing the envelope in believable characters full of personality with convincing interactions between one another.

Director Fumito Ueda is himself an animator, so it makes sense he would design many of these aspects of the game. Below is a collection of production drawings he created for the series debut Ico that instructs the team in everything from the finer details of player character movement, gameplay cameras, npcs, environmental animation and cinematic cutscenes. (Also, see this early Playstation 1 prototype ‘Pilot Footage’ created to pitch the game – courtesy of awesome super-fan, Nomad.)

From an interview in the book Game No Ryugi, (translated by Shmupulations.com), Ueda has this to say about his chosen path:

“…I used to make little animated flipbooks. I didn’t really know much about the distinction between full animation and limited animation. But I thought it was cool how, in animation, it wasn’t about having a single, beautiful still image—in fact, when you look at a single animated frame, it might not even be drawn that well, but when it’s put together and animated smoothly, it looks cool.”

Images are taken from the Japanese Ico / Wanda and The Colossus HD box set. A huge thanks to my colleague Mari Kuwayama for translating the image text. Additional images are via the official Japanese Ico Art Book, scanned by multiplayer.it.

Player Character Animations

ico_art_06i

Various poses Ico hits when running off a ledge and twisting to grab on for safety, explaining which actions the player can transition out to at each stage.

ico_art_03i

Gameplay possibilities when navigating ropes, such as allowing the player to rotate around by turning every 45 degrees or jumping via the triangle button.

ico_art_02i

Visual direction for the combat pose, ensuring the weapon is gripped with both hands and has weight. The upper-left image describes Ico’s reaction when the heroine Yorda is abducted by enemies.

ico_gameplay_7i

Different hand and arm gestures to call Yorda from various positions and from different distances and heights.

A top-down diagram illustrating camera behaviour relative to the player's position.

A top-down diagram illustrating camera behaviour relative to the player’s position.

Poses for pulling Yorda over ledges, including instructions on where to cut animations.

Poses for pulling Yorda over ledges, including instructions on where to cut animations.

Pulling Yorda over ever-increasing heights, as well as heights she can climb herself.

Pulling Yorda over ever-increasing heights, as well as heights she can climb herself.

Diagram of arm range-of-motion and limit information for the IK setup required for holding Yorda's hand.

Diagram of arm range-of-motion and limit information for the IK setup required for holding Yorda’s hand.

ico_gameplay_1i

Poses when catch Yorda after jumping over a gap. Ico doesn’t have enough strength so drops to the ground, and she swings if there’s no wall.

NPC & Environmental Animations

Depiction of how Yorda would open gates, including how they glow and move.

Depiction of how Yorda would open gates, including how they glow and move.

ico_art_04i

This bat perhaps eventually became the flying shadow creature. Reacting to sound and attacking within 5 metres, the image illustrates its weak flapping motions.

Lizards only appeared in the follow-up, Shadow of The Colossus. Among several gameplay instructions was the idea that they might distract Yorda's attention away from the player.

Lizards only appeared in the follow-up, Shadow of The Colossus. Among several gameplay instructions was the idea that they might distract Yorda’s attention away from the player.

Storyboard: Heroine Attacked

A complete storyboard of the sequence introducing Yorda to the player, including both cinematic and gameplay elements.

Multiplayer Thumbnails

Rough storyboard from when the team was considering online elements, bearing a lot of similarity to the initial pre-visualisation video of Shadow of The Colossus. See a breakdown of the animation, (including the original pre-vis), from that game here.