How Team Asobi captured over 25 years of PlayStation magic in its PS5 launch title.
Hi everybody, we hope you are all doing well and keeping healthy. This is Jamie, the Animation Director over at Team Asobi. First things first, a big thank you for your feedback, comments and reviews of Astro’s Playroom (fact: we do read them all!). We are genuinely delighted to see so much love and positivity around the game. You guys are great!
Looking at your comments, one thing that stood out in particular were the various PlayStation game tributes and cameos hidden all over Astro’s Playroom. Being huge fans of the PlayStation heritage ourselves, we had a real blast creating these! And as you can imagine, with so many amazing and cherished game characters to pick from, we felt a big responsibility to deliver the fun and quality that would do justice to them.
Today, let us give you a short insight into the creation process of these fun cameos!
As often is the case, we started with concepting these ideas on paper. Toshihiko Nakai, our concept artist oozes creativity and his ideas just jump off the page. Looking through the PlayStation games history, he started drawing lots of fun bot cameos based on PlayStation characters from the last 25 years.
The selection process was simple, if a given cameo was instantly recognisable, made us smile, laugh, and got our inner geek excited, then it would make it through the first step.
Choosing iconic items of clothing or tools from the given game was paramount to getting that instant recognition while still leaving a little bit of guessing work to do for the player. It had to be a fun game of deciphering, even for players who knew where these cameos originated from. For this to work, a precise knowledge of each of the games was necessary. Once again, Toshihiko proved to be an incredible gaming encyclopedia!
Another important aspect of making a good cameo was the comedy aspect: each of these scenes had to be funny to watch and not shy away from making a bit of fun of the original games while, of course, still paying respect: that was a balancing act and one of the more difficult things to get just right.
Here are a few examples of early cameo sketches from Toshihiko.
Next was the modelling into 3D. The modelers channelled their inner cosplayer to create unique clothes and props for each scene, resizing where needed to give all props a cute finish that would fit Astro’s world like a glove. At times, and with the approval of the original creators, weapons were modified to be more friendly and bullets would give away to colourful plastic balls. These modifications towards a cuter finish would, in return, put more accent on the light-hearted, humorous nature of the game and that’s how a cohesive style for all cameos would start gelling in.
Finally came our part, the animation process. The animators’ focus always revolved around three concepts: Fast, Frantic & Fun! All animations were done by hand and we aimed to pack every frame with tons of humor and energy.
In the name of ‘research’, we got to relive some of these great gaming memories, controller in hand. Playing through our favorite PlayStation games from the last 25 years, we picked actions, poses and situations that best crystalised the way those characters are remembered. We then used these key moments as the basis of our animations. All we had to do then was let our creativity loose. As long as it was fast, frantic and fun, it made the final cut!
Because we know you love anecdotes, here’s a funny one: some of the animators at Team Asobi who created these funny cameos actually worked on the original versions of these very games! A funny way to revisit your past work and go full circle, wouldn’t you say?
Aside from seeking out and finding these funny scenes, we thought you might (accidentally of course) throw them a cheeky punch or two and see what happened? We made sure that all characters were made interactive with unique, funny reactions: Kratos chilling in his boat would suddenly start growling angrily with red eyes when attacked, Ellie would cower and Joel would freak out, dropping his precious brick clumsily and catching it at the last second in embarrassment… We totally geeked out making these cameos!
Of course, we involved all original makers of those games from the beginning to the end, which was a real privilege for us. Along the way, we got to make new friends, learn about the making of some of the most amazing PlayStation game series, and, errr… maybe even got a few of our own old games signed. You know, for posterity.
Considering that each and every creator we asked agreed to lend their amazing characters to the cause goes to show there is a real fraternity and comradery between creators but also a definite common love for PlayStation between us all. This is true for our PlayStation Studios friends, of course, but also for our many other partners who created the most iconic games on PlayStation during the last 25 years. We can never thank these teams enough for their kindness and trust.
There was only one catch, however. Although we would have liked to stuff every possible iconic PlayStation character into the game to the point Astro would have nowhere left to run, time ran out and we had to draw the line. Back in Team Asobi, we still often debate between us as to what other character could or should have been included. It makes for fun, endless discussions.
That’s all from us today. Take care, friends, keep rocking and speak again soon!