IGN August 16th 2002
An general Q&A with Miyamaoto including upcoming releases, and his role in the company.
IGN: One of the most striking things about the games you are showing this year is how different some of them look. Zelda for the GameCube is particularly so, as it now uses a cel-shading approach. Why did you go this way and do you think you are taking a risk changing the way Zelda looks for all of those fans of the game?
Shigeru Miyamoto: We really wanted to challenge ourselves with something new and the team wanted to do this as well so I felt we'd be able to give Link a greater sense of character and life. We wanted to make Link's face bigger and much more expressive. There are some areas where Link's face is pressed up against the wall and sort of looking around and it adds a lot of character to the game, as well as being quite funny at times.
IGN: You have gone through many changes as a games designer and these days you have more of a role of roving producer overseeing a great many projects at once. Do you feel this broad role makes it hard to focus on individual games? Do you wish you could work on a single game more exclusively like you have in the past?
Shigeru Miyamoto: Yes my role is much broader, and although there is room for creative involvement, there are also much bigger challenges associated with managing the teams working on different games. Although I do still have a lot of time for creative input even though I look at several games at once overseeing their development. There are a lot of cases where I am working with a director on a game and the director will come to me with problems and we will sit down and hammer those out. Or we will try and work them out by perhaps me being able to look at the problem from a different position as I am not as involved in the direct development of the project and so I can sometimes see another way around the obstacles.
IGN: When Mario 64 was first shown at E3 years ago it was a defining moment for us, it was so mind blowing and really showed the way forward for the future of videogames. Mario Sunshine is also a great looking game, but more evolutionary than revolutionary. Do you agree with this and how do you feel about this idea?
Shigeru Miyamoto: Yes, Mario 64 was a real step forward for me and I loved how it felt to see people so absorbed by the game when it was first shown at E3 all of those years ago. Obviously I have to show something at E3 every year and so I show games that I like even if I don't have a game like Mario 64 to show every year. Mario Sunshine is a game which I have had a lot of fun working on as the GameCube makes it easier to do things I never thought possible with previous hardware. You will find it is enjoyable and has a few fun touches -- we wanted to make sure the fun of being a Mario game was a big part of this effort. However we do have other experiments and other projects that I am working on which I hope to show next year. I think these will surprise a lot of people. It is important to keep fans of what we have done in the past happy too though. That is why we have been focusing on games like Mario, Zelda and even Metroid. There will be new things coming from Nintendo though and these are games I am hoping to bring to E3 next year and have a big impact on the show.
IGN: What sorts of new things are you looking to bring to the market? Are you working with new technologies, which potentially change the nature of the games interface, like the Sony EyeToy for example?
Shigeru Miyamoto: You may recall a year or two ago at Space World we did the 100 Marios demo and this year we showed off the GameEye for Game Boy Advance. Those are some of the ideas we are looking to explore further and bring out some new ideas that incorporate new gameplay elements into the games which we are working on in the future. It is exciting, but I cannot say much more about the directions we are exploring. It is fun to see where we can go though.
IGN: Nintendo hasn't joined the headlong rush towards online gaming that its rivals seem to be embracing. This makes sense in a way as online could be an easy way to waste a lot of money in the early development phases of the new medium. What do you think is the best way for Nintendo? Are you looking to make online games in the near future?
One of the big challenges which is required with being in an online game is that there is a lot of maintenance involved in getting a game online and making sure the people playing are kept happy. The technology has to be tested and redeveloped and you also have pressure on you to make new content for the game as the online community explores what you have created. These are great challenges that I feel I'd like to investigate further, but I also want to make sure the online games I make are 'just right' and so I want to look at the area more closely.
At E3 we had a lot of games which we called communication games that do have the 'connectivity' which helps the game to be playable by many people who aren't sitting at the console at the same time. Take Animal Crossing for example. You can take these games with you on the Game Boy Advance and do different things and have the community of the game world change because of new decisions and developments that occur each time a new player plays the game. This is a different kind of multiplayer game to online, but we feel it has a lot of promise and we have thought about this a lot.
Interaction between even the Triforce Arcade boards and our other systems is another way we can explore a different kind of multiplayer gaming, where a community grows up around a game because you take the game experience with you to your friends, to the arcade and anywhere you want to and the game changes because of what you and your friends, who you are playing the game with, chose to do. This is multiplayer gaming, but it doesn't use the connectivity of the Internet. Instead we connect the different technologies directly and so avoid the problems the Internet presents in terms of speed and reliable access. With communication games we are really able to explore multiplayer and then when we are ready these games will be able to make the transition to online once we have tested the technology and come up with the right model.
IGN: Indeed the multiplayer potential of the four player GBA Zelda is something which we look forward to getting to grips with. The game is very similar to the classic Gauntlet don't you think?
Shigeru Miyamoto: I am aware of Gauntlet, but we didn't think about Gauntlet when we developed Zelda for Game Boy. It is something that people have said to us and we now go "oh I see what you mean," but Zelda is a different kind of game and when we were developing it we didn't consciously think about Gauntlet. We just wanted to make a fast, fun cooperative game, or as you saw by the demonstration at E3, competitive gameplay experience which was fun and got you to enjoy Zelda in a new way. We are very happy with the result and again Zelda is another of the games that explores our ideas about connectivity and multiplayer gaming.
IGN: So the game isn't mirroring Gauntlet that closely? The random dungeons are something that is very Gauntlet to us.
Shigeru Miyamoto: The game is going to go in the 'Zelda' direction. Dungeons are coming up randomly, but the game will be about solving puzzles with four players and this is a key difference that makes this a Zelda game.
IGN: This year one of the biggest developments in the Nintendo philosophy has been the new approach with regard to significant in-house games. Established external companies are now developing big name Nintendo games and this is something that we have never seen on this scale before. Do you feel this is a risk or a benefit?
Shigeru Miyamoto: Really a lot of the games we are working on we are working on with second parties quite closely. Indeed we find that the second party developers essentially don't have the kind of insight we have with the games that we know all so well and so we work with them to make sure this is right. This is consuming a lot of my time right now, but it is very important and worthwhile as these games are the titles Nintendo has built a successful enterprise with and we care about them very much. We have been really involved with the overseeing of many of these games, but one of the problems with games development is that we don't have the time to train and hire new teams to work on the games we need to make.
IGN: We see. You mean it is a necessary part of Nintendo's expansion as a developer?
Shigeru Miyamoto: Yes. We have our established games and we want to have manpower to make them, but then we realize that we need to come up with new things and this takes up even more manpower. So instead of trying to train up massive teams, while working on established as well as new games, it makes much more sense for us to work with well-chosen partners. It makes more sense than training vast numbers of people just for this time when we need them. We would not have enough manpower to develop these high quality games if we had to do so much training and growing internally. If you look at the developers we are working with most of them are either partly financed by or receiving some assistance from Nintendo, so these developers are almost subsidiaries of Nintendo. In that sense it has been a way for us to expand our development capabilities and still have control over the quality of the games we make and this is very important to us. The overall quality of our games is very important to us and Nintendo has some strong franchises and we intend to look after this while growing in other directions. This is the greatest single challenge we face today.
IGN: You have been reported as being fond of playing the guitar a lot as opposed to spending a lot of time playing games. Does a good games designer need to play a lot of games? What makes a good game designer?
Shigeru Miyamoto: Obviously a game designer needs to play games and I do this and it is good for me as well as usually being fun. I feel very lucky being able to return to a game we developed a while ago and to be able to enjoy it in the knowledge that it still delivers a fun experience even after being left alone for some time. Mario 64 and Zelda for the N64 are examples here. However I also think it is important for the games designer to think about the broader world of entertainment and the ideas that work in other areas. Entertainment, which is what we do, is really a vast, vast industry and it is important to get inspiration from other areas so you come up with new ideas and more exciting games. If you look too inwardly it can be hard to approach fun and the games from a fresh perspective. It is good to be open to new possibilities, exposing yourself to a wide theatre of experiences and find inspiration in unlikely places. For example I like Pikmin, which I made after being in my own garden.
IGN: In 10 years where would you like to be?
Shigeru Miyamoto: I think I will be making new games [laughs], but it might be fun to make something which is not a videogame, or perhaps not a videogame as we know it now. I see other creative opportunities and look forward to experimenting with them.
IGN: Do Nintendo need to lead in terms of console sales to stay in the business?
Shigeru Miyamoto: I think obviously if you make high quality games you will get to number one, but we don't focus on reaching number one, we don't focus on the numbers of games or consoles we sell as our primary reason for being in the industry. We want our games to be profitable, but more than that for me I want to make games that are fun and then success will follow naturally.
IGN: Enjoy the rest of the year!
Shigeru Miyamoto: I always do. It is exciting to see what fresh new ideas are coming out each year! Because of our new relationships I might even get to see some games that aren't being developed for Nintendo for once.