Interview:DICE Roundtable 2003

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Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma meet with journalists to discuss a wide variety of topics.

At the annual DICE Summit in Las Vegas, Nintendo held a roundtable for the press with Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario, and Eiji Aonuma, the director of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The session covered a range of topics, including titles in development for the GameCube, The Wind Waker, and the future of connectivity.

Question: As someone who is a creative person by nature, how do you find balance in your life from the stresses and pressure from your work at Nintendo?

Shigeru Miyamoto: Once I turned 40, I actually took up swimming and now I'm swimming at least one or two kilometers every week. And also about that time I quit smoking. Of course, weekdays I work very late hours generally, so I'm certain on the weekends to spend all my time with my wife and family.

Q: Since part of the creative process requires a space to be creative in, is it a challenge to find that?

SM: I think that is very important. You do need a lot of space and freedom in order to come up with ideas. I'm actually more the type of person who comes up with ideas while I'm working, so it's not as much of a challenge for me. Really, I try to find that balance and that space by expanding out into new areas. Lately my family's gotten a dog, so we've been spending a lot of time with the dog, taking care of it, so that's brought me some pleasure and some balance too.

Q: A lot of the game announcements we've seen so far for this year have been sequels like Pikmin 2, Kirby, and Wario. Will any new franchises be introduced this year?

SM: I do intend to show something at E3.

Q: What do you see as being your biggest challenge this year?

SM: I think this year my biggest challenge is to really take connectivity to the next level and really put it in a form where people can understand what the real concept of it is and where they can take that. And, of course, with the e-Reader out, finding new ways to incorporate the e-Reader. Obviously we have [the e-Reader] in the US, and we've launched in Japan, but not with the technological upgrade the US version has. We've still yet to launch in Europe. We're still looking at finding ways to incorprate that into gameplay and creating new styles of gameplay that only Nintendo can offer.

Q: Everyone loves The Wind Waker, but many people preferred the more realistic style seen in the Space World demo. Are there any plans to explore that?

Eiji Aonuma: The first thing I'd like to say is that I think once people actually play The Wind Waker and get into the game, they 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 and pick it up and play it, they'll immediately be engulfed in the Zelda world and really understand and accept this game for what it is. As for whether or not we'll actually go and create a more realistic Zelda game, it's really a question of what kind of Zelda game the next one will be. Obviously the graphical style or the methods of expression that we choose for that game are going to be highly dependent on what kind of game it is. We haven't come up with the idea for it yet, but once we do, we'll then have to take a look at what the best method of expression is going to be for that game. We'll go through that process, so definitely there's a possibility that we will create a more realistic Zelda.

SM: Obviously, we've seen a more realistic Link in the Soul Calibur video today and the Smash Brothers model--hopefully that can tide people over. Also, of course, we do have the experiment we did to create the Space World 2000 video, so we have those models and we have them moving around working. We don't have a game for them, but that system is there and it functions. And you know, obviously, you take a look at The Wind Waker and this is a game where you have child Link throughout the entire game--you never see adult Link in the game. And I can't picture adult Link in a toon-shaded game, it doesn't really match for me. So that's why we say that when we think about the next Zelda game we may have to reevaluate what side we use.

Q: Do you find that putting an emphasis on realistic graphics limits your creativity? Were you able to do more things creatively because of The Wind Waker's style?

EA: 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. [His eyes] move so much, and they'll look at things and draw players' attention to objects in the environment. I think with realistic graphics there's no way that you can do that and have it look right. So I think that's one example of how were able to do something new with the toon-shaded graphics. The main reason we chose the toon-shading style for The Wind Waker was because we wanted to present the player with a much more smooth and natural-looking movement style, this kind of deformation style of movement that we've given Link. Out of that grew these other ideas of how we could use the toon shading, like for the eyes and to give hints and other ways of expression within the game. So I think that's why it's so important to really think about what your objective is and what you intend to use some of these methods for. That's the main reason that we chose toon shading, and so there's definitely advantages to it.

SM: One of the most important things with the Zelda franchise is that players really must feel that Link is really almost themselves in the game. In that sense, there has to be very natural and fluid interaction between the player and the character. When you don't have that, you certainly lose some of the nature that makes Zelda what it is. So, if you were to go for a more realistic-looking Link, then you would have to have so much movement in the face for him to be able to essentially affect the emotions of the player and make it feel like the player is emoting through Link. That would require so much time and energy in order to create the graphics to allow the face to do that. Also, when you have realistic graphics, when you have a character with his arm moving through objects or his arm bumping into things in an unnatural way, it just stands out all the more. I think that's even more unnatural than having these toon-shaded-style graphics with extremely natural and realistic movement. So that's why this time we spent so much time and energy with the directors and the designers to go through and really focus on making the gameplay fun and making Link really emotive in the game to draw the player into the world.

Q: If you didn't have to worry about game sales at all and could just make the game you wanted to make without worrying about what anyone would say, what would that be?

SM: For me, it would be a game that really anyone can play, that they could just pick up and get involved in. The kind of game I could just set out on the street and people could walk by and play it and have fun with it.

Q: But is there any game you'd want to do but can't because you think it wouldn't sell?

SM: There are a lot of ideas like that that I do have but I never get the chance to bring out. One of the most recent examples would be Stage Debut or Talent Studio, which I think we showed at E3 last year. It's a really simple system, it's really fun. You can take someone's picture using a Game Boy Advance camera and put it onto models in a GameCube game and make them do things. It's a really fun idea and we've had three or four people working on it for quite a while, but we just can't quite seem to find a way to turn it into a product. But the nice thing about it is that, you know, even with three or four people working on a project like that for two years, that's still cheaper than one month of Zelda's development cost

Q: During your European tour, there was some information on a Metal Gear game for the Game Boy Advance. Could you clarify what was said about that?

SM: I think 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 point, we really haven't talked at all about any kind of connectivity features. I think what happened was that at the same time I mentioned that I was also mentioning that we were in conversations 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 bit of a misunderstanding. I think I also mentioned the fact that Mr. Kojima is working on a new Game Boy Advance game at the same time, so I think that the three of those together got mixed up and some wires got crossed.

Q: So we can expect Metal Gear for the GameCube?

SM: It's in progress, but please talk to Konami about that.

Q: Will the GameCube Metal Gear game be a sequel or a new game? Will Pikmin 2 introduce simultaneous two-player competitive or cooperative play?

SM: Unfortunately, this really is a Wind Waker promotional tour [laughs]. We just kind of felt bad because we felt that if all we showed was The Wind Waker then people wouldn't be very excited so we did bring a few other things. We'll have more specific details about all these games at E3 in May.

Q: Anthropologists say that if you look at the games children play you can see the next 100 years in a society. Have you ever thought about what video games are fostering?

SM: You ask difficult questions [laughs]. Well, as a creator, I really strive to try to create video games that people play not so much alone but really with their family, and have people play together. So, in that sense, in looking at the games that I've made, I really hope that I try 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. On the other hand, you do have things like the Internet, where people can go online and talk to people far away, and you can talk to people in chat rooms and you may trust them, despite the fact that they could be giving you false information or may be untrustworthy. 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, as an interactive medium, it really does go beyond just the freedom of expression and freedom to create. We really should take a look at what the effects of this will be and parents should look at 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 are definite effects to that, and I think it's something we should all be thinking about.

Q: Last year at E3, you showed some networking possibilities with Phantasy Star Online. Is there the possibility that we'll see more online or network games from Nintendo at E3 this year?

SM: Well, 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 being successful as a business model 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 Game Boy Advances together--that's also a form of communication and networking.

Q: What about linking GameCubes together?

SM: Unfortunately, I can't say anything today [laughs].

Q: How content have you been with the connectivity features you've been able to show off this far?

SM: I think we're still in the middle of the big challenge with trying to show off some capabilities of that, and we're still looking for some more definitive examples to show off. Obviously the precondition for connectivity is that everyone has to have all these cables and people who have a GameCube also have to have a Game Boy Advance, and that may not always be the case. So, 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," or "This is a little bit more fun," or "This is an interesting experience." But, really, 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 that 70 to 80 percent of all first-party releases are going to have some form of connectivity in them. In Japan we've also released the Nintendo Puzzle Collection for the GameCube, and that has a cable packed in with it, so we think that we're actually going to get to a level of proliferation with the cables and the Game Boy Advance-GameCube connectivity that we'll be able to show some more concrete examples. So 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--with Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire versions of Stadium for the GameCube maybe. Something like that.

Q: Do you feel you have to wait to show off connectivity at the level of the Space World demo that featured Kirby moving between a Game Boy Advance and a GameCube until the number of users have cables grows?

SM: Unfortunately, work on the Tilt 'n' Tumble, or Roll-A-Rama, project has kind of slowed at this point because of the demands of many of the other projects that we've been working on. But definitiely, that's an example of a game that does require that installed user base. It also requires a special cartridge with tilt-sensor technology. And we've come up with a lot of other ideas as well.

Q: What's happening with Hal now? Are they the developer of Kirby's Air Ride? Is there another Smash Bros. game in development? Finally, are you partnering with Namco, Sega, or anybody (in terms of Smash Bros.) to include their licenses?

SM: Unfortunately, I can't discuss in detail about anything that HAL Labs is working on at the moment. What I can say is that they have increased in size recently. In conjunction with that, they have increased the number of projects they are working on and the amount of work that they're doing, so that's some good news. As far as having Namco's characters appear in another Smash Bros., we have not discussed anything like that at this point. I personally always like to joke about putting Sonic in Smash Bros.

Q: Who's developing Kirby's Air Ride? Is it Hal Labs?

SM: Yeah, that is Hal.

Q: Could you clarify who the developer of Wario World is?

SM: 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 [laughs].

Q: You implemented your hobby of gardening into Pikmin. Have you been thinking of ways of implementing your new dog into a game?

SM: Yeah, I think maybe we'll put a dog in Pikmin that will come running out and basically 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 really interesting about dogs and raising dogs is that I always wonder why people think the way they do toward dogs and why dogs think the way they do toward 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 that it doesn't understand whatsoever. So I think a game, not so much about just having a dog, but really, for me right now, about having a dog and interacting with a dog, is really just the game for me.

Q: Well, is there anything about the relationship with a dog that you could implement into a game like you implemented playing in a cave in Kyoto into the Zelda concept? What has it brought to your life?

SM: I definitely think that something like that has the high possibility of popping up in a game somewhere. Probably if we do it, though, it won't be a dog in the game.

Q: The Zelda preorder Ocarina disc has been a real success. Do you think you might ever do that for a future game, like F-Zero or Star Fox?

SM: The Zelda presale was actually kind of a unique case in the sense that we had actually gone through the trouble of developing Ura Zelda, or The Master Quest in Japan, and we ultimately never released it primarily because we thought 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 and trying to sell it through magazines. But ultimately we never really found a way of providing that game to the consumer.

This time around, with the release of The Wind Waker, and the fact that we'd gone from a cartridge-based medium on the N64 to a disc-based medium, costs had dropped so significantly that we found we that could take this N64 game, put it on the GameCube disc--and even put it in high resolution--and let people play through The Ocarina of Time game and follow it up with the Master Quest at a relatively low cost. So it was kind of unique circumstances with Zelda. It's certainly possible to do it with other games, but we just haven't thought about doing that with anything else at this point.

Q: To follow up then, we've never been able to play Star Fox 2.

SM: Star Fox Adventures was very different from any of the other Star Fox games that we've made. And, actually, when we were working on that, we thought after the fact it would have been kind of nice if we had done something similar with Star Fox 64 for that game. I'll give that Star Fox 2 idea some thought, though.

Q: Now that Rare and Nintendo have parted ways, where does that leave the Donkey Kong series? Has Nintendo taken that back? Are you going to ditch the art style Rare used for Donkey Kong?

SM: I don't know if I can say this. Well, I guess I can say this--we are working on a Donkey Kong game. And really, it's our policy with the separation with Rare to not allow that to open any holes in Nintendo's library or lineup. It's not that we got into a big fight with Rare or anything, we just had some differing opinions about business models and where we were headed. We obviously had a long history with Rare and got along very well with them. And so when we did finally part with them we were able to clean up all the rights and issues surrounding all the characters and franchises very easily.

Q: Will we see the new Donkey Kong game at E3?

SM: Unfortunately, I can't answer that question today.

Q: You've just toured Europe with The Wind Waker. What kind of responses have you been getting from people who have actually played the game?

SM: Actually, the response we've been getting has been very drastically different. I think the reason for that is because very few people in Europe have actually had the chance to play much of the game yet. So in Europe, it's really kind of a lot like some of the initial feedback we had gotten when we first showed pictures of the game, where people are just overwhelmingly concerned about the graphic style and haven't had a chance to see how that's working with the gameplay. Whereas, in the United States, where most everybody has actually played the game and gotten to see it and finally understood why we chose the graphic style that we did, it's much more positive. In Europe, a lot of the press has actually played it and they understand it, but a lot of them are asking us how they can help convince people that they have to try this game. Also, in Japan, after people had played The Wind Waker, 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 touched that up and made some changes to that part of the spec for the US version that will be reflected in the first build, which will be coming out next month. It's just a few small changes, but hopefully it will improve some of the feedback that we get.

Q: You recently made a public appearance at the Virgin Megastore in London. Do you have any plans to do something similar in the US or Japan?

SM: 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 and 1,000 people came to mine, and that was more than she attracted. That was very flattering. The staff was very helpful and they were worried that if maybe they didn't have enough people then it wouldn't look good. So they kind of planned to have people lining up early and told me I could take up to 15 minutes with each person. In the end it turned out there were way more people than anyone expected. At this point I don't have any plans to do anymore. I'd be too embarrassed to do it in Japan.