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Casting shadows: On Lost in Shadow with director Osamu Tsuchihashi

Friday, July 9, 2010

Shortly after I returned from E3, fresh with a lengthy list of games—many ominously targeted for "Holiday 2010"—that I had good feelings about, I thought it would be good to get into my favorite game from the show a little more in-depth. The man I wanted to get in touch with was clear: Osamu Tsuchihashi, director of that game—Lost in Shadow—who I'd previously chatted a bit with over Marble Saga Kororinpa.


Mr. Tsuchihashi was a delight and very gracious, providing several very interesting insights into the game and its creation process. I really enjoyed hearing his answers, and I hope you will too—and maybe understand a little more about Lost in Shadow in the process.

Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. We last spoke about Marble Saga Kororinpa, which I enjoyed quite a bit.

When I saw the first information about Lost in Shadow last year, I wondered if perhaps you and your team were behind it, and then I found out that you are! I was very pleased to hear that, and now that I have had the time to play the game, I walked away thinking it was the best I played all week at E3.
Osamu Tsuchihashi, Director, Lost in Shadow:I am really honored to know that you have been following our team and our work, and for that I would like to thank you.

The fact that we were able to show our game at a world-renowned show like E3 is an accomplishment that we wouldn’t trade for anything, especially with all the other great games that were shown there. With that in mind, I am truly grateful that you enjoyed playing Lost in Shadow.

We are already familiar with the Kororinpa series, of course, but what other games have you and your team worked on in the past that we might be familiar with?
Tsuchihashi:We are a development team that came together to work on the two Kororinpa games and Lost in Shadow. Before that, we were all working on different titles.


Okay, so, on to the main topic: Lost in Shadow. First, for our readers that may not be familiar with the game, can you explain the basic premise, and maybe a little of the story?
Tsuchihashi:The story starts with a body’s shadow being cut off from his body. All he wants to do is to climb the tower so he can get back to it.

The boy’s shadow cannot walk about in the real world. He must proceed through a path made by shadows. The maze-like path that he must follow is full of traps and enemies that he must overcome, all of which are in shadow form. The shadow of the boy will have some help from his partner, the Spangle, in his journey.

Where did the idea for the game come from?
Tsuchihashi:In Japan, there is a children’s game similar to tag, but using shadows. As you may have guessed, it is called "Shadow Tag." What's different from normal tag is that, instead of touching the other person, all you have to do is to step on his or her shadow to tag the other person "it."

There are various rules depending on regional versions of the game, but the rules that I played within were as follows: If the runner hides in a shadow, the person who is "it" cannot pursue him. There’s a catch for the runner though; he can stay in the shadow only for a limited amount of time. If that time is exceeded, he is forbidden to hide in any shadows until his penalty runs out, and must seek his sanctuary in the light, where he will most likely fall into the hands of the person who is "it."

Lost in Shadow was based partly on this idea of Shadow Tag, and you will see this kind of situation in the actual game.


Having seen so many ways to use light and shadow in gameplay, I imagine that the game engine is quite unique. Did you have to create an engine specifically for this game? Was it a challenge?
Tsuchihashi:Your assumption is absolutely correct.

Most of the development period for this game was used to create the shadow engine. We had to continue to tweak and correct the engine, right up to the recent debugging. We even had to re-write some data to have it work with this engine.

I can tell you that those tweaking days are the reason why I have an ulcer now...


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