Interview:Iwata Asks: Link's Crossbow Training
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Iwata Asks: Link's Crossbow Training
May 8, 2008
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata sits down with Shigeru Miyamoto to discuss the recently released Zelda title in Japan, Link's Crossbow Training. The two also talk about First Person Shooter games, and how Ocarina of Time was originally planned to be a FPS game. Other topics include the creation of games, difference between east and west, and the Wii Zapper.
On the creation of bridge-building games
Miyamoto: What? Am I the only one being interviewed today?
Miyamoto: Where's the producer, Mr. Aonuma? And there is one more producer behind Link's Crossbow Training besides Mr. Aonuma.
Iwata: Mr. Tezuka is also a producer, right?
Miyamoto: Until now, it had been a long time since Mr. Tezuka has had anything to do with Zelda, and I thought it would just be better if he were here too, since I might not be able to answer all of your questions. (laughs)
Iwata: (laughs) For now, rather than hearing too much about the details of the game, I'd like to ask you what sort of image you had in mind when creating Link's Crossbow Training.
Miyamoto: I see. Well, where should I start? I've always been into first person shooter (FPS) style games, 3D games in which you can walk around freely and see things from your own point of view.
Iwata: And why do you like those games?
Miyamoto: I think it is more comfortable, more natural. We are creatures of habit. We don't look at our feet when we're walking around, and we're always trying desperately to take in the scenery while we're living our lives. So, even in these games I want people to be able to get really into the 3D geography, so it feels like you're really there, since I think it's a really natural thing to be able to look around while you're walking. At first when we were developing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I even proposed using a first-person perspective.
Iwata: Ocarina of Time from a first-person perspective!?
Miyamoto: I thought that might surprise you! (laughs) I thought that the FPS system would be the best way of enabling players to take in the vast terrain of the Hyrule Field. Besides, by not having the player's character on the screen, we can spend more time and machine power on creating enemies and the environments.
Iwata: During the Nintendo 64 era you had to keep hardware limitations in mind, didn't you?
Miyamoto: Well, although I had originally planned to make a game with a first-person perspective, the idea of having a child Link in the game was born, and then it became necessary for the hero to be seen on the screen.
Iwata: I see. So, if the hero isn't visible on screen, it's really hard to tell the difference between adult Link and the child Link, right?
Miyamoto: That, and also the fact that it's a total waste not to have Link visible on screen when he is so cool looking! (laughs) So, we decided to have the hero visible in Ocarina of Time, but I had always thought that FPS games which you could operate from your own perspective were really interesting, so I was proactively supporting such projects like the 007 GoldenEye game.
Iwata: While there are people like you, Mr. Miyamoto, who find these FPS games to be really fun, there are, on the other hand, people who feel FPS games are too difficult. I think that quite a lot of Japanese people feel this way – why do you think this is?
Miyamoto: I really don't know what the reason could be.
Iwata: I don't share this opinion, but some say that Japanese and Westerners would have different abilities when it comes to grasping 3D games, since people who were traditionally hunters would have a better understanding of using space, whereas people who were traditionally farmers might not.
Miyamoto: So I guess my ancestors were hunters! (laughs) But don't get me wrong, I'm really no expert at FPS games. I can get beat in a second, but I think they're really fun.
Iwata: It seems that you're always in tune with what you find enjoyable.
Miyamoto: Yeah, you can read me like a book!
Iwata: For example, the idea for Wii Fit was born because you found the simple act of weighing yourself every day enjoyable, and similarly, the creation of a game in the FPS genre was a reaction to your internal sensor telling you that it would be fun.
Miyamoto: If there is something simple which someone can find enjoyable, the same joy can be experienced by anyone on earth, I believe. That's what I always have in mind when I am creating games. For example, when we were working on Wii Sports, people in America kept telling me that there was no way that games this simple would sell in the States. When Wii Sports finally went on sale though, the games appeared to have even stronger appeal in the US than they did in Japan. When you see a phenomenon like that occur right in front of you, you start to see that there really isn't any difference in what east or the west find enjoyable.
Iwata: So, in order to show a lot of different people how much fun FPS games are, you created Link's Crossbow Training.
Iwata: I can understand why you say you wanted to expose more people here in Japan to FPS games, but the game was released in the US, where there already are a lot of people who are into FPS games, right?
Miyamoto: Well, even in the US, as in Japan, there are people who used to be into gaming, but don't play anymore, or just aren't into FPS games.
Iwata: Well I've certainly heard from an American reporter I've spoken to about how much trouble he has been experiencing in playing FPS games. (laughs)
Miyamoto: Well first of all, FPS games were originally shooting games. You couldn't scroll, you played on a level surface, and I think a lot of people really liked that style of game.
Iwata: Back then, it had nothing to do with age; both kids and adults could enjoy these shooting games. When they played Link's Crossbow Training, some people were even reminded of those pop-gun games they used to play at carnivals.
Miyamoto: Even when you go to an amusement park today you can find target practice games. There'll be some Wild West set-up where your enemies hide behind a rock and you take shots at a target. It seems really simple, but when you try it you see that it's really fun. But the gaming world has become more and more complicated to the point that people no longer think of it as being accessible.
Iwata: During the Nintendo 64 era, when GoldenEye 007 came out, even in Japan there seemed to be signs indicating the likely spread of the FPS genre. But although the popularity of those games began peaking in the US soon after that, I think that there was still not much progression in Japan among people who enjoy playing video games.
Miyamoto: In the US, various types of FPS games made for PCs slowly began to be released on home consoles. However, in Japan, there had been no basis for FPS-style games, and advanced games just kind of sprung up suddenly. I think it was our responsibility to continue releasing fun FPS games to the public to keep them engaged and interested though...
Iwata: There's a really big difference between the simple shooting games and the advanced FPS games, isn't there? I think that although a lot of people would find the FPS games really fun, many have this image that it's really hard to bridge the gap in difficulty between the two.
Miyamoto: Right, and I really felt there was room for a game that would bridge that gap, which is why I created Link's Crossbow Training. Since you use the Wii Remote to aim, it's a really comfortable way of playing a FPS.
Iwata: Just out of curiosity, and since there's no reason for you to be studying English or training your brain, why did you use the English word "training" in the title?
Miyamoto: (Laughs) Because something like "Link's Crossbow Classroom" sounds a little funny, don't you think? Since it is a kind of introduction to FPS games, we were originally thinking of calling it "Introduction to Wii Zapper", but then we decided that people might get that confused with "Introduction to Wii" (Introduction to Wii is the Japanese title for Wii Play), and we didn't want that to happen. Also, if we had given it a name like "The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Crossbow", it would have seemed like a grand-scaled sequel in the Zelda Series, and we didn't want it to be misinterpreted as such. That's why, in the end, we went with "training" for the title.
Iwata: When I hear a story like that, that's when I really get a feel for the depth of the gaming world. When I hear something like that, I wonder if some people will begin to question the game's depth.
Miyamoto: Well, it's what you'd expect from the creators of Zelda. (laughs)
The “process” as the reward
Iwata: So what made you decide to use Zelda in the creation of a FPS bridge-building game?
Miyamoto: Well, once we finished the Ocarina of Time, we decided to make Majora's Mask as a kind of side story.
Iwata: Oh right, I remember that. When I first heard of the idea for Link's Crossbow Training it really reminded me of Majora's Mask. I remember thinking that it was aiming to make use of the game world and game system of Twilight Princess in a different setting.
Miyamoto: Yeah, that's true. The terrain created for Twilight Princess was vast. And honestly, I really thought there was more we could do with it. Those sort of sentiments always cross our minds in video game development though... (smiles).
Miyamoto: So, after we finished with the development of Twilight Princess, I talked to the staff about whether or not we could do a side story. With a big series like Zelda, we usually only release a new version every 3-5 years, but we thought it would be great to make something for those people that really enjoyed Twilight Princess where they'd be able to keep playing in the same world. I think it's important for players to be able to play new games at a fairly fast pace.
Iwata: On the other hand, it's also probably important to keep the development pace moving for the sake of developers as well, right?
Miyamoto: That's true. So, I asked our Zelda staff to think about a new project with an extra story based around Twilight Princess. But then, they were coming up with stories that can be described as 'epic tales' rather than 'side stories'.
Iwata: And the people have to wait 3-5 years for it again?
Miyamoto: Of course it's also important to continue creating epics, but I do not believe that an epic tale alone can make a great game. I mean, depending on what kind of characteristics are added to a game, the fundamental enjoyment behind it can get lost amongst all the gadgets. With that in mind, we took some time to ponder over the new project and I ultimately suggested that we make a game based on the Twilight Princess that utilized the Wii Zapper.
Iwata: I will ask you about the Wii Zapper in a minute, but what was the staff's reaction when you proposed that idea?
Miyamoto: They were kind of shocked. It was like killing all the ideas they were working with until then. Some even felt that we should not do something which makes it look like we are reusing the already existing software and selling it to the consumers.
Iwata: Well, at the beginning of the project, even I sensed an air of disagreement, or at least a lack of understanding, amongst some of the staff.
Miyamoto: Which is why I proposed to them that we make a working prototype and ask our test players to play and let us know their impressions. If they told us that it wasn't fun, we'd stop development right there.
Iwata: And what was the reaction of the test players?
Miyamoto: It was great. Nintendo of America got together a group including a number of die-hard Zelda fans, but none of them said; 'What? This isn't Zelda!?', and they started really enjoying the game, and we knew that it was a go. After that, we received daily reports on the product that allowed us to tweak aspects of it as we continued working on it.
Iwata: I was the one who initially conveyed the idea for Link's Crossbow Training to people at Nintendo of America when I was on a business trip there, and they told me they were pretty worried about the project. I mean, they had to wonder 'Is it ok to tinker with a product as popular and important as Zelda?', but as soon as they received the prototype, such anxiety apparently disappeared, as I have not heard of any more concerns from them since then.
Miyamoto: Well, everyone likes video games. Even if you have a preconceived idea of what things a game should have in it, when it comes down to it, as long as the game is fun it really won't make much of a difference. For this matter, I intentionally ordered our team a number of "don'ts" in the game's development.
Iwata: What do you mean by that?
Miyamoto: Like, we cannot include anything unnecessary or we cannot make a movie, or the player should be able to complete one stage within three minutes.
Iwata: Interesting. (laughs)
Miyamoto: For example, just for arguments sake, let's say that it takes 10 minutes to finish one thing in the game – you might not feel like trying to do it again if you fail. The longer you play, the more you should get into it. So if something only takes you three minutes to complete, you'll still want to try it again if you mess up.
Iwata: Definitely, if you think you're going to keep getting better at the game, you're going to want to keep playing it.
Miyamoto: There are lots of reasons for playing video games; because you want to get to the next level, or because you want to see what the next boss you have to fight looks like. I'm told all the time that these kinds of "rewards" really matter to people. But I don't think that's necessarily true. What I'm always saying, not only regarding Link's Crossbow Training, but in general too, is that it's the process that must be fun for people if they're going to really enjoy the game.
Iwata: So you mean if the "journey" is fun, then the ending, or the result, really doesn't matter?
Miyamoto: Yeah. The fact is, the journey is really the reward. And there are times when game creators use well-made "rewards" as the excuse. For example, if someone invents an ending that they're really proud of, that they just think is fantastic, then they might end up settling for a less-than-splendid journey. But that's a definite case of getting your priorities mixed up. So with Link's Crossbow Training, I really saw it as my responsibility to make sure that the creators didn't get too caught up with the reward, and focus instead on making the journey itself the fun part. I even told them not to make any bosses.
Iwata: No bosses? Really?
Miyamoto: I really wanted them to put all their energy into making the journey fun rather than making these fabulous bosses. Even so, at the end we had one boss - I finally gave in because they kept bugging me to let them make three bosses. (laughs) As there was only one boss, they could concentrate their time and energy working only on it, instead of on three bosses.
Iwata: So, basically, I get the impression that the key message you want to relay here with the current project is that it's not the destination, but the journey that really matters.
Miyamoto: Yeah, that's a phrase that I've adhered to recently, so I really tried to make use of it. (laughs)
Iwata: So, in order to make the journey through the game fun, what specifically did you do?
Miyamoto: Well, basically the goal was to get people to use the software with the Wii Zapper and think, 'wow, the Wii Zapper is really easy and fun to use'. So, simply aiming and shooting at a target is fine, but we have also included a number of tricks within demo screens. That way, every time you play you figure out something new about the game, and then you want to keep playing. And whether or not you can get high scores depends on how you get to grips with some of the hidden challenges involved.
Iwata: Because you can't get a high score by just shooting haphazardly, right?
Miyamoto: Yeah, you really have to think about how you can keep raising your score.
Iwata: That aspect of the game sounds like quintessential Zelda.
Miyamoto: And the staff always wanted to make something more than just another shooting game, so they were really into making something unique. For example, when a path splits and you can choose your route, they might put certain objects...
Iwata: Well, let's not spoil the surprise for the people who haven't played it yet! (laughs) Ok, now let's move on to the topic of the Wii Zapper.
Wire and rubber bands as inspiration
Iwata: So, I heard during the Iwata Asks Interview for Mario Kart Wii that when you were finishing up with it you once said, 'I like to make products with large packaging on occasion'.
Miyamoto: Yup, I've gone ahead and made another product with large packaging! The 3rd in the large box series.(laughs) (Wii Fit and Mario Kart Wii, which both have large packaging, had already been released in Japan at the time of this interview)
Iwata: (laughs) The Wii Zapper was originally unveiled in 2006 at E3. At the exhibition, we had the Wii Zapper displayed in a glass case, and I remember the way that people ate up the exhibit, practically boring holes through the glass with their eyes, and it really made an impression on me.
Miyamoto: Though we had made a proposal for a new product called the Wii Zapper, more than a year passed and Nintendo still hadn't released any new compatible software, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption became operable with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk.
Iwata: The whole concept behind the development of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was to be able to hold the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in each hand and use them separately and freely. Furthermore, since the Nunchuk was created to work as a motion-sensing controller in its own right for that game, it didn't automatically seem to fit with the creation of the Wii Zapper, right?
Miyamoto: At the same time, the software makers started to propose ideas for gun attachments to us. Some of them even suggested making limited editions of the gun holder, and they provided us with very elaborate examples.
Iwata: So there was the possibility that a few different styles of gun holder would be released?
Miyamoto: They could probably fill a living room just with all the different gun holders they've proposed to us.
Iwata: And you've also got the Wii Balance Board and the Wii Wheel...
Miyamoto: Yeah, your living room must be completely covered with game accessories, huh? (laughs) So, we really understood the necessity of making one standardized gun holder. I thought, if you've got the Wii Zapper, you should be able to use it with FPS style games released by other software developers as well.
Iwata: So that FPS games can be more easily developed? By the way, what was the inspiration for the creation of the Wii Zapper?
Miyamoto: Well, initially we just made the frame from wires and attached the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to it with rubber bands. It was a really simple prototype.
Iwata: That sounds very much like a science project in grade school! (laughs)
Miyamoto: When we were in the middle of developing the Wii version of Twilight Princess, one of my staff came up to me and showed me some similar sort of wire and rubber band construction he'd made, and I said to him, 'this isn't the time or the place to be making things like this!' (laughs)
Iwata: And it was when everyone was busy completing the Twilight Princess development. (laughs)
Miyamoto: But when I held the thing in my hands, I saw that it really felt pretty comfortable to hold. So, I talked with hardware people, and we got started on the formal project development.
Iwata: And you made a lot of prototypes for this one too, right?
Miyamoto: Right, and among them were some really cool ones, like one that used an extra battery to vibrate the gun when you hit a target. But we decided against it because we really didn't want customers to have to buy the extra batteries. That's one of the reasons developing this product took so long.
Iwata: At the final stage of the development, I requested that it would be able to enclose the Nunchuk cable. I really found it annoying when it got tangled.
Miyamoto: That became a really clean design, didn't it? And detaching the Wii Remote also became really easy.
Iwata: By the way, where did the name for the Wii Zapper come from?
Miyamoto: Well, when the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) first came out in the US, the gun controller was called the 'Zapper'. We thought that the word 'Zapper' had a broader meaning than the word 'gun', and even for me, the word 'Zapper' was something I felt more familiar with. Furthermore, in the same way that we were using it to refer to the crossbow in this new game, we also wanted to be able to use it with other variations of shooting games in the future, so we went with 'Zapper'. Also, we wanted it to be a name that could be used and understood worldwide, so we adopted a really traditional Sci-Fi design.
Iwata: You also made it white.
Miyamoto: Well, because this is another Wii product, we want people to feel like it is a part of their living space that should be on display.
Iwata: But, even though the original idea for the Wii Zapper came from a Zelda staff member, was there any hesitation on your part about the idea to develop the Wii Zapper in conjunction with Link? Link does not use guns in the first place, does he?
Miyamoto: Yes, that was a bit of a problem initially (smiles). But it didn't really seem right to make the Wii Zapper for use with Animal Crossing... On the other hand, the whole reason that this project began was due to the ideas of the Zelda staff, so it really was thanks to them that it went smoothly most of the way.
Iwata: Yeah, a FPS Mario game doesn't seem to fit either! (laughs)
Miyamoto: So we figured that Link was the logical choice. Then we argued that it would've been kind of strange for us to give Link a gun, so I proposed a sort of Terminator style story about a time warp from the future, but...
Miyamoto: Yeah, they vetoed that idea immediately (laughs). You remember the Hidden Village in Twilight Princess? Well, I personally love that spaghetti western-like setting, and we re-created the scene because we wanted people to be able to find joy in FPS games. I also thought that if you were able to use the Wii Zapper with it, it would be even more fun. So we finally decided to give Link a crossbow, but the problem then became what to do about rapid-fire capabilities (smiling). Shooting a gun in machine gun style rapid-fire is really satisfying, but having a crossbow that was able to shoot rapid-fire seemed a little unrealistic. But in the end we kind of decided, well, it's really just for fun, so whatever, and we gave it rapid-fire capabilities. (laughs)
Iwata: This is my final question. What sort of people do you hope to reach with the Wii Zapper?
Miyamoto: We hope those who have purchased Wii in order to play Wii Sports try out the Wii Zapper and think, 'wow, this is a really refreshing new way to experience games'.
Iwata: And maybe also the fact that you want people to get the sensation that they're at a carnival?
Miyamoto: Yeah, but you don't win any goldfish. (laughs) These are the kind of games that have people looking-on saying, "let me try." If they really have fun with this, I hope they will also try out more authentic types of FPS games introduced by third party publishers. Well, shall we develop the next Zelda game with Link holding a Wii Zapper, and not a sword (laughs)? It would be easier for us developers as we do not have to let Link change weapons all the time.
Iwata: Mr. Miyamoto, you're getting rid of Link's sword?!
Miyamoto: Well, that could be a problem, couldn't it? (laughs)