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E3 2012: Will Flawed AI Hold Papo & Yo Back from Greatness?

Posted on June 11, 2012 AT 03:00pm

Papo & Yo’s monster AI has its issues—but should that even matter?

“I wish I had millions of dollars to develop the AI for the monster, but I don’t have it. But I also think that shouldn’t stop me from making a great game. If I were waiting for millions of dollars to make this game, I wouldn’t have done it. I would love to have a Shadow of the Colossus monster, but that shouldn’t stop me from trying.”

—Vander Caballero, creative director, Papo & Yo

Over the past year, Minority Media’s upcoming puzzler Papo & Yo has been hyped as the latest indie darling in the tradition of Braid and Fez. After all, how many games revolve around a monster’s addiction to frogs as the metaphor for its creator’s abusive childhood at the hands of an alcoholic father? After getting some hands-on time with the game at E3, though, I remain skeptical as to whether the monster’s AI will live up to the promise and truly engage the user in a game where emotion plays such a big role.

But Caballero makes an excellent point: That shouldn’t really matter. The fact that he’s trying to make an unconventional vision come to life—and convinced Sony to partner up and make it happen—is the biggest victory of all in an industry filled with big bangs and blood splatter. In fact, that’s what drove him to create the game after he worked eight years at EA—including serving as creative director on Army of Two. But he grew weary of the unending, mindless violence in so many games, so he resigned from EA and put his savings into the development of Papo & Yo.

But what impressed me the most about Caballero is the fact that, unlike some certain other indie developers, he comes off as humble and welcoming. He knows his game won’t be perfect; he knows it won’t transform the industry. But he has a story to tell, and he’s not afraid to put himself out there and tell it—and more developers should be willing to take similar risks with their ideas, especially after an E3 where the divide between big-budget, mindless blockbusters and creative underdogs was bigger than ever.

Andrew Fitch, Managing Editor
Andrew Fitch, a proud Japanese RPG and serial-comma enthusiast, has been attending E3 for more than a decade now. His least-proud moment? That time in 2004 when, suffering from utter exhaustion, he decided to take a break on the creepy, dilapidated—and possibly cursed—La-Z-Boy at Konami’s Silent Hill booth. Follow Andrew’s adventures in avoiding cursed furniture at his Twitter feed: @twittch. Meet the rest of the crew.

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