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Puppeteer: Behind the Scenes With the Weird, Wild PS3 Adventure

Fred Dutton's Avatar + Posted by Fred Dutton on Sep 27, 2012 // SCEE Blog Manager

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Puppeteer’s Gamescom reveal last month was a real joy to behold – a bright, bold new PlayStation IP promising primary-colored platforming fun with some deliciously dark trimmings. A month or two on, last week PlayStation.Blog had the opportunity to actually sit down with a controller and see if it delivers on that pledge.

High up in Sony Japan Studio’s towering Tokyo HQ, creator Gavin Moore walked us through the game’s opening chapter, which sees a hapless young lad called Kutaro enslaved by the impossibly evil Moon Bear King and transformed into a puppet. But steel yourselves – this isn’t a cozy Pinocchio-esque tale of a plucky hero embarking on a cheerful quest to (re)gain human form. Far from it – Puppeteer’s opening minutes sees poor Kutaro’s head brutally torn off by our antagonist and his body nonchalantly tossed into a dank, gloomy cellar.

And that’s where you, the player, come in. Guided by gloomy cloth cat Ying Yang, you’ll step into Kutaro’s shoes and go in search of a new noggin, of which there are hundreds of different variations to find, each offering a different skill or attribute.

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The section I played through saw Kutaro taking his first tentative steps through the game’s perilous world, toggling between a spider mask and, umm… a cheeseburger. The former coaxed tarantulas out of hiding, opening up secret areas, while the latter transformed giant loaves of bread into trampolines to aid our hero’s progress.

While the platforming mechanics felt absolutely spot on (forget any LittleBigPlanet comparisons – this is a very different beast) and the first few areas were great fun to explore, what I found most pleasing was just how dark and mysterious the game world is.

Its jet-black atmosphere ignites the imagination in the same way that the movies I so loved as a kid did. Think Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and The Nightmare Before Christmas and you’re on the right track. It’s the kind of thing that that my 12-year-old self would have fallen head-over-heels for, and it’s great to see a family-orientated title explore such spooky, sophisticated terrain.

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I’ll have another post for you next week looking at the nitty-gritty of how the game works, but today I wanted to focus on how Puppeteer’s enchanting setting took shape and why its creator decided on such a bold approach. Over to Gavin Moore…

Fred Dutton, PlayStation.Blog Europe Manager: What was the origin of the Puppeteer project?

Gavin Moore, Puppeteer Creator: I have an eight-year-old son and I was looking for games to play with him, but nowadays you just can’t find games like that. So, completely selfishly, I decided to make a game that I could actually play with my son.

Whenever we were playing games together he would often get bored very quickly at doing the same thing in the same environments. So he’d put the controller down and go outside to play. So it was like, how do I keep him in that seat so I can spend some time with him in the hobby that I love? I knew that I had to make something that was so bright and visual, and that would change all the time, that he would just have to see what’s coming next. He wouldn’t be able to put the controller down as he’d want to know what the next surprise was.

That’s why Puppeteer was born, and that’s why we change the sets on you every five to ten minutes to throw weird situations and different characters at you.

PSB: Why did you decide to go with a puppet theatre as your setting?

GM: Well, I was at a Japanese puppet show, called bunraku. People were going “Wow, it’s amazing, it’s so lifelike – isn’t it amazing how they change the sets while the characters are still on stage!” And something clicked in my head. Instead of moving through the game, the game would move around you.

The other reason for setting it in a theatre – and it’s another selfish reason – is that I’d go home and want to play a game, but everyone would be in bed because we work late at Sony. I’d be sitting there and I’d clear a level and look around and want to go, ‘Look at daddy, isn’t he awesome?!’ But nobody was ever there!

But with the puppet theatre, I have a virtual audience. There’ll always be people to cheer me on. It’s nice – when you get into difficult situations, the audience reacts to what’s happening on-screen. It really helps drive your emotions as a player.

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Puppeteer director Gavin Moore shows off some puppet prototypes

PSB: You mention there aren’t many games out there nowadays aimed at kids. Why do you think that is?

GM: I think there’s a lack of games for kids because big studios out there don’t see it as a market. They don’t see that those kids have enough money to go out and buy a game. But if you’re a parent and you’ve got a kid, and you want to buy them a present, and your hobby is something you want to share with them… well, I think it’s something that many big studios out there have lost track of.

They’re aiming their games at, what, 15 to 25 year olds? I’ve no problem with that. But hold on – I started gaming 30 years ago and have a son now. I’m still gaming and I think there are a lot of mothers and fathers out there who are gamers and want to play something with their kids. I think there’s a big market there.

PSB: What do you think makes a great kids’ game?

GM: I think something dark. I think kids are far more imaginative than their parents are, and the adults that surround them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be ponies and flowers all the time. It can be slightly on the edge, and slightly dark. Look back at the original entertainment for children – Grimms’ Fairy Tales. You can’t get darker than that! It’s wolves eating kids!

I think it needs to be edgy, it needs to make them laugh and it mustn’t look down on them. As adults we think we know best, but kids look up at us and think, “Well, actually, you don’t.”

PSB: And how do you make sure the game is also fun for an older audience?

GM: You have to write it on two levels. You can’t look down at kids, but you can’t look down at adults either. The thing about Puppeteer is – if you’re a kid, it’s a dark fairytale and you might not get the jokes. But if you’re a 25-year-old, there’s a lot of witty, on-the-edge stuff in there.

And there’s a lot of stuff that I wanted to say as a creator. Gamers aren’t dumb. When people who aren’t gamers say ‘Oh, is that what you do for your hobby?’ Well, most of them are pretty well-read and well-educated people. You can’t look down at them.

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Concept art and post-it notes plaster the walls in the Puppeteer studio

//Add Your Own

28 Comments

1

+ MrBendel on September 27th, 2012 at 8:09 am said:

It would appear puppets & papercraft are a popular theme for recent game titles. Looks really cool!


2

+ snakeeyes211 on September 27th, 2012 at 8:12 am said:

This is a full retail game or a downloadable title?


3

+ snakeeyes211 on September 27th, 2012 at 8:17 am said:

I just read my question and I realize I sound like Yoda :-}


4

+ cano74 on September 27th, 2012 at 8:36 am said:

@snakeeyes211- I remember threading on IGN that it is a full retail game.

I really like how this game looks and I will follow it closely. I love games that have a very unique look and gameplay.


5

+ Elvick_ on September 27th, 2012 at 8:50 am said:

My 24 year old self loves how this game sounds.

I can’t put into words what I want to say about it, but it’s all good I promise. Nothing but praise from me.


6

+ RE_Player on September 27th, 2012 at 8:52 am said:

This game looks like one of those game you’ll have smile on your face the whole time through. Looking forward to playing it.


7

+ DuckWC on September 27th, 2012 at 8:57 am said:

It reminds me A LOT Dynamite Headdy (1994) was released under Megadrive

Played a lot I really enjoyed this concept of game, I hope to get the same feeling with it!


8

+ YungShep on September 27th, 2012 at 9:25 am said:

THIS IS GONNA BE ONE OF THOSE SPECIAL GAMES…..I CAN ALREADY FEEL IT AFTER SEEING THE TRAILER….PLEASE…NO…….DELAYS….WHEN YOU ANNOUNCE THE DATE……PLEASE…AS…..A…..FAN…….STICK TO THE DATE…….PLEASE :) ON MY RADAR. EFFECTIVE 9/26/2012


9

+ YungShep on September 27th, 2012 at 9:26 am said:

OH ITS IN 3D TOO!!! I JUST SAW THAT AT THE BOTTOM!!!!


10

+ MushThePainter on September 27th, 2012 at 9:28 am said:

good stuff


11

+ GhostMachine1 on September 27th, 2012 at 9:34 am said:

Day one buy for me.


12

+ MarinoBrea on September 27th, 2012 at 9:51 am said:

The trailer looks great but I still don’t know how it plays. Will you open up different areas as you go? can you choose your own path to progress through the game? In other words, is it a lineal game or does it allow some freedom to explore and discover your own way so you want to/must play it several times doing different things to see everything it’s got?


13

+ Wozman23 on September 27th, 2012 at 10:05 am said:

I was hoping the heads had different attributes. This game just keeps getting more amazing!

On the subject of being a kid’s game: I’m turning 29 in a few days. Thankfully, I’ve managed to hold on to my childlike whimsy. As a result my favorite games are ones like this, LBP, Rayman, and Ratchet & Clank, just as they have been since my childhood. I absolutely cannot stand when people describe certain games as ‘kiddie’ games. On the contrary, I dislike when these style games are too easy/shallow and simply cater to a younger audience. Thanks for understanding this. I’ll be buying this on day one.


14

+ KidCommando on September 27th, 2012 at 11:38 am said:

I am a 34 year old grown ass man and this game looks phenomenal!

It kinda reminds me of the first time I saw ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’. I just had to have it. It was the very first VHS movie I ever bought by myself when I was younger.

This game looks magical and makes me feel like a real kid all over again every time I see it.

Keep up the good work! Your son is lucky to have a whole game made for him by you that you guys can play together. ;)


15

+ KidCommando on September 27th, 2012 at 11:39 am said:

OH….did you decide if you are doing the voiceover work?


16

+ h2omasnah- on September 27th, 2012 at 12:45 pm said:

Why isn’t this game on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita like it should be?!


17

+ cosmis_chaos on September 27th, 2012 at 1:10 pm said:

I am happy that someone still knows that games for kids doesn’t necessarily mean simplistic design and stapling a bunch of bad mini games together. Treat children like sensible people not brain dead idiots. I read every so called dark and disturbing fairy tale when I was younger and turned out fine. And they were about wolves gobbling down people, children burning witches and getting kidnapped or lost in the dark woods.


18

+ cosmis_chaos on September 27th, 2012 at 1:34 pm said:

And I am very happy to hear that their are hundreds of heads to find meaning we can expect a very large world to explore. It should be fun finding heads and seeing what each one can do. If you are listening to these posts Gavin Moore could you give me a little leak and tell me what the lion head and the banana head do? If not thanks anyway.


19

+ lisatsunami on September 27th, 2012 at 1:52 pm said:

When I read Gavin’s motivations, I thought it was odd that he wanted to keep his son inside playing games. I thought the joy of fatherhood is pitching a ball back & forth a million times, teaching your son about sports, playing fair, teamwork & the value of good eye-hand coordination.

Maybe that’s just our culture. At any rate, yes I am very interested in this game.


20

+ glassmusic on September 27th, 2012 at 3:28 pm said:

This is absolutely a day one purchase for me.


21

+ plaztiksyke on September 27th, 2012 at 3:57 pm said:

“Think Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and The Nightmare Before Christmas and you’re on the right track.”

SOLD!%

Are the physics and character animations taking physics into account, or are they all relatively static?

Who’s doing the music? Will the audio assets be 24-bit and/or losslessly compressed?

local co-op? any Vita extras?


22

+ DarkOne_PR on September 27th, 2012 at 5:47 pm said:

Make it cross buy and im in! if its not a cross buy then make it a PSN game for 20$ and im in.


23

+ SWITCH_00599 on September 27th, 2012 at 5:58 pm said:

I cannot wait to play this game the trailer F** blew my mind :D Cant wait to try this !


24

+ That1CrazyPanda on September 27th, 2012 at 8:43 pm said:

Oh my goodness how beautiful is this!? I will get it, I promise I will, keep up the good work. =D


25

+ MarinoBrea on September 27th, 2012 at 9:36 pm said:

@DarkOne_PR

a $20 PSN game, is that as high as your hopes go for this game, or your wallet? This is not a cheapy game man, you haven’t seen enough but that is downright insulting.


26

+ Undrey on September 28th, 2012 at 5:55 am said:

I wholeheartedly agree with the kids & ponies thing, do people really think that 10 year olds haven’t seen blood, or something a little dark?

Sly Cooper 2 had some dark levels to it, and when I played it as a kid, and I loved it!

I hope I can get this game!


27

+ PvySage89 on September 28th, 2012 at 8:33 am said:

I think Walt Disney said it best: “You’re dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.”


28

+ leovader on October 17th, 2012 at 4:39 pm said:

This game blew my mind when I first saw it. It reminds of a Ghouls and Ghosts style. Amazed by how creativity can be used on games. Been counting on this title!


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