Interview:GG8 November 12th 2000

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GG8 November 12th 2000


November 12, 2000





Shigeru Miyamoto, Eiji Aonuma, and Mitsuhiro Takano sits down with Kris of GG8 to discuss about Majora's Mask.



Kris: Long gone are the days of designing a video game all by yourself. Now it can be a very large production with hundreds of artists and designers working together. As Nintendo's General Manager of Entertainment Analysis and Development how did you get to fulfill your role within the production of Majora's Mask?
Shigeru Miyamoto: I was involved in the planning stage at the very beginning as well as the final finishing up session of the game. In the original planning session we had decided to go with this three-day system and I have worked since that time in making sure that it is a system that will be enjoyable enough to be played as a game. I also was involved in deciding the adjustments on the three other character roles that the player can manipulate.
Kris: A game that is very repetitive or continues to cover the same ground over and over again can become boring quickly, yet in Majora's Mask you've actually done just that, using a time loop to make players repeat the same three days and the result is far from boring. How much of a challenge was it to keep the game's repetition from becoming tiresome?
SM: Actually those challenges were met, not by myself, but by directors like Mr. Aunoma. As a matter of fact, we intentionally made it so that people would have to repeat the same set of events during the three days. You may recall that the Zelda series before has had that same kind of repetition, not within a time frame, but within the terrain, the game's map. By exploring the same section of terrain again and again, game players are meant to become masters of the landscape. With Majora's Mask we've simply added another landscape called time. We want the game players to become fully familiar with the events and the happenings during the three days of the game along with the kind of changes that can be made to the world that's being explored, thus the primary role the time element plays. So, with that being our premise, the game's goal, we of course have made every effort to prevent that repetition from becoming a boring process.

We believed, right from the very beginning, that if we were going to add a time element to the Legend of Zelda series, it should definitely not be a boring one. It was kind of a pre-conditioned premise, a condition that we accepted before we started working on the game. The rest was up to Directors like Mr. Aunoma and the others, who had to make the effort to assure that the repetition of the game would never become boring.
Eiji Aonuma: Yes, it was very important for us to keep that in mind, that there is a time element, that time flows in the game world, and those who are playing within it will notice some of the differences depending on when and where they have been. For example, at a certain place, at a certain time, game players are going to try to be there and try to make a change. At ten in the morning for example, one event happens, but if they instead arrive at 10:20, there is a completely different event that takes place. It is just a ten minute difference, but it's a significant difference, and the way in which players will react to it, we just don't believe that it is going to be boring. The way in which the time difference can be conceived or experienced by a player is a very important factor in keeping Majora's Mask from becoming tired or repetitive.
SM: I thought Mr. Takano was going to add some comments, but on behalf of him, let me say that, yes, we understand that repetition is a kind of hardship and, as a matter of fact when we were developing Majora's Mask, we experienced ourselves a lot of that hardship specifically because of the repetition process. At times we tried to make things very easy, but during the process we realized that, yes, as a matter of fact life is full of hardship and if we were to give complete freedom to the game player, then it would be far from realistic. After all, we understand and are determined that there has to be some hardship in Majora's Mask, that players will need to experience that difficulty of repeating certain things and events again and again, but doing something repeatedly is one thing, and feeling it to be a boring process is quite another. In other words, by making sure that when you go to repeat the same thing again that there are many different and enjoyable events that can happen, we believe that the things you will need to do repeatedly will not become boring or tiring. We have understood that it must be an enjoyable process. Another way of looking at it is that game players have the opportunity to act on their own and at their own discretion. If they come back, if they repeat something, let's do this, let's do that, and it's with their own ideas, then its going to become a very enjoyable experience.
Kris: Is it a serious challenge to create games, like Majora's Mask, that are directed both to experienced players, who with each passing year become more and more experienced with your work, and for the newer, younger players who join your audience each year?
SM: I think it is a hardship that all designers have to face whenever they are making sequels or a game that's within a series. Generally when I'm creating a game, I make it a point of keeping in mind the people who have never played the prequels. But with Majora's Mask, we had to keep in mind those who had played Ocarina of Time, and so we used a different approach.
EA: I do not know how I would go about doing it with another title or series, but as far as creating Majora's Mask is concerned:-

  1. The creative staff members were almost identical between Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask;
  2. There were elements in Ocarina of Time that we could further expand on, and;
  3. The game system of Ocarina of Time was simple and yet so sophisticated in that we could make use of it for a variety of different games. Accordingly, the work was completed relatively smoothly (smoothly in that, compared to Ocarina of Time, it took significantly less time to complete). I believe that all the Zelda team members had gathered their thoughts toward the Zelda series as a whole into their efforts on Majora's Mask.
Kris: Tatl, the small fairy that guides Link is an odd choice. She's a bit shallow, a little opportunistic, and a touch selfish. Odd traits for a sidekick, where did the idea for a personality like hers come from?
EA: Tatl, who is Link's guide, also has the role of a storyteller. Her characteristics were determined by the scriptwriter. In Majora's Mask, we wanted Link to get inside of a wonderland, to experience the adventures and think hard about what he should do. But, we did not want Tatl to talk too much, or she would give away too many hints to players, and that would spoil the joy of playing the game. Because of that, Tatl was featured as rather a selfish and cool personality, I believe. Also, we wanted to make some difference with Navi. And, there was a member in our group who for some reason loves selfish women, and that might have been reflected on Tatl's characteristics. Anyway, Navi had the strong image of being a Link-friendly character, and that cannot be replaced by anybody else. Tatl knew that fact so she pretended to be selfish, I guess.
SM: Since Takano created that scenario, he'll explain it in more detail.
Mitsuhiro Takano: Just as Mr. Aonuma said, Majora's Mask is a game in which Link explores a mysterious world and tries to think very hard about finding his own way through it, so I did not want Tatl to be too helpful for him. Instead, I made her a shallow and selfish character. One of the themes for Majora's Mask was that "The characters look familiar but something is different somehow." So, I wanted Tatl, too, to look similar to the fairies from Ocarina of Time but with different characteristics. Further to that, I also wanted to include a story where a hard-hearted Tatl gradually opens her heart as Link solves the problems of the world, so I tried to impress on players in the beginning that Tatl is a sharp-tongued character, in order to be able to make a good contrast to that in the end.
Kris: What was it about the idea of the masks that attracted you to use them?
SM: Actually it was not my own idea. In Ocarina in Time, Link could become a dog, Link sometimes was a child, and there were times when he could ride the horse. In each occasion, players were experiencing a new kind of enjoyment. For Majora's Mask, we wanted to evolve that concept further by allowing players to change and see things from entirely different views, that way players could see and experience the world in different ways. So this time, instead of riding on a horse or on the back of a dinosaur, why not become a different person, some other self, so that you could then can perform a completely different set of actions? In the case of Majora's Mask, we wanted players to experience becoming the characters that players have become very familiar with from Ocarina of Time. That's why we introduced these characters back into Majora's Mask with the set of masks that let you become them.
Kris: I've read that in your games there is often an area that was particularly hard to achieve and yet its usually something so simple to players playing the game that they would never guess. Was there an area like that in Majora's Mask?
EA: The fact that if you go back in time, then all the items you have secured will be lost. We had a very heated discussion as to what we could or could not allow the player to keep. You know, the Legend of Zelda games have always offered the joy of securing many different items, and there is a joy for players in choosing which items to use within the game. This time we've changed that concept so that players can also look at finding the most efficient way to gather the needed items within the time limitation and this way keep the enjoyment of gathering the items even though the items will be lost when going back in time. Players will have already enjoyed gathering the items the first time, and so on the second time, they can get some enjoyment from trying to find the most efficient way to do it again.

Asking players to repeat the things they do is a kind of hardship and we had to try to implement different ideas to make it easier for players to do so. Even though we had done everything we could when we made the Japanese version, we realized afterward that there were still some hardships, big hardships, which we should not have let the Japanese players suffer. So, when creating the English version of Majora's Mask, we have added some extra features, for example we have added the intercept save function during game-play, a feature that only appears in the English version. With this, I believe that western players are going to have a lot less difficulty when playing Majora's Mask.
Kris: Will there be another adventure in The Legend of Zelda series?
EA: The next platform will be the Game Cube and with it we will have the new controller. With a change of controllers you can have new kinds of actions with different ways to control them. So with the next Zelda game, we are currently experimenting with exactly what kind of actions and moves can be used in the new game. We are trying to work out a basic system, which can fully realize the game-play and then maximize the capacity of the Game Cube's control.

What we have to do next, and what we haven't started at all is to work on the details of the storyline, but before we do that we like to have decided on what the kind of actions and controls we can have with the controller before we come up with the story. Already at this point we have a version of Link running about the screen and at this time he very cute, or you might say adorable.
Kris: What kind of stories and adventures inspired you as a kid growing up?
SM: Science fiction stories by Isaac Asimov among others, and detective stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I was also impressed with such special-effects TV programs as Thunderbirds and the ones by Tuboraya Movie Productions.