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Feature: How a Jaded Child Set the Stage for PS3 Exclusive Puppeteer

Posted by Sammy Barker

Curtain call

Children are honest souls, augmented with an innocence that evaporates with the steady infiltration of adulthood. It was a sharp bite of sincerity from the son of creative director Gavin Moore that gave birth to Puppeteer, a twisted platformer with a co-operative focus from Sony’s very own Japan Studio, the home of hits such as Ape Escape, Shadow of the Colossus, and Tokyo Jungle.

“It all came about when I was playing games with my son,” the development veteran tells us in a warm conference room in London. “Suddenly, he just sat up, placed the controller down, and started playing outside with his friends. Now, that’s kind of cool as a Dad – but it’s not quite as cool when you’re the creative director of Japan Studio.”

The encounter presented Moore with an interesting challenge, which he set about tackling as soon as his son was done playing outdoors. “I asked him why he’d walked out,” the ex-London Studio animator continues. “He said, ‘Well, I’m kind of bored of the things I’m playing.’ So, I asked him what type of games he’d like to play, and he answered, ‘I’d like to play a game that changes every five to ten minutes.’” And so, the developer had a target.

It turns out that appealing to the whims of a demanding young boy is not easy, though. “I’d like an Aston Martin and a yacht, but I don’t think that that’s going to happen,” Moore jokes. “But I sat down and started thinking about it, and I basically came up with this idea of a theatre, where instead of moving through the world, the set would also change as you were playing. And every time it changed, it would take you to new and exciting places, so you’d want to keep moving.” And with a puff of stage smoke, Puppeteer was born.

“It’s kind of a dark fairy tale,” the studio lead says when asked about the game. “Our hero, Kutaro, has been stolen away by an evil monarch known as the Moon Bear King, and he’s using the souls of children to give him more power. To do this, he shoves their souls into puppets, and employs them as slaves. Now, unfortunately our protagonist upsets the ruler, who rips off his head and eats it, before tossing him away. But with the help of a sarcastic cat, he finds out that he has the power to use different objects as heads, which augment him with new abilities.

“In the meantime, he gets sent off to steal this pair of magic scissors by an evil witch,” continues a breathless Moore. “He manages to do it after the deaths of thousands of other poor kids. And that’s where his troubles really begin, because the King is then after him, and he needs to get his head back. So, he embarks on a massive adventure.”

Moore wouldn’t confirm whether recreational drugs played a part in the narrative’s inception, but he was willing to share a few influences. “It’s sort of inspired by Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, and lots of Monty Python,” he explains. However, with such Western roots, it would be easy to assume that the game was the product of Europe or North America – not Tokyo. According to the British-born director, though, he had to lobby to get some of the Eastern flavours in the game.

“It’s really funny, because I’ve only been living in Japan for about ten years, but a lot of the Japanese themes, I put in,” he laughs. “And as for the Western ideas, a lot of that came from the Japanese team. They just see the other stuff as normal.”

Head on through the page for Act Two of our chat with Gavin Moore from Japan Studio.

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User Comments (9)

RaymanFan2

#2

RaymanFan2 said:

That's called average-child-ADD.
It's not a problem the industry needs to address.

Zombie_Barioth

#3

Zombie_Barioth said:

@RaymanFan2
In my experience thats more to do with having a lot of energy, not having a problems focusing. When Moore's son says he wants a game that changes every five to ten minutes I'm sure hes refering to pacing, most young kids don't have a lot of patience so anything overly repetitive loses their interest easily.

Its not something the industry needs to cater to but even a child can offer valuable feedback.

Its kinda funny that its actually the Japanese team that would come up with the western themes while someone not originally from Japan is the one who comes up with the Japanese themes, its not something you'd think about but it makes sense.

get2sammybAdmin

#4

get2sammyb said:

@Zombie_Barioth Yeah, Moore gave the impression that his son was simply weary of the games that he was playing.

I also thought it was fascinating that the Japanese team wanted the Western influences in the game.

rjejr

#5

rjejr said:

yeah, so much goodness, don't know where to begin, too many thoughts in my head :-)

Does the industry need a new game designation for games like this, R&C: Nexus and Sly Cooper 4? $40 games that aren't AAA $60 but also aren't $15 DL? Maybe "Plutonian"?

Whoever it was on this website that said "Knack" shows off the power of the PS4 - I present to you "Puppeteer". Knack looks good and I still want to play it, but this...

I was surprised the guy who's kid walked out on him made a mostly single player game. Glad he added in that Super Mario Galaxyesque faux 2nd player w/ the magic Move wand but since this looks so much like LBP I'm surprised he didn't go more Rayman. (My 8 year old just saw this and said it looked like Rayman.)

The more Monty Python the better. Maybe Giliam can make a proper DBZ movie someday?

This makes 2 days in a row of good video game awakening news (R&C yesterday). Time to go check on NL and see what Nintendo delayed today. :-(

ObviouslySheik

#8

ObviouslySheik said:

I don't see how that makes the son jaded. But on a side note, anything influenced by Monty Python is at least worth a look. Monty Python and The Holy Grail is my favorite movie of all time. Hands down.

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