clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

'Puppeteer' designers talk inspirations, including the three-second rule

"I wanted to make a game that you, as an adult, would see a child playing it in the living room and want to enjoy yourself" Gavin Moore

Puppeteer TGS
Puppeteer TGS

Puppeteer, the latest PS3 title from Sony's Japan studio was one of the more notable new titles announced at Gamescom last month. It's back for the Tokyo Game Show this weekend, with a new trailer unveiled earlier today, and Japan's Famitsu magazine kicked off the TGS media blitz by sitting down with the game's creative director and lead designer in this week's issue.

Puppeteer, the latest PS3 title from Sony's Japan studio was one of the more notable new titles announced at Gamescom last month. It's back for the Tokyo Game Show this weekend, with a new trailer unveiled earlier today, and Japan's Famitsu magazine kicked off the TGS media blitz by sitting down with the game's creative director and lead designer in this week's issue.

The Puppeteer team is led up by Gavin Moore, a British animator who's worked in Sony's Japan studio for the past nine years on titles like the Siren series. "The start for the Puppeteer concept was me thinking that I wanted to play a game alongside my son," Moore told Famitsu. "I wanted to make a game that you, as an adult, would see a child playing it in the living room and want to enjoy yourself. I've been thinking for years now how it'd be nice if there was something you could play cooperatively like that. If your kid says 'This part's kind of hard, help me out,' then Mom or Dad or could be like 'All right, let's work this out together!'."

"I looked at the concept art Gavin came up with and said 'This is great, let's get this on the PS3 and in living rooms,'" added Kazunobu Sato, the head designer. "That's how the project got started. The first thing we had to figure out was what sort of gameplay system would work for a game everyone would want to play in the living room. We decided the most important thing for that was a gameplay system that, like Gavin was aiming for, let other people help out for a short period of time if someone's stuck."

Like the footage release so far shows, Puppeteer proceeds at a pretty frenetic pace, with set pieces getting thrown in and out of the game scene one after the other. "The speed and sheer amount of change that's going on is really enormous," Sato said. "That's inspired by Gavin's animator background; his pushing for this really fun, energetic visual look in the characters and backgrounds. Just watching the sets get all switched around onscreen is fun, something that I think is important not just for the kid playing in the living room, but for the adults watching."

"From the experience I cultivated as an animator and then in my involvement with games, I felt that things like camera angles in the game and controlling the player character's viewpoint were really important," Gavin explained. "I prefer a totally impartial viewpoint instead of having the player using the controller to change the camera and bringing his own subjective view to the game, so that's where the fixed-view stage comes from."

In the interview, Moore brought up things like Shakesperean theater, the Christmas pantomimes his parents took him to in England, and traditional Japanese bunraku puppetry. "There was another reason for the stage-based theme, too," he explained. "Oftentimes I come home late from work and play something before going to bed, and even if there are points where I'm like 'Yes! I did it!', it's too late at night to share that with anyone. I think it really cuts the excitement in half when there's no one to share that rush of happiness with. With a stage, you aren't alone; you have an audience around you. Everyone's holding their breath at the scary scenes and laughing at the funny scenes. They're all acting as one, which is really neat. If we had that in the game, I thought that would help keep people from feeling lonely."

Another unexpected inspiration: the three (or five, depending on how fastidious you are)-second rule that governs how long it's "all right" to pick up dropped food off the floor. As Gavin put it in the interview, that's where the idea for main character Kutaro's losing his head all the time came from. "We wanted a chance for the player to get back into the game instead of immediately penalizing him for taking damage," Sato explained. "Your head falls to your feet when you're damaged, but pick it up within a certain amount of time and you won't have any penalty at all. This balances the game so it's not too easy and not too hard, and it also adds a little of the comical black humor that puppets are good at."

It's a weird, beautiful package, and it's one Moore hopes gets in the hands of as many people as possible. "Playing it alone is great," he said, "but I'd also love to see people play Puppeteer with their family, their lover, their friends, anyone important to them. I'm hoping this game can bring a lot of laughter to people's living rooms."