At the DICE summit in Las Vegas this week, Nintendo of America held a small roundtable discussion with two of its biggest stars: Shigeru Miyamoto (no introduction necessary) and Eiji Aonuma (director of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker). Though it was intended to focus solely on Wind Waker, the journalists in attendance quickly turned it into a free-for-all, hitting up Mr. Miyamoto with questions about nearly everything under the sun. It was definitely more fun that way, as you can read on to see. (Special thanks to NOA's Bill Trinen for the fine translation work).
Q: How do you deal with the pressures or stressed from all the tasks you have at Nintendo?
Shigeru Miyamoto: Well, once I turned 40 I took up swimming, and now I am swimming at least one or two kilometers each week. Also, around that time, I quit smoking. Of course, weekdays I generally work very late, so on weekends I try to spend all of my time with my wife and family.
Q: As a creative person, though, part of the creative process revolves around having the space to be creative. Is that a challenge for you these days?
Shigeru Miyamoto: Yeah, that is very important. You do need a lot of space to come up with ideas. But I am actually more of the type of person that can come up with ideas while I'm working, so that's not so much of a challenge for me. Usually, I try to find that balance and space by expanding into new areas. For example, recently, my family got a dog, so we've been spending a lot of time with the dog and taking care of it. Of course, that's a pleasure, too.
Q: A lot of the GameCube games you've shown us lately have been sequels. Do you have any original titles coming for this year, too?
Shigeru Miyamoto: Yeah, I do intend to show something at E3.
Q: What do you see as your biggest challenge this year?
Shigeru Miyamoto: I think this year my biggest challenge is to take connectivity to the next level and put it in the form so that people can understand what the real concept is, and see where they can take that. And, with the E-Reader out, finding new ways to incorporate it into games. We've got that in the US, and it's been launched in Japan (but not with the technological upgrade the US version has), and we've still yet to launch it in Europe. So, we're looking at finding ways to incorporate that into gameplay and to really create new styles of gameplay that only Nintendo can offer.
Q: Everyone loves Wind Waker. But a lot of us would have preferred the darker style of the Space World 2000 Zelda. Do you have plans to explore that style?
Shigeru Miyamoto/Eiji Aonuma:
First of all, I just want to say that I think once people actually play Wind Waker and get into the game they will immediately understand why we chose the graphical style that we did to go with this game. So even if people are fans of the more graphical looking Zelda games, I think if they just give this game a chance, just pick it up and play it, they'll easily once again become engulfed in the Zelda world, and really see this game for what it is.
As for whether or not we'll create a more realistic looking Zelda game, it really depends on what kind of Zelda game the next one will be. Obviously, the graphical style, or methods of expression, that we choose are highly dependent on what kind of game it is. We haven't come up with the idea of what this next game will be like yet, but once we do, we'll have to take a look at what the method of expression will be for the game, and so we'll go through that process. But there's definitely the possibility that we'll create a more realistic style Zelda. For example, as you've seen in Soul Calibur 2
and Smash Bros.
, we definitely do like the realistic looking Link
<brAlso, we do have that experiment we did for the 2000 Spaceworld demo, so we have those models and we have them moving around and working. We don't have a game for them yet, but that system is there and it functions.
You know, you take a look at a title like Wind Waker, and here's a game where you have a child Link throughout the entire thing -- you never see an adult Link -- and really, I can't picture an adult link in a toon shaded game. It doesn't really match for me. So that's why we have to really think about what the next game will be.
Q: Do you think that using the realistic style of graphics would perhaps limit your creativity?
Shigeru Miyamoto/Eiji Aonuma: Yeah, that's a very good point. As you can see in the Wind Waker, Link's got very large eyes and he's always looking around. They move so much that he'll look at one thing and it'll draw the player's attention to things in the environment. And I think with realistic graphics, there is no way you can do that and have it look right. So I think that's one example of how we've reaped the benefits of the toon shaded graphics.
The main reason we choose the toon shaded style for the Wind Waker was because we wanted to present the player with a much more smooth and more natural environment -- this kind of deformation style movement that we've got going on. And out of that grew these other ideas of how we could use the toon shading, like for the eyes or the other forms of expression he has. So I think it's really important to think about what your objective is and what to use these methods for, and that's why we chose to go with the toon shading -- there are definitely many advantages to it.
One of the most important things with the Zelda franchise is that players must really think that Link is almost themselves in the game. In that sense, there has to be a very natural and fluid interaction between the player and the character. When you don't have that, you basically lose out on the nature of the Zelda games.
If you were to go with a more realistic looking Link, you'd have to have so much movement to the face for him to be able to essentially impact the emotions of the player and make it feel like the player is emoting through Link. That would require so much time and energy to create those graphics, to allow the face to do that.
Also, particularly when you have realistic graphics and you have the character moving through and around objects and bumping into them in an unnatural way, it just stands out all the more. It's even more unnatural than having these toon-shaded style graphics with natural and realistic movement. That's why we've spent so much time and energy with the director and designers to go through and really focus on making the gameplay fun and making Link really emotive in the game to really draw the player into the world.
Q: Mr. Miyamoto, you said yesterday that as the industry shifts, you have to shift with it (for example, moving from 2D games to 3D). However, if you didn't have to worry about game sales at all and could just make any game you wanted, what would that game be?
Shigeru Miyamoto: For me, it would be a game that really anyone could play, just pick up and get involved in. You know, like the kind of game that I could just set out on the street and people could just walk by, pick it up, play, and have fun with it.
Q: But are there any games you'd want to make, regardless of sales or what people might say about them?
Yeah, there are a lot of ideas I have that we never quite get to bring out. I mean, a recent example would be Stage Debut (Talent Studio), which we showed at E3 last year. It's a really simple system and it's really fun -- you can take someone's picture with a GBA
camera and put it onto models in the GameCube game and then make them do all sorts of things. It's a really fun idea and I've had three or four people working on it for quite a while, but I just can't quite seem to find a way to turn it into a product.
The nice thing about that, though, is that even with three or four people working on a project like that for over two years, it's still cheaper than one month of Zelda's development cost [laughs].
Q: During your European tour, there was info on Metal Gear Solid for the GameCube and GBA. Can you explain what was said?
It does sound like there was some misunderstanding about some of that. It is true that we are working with Mr. Kojima to try to bring the Metal Gear series to the GameCube, but at this time we really haven't talked about any connectivity features. I think what happened was that at the same time that I mentioned that, I was also saying that we are in discussions with Electronic Arts about how to bring more connectivity to their games and add some new gameplay style that way, and I think that somebody took the two and kind of combined them together to create what has turned out to be a little misunderstanding.
I think I also mentioned the fact that Mr. Kojima is working on a new Game Boy Advance
game, too, so the three of those statements together may have gotten mixed up and some wires got crossed.
Q: But we can expect to see Metal Gear on the GameCube, right?
Shigeru Miyamoto: It is in progress, but please talk to Konami about that [laughs].
Q: Anthropologists say that if you look at the games of the children, you can see the next 100 years of a society. You always emphasize fun in games, and I'm wondering if on another level if you've though about what videogames as the new game for our children is fostering.
Shigeru Miyamoto: Well as a creator I really strive to create videogames that people play not so much alone, but with their family -- that people play together. And so, in that sense, in looking at the games I've made, I really hope that I'm trying to foster a situation where children are essentially getting the same kind of communication and interaction with other people that I had when I was a child.
But yeah, on the other hand you do have things like the Internet these days where people can go online and talk to people far away. You can talk to people in chat rooms, and you might trust them despite the fact that they could be giving you false information, or are otherwise untrustworthy. And so, I think there are definitely some aspects to this that people need to pay attention to and be wary of, and try to find ways to improve. I think especially as an interactive medium, it really does go beyond just the freedom of expression and the freedom to create. We really should take a look at what the effects of this will be and parents should look into how they can keep track of what their children are doing. Because we're at a point where children can sneak off and secretly buy mature rated games. There's definite affects to that, and I think it's something that we should all be thinking about.
Q: Last year at E3 you showed some networking possibilities with Phantasy Star Online using the broadband adapter and a LAN network. Is there a possibility that we'll see more GameCube online games -- or specifically LAN network games -- at E3 this year?
Shigeru Miyamoto: I can't really say a whole lot about E3 right now, but Nintendo is still at a point where we don't see online games as a business model being successful at this point, so I don't think you can expect to see any serious look at online games at E3. But I do think that the communication aspect of networking and linking games together, including LAN games, is definitely very interesting, and we're going to look at ways to show that off at E3. Particularly linking the Game Boy Advance and the GameCube and linking four GBAs together. That's also a form of communication and networking.
Q: What about linking GameCubes together?
Shigeru Miyamoto: [Laughs] Unfortunately I can't say anything today.
Q: How content are you with the connectivity features you've been able to show off on Game Boy Advance up until this point?
Shigeru Miyamoto: No, I think we're still in the middle of the big challenge in trying to show off some capabilities of that and we're still looking for some more definitive examples to show off.
One of the preconditions for connectivity is that everyone has to have all these cables and people who have a GameCube also have to have a GBA, and that may not always be the case. Up until now we've really been focusing on taking the idea of connectivity and presenting it in a way so that people who do have both can find, oh, I do get more value out of this and that it's a more fun and interesting experience. But we're looking more at trying to build on that and establish the basic groundwork for us to go forward. This year we're going to see 70% to 80% of all first-party releases are going to have some form of connectivity with them. In Japan we've also released Nintendo Puzzle Collection for GameCube and that has a cable packed in with it. So we think that we're going to a level of proliferation with the cables and GBA and GameCube connectivity that we'll be able to show you better examples.
This year we'll be showing off more concrete examples of that with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles and perhaps, and this is not necessarily certain, but with Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire versions of Stadium for GameCube. Maybe something like that.
Q: Will you show a higher level of connectivity between GBA and GCN as you did with Kirby's Tilt and Tumble awhile ago?
Shigeru Miyamoto: Actually, unfortunately work on the Tilt and Tumble project, or Roll-A-Rama project, has kind of slowed at this point because of the demands of many of our other projects that we've been working on. But yeah, that's an example of a game that does require that special user base and does require a cartridge with tilt sensor technology. And we've come up with a lot of other ideas as well, so hopefully.
Q: You said about a year ago that you, Mr. Iwata and the president of HAL went out to a delicious dinner to celebrate the success of Super Smash Bros. Melee in Japan, and that some very interesting things were said. Can you tell us what's going with HAL now? Is it the developer of Kirby's Air Ride? And is it working on another Smash Bros. game? Finally, is there any possibility that EAD might partner with anybody -- such as Sega or Namco -- to include their characters in another Smash Bros. game?
Shigeru Miyamoto: Unfortunately I can't discuss in detail anything that HAL Labs is working on at the moment. What I can say is that they have increased in size recently and in conjunction with that they have increased the number of projects they are working on and the amount of work they're doing. So that's some good news.
As far as having Namco's characters appear in another Smash Bros., we haven't actually discussed anything like that at this point. I personally always like to joke about putting Sonic in Smash Bros. [laughs].
Q: So who is the developer of Kirby's Air Ride?
Shigeru Miyamoto: Yeah, that is HAL that's working on that.
Q: Can you also say who the developer of Wario World is?
Shigeru Miyamoto: I don't know if I can say this. Tell you what, Wario World is being developed by Nintendo in conjunction with a second party that we've worked with in the past.
Q: You took your hobby of gardening and incorporated it into Pikmin. Will you implement your new dog into a GameCube game?
Shigeru Miyamoto: Yeah, I think maybe we'll put a dog in Pikmin that will come running out and just gobble up the Pikmin.
I don't specifically take my hobbies and try to find a way to tie them to a game or anything, but one thing that I think is very interesting about dogs and raising dogs is that I think it's really funny, because I always wonder why people think the way they do toward dogs and why dogs think the way they do towards people. Dogs obviously don't understand words really and yet people talk to them as if they do, and I find myself doing this as well and I sound like a complete fool sitting there saying complete sentences to my dog which it doesn't understand whatsoever. So I think that not so much having a dog, but for me right now having and interacting with a dog is really just a game for me.
Q: The same way that you were able to implement playing in a cave into a Zelda concept, I'm sure he sees something with the relationship of playing with a dog that none of us really look at. What new things has your new dog brought to your life and your thinking?
Shigeru Miyamoto: I definitely think that something like that has the high possibility of popping up in a game idea somewhere. Probably if we do it, though, it won't be a dog in a game.
Q: The Zelda bonus disc has been a real success for you. Do you think you might ever do that for another game, something like F-Zero perhaps?
The Zelda presale was actually kind of a unique case in the sense that we had gone through the trouble of developing Master Quest/Ura Zelda
in Japan and we ultimately never released it primarily because the contents of the game had not changed enough from Ocarina of Time to provide enough value in the product. But the people who worked on it really wanted to get the game out there and we did too, and we actually looked at many possible ways to do that including tying up with magazines trying to sell it with magazines. But ultimately we never really found a way of providing that game to the consumer.
This time around, with the release of Wind Waker -- the fact that we'd gone from a cartridge-based media on the N64
to a disc-based media -- caused a [production cost] drop so significantly that we found we could take this N64 game, put it on a GameCube disc, run it in high-resolution, and follow it up with the Master Quest at a relatively low cost. So that was kind of a unique circumstance with Zelda, but we could certainly do it with other games -- we just haven't thought about doing that with any other games at this point though.
Q: To follow up, then: You know, we never did get to play Star Fox 2.
Shigeru Miyamoto: Star Fox Adventures was very different from any of the other Star Fox games that we've made and when we were working on that we thought it would have been kind of nice if we had done something similar to Star Fox 64 for that game.
I'll definitely give your Star Fox 2 idea some thought though.
Q: Now that Nintendo and Rare have parted ways, where does that leave the Donkey Kong franchise? And are you going to ditch that art style of Donkey Kong that Rare did, which a lot of people didn't prefer?
Shigeru Miyamoto: Well, before I answer there was one thing I wanted to confirm: I thought that Rare's art that was done for those games was generally well received. Was that not the case?
Q: Well, I personally didn't like it.
Shigeru Miyamoto: I don't know if I can say this, but we are working on a Donkey Kong game. Really, it's our policy with the separation from Rare to not allow that to open any holes in Nintendo's library or lineup. It's not as if we got into a big fight with Rare or anything, we just had some different opinions about our business models and where we were headed. We had a long history with Rare and got along very well with them so when we did finally part with them we were able to clean up all the rights and issues surrounding the characters and franchises very easily.
Q: Will we see the new Donkey Kong game at E3?
Shigeru Miyamoto: Unfortunately, I can't answer that question today.
Q: I have another two-part question. First, you just toured Europe. What kind of responses are you getting for Wind Waker from people who have actually played the game? And second, the public appearance you recently made at the Virgin Megastore was a huge success. Do you plan to do something similar in the US or Japan?
The response we've been getting for [Wind Waker] is kind of drastically different because very few people in Europe have actually played the game yet. So in Europe, it's a lot like some of the feedback we had gotten when we first showed pictures of the game where people were just overwhelmingly concerned about the graphic style and haven't had a chance to see how it works with the gameplay. Whereas in the US where most everybody has actually gotten to see the game and played it, they finally understood why we chose the graphic style we did and are much more positive. In Europe, a lot of the press have actually played it and understand it now, and they are essentially asking us how they can convince people that they need to try this game.
In Japan, after people played the game, we had a lot of feedback that the collection of Triforce
pieces in the game was kind of difficult, or tedious, so we've actually made some changes to that part of the spec for the US version and that'll be reflected in the first build of that which will be coming out next month. It's just a few small changes, but hopefully that'll improve some of the feedback that we get.
I was very surprised by the turnout for the public appearance and autograph session at the Virgin Megastore. Actually, Britney Spears had done one just before I did -- 1,000 people came to mine, and that was more than she attracted. That was very flattering.
Actually, the [Virgin Megastore] staff was very helpful, and they were worried that if maybe they didn't have enough people there, then it wouldn't look good. So they had kind of planned to have people lined up early and said that I could take up to 15 minutes per person if I wanted. But in the end there were way more people than anyone expected.
At this point, I don't have any plans to do any more. I'd be too embarrassed to do it in Japan.