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GDC 2009: Noby Noby Boy stretches to iPhone

Keita Takahashi laments the state of society and encourages developers to be more "free"; mobile extension of PS3 puzzler en route, multiplayer detailed.


Keita Takahashi, the creative mind behind the recent Noby Noby Boy for the PlayStation Network, poured over a list of things that he wished he could have added to his game but wasn't able to. In an hour-long session at the 2009 Game Developers Conference, Takahashi shared his goals for the project and the feedback that he's received. He also invited other developers to join him in his mission to create something new.

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"If we love video games, then we have to think about this much more," said Takahashi through a translator, as he went over a list of things he would like to see changed. "We have to feel more and we have to observe more. We have to enjoy more while we create games. There is no completion in games, it's always developing."

The word "noby," according to Takahashi, means to feel mentally and emotionally liberated. He acknowledged that this might be a bit dramatic, but the game is his way of fighting against a constraining world.

Takahashi's frustration comes from feeling confined in society, and he didn't want his game to suffer the same fate. The first time he brought up the idea of Noby Noby Boy, his team members questioned his sanity.

"I'm very normal. I don't use drugs at all, I don't drink at all," he explained to the chuckling audience. "I wanted to make a game without boundaries, [such as] time and money. In games there are usually goals and rules...maybe I can make something fun without those."

His creation, Noby Noby Boy, is a game in which players control a wormlike creature called Boy. Using both analog sticks, players can stretch Boy to wrap around its environment and other characters. Points are accumulated based on how much Boy has been stretched and then transferred online to another stretchy character named Girl.

Although not entirely fond of goals, Takahashi wanted the objective in Noby Noby Boy to be huge, so that perhaps it wouldn't qualify as one. The goal was to have Girl connect the entire solar system, and within a week after release, Girl was able to reach the moon.

"I was actually moved by this. On average the girl is growing 40 million meters a day," he said as he began writing on his laptop, which was projected onto a pair of large screens in the meeting hall.

Takahashi says that if Girl continued to grow at this rate, it would take 820 years to connect the entire solar system.

"I'm going to be dead by then, what should I do?" he asked as the audience laughed.

Takahashi then went over the many things he was unable to do with Noby Noby Boy, which included giving away real presents. His mom and sister had made a scarf and pillow of Noby Noby Boy, and he had wanted to give it away to players that ranked first, tenth, hundredth, and so on.

He joked that the first winner would get the scarf and the second winner would receive a Japanese wooden doll that he'd make himself. Once he retired from Noby Noby Boy, he quipped, he planned on making wooden dolls every day.

The subject of children playing games also came up, and Takahashi explained how upset he gets when people refer to gamers as users.

"Games are meant to be played, but why do we say they are users?" asked Takahashi, who wanted to bonk people who used the term and jokingly suggested, "Maybe they should die."

Most of the presentation was focused on what things he wished he could have done, and he admitted that he was complaining a lot and said that he is often referred to as "Hater" instead of Keita. He did reveal that he is working on an iPhone version of Noby Noby Boy, which he demonstrated briefly onscreen via his laptop's webcam. The audience was able to watch as Takahashi stretched Boy with his fingers and rotated letters floating around the iPhone screen. He also showed an offline multiplayer mode of the PlayStation 3 game and passed out controllers to members of the audience to try for themselves as he continued to speak.

Takahashi concluded by taking a few questions from the crowd. One man asked for advice on how to approach stubborn upper management. Takahashi's told him that he should cry, and continue crying.

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