Something in the air
Last Friday, Shigeru Miyamoto and entourage descended on London's Oxford Street to meet and greet fans of his many games. But before he signed your bare chests and you ran screaming from the building like jubilant teenage girls at a Blue concert, Mr. Miyamoto and Zelda's director Mr. Aonuma spoke at length to assembled journalists in the underbelly of Virgin Megastore. What's more, Nintendo was good enough to take notes - we're sure you'll find them most enlightening!
First of all we have to come up with a specific stage of a game for Link's adventure and we came up with the idea of the ocean and how Link would move. We decided to use a ship and make use of a sailing boat so players could have control over the wind and that is how we came up with the idea of wind control.
We were thinking also in terms of the advancement of the technology. Many people focus on beautiful graphics and we wanted to take advantage of areas that no one else was using and that was the controlling of the wind by taking advantage of the high performance of Nintendo GameCube. Zelda looks like animation and not like anything else available.
Actually we never intended to create a shockwave, it's just we were trying to make something new. Of course it's best to base it on something consistent, but we always try to make something new. We wanted to make a new figure of Link and were confronted with a problem that if we went forward with a much more realistic graphic of Link, we may have had a big problem with being comfortable playing the Link character in the real world.
If Link is just walking and if he makes three steps, he would walk a metre away. In the real gameplay it is not natural, it does not make good sense in terms of game play. That is the kind of basic argument we had when we were making the Link character. Now talking about Mario 128 we have not come up with the specific stages of reformation for the Mario character. Once again, I try not to make any shockwaves in the industry, it's just that I am always thinking of perfect game play and character control.
One question: has anyone played with the English version of The Wind Waker. No? Japanese? Yes. Didn't you feel that it felt very natural to control Link?
[Nods and confirmations]
Well for example, in Japan we have a very popular cartoon movie maker, called Miyazaki who has created so many good titles that appeal to children and adults alike, and many of the fans of Miyazaki movies are fathers and mothers. It is a good example that in order to appeal to the mass audiences real graphics are not always necessary. Making use of the Wind Waker graphics isn't a handicap to reach out to the mass game users. We should not strictly be talking about this game alone as Nintendo as a whole has created a new looking type of game and we are working in new areas too. We are always trying to produce a variety of different things for many different audiences.
The games industry, especially in Japan, is having hard times in terms of making good business but on the other hand, looking at the movies, Miyazaki stimulated the market and attracted many audiences to the animated movie. I don't think it is a good idea to focus just on the gaming industry if we are just narrowing down what kind of tastes there are. For example, if one theme is popular and if everyone tries to get on the bandwagon then that will have a negative effect on the industry as a whole. What is more important for the games designer is coming up with many unique ideas rather than trying to create something similar.
I have been saying that we need to do a lot of different things to stimulate the industry. That question is about what I am doing personally and I am always thinking about games and talking with my friends in the industry. But it is important for me to always try to be positively involved in other activities other than making games. Nintendo is trying to sell its own games to its users and non-gamers when we are trying to expand a market. What is important for me and for us is making a lot more relationships with people in other industries.
Most specifically I like playing some musical instruments, so I try to have communication with musicians and also I kind of like gardening so I have relationships with professional and expert gardeners and you may not believe it but I have relationships with dog trainers and I have serious conversations about what "dog" means!
Well often I have to stay at the office until very late at night and I don't think this is a good idea in my experience, so now I am trying to finish my work as early as possible and try something new all the time.
Recently I became a father, and having a new baby boy is turning out to be quite a challenge. I was a very lucky though as I was able to take a one month long holiday to spend with my new baby in the midst of the development of Wind Waker.
That is quite a tough question and I really don't have any quick answer to make. If we were just focusing on the games and if the game can sell then it's very good business and we would just sell that kind of title. It is not that simple for Nintendo as we are not making those kinds of games. After all, as long as people can realise what kind of morals they should have playing with a video game, many games are alike including the excessively violent games. But when we are talking about the mass audience, many people have different viewpoints and have different ways of making use of the technology in front of them.
As the makers, we have the responsibility to think about how it will be used and thought about by the mass audience. In Japan, no companies are willing to market Grand Theft Auto but it will become different if people become desperate to sell their software. Companies right now are not marketing Grand Theft Auto but people now have an idea of the danger of the current situation and the more important thing is that we need to think of a substitute for Grand Theft Auto in terms of video games sales. It is our mission to think of an alternative that is unique and not as violent.
If you are just simply comparing the 3 hardware consoles in terms of functionality, you can make similar games and many people are now trying to introduce multi-platform games. It may be good for game users but when it comes to some kind of unique interactions with the hardware I don't think multi-platforms games are contributing a lot. Whilst I think it is good to have many different titles for the platforms, I think that only Nintendo can provide certain experiences. That is why its very important for the best first party titles and best hardware that Nintendo can provide
Now Nintendo is aggressively pursuing the connectivity between the GameCube and Game Boy Advance and this year we are going to introduce the Game Boy Player so you can play Game Boy Advance games on a wide screen. In the US, we have already started selling the e-Reader system so that from the simple cards you can get important playing data onto the GameCube or Game Boy Advance now. Nintendo is trying to construct these unique systems all the time and I'm positive that more and more third party people are interested in these kind of unique applications and opportunities only Nintendo can create. With those interested in taking advantage of Nintendo unique opportunities, Nintendo is more positive than ever in trying to cooperate with them. I can't give any specific examples now but we are discussing this sort of thing with EA for one and with Namco and Sega maybe even having closer ties to create unique gaming opportunities for gaming platforms.
It is not the lack of new ideas that bother me at all. The thing which concerns me is that Nintendo has so many important game franchises and we have more than anybody else. Most of the teams are occupied with the creating of sequels and that situation is kind of troublesome, but new people are growing fast and I can trust the new people to work on the latest series of past existing games. We have time to work on new challenges but I have to admit it is a danger that at a company like Nintendo that you have so many character franchises there is always a job to create the sequel.
So you know that Retro has worked on the Metroid franchise and Nintendo is working with Sega on F-Zero and with Namco on Starfox. In that sense more third party people may be involved in creating Nintendo character franchise games and now you have seen the Soul Calibur II demo which includes Link character from Nintendo. In many different ways we are cooperating with third parties now.
Well we should not be too concerned about whatever is said and talked about a game not on the market yet. But if people's reactions are negative after sales of Wind Waker have begun, that would concern me a lot. Before the sale of the game we have to do our best in the things we believe in. When I come to think about it, even though there may be some negative opinion, we have a good situation with Wind Waker because people are talking about it.
We have already started selling Wind Waker in Japan and you will have it soon. In terms of graphics nothing has been changed. It is identical. We have fine-tuned the game balance and controls of Wind Waker for the European and US markets. And that is the result of getting comments from users in Japan.