Ico, and Design by Subtraction | Game Maker's Toolkit



Among designers, few modern games are held in such high regard as the PS2 cult classic, Ico. Let’s figure out what has made this quiet and reserved game so hugely influential.

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The influential Ico:

Papo & Yo –
Brothers / Rime –
Journey –
The Last of Us –
Prince of Persia –
Halo 4 –
Hidetaka Miyazaki –
Fez –

Recommended reading / viewing:

1UP: “Shadow Talk”

1UP: “The Method of Developing Ico”

Tale of Tales: “Fumito Ueda GDC Talk Transcript of Slides”

Games shown in this episode (in order of appearance):

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (Capybara Games, 2011)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Nintendo, 1991)
Braid (Number None, 2008)
Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo, 1985)
Ico (Team Ico, 2001)
Papo & Yo (Minority, 2012)
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (Starbreeze Studios, 2013)
Journey (thatgamecompany, 2012)
Rime (Tequila Works, 2017)
The Last of Us (Naughty Dog, 2013)
Prince of Persia (Ubisoft Montreal, 2008)
Halo 4 (343 Industries, 2012)
Dark Souls (From Software, 2011)
Limbo (Playdead, 2010)
Proteus (Ed Key and David Kanaga, 2013)
Another World (Delphine Software, 1991)
Flashback (Delphine Software, 1992)
Prince of Persia (Broderbund, 1989)
Chrono Trigger (Square, 1995)
Shadow of the Colossus (Team Ico, 2005)
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Ubisoft Montreal, 2010)
Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar North, 2013)
Dying Light (Techland, 2015)
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Kojima Productions, 2015)
Batman: Arkham Knight (Rocksteady Studios, 2015)
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (Ubisoft Montreal, 2011)
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 (Neversoft, 2002)
Fez (Polytron Corporation, 2012)

Music used in this episode:

00:00 – Under a Tree (Sword & Sworcery LP)
01:16 – The Ballad of the Space Babies (Sword & Sworcery LP)
02:40 – Little Furnace (Sword & Sworcery LP)
04:37 – Dark Flute (Sword & Sworcery LP)
06:34 – Com64 (Sword & Sworcery LP)

Sword & Sworcery LP – The Ballad of the Space Babies (C) Jim Guthrie

Clip credits:

“Warrior in the City of Light Part 13” – Curlsbel90

“Dark Souls Prepare to Die Edition 60 fps test” – Birm

“Unreleased ICO PS1 Beta gameplay” – lockyixbt

“Assassins Creed Revelations: Den Defence” – CircularGaming

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36 Replies to “Ico, and Design by Subtraction | Game Maker's Toolkit”

  1. It is interesting that the opposite of this philosophy, the group the will almost always break this philosophy when it is creating, is fan creation. From modding to fanfiction to even fanart, producing things for all ready completed works just because you like it is adding on to the work in some very special way only you can do. While the quality of fanworks often varies, it would be a crying shame if they just stop producing for what they love.
    Perhaps their can be several different ways for for one to make content and design by subtraction usefulness is based on what you are making. And maybe sometimes design by subtraction can be the worst thing on can do for their project and that is the thing that destroy it completely. Just food for thought.

  2. Playing it atm. Great game with frustrating controls. The jumping feels like hell. Still a great game.

  3. Shadow of the Colossus just felt like an unfinished game to me. It seemed like the developers had the landscape, riding mechanics, and bosses done, but everything else was full of bugs so they decided to cut their losses and pretend like this was the game they intended to make all along. I'm still not convinced that's not what happened and everything they said about it isn't just a pretentious cover. If the game that came out was what the developers were going for, it was meant to be a game that could easily be completed in an hour if not for being padded with cut-scenes, long boring treks across empty landscape, and some battle mechanics that make players wait around on top of pillars for ten minutes at a time so they can get another shot at a boss. I would have been I don't know why people have such a high opinions of Shadow of the Colossus. I think It would have been a really good game if it would have been finished and wasn't just running in an empty landscape to get to the boss fights, but it just feels like a very early beta version of a game. If 'design by subtraction' is indistinguishable from 'design by having to ship an unfinished game to meat a production deadline,' is it really that great of a methodology?

  4. I watched the developer commentary of Portal and was immensely intrigued by the actual process of designing the game.

    Primarily what they chose to cut out and keep, and I believe this video does that kind of developer mindset justice, and it will be yet another video I download for the big screen.

  5. John Ford inspired Akira Kurosawa who inspired Sergio Leone – “video games are weird” but film is too… inspiration is circular 🙏🏼

  6. I'm loving the addition of the Sword and Sworcery soundtrack. I love that game but I love the soundtrack even more

  7. This game has no issues that stand out more today, absolutely none, nothing offensive. 100%. Never. Except sexi-

  8. I remember playing Ico a long while ago. I distinctly remember, after having first run around with Yorda for a little while, I realized that running full speed everywhere while holding her hand kind of jerks her around by the arm awkwardly, and found myself trying to move Ico slower during those portions. I didn't do it on purpose, I just caught myself trying to be nice to a collection of pixels on a screen.

    Of course, during an attack, I had no such compulsion, and it felt much more natural trying to drag Yorda out of danger.

    I suggest trying it, if you're still playing Ico. Do a run just going at Yorda's pace. It's very relaxing.

  9. The video ends with cool sounding advice but not exactly "good" advice. You can also just keep cramming game features in and still end up with an awesome successful game… (ex. World of Warcraft & Grand Theft Auto [5] Online ). Also you can keep throwing things against the wall to see what sticks… (ex. all HiRez games)

  10. This is the first video I watched from this channel that's over 2 years old and hahahah, love how you make your voice like 2 octaves lower than usual here

  11. As an architecture student, I love watching these videos. There are so many connections that can be drawn between games and building design. This idea of subtraction down to only elements that support your core themes is of particular importance in architecture as well. Thank you for the video.

  12. Hi Mark, just randomly reaching out via one of your outstanding video’s. Here to say: Thank you! Really enjoying all of these and learning a lot, even as a lifelong gamer these video’s put to words how I feel and experience games these days. Keep it up! Looking forward for more.

  13. Subtraction is important part of game design but minimalism isn't the best answer for all games.

    Considering how we hate minimalistic new Simcity and we love Cities skylines which more complex, but still with subtraction.

  14. Such a fantastic concept for creativity in general. At first one struggles to come up with good ideas, but I think masters struggle more with stripping away "good" to uncover "best".

  15. 発音は仕方ないけど字幕はヨルダにしてほしかった
    ヒロインは老齢のジェダイじゃないぞ

  16. This is a really good look into my own game.
    I have a TON of ideas that I would LOVE to make into it, but would it really benefit? no. I just need to remember to add whats only really essential (especially that its not done yet).

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