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ICO Slideshow 2009


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  • 1. ICO Game Analysis ICO analyzed from a reward perspective Mikael Andersson Introduction to Game Design, Luleå Tekniska Universitet, Spring 2009
  • 2. ICO in general
    • ICO is a single player third person view action/adventure game for the Playstation 2.
    • It was released in late 2001 (early 2002 in Europe) and was Team ICO's first game.
  • 3. ICO in general
    • The development team consisted of about 20 people, led by artist and visionary Fumito Ueda.
    • The game is unique in that the designers aimed for a minimalistic design where unnecessary elements were removed, putting focus on the elements essential and central to the game.
    • It does not feature a HUD, has a minimal amount of storytelling with no sub-story and has little variation in environments.
  • 4. ICO in general
    • There are three characters featured in total, all of them playing a crucial role in the story.
    • The playable character is a boy with horns named Ico, who leads and protects a girl named Yorda throughout the game.
    • Ico and Yorda holding hands.
  • 5. ICO in general
    • ICO relies heavily on emotional experiences, atmosphere and storytelling, despite using fewer elements than other games for achieving this.
    • Typical example of an ICO environment.
  • 6. ICO in general
    • The challenges consist of fighting dark shadow monsters and solving puzzles in the environments. There is only one type of monster although monsters come in a few variations.
    • Ico leading Yorda away from enemies.
  • 7. ICO in general
    • Artistic considerations played an important role in how the game turned out, the final box art here used as an example.
    • “ Nostalgia of the Infinite”, by painter Giorgio de Chirico, early 20 th century.
    • ICO European box art.
  • 8. ICO and rewards
    • Thinking about ICO as a minimalistic game I soon began to wonder how the reward system works. My theory is that all games need rewards to keep players happy and interested and I wondered what makes ICO appeal to its target group. How does a game with fewer elements than others still keep its audience?
    • Rewards by the definition I use may be anything that the player wants from the game, anything that gives gratification or sparks further interest.
  • 9. ICO and rewards
    • Adrenaline
    • Artistic
    • Atmosphere
    • Brain Teasing
    • Emotional Response
    • Low Challenge
    • Novelty
    • Short
    • Social Incentives
      • I think the rewards in ICO can be divided into different categories based on their different sources.
      • These are the categories I chose when writing my report, in alphabetical order:
  • 10. ICO and rewards - categories
    • Adrenaline
    • A player may get a kick of adrenaline by fighting and defeating enemies although ICO is not a typical action oriented game.
    • Artistic
    • A player might enjoy simply looking at the artwork of the game.
    • Atmosphere
    • Many players mention atmosphere as an important element in ICO.
  • 11. ICO and rewards – categories
    • Brain Teasing
    • A player may enjoy the intellectual challenge that come from the puzzles in the game.
    • Emotional Response
    • Many players seem to feel a personal connection to Ico and get feelings of friendship and sympathy towards Yorda despite her being a NPC character.
  • 12. ICO and rewards – categories
    • Low Challenge
    • The game has a low level of challenge, meaning that even casual or unskilled players have a good chance of finishing the game. This category among others may be viewed as a negative by some players.
    • Novelty
    • ICO was a unique game at the time of its release and players might want to play it just because it is different.
  • 13. ICO and rewards – categories
    • Short
    • The game is a rather short one with about 10 hours play time or less. Players who would have been bored by an extended game might instead feel they want more when finished.
    • Social Incentives
    • Wanting to be part of a group of “artistic people”, experienced gamers or adventure/RPG gamers, or to be able to discuss the game and know what others are talking about may be an incentive to play.
  • 14. ICO and rewards
    • What kinds of rewards do these categories give?
    • Secondary rewards
    • Rewards that come from playing the game and not the game itself – categories Social Incentives and Novelty .
    • General rewards
    • Rewards from being in the game or getting further – seeing more of environments etc. Categories Artistic, Atmosphere and Emotional Response.
  • 15. ICO and rewards
    • Challenge based rewards
    • Gratification from beating a puzzle or defeating an enemy – Brain Teasing and Adrenaline .
    • Presents
    • Not very prominent in the game and not in any of the categories, but getting something new like a new part of the experience or a new weapon may count in this category.
  • 16. Conclusions
    • I was surprised to see that despite the minimalistic type of design ICO is a game with many possibilities for rewards. I believe this might be in part because rewards were considered essential to the game design and thus could not be removed.
  • 17. Thank you for reading!
    • I would like to take this moment to thank all teachers and all the people in my group for a great and interesting course, with many new insights and ideas.
    • All screenshots come from and are used according to the “Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported” license (