Interview:Iwata Asks: Twilight Princess (Part 3)

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Iwata Asks: Twilight Princess (Part 3)


November 23, 2006




The third batch of interviews for the Twilight Princess special as part of the Iwata Asks series. The whole interview was broken up into 10 parts and this portion with Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma consisted of parts 5-10 of the overall Twilight Princess special.



Part 5 - Make it 120% Zelda!

Miyamoto: So, how did the interviews with the staff go? Did they tell you all sorts of awful stories about me?
Iwata: You knew you were quite welcome to join us! But in the end you decided not to come along.
Miyamoto: I thought they'd find it easier to speak without me there. I did want to hear what they had to say though.
Iwata: You missed some really interesting stuff! There were lots of different points of view about your "upending of the tea table." (laughs) Some people said that this time nothing like that happened, while others disagreed and said that one by one all the plates and bowls were overturned, and before they knew it everything had been changed! (laughs)
Miyamoto: I don't think I did any table-upending this time around, did I Aonuma-san?
Aonuma: Hmmm... Let me see... (laughs)
Iwata: Perhaps you didn't do it as aggressively as Ittetsu Hoshi, but a lot of people said that in the end they realised that everything had been overturned without them realising it was happening! (laughs)
Aonuma: That's right, this time you did your upending in a slightly more considerate manner.
Miyamoto: No, this time everyone did their jobs so well that I only had to do a bit of rearranging.
Aonuma: There you go again! (laughs)
Iwata: What you mean is that instead of upending the table, you just rearranged the plates? (laughs)
Miyamoto: That's it! Just a bit of rearranging! You know, let's put the rice here, and the side dishes over here...
Aonuma: Well, everyone has their own interpretation of things. People like me who are well used to Miyamoto-san didn't bother resisting.
Iwata: Some of the staff were saying that it was more like a game of Othello, with you overturning all of the pieces one by one...
Miyamoto: Ah, Othello! Well yes, I guess it was a bit like that. But I didn't really overturn anything. To me, "overturning" would mean coming out with something like: "Actually, Link was a woman all along!" (laughs)
Iwata: Oh, don't be ridiculous! (laughs)
Miyamoto: "The best way to resolve this would be to make Link into a woman!" That kind of thing... (laughs) I didn't do anything like that!
Aonuma: You're right, there was nothing like that. (Noticing demo screens from Twilight Princess) Did you play Zelda on Wii during the interviews?
Iwata: That's right. I got the developers to show me their favourite scenes from the game. Unfortunately, most of them we couldn't reveal to the public yet! (laughs)
Aonuma: This is the final version, right? Ah yes, it is. I'm glad it's the right one.
Miyamoto: We were making changes right up to the end, weren't we? (laughs)
Iwata: This is a good opportunity to discuss the start-up time for the game. From turning on the console to actually playing Zelda, how long does it take in the final version?
Miyamoto: Well, when you start Wii, a screen showing you how to hold the remote, and health and safety warning screens appear. It takes time to read those, so it's not easy to give the precise number of seconds it takes. But I can say that it feels as if the game begins quickly. Shall we give it a go? Particularly with the expansion in the memory of game consoles these days, it's become natural to expect a lengthy loading time, but we didn't want to use this as an excuse, so we tried to make sure the games would load quickly.
Iwata: If you insert the Game Disc after switching on the console, it takes a little time to recognise the disc. But if you switch off the console with the disc still inserted, it will start up faster the next time you want to play.
Miyamoto: Yes, I'd like users to notice all the efforts the staff have made, for instance in speeding up the time that the player can get back into the game, using Flash Memory.
Iwata: I really get the sense of it starting up smoothly. But ever since we settled on the development concept for Wii, the two of us have constantly stressed to the development team that we should be aiming for a three second load-up time. We haven't got there yet though, have we?
Miyamoto: Not yet. It takes longer than I thought it would to go from the Channels to the Wii Menu, or from one Channel to another. It bothers me a bit that it's slower than the time it takes to flick between channels on a TV. I really want to get working on making everything faster when the system is updated. But even now, when you compare it to the load-up time on a computer, it's extremely fast, but I'm still not completely satisfied. If we could just get it even a little closer to the speed of flicking between channels on a TV...
Iwata: Yes, I'm particularly concerned about the time it takes to return to the Wii Menu. As Wii has a function which allows the system to be updated both through the Internet or disc media, so even the customers who buy the Wii early on will always be able to have it updated.
Miyamoto: But even with things as they are at present, there aren't many devices that can launch a web browser from the time the power is switched on as quickly as Wii does.
Iwata: How about the time it takes to read data during games?
Miyamoto: It depends on what's going on in the game at a given point, but it takes roughly between two and four seconds to go from one scene to the next. Once you've actually started the game, it's all very smooth. Wii Sports and Wii Play are both especially good on that score.
Aonuma: With Zelda, there are absolutely no scenes which need anything like a loading bar on-screen. If we had needed something like that, I would have made it but as it turned out, it wasn't necessary.
Iwata: That's good news. I think fans will be very glad to hear that. Okay, let's start the interview proper. Thank you both for joining me.
Miyamoto: It's my pleasure.
Aonuma: I'm actually a bit nervous! (laughs)
Iwata: Normally, I get everyone to introduce themselves at the start, but that is hardly necessary for the two of you! (laughs) Eiji Aonuma-san, you worked as the director on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Shigeru Miyamoto-san, you were the producer. Let's begin with you, Aonuma-san. What was the starting point on Twilight Princess?
Aonuma: The initial theme I had in mind was naturally to make the first realistic Zelda since Ocarina of Time. But I didn't dive in with only that aim in mind. I wanted to shake up the Zelda concept a little. That's why early on, I brought up the suggestion that this time Link should transform into a wolf. I really felt that we needed a new twist of some sort. As for why I chose a wolf, it really was simply what occurred to me at the time. My intention was for it to just be one suggestion to get the ball rolling when we were discussing what kind of things we might do. I was curious as to how seriously everyone would take it. That's what I was thinking when I threw the idea out there: "This time, let's make him into a wolf!" Miyamoto-san really gave me a piece of his mind after that! (laughs) I remember him telling me: "It's a lot harder to make a four-legged animal than it is to make a two-legged human, you know!" (laughs)
Iwata: If you compare what you had in mind then with the final product we have today, what are the biggest differences?
Aonuma: Well, as you can imagine, I had no idea it would turn into such an enormous project.
Iwata: You mean you didn't intend it to grow to be quite this size?
Aonuma: At the very least, at the start I didn't envisage the project expanding to the scale it eventually did. But it seems that in the minds of the staff, they wanted to make a very big Zelda, and as development continued, the project grew and grew. At one point, in the middle of development, I actually thought: "This is getting a bit out of hand." I made various attempts to rein in the project, but when something has developed naturally to that size, it becomes somewhat difficult to apply the brakes. At that point, all we could do was fill in the space by cramming it full of more fun elements for the player to enjoy. We kept adding more and more to the game, but the size caused a lot of trouble, right up to the end. Of course, this is not a bad thing, and in the end it has become a Zelda game which has retained a sense of proportion. It's undeniably big, but I believe all those fun elements which make up this world justify this size. Now that we have finished, I feel that with a generation accustomed to watching epic films like Lord of the Rings, when you want to design a convincing world, that sort of vast scale becomes necessary. But it's a fact that putting it all together was a challenge, and I sensed how much I still had to learn as a director.
Iwata: But the final product has been put together successfully?
Aonuma: Absolutely. I can say that we made a Zelda that we can present to the world with real confidence. But to accomplish that, I had to get a lot of people to lend me a hand.
Iwata: So you called on the expertise of Miyamoto-san yet again?
Aonuma: I certainly did! (laughs) I tried to make sure that everything was neatly arranged on top of the tea table for him. (laughs) But as the project grew, unexpected problems started manifesting themselves in unexpected forms, and it became impossible to handle each and every one of them. When Miyamoto-san began fixing various problems, there were plenty of cases where I thought: "I wanted to fix that, but didn't have the time..." But when it came to getting the game into its final form, it is precisely because so many people lent their assistance to the project that I think we have really come up with something special. I am entirely satisfied with how that part of the process went.
Iwata: The release of Twilight Princess was postponed by a year from the originally planned date, wasn't it? That was actually the very first time I have ever suggested to Miyamoto-san that we delay the release of a game by a year! (laughs) I was very aware that it would be a real challenge to complete the project on time, but most of all I knew we had to do everything to ensure that this would be our masterpiece, the greatest Zelda of all time.
Aonuma: One of your key phrases was that this should be "120% Zelda", wasn't it
Iwata: I did say that, didn't I? (laughs) If you forced me to tell you precisely what was 100% Zelda and what was 120% Zelda, I would struggle to answer, but basically I wanted us to make the best Zelda ever. So as well as coming out with slightly unreasonable demands like "Make it 120% Zelda!", I also made the proposal to delay the release by a year. Aonuma-san, how did you react to that delay?
Aonuma: I really felt bad for all the fans who were waiting for the game, but to be completely honest I was grateful for it. At the time the decision to postpone the release date was taken, we had an abundance of really interesting material for the game but we hadn't finished tying it all together. Of course there were parts of the game that were complete but there were also lots of places which simply weren't yet playable at that time.
Iwata: When you showed that playable version at E3, I saw just how many great elements were in the game but that they were still in a state of disarray. You faced a big challenge bringing them all together, didn't you?
Aonuma: Right. For that reason, I was very grateful for the extra year. I don't know how the other staff reacted to the news though. Perhaps they felt that even though they had worked so hard, they still had another year to go. But I think that in order to fully realise everything they had come up with, that extra time was vital.
Iwata: Well, I have asked a total of twelve members of staff about this, and without exception they have said that they were glad about the postponement.
Aonuma: Is that right? That's a relief! (laughs)
Iwata: Of course, it wouldn't be true to say that everyone was looking forward to another year of such demanding work. Also, there were some who said that if the release date was going to be changed, it would've been better to inform everyone of this earlier. But even those people thought it was a good idea.
Aonuma: Ah, I see. But it was really tough, with or without the postponement of the release date. The demand to "Make it 120% Zelda!" is really not an exaggeration, if you think about the level of expectation the fans have. As we have to produce something that lives up to those expectations, simply giving ourselves longer to do it is not in itself something to be pleased about.
Iwata: Miyamoto-san, when the decision to postpone the game's release was made, how did you feel about the Zelda game as it was at that point?
Miyamoto: I thought it was enjoyable, but that it was really a long way from being ready! (laughs) When I thought about where we needed to focus our attention in the time we had left, my head started spinning.
Aonuma: (Embarrassed laugh)But that was exactly the state things were in.
Iwata: Now, a year down the line, it's actually a surprise that it's such a solidly put-together game. In fact, until I came to interview all of the developers, I had imagined that a game of the quality and size of Zelda would be produced with strict orders being handed down from above. Without that, I thought that a project of this scale wouldn't come together. But listening to everyone, it seemed that contrary to what I had thought, everyone came up with their own individual ideas for the game. It seems that somehow everyone had their own conception of what the essence of Zelda was, even if this wasn't expressed in words. Using that nebulous idea as a sort of filter, it is the final fusing together of these individual ideas that gives the game its final form. That's one thing to do with twenty or thirty people, but when you're talking about a huge project with over seventy people, it's incredible to think that this process worked. Aonuma-san, what do you think?
Aonuma: I absolutely agree with you on that. The idea of what defines the essence of Zelda becomes the most important thing. That is really the only absolutely fundamental criterion which we can then use to build on. But as you said, that isn't something which is clearly defined. Personally, I can't put into words what the essence of Zelda is, and while I know that I should be able to, I still couldn't give you a clear definition.
Iwata: Don't worry. Over the course of these interviews, I've been asking everyone what makes a game "Zelda-esque." As you can imagine, the answers have been somewhat confused, and no one has really been able to define it perfectly. But having said that, it is absolutely clear that there is something that resembles a set of values that is common to everyone who worked on the project.
Aonuma: I think that's true. After all, without that we wouldn't have been able to make the game. I'm not talking about a set formula, but I do think that if clear guidelines existed, I might be able to say "Make Zelda like this!" and the game would be developed in line with those instructions. But there is absolutely nothing like that, and Zelda games simply can't be made in that way.
Iwata: Putting together a "How to Make Zelda" guide would be inconceivable.
Aonuma: Absolutely inconceivable. All that we can say to the staff during development are things along the lines of: "Well, we've racked our brains and come up with all the Zelda games this far, so keep that in mind, and keep racking your brains!" (laughs) In that sense, it is possible to give the staff the freedom to get on with developing the game. Needless to say, that doesn't mean I simply left everything to them. Our role is to let the young staff on each of the Zelda projects come up with their own ideas, without being overly influenced by previous Zelda titles, then take those ideas and make them work successfully within the context of the game. But at the end, the more experienced developers have to tighten the screws, so to speak, so all the elements in the game fit together. Without experience, it's extremely difficult to gauge things like how far to let the staff work freely on their own ideas, or how to put the game together in a way that will appeal to the user. It's quite easy to keep coming up with ideas, and expanding the size of the game. It's another thing to decide how best to connect those ideas. As Miyamoto-san often says, that is the part you really need to develop "a feel" for.
Iwata: I see... Miyamoto-san, when you're asked what defines Zelda, how do you normally respond? Can you give a definite answer?
Miyamoto: Sure. For me, what makes a game "Zelda-esque" is actually much the same as what makes a game "Mario-esque."
Iwata: And what might that be?

Part 6 - The Hands-on Approach

Iwata: I see... Miyamoto-san, when you're asked what defines Zelda, how do you normally respond? Can you give a definite answer?
Miyamoto: Sure. For me, what makes a game "Zelda-esque" is actually much the same as what makes a game "Mario-esque."
Iwata: And what might that be?
Miyamoto: Basically, I think it's the way these games respect our customers' intelligence. When our customers play our games, they will do all the logical things they would do as if they were doing something in real life, and if there's something that does not seem to be working the way they should be, they'll get upset. So, the fundamental principle of Zelda is that these logical elements must be neatly integrated into the game. When they're not, it no longer becomes Zelda. That's when I say "Wrong! This isn't Zelda!" So when I'm upset, it's on behalf of the players who would think "This is unbelievable! What's the matter with this game?" (laughs) I have always made games on the basis that my voice is the voice of the player. And if we released it without making adjustments, the situation would ultimately be a lot more serious if we angered our customers. To me this point is absolutely fundamental, and it's the same whether it's Zelda or Mario. While both games have that attitude as their foundation, I would say that Mario is fun in a very accessible, immediate way while Zelda really gives you that expansive feeling that you are developing along with the game. Those are really the only differences between the two; fundamentally they are actually the same.
Iwata: Ah, I see.
Miyamoto: It's fine if someone really likes Zelda's story: in fact it's great. But if a person like that starts to work on developing a Zelda game, they won't necessarily be an ideal match for the project. Something else that is vital to Zelda is that everything fits together seamlessly. This isn't easy to explain, but what I mean is that with all of the ideas in the game tightly woven together, the various elements of the game will perfectly complement the terrain and scenery. The balance of "sparsity" and "density" in the game works really well. This is something that's important in Zelda. A real challenge with Twilight Princess was that as development moved from the earlier stages into the latter half, that balance was lost. The 3D Modeling Team was steadily expanding the size of the game, but the actual content of the game was not keeping pace. The longer the 3D modeling and the content remain out of step, the more sparse the game becomes. Or, game content starts interfering with other content and spoiling it. Trying to get that under control is a real challenge. Putting it another way, perhaps it's controlling the balance of "sparsity" and "density" that actually makes a Zelda game. Maybe this isn't limited to Zelda... Maybe it's the "Nintendo method" of making games...
Iwata: What you mean is that it's the "Miyamoto method" of making games!
All: (laughter
Miyamoto: Even if we gathered all the developers together to discuss it, we couldn't get everyone to fully understand what that method actually is. Nor can I adequately communicate it from a position giving instructions from outside the main development process. From the outside, I can see various things on a surface level and could make comments about them, but the person who created those things might feel: "That wasn't what I was trying to do!" We'd always be on different wavelengths. But when I take a more hands-on approach and we all start working together to get the game into its final form, things start to click. When I'm looking at the development process from the outside, even if I were to give them a list of elements in the game which were lacking that Zelda essence, I don't think it would get across what was required. But once I have actually got the team working on implementing these changes to the game, if the developers were to look at that list of parts lacking the essence of Zelda, I think they would understand what had been necessary.
Iwata: As they see the changes being made to the game, they come to understand. The fact that our core developers have all been through that experience really makes a difference when it comes to making Zelda.
Aonuma: I think that's true. So, for instance early on in the development process, when young developers encounter Miyamoto-san's input from the outside, a lot of them probably think things like: "Do we really have to pay attention to such tiny details?" or "Surely we don't have to worry that much about something like that?" However, when everything starts fitting together into its final form, they understand what he was doing and they'll say: "Ah, I get it! It turns out this way, so we really did need to do that from the start!" When they were working on making the game, they couldn't see this. Miyamoto-san spoke about respecting our customers' intelligence, but of course, those who were developing the game have never meant to belittle our customers in any way. They just can't help losing sight of how players are going to react to certain things in the game.
Iwata: As development progresses, game developers steadily lose the ability to judge how someone coming fresh to the game, with absolutely no previous knowledge, will feel when they play. That's why I think that Miyamoto-san joining the project towards the end is, in a sense, a very rational way of doing things. If Miyamoto-san was involved from the start, I think he would find it more difficult to see clearly how people will respond to a game the first time they play it.
Aonuma: Right. I developed a set rule when Miyamoto-san pointed things out about a game: "If Miyamoto-san says the same thing three times, we're definitely going to have to make a change!"
All: (laughs)
Aonuma: If he pointed something out once, I wouldn't rush to fix things. I would decide that for the time being, I'd rely on my own interpretation of the issue and make a judgment accordingly. But while I was thinking about it, he'd then point the issue out for a second time. Now that it had been mentioned twice, I'd be thinking that he really wanted to make that change, but I'd still be formulating a plan. Then, as there were other pressing issues requiring attention, I'd set the issue to one side for the time being. At that moment, Miyamoto-san would ask: "Why haven't you done it yet?" That was the third warning! (laughs) From then on, that issue would take top priority. That has been how things have worked up to now, but this time I didn't really have that luxury. The first time something was pointed out, I felt that we had no choice but to change it.
Iwata: So you did it without waiting to be told three times? (laughs)
Aonuma: That's right.
Miyamoto: You're finally seeing things my way, right? (laughs)
Iwata: Did you keep getting "sob story e-mails" from Miyamoto-san?
Aonuma: Ah, the "sob story e-mails"! Did the young developers mention those when you interviewed them? (laughs)
Iwata: They did! (laughs)
Aonuma: But in my case, I wasn't just getting "sob story e-mails," I was also getting messages sent to my mobile phone with instructions as to what should be changed! I'd be on the train to work in the morning, when my mobile would beep and there'd be a message from Miyamoto-san: "About that feature we were discussing...!" (laughs)
Iwata: (laughs)
Iwata: And it wouldn't just be one; I was getting four, one right after the other! I actually started running on the train in the direction it was headed, thinking: "I've got work to do!" (laughs) What I heard later was that somehow when Miyamoto-san had been sending those messages, he'd actually been in an important meeting!
Iwata: He was sending messages on his mobile phone about changing features while he was in a meeting? (laughs)
Miyamoto: Well, know, there was no time to be lost! The seconds were ticking away... (laughs)
Aonuma: I suppose that's true. In any case, it's a fact that if Miyamoto-san thinks of something, he wants to tell you straight away; he can't wait to tell you in person. So a lot of his instructions this time came in the form of e-mail.
Miyamoto: Right, it was the first time I have done it through e-mail.
Aonuma: When we were working on Wind Waker, he would simply hand me two-page documents with all his comments gathered together, saying: "There you go!"
Miyamoto: In the past I would often gather my comments in one document and hand them to the people in charge. I also used to make a point of avoiding going directly to the development area and to only deal with team leaders. That's because the management of the development team had been entrusted to them. This time round however, there were of course a huge number of people involved as well as a lot of young developers. That's why I thought that rather than all these instructions appearing out of nowhere, it was better if the developers could actually see the process behind these decisions.
Iwata: I see.
Aonuma: This time there were a large number of staff, so if all your instructions were given to me alone, for instance, even making all the necessary arrangements and laying down preliminary plans would have entailed a lot of work. In that sense the system this time, where your instructions were communicated directly to all the people involved, was a good idea. All the people in charge of a particular task would see your e-mails and were able to give feedback based on their individual take on things. As a result of this, I think we were able to decide quite efficiently what we should do next.
Miyamoto: An ulterior motive I had when I chose that way of doing things was that all the staff, not just the people in charge, would understand the criteria we use when assessing a problem. This meant that the criteria the developers applied to situations became standardised. Subsequent problems that came up were then dealt with much more swiftly. Naturally, as the number of people on a project increases, it becomes more difficult to have clear discussions of these issues.
Iwata: But with dozens of people, even when you allow everyone to keep up with what's going on, it's still very difficult to standardise that criteria.
Aonuma: It is.
Miyamoto: That's why I was adamant that people be made aware of the entire background and decision-making process, not simply the final conclusion or instructions that come out of it. But even so...
Aonuma: Even so, there were lots of e-mails which someone involved with Zelda for the first time wouldn't be able to make head nor tail of.
Miyamoto: Right. If they hadn't been following the discussions closely, they would have been totally lost! (laughs)
Aonuma: But as everyone already knows they won't be able to make sense of the e-mails, lots of the staff would come and ask for clarification: "What on earth is Miyamoto-san trying to say with this?"
Iwata: Well, the important thing is that they came and asked for clarification. At least then you can give them an explanation.
Aonuma: Right. Even if they don't fully grasp the meaning of the instructions, everyone will have some idea of what it's about. They can then come to have it clarified, saying something like: "I think it's saying something like this..." In this way, everyone became steadily more proactive in their attitudes so I think the way he did things this time was really positive for all the staff, as well as being a great help for me.
Miyamoto: Was it really?
Aonuma: Yes, it helped a great deal.
Miyamoto: That's good to hear! (laughs)

Part 7 - Focusing on the Player's Perspective

Iwata: Miyamoto-san, how did you feel when you became fully involved in the development process?
Miyamoto: That's a difficult one. I hope it's okay to speak frankly?
Iwata: By all means.
Miyamoto: Well, I've been involved in developing several prototypes throughout the course of the project, so there weren't any serious problems, but... Firstly, the leaders hadn't been checking the progress of the staff. Many staff members weren't able to properly execute the most fundamental parts of their assignments. They weren't able to play catch yet; in fact, they hadn't even got the gist, such as catching the ball in the middle of the glove... Sloppy work, you might say. That's why I've mostly been helping by explaining to them clearly so they could better understand what they are supposed to do in order to correctly execute their assignments. There's one thing I've been grateful for, and that is the level of motivation these people have. The cause of the sloppiness wasn't due to people's lack of motivation, but more that they were stuck in a rut due to the huge amount of work they had.
Iwata: I see. You could say they didn't know where to direct their focus?
Miyamoto: Yes, that's it. Because they were already highly motivated, simply by pointing out what task they should be doing, they were able to make significant progress. And so we've managed to finish in around four months what would have taken around half a year. I was a little concerned at first, but the level of motivation within the development team has really helped.
Aonuma: When you have a lot of individual issues to deal with, it becomes difficult to visualise the whole picture. That's when Miyamoto-san comes in with a clear idea of how things should be, and points us in a certain direction. Then, whether we fully understand what he's doing or not, we become able to move forward. When we do this, we catch a glimpse of the bigger picture. We feel a very real sense that if we are just able to continue like this, we'll get to the end of the project. The problem is that before we reach that point, there are far too many choices to be made, and things become easily confused while we are trying out various ideas.
Miyamoto: Everyone was feeling rather anxious and knew this situation wasn't good, so the main staff members got together to try to sort it out. Although there were some good results, there were some negative ones too. For instance, people lost their sense of individual responsibility. There were a huge amount of decisions which they said had "been made by all of them" and that therefore shouldn't be changed. My answer to this was: "You couldn't all have decided, somebody must've made the decision! Who was it?" When I asked why something wasn't completed, I was often told that it was being adjusted. I would say "the adjustments should've been done by now. Shouldn't you start by saying sorry?" (laughs) I suppose in that sense, I have been a little on the strict side. You have to start by getting people to take responsibility and be able to say: "It isn't done yet, I'm sorry. I take the responsibility." I just think that if we could all understand this, we could work together on solving the problems. Once we fix them, it's finished. It's as simple as that and then we can all relax. Then when we give it to focus testing groups we get a more positive response.
Iwata: They have said that the changes you instigated really improved the game.
Miyamoto: Once we've got all of that straightened out, the rest of the project becomes a process of simply making one small change after the other, carefully editing sound effects or fine-tuning things.
Iwata: Some refer to it as "Miyamoto Magic", but as far as you're concerned, you're just carefully working through everything that obviously needs to be done.
Miyamoto: Exactly, there is no other way. One other thing that I've noticed is that the younger members of staff, who've yet to work on that many projects, don't have a very clear idea of what it takes to bring a project to completion. With video games, the people who truly bring a project to completion are the senior staff such as the director, not the entire team. Those people involved in the project just seem to rush towards the end and cross the finish line without having a clear idea of what's happening. With time, those people develop a clearer idea of what is required to finish off a game properly. I think the company has gained a significant amount through the development of Zelda, as the number of staff we have with these skills has grown.
Aonuma: Yes, we've learned a great deal about the process of completing a project.
Miyamoto: I believe there is a certain way to finish a project, just like there's a way to win in sport.
Iwata: Like getting used to completing them?
Miyamoto: Bringing something to completion becomes really fun. Before you reach the final stage, you can get obsessive and feel like you've got to add more and more. This desire to expand the game is overwhelming, so you find yourself unable to grasp that sense of achievement that you get from completing a project.
Aonuma: It's just that, until you've reached that point it's vital that you are being pointed in the right direction for making the transition from a state of disorder to being able to experience that thrill of completing something. This is what sets the quality of the work apart, and where Miyamoto-san shows such focus. Quite frankly, I still can't see things that clearly. He'll say to me: "How many times have we been through this? And you still get confused?!" But, yes, I still lack that certain clarity. And because I still suffer with this, so in turn do my staff. That's one of the major reasons why we couldn't see the final destination clearly.
Miyamoto: Well, actually, I lose focus too you know. But when it happens, I just try to tell myself to get back on track and move forward. It still happens though.
Iwata: Sometimes thinking about something too deeply can cause you to lose focus. Which is not to say it's a bad thing to think deeply...
Miyamoto: That's right. It's okay to be uncertain from time to time. But by making a decision and sticking to it, you can keep moving forward.
Aonuma: But worrying about something so much that you end up waving the white flag is never good!
Miyamoto: It certainly isn't! (laughs)
Iwata: Absolutely not! (laughs)
Aonuma: If you get to the stage where you're pulling your hair out and feeling "that's it, I can't think anymore", you know the result isn't going to be good. That's a really difficult state to be in. In a manner of speaking, it's a mental battle. With this particular project's development, both physical and mental power have been a necessity. Once you're over forty, you really feel that keenly. There were moments when I felt it was taking its toll on me! (laughs)
Iwata: Miyamoto-san, how do you feel about this?
Miyamoto: I've really enjoyed this project. I'm not saying I've been able to focus on it without sleep, or that I've got limitless supplies of stamina, but it was a lot of fun!
Iwata: (laughs)
Aonuma: I still can't believe that someone over fifty was staying at work later than me! (laughs)
Miyamoto: I was going through the project saying: "This is the most fun I've had in ages!" (laughs)
Aonuma: Don't rub it in, by the end I was almost at the stage where I wanted to pull my hair out!
Iwata: It was that bad? (laughs)
Aonuma: When it got to around eleven or twelve, and I was getting tired and thought Miyamoto-san must've already gone home, I'd hear the sound of an e-mail coming in: "He's still here?" The effect of that single e-mail would have me wide awake in no time! (laughs)
Miyamoto: Yes, towards the end I was firing out e-mails in a pretty rough state. When I can spend more time on them, I'll present everything neatly on a flow chart and explain clearly the best approach to implement new features. But towards the end my e-mails got a bit more rough. It got to the stage where everything was being written in list form. People seeing these e-mails for the first time may well have thought they were just thrown together. (laughs) Sometimes my instructions would become so blunt that members of staff would reply saying that they had put together a skit to show me what they thought I wanted them to do. At times I'd think: "They've missed the point here!" Then I'd just send an e-mail straight back telling them not to waste their time on things like that! (laughs)
Iwata: That's pretty harsh! (laughs)
Miyamoto: When I really couldn't get my point across, I'd send e-mails explaining precisely what the game characters should be saying to each other. To which the person in charge of creating the game dialogue would sarcastically reply: "Okay then, we'll use that in the game just as it is. I guess I'm out of a job!" (laughs) Of course, I only used this approach with the staff I've known for a long time and who can fully appreciate where I'm coming from.
Aonuma: But when you sent those kinds of messages, you must have known that some of the younger, less experienced staff members would read them too! (laughs)
Miyamoto: Well yes, if someone who didn't understand our relationship read those e-mails, they might think: "Is it okay to say that?". Or they might think: "Shigeru Miyamoto should be careful or someone will slip something into his drink..." (laughs) People such as Aonuma-san who've known me for years have more or less learnt what I'm like, but newcomers might read these messages, misinterpret the meaning, and think: "Uh-oh. We're really in trouble!" (laughs)
Iwata: I'm sure they would! (laughs) But I've heard that when this happens, the core staff have realised what's going on and let the newcomers know what to expect.
Aonuma: Now, I'm not saying this to flatter my staff, but even though they were getting these harsh e-mails, we certainly didn't have anyone on the verge of giving up completely. Everybody worked hard right until the end.
Miyamoto: They certainly did, and that's what really helped us through.
Aonuma: That's true. When Miyamoto-san said something harsh, we'd all try our best to respond with something that he wouldn't be able to complain about. We did this right to the end of the project.
Miyamoto: I know it's not pleasant for people to face criticism. We become light-headed, weak-kneed and often get angry. It's a normal response to rejection. Whether we're able to fend off this attack depends entirely on our training. But I think that young people nowadays have never really had to face this before. They are all very high-achievers here. They're the best of the best, graduating from universities and being able to enter Nintendo, they've never really faced this kind of harsh criticism before. But making products to sell to people is harsh. If we rush out something that's very rough around the edges, the complaints will soon come rolling in. So you could say that the criticism I give helps to prepare people for this, like a kind of warm-up before the main event. Even us older members can feel somewhat confused when we're suddenly told something we don't want to hear, as if our senses have been dulled.
Iwata: And when that happens, what do you do?
Miyamoto: It's all about how you fend off the attack. It's like getting rid of stress using Tanden breathing techniques... (laughs) Take three deep breaths, meditate on what you must do... Wow, I'm beginning to sound more and more like an old man! (laughs)
All: (laughter)
Miyamoto: I think it's also a kind of training. If you can't enjoy what you're doing, you may as well give up. Anyway, what was it we were talking about again? Let me see, I was.....?
Iwata: About getting involved in the Zelda project...
Miyamoto: Getting involved... Yes, it was fun! (laughs)
Iwata: (laughs)
Iwata: Ah yes, we were discussing what I did after joining the project. Well, to put it in a nutshell, I felt that for the first time in a long while I was close to the position of the player. From this perspective I focused on putting all the disjointed components back in order. I jotted down the sections which didn't fit the overall story, or elements I thought were completely out of place. One of the aspects I concentrated on was checking things that shattered the sense of reality within the game.
Aonuma: That's completely true. I could clearly see that he was working with us, while also deliberately assuming the role of the player. (laughs) Even while I admired him, I was thinking how nasty he was being! (laughs)
Iwata: Is there any particularly memorable guidance Miyamoto-san gave you?
Aonuma: Let me think. In one of his e-mails, Miyamoto-san wrote: "We're supposed to be creating something for people's entertainment. This part won't do at all." That has really stuck in my mind. He went on to say: "We want people to enjoy the game, but how on earth are they going to enjoy what you've done here?" The fact that we're making something to entertain people is completely obvious when you stop to think about it, but what he said made me realise it afresh. But the more the project deadlines started to close in, the easier it was for the development team to lose sight of that fact.
Iwata: And so, things that weren't going according to plan began to pile up?
Aonuma: Exactly. If we just rushed something out without making it absolutely perfect, it would be convenient for us, but this idea of convenience doesn't really concern the customer. Their only concern is how it will entertain them, which I can appreciate. This time in particular, due to the lengthy development time of this project, we haven't always had the time to give this our undivided attention. At these times, Miyamoto-san has taken charge and looked at things purely from the perspective of how to produce high-quality entertainment. In my case, I've often felt that while I know what he's saying, it just wasn't always possible! (laughs) I felt like that a lot of the time, but whatever the situation when something important has to be done, even with strict time constraints, you just have to hold on tight and get the job done.
Iwata: There are always any number of things in the development area that you know could be improved, but that aren't easy to change right away. The staff have brought this up in previous interviews but when Miyamoto-san suggests a change to something they felt was already too late to change, they would realise that something had to be fixed and would find themselves able to get it done. There's that kind of gratitude towards Miyamoto-san.
Aonuma: Ah, yes. (laughs) It happened a lot in the past with things that I thought I couldn't be changed, but when I said that Miyamoto-san wants it done, they seemed to get done. (laughs) But it wasn't like that this time, because Miyamoto-san gave us his suggestions in person.
Miyamoto: I was often asked: "Are you really going to go ahead with this?" and I'd immediately reply with "yes, I really am!" (laughs)
Aonuma: And for those that didn't quite get it, old hands like us would explain in a rather cryptic way that: "These changes will definitely improve the game, just like they always have in the past!"
Miyamoto: I think I do explain things clearly though. And I always try to be honest right from the word go.
Iwata: No, what I mean is that it's one thing to get someone to understand the reasons for something, but it's a totally different thing to get them to understand those reasons well enough to be able to explain them to somebody else.
Miyamoto: As we were reaching the end of the development cycle, I'd often suggest something and get an answer like "we already tried that and it didn't work". I'd then reply with: "Well, that was then and this is now. So let's try again!" This happened on many occasions.
Aonuma: Yes, that kind of exchange was quite common.
Miyamoto: But hey, it's been a long project, initial builds differed quite considerably from the more up-to-date versions.
Iwata: The thing about Miyamoto-san is that when someone comes to him with a reason why something can't be done, he'll get that person to spit out what would need to be done to get the changes made! (laughs)
All: (laughter)
Aonuma: He won't quit till he gets an answer!
Iwata: People say that you make it so a person can't escape, and then hit them where it really counts!
Miyamoto: They say that?
Iwata: They do! (laughs)
Miyamoto: Ouch...!
Iwata: But it's not just on this particular project. I've heard many employees make the same kind of comments before! (laughs)
Aonuma: You like delivering that killer blow, don't you?
Miyamoto: I suppose I do, yes!
Iwata: You see, he does! (laughs)
Aonuma: Well, while we're on the subject, that swordsman who appears towards the beginning of the game and teaches Link how to wield his weapon properly, actually teaches him how to pull off that deadly strike later on. You suggested that he should teach the attack straight away! (laugh)
Miyamoto: I asked him why is it that my favorite technique isn't there right from the start! (laughs)
Aonuma: Once he'd made his decision that this attack should be available right at the beginning, I had to relent! (laughs)
Miyamoto: Well, the game needed it, don't you think? The first thing the swordsman taught you was how to knock someone down with your shield, I mean, who's going to use a boring move like that? (laughs)
Aonuma: He was saying: "We don't need it! Just finish them off with one mighty thrust!"
Miyamoto: That's it! One mighty thrust! The scenario had to be altered a lot to accommodate this! (laughs)
Aonuma: It threw the developers in charge into a real panic. They was saying things like: "Putting this move in the game right from the start means we've got a lot of work to do!"
Miyamoto: At times like that, I help out with all the things that have to be reworked to minimize the damage, don't I? I work really hard, you know! I suggest that if we change certain things, it will cause less damage.
Aonuma: That's true. When this man wants to incorporate a change in something, he really does his homework and steels himself for battle! (laughs)
Miyamoto: I only propose something once I have planned how it would actually be done.
Aonuma: And once you've come up with your proposal, there's nothing we can say, right? (laughs) We no longer have a choice!
Iwata: He's got you right where he wants you, ready for the killer blow! (laughs)
Miyamoto: It's a great job, isn't it
All: (laughter)

Part 8 - A First-rate Link, Even by Nintendo Standards

Iwata: Initially, Zelda: Twilight Princess was being developed solely for the GameCube, but you then adapted it for Wii. I'm sure there were many vexing problems along the way, but could you tell me how you found your way through the various complications?
Miyamoto: Well, I felt confident that applying Wii's unique control system to Zelda would heighten the game's charm, and the pointer function makes the use of in-game items in the first-person mode both easier and more intuitive. I told Aonuma-san that for the Wii version we would just have to change the controls without having to change the game's content, but there were some concerns about this.
Aonuma: At first, the staff and I were at a total loss as to what to do. We'd been shown a new device, but weren't happy to just brush it off with: "We don't have enough time for that!" (laughs) So we started trying out various ideas. One of which was dropping the 3D stick altogether and instead just using the Wii Remote only for it's pointer function in a similar way to the Nintendo DS stylus.
Iwata: You mean, you wanted to control Link by using the Remote to point to a certain destination?
Aonuma: Right. In the end it didn't really work. But even though we felt that it probably wouldn't suit a Zelda game, it was worth giving it a try. We played around with a lot of ideas for the controls and camera work, including those that we thought may have been a little too revolutionary. Then, when we exhibited the game at this year's E3, we had a version that we felt was just about in a finished state. But there were still things I wasn't completely satisfied with, and I was concerned about what kind of reception it would receive from the crowds there. As I feared, we received some negative feedback.
Iwata: Oh, really? I was under the impression that the people who were able to try it out at the show weren't that critical.
Aonuma: Well, the ones who only played it for a while seemed to enjoy themselves, but the hardcore fans who had gotten used to the GameCube's control method, and those people who were having a quiet word in Miyamoto-san's ear (laughs) seemed to be less than impressed.
Miyamoto: I did tell him, with perhaps the hint of a threat, that people thought it was terrible! (laughs)
Iwata: (Wry smile)
Aonuma: Getting this kind of chance to sound out people's reactions before a piece of software is released is actually something I welcome. But personally the thing which most affected me was hearing how smooth the controls on Mario Galaxy were! (laughs)
All: (laughter)
Aonuma: Well, you know, I did tell myself at the time that Mario Galaxy was developed for Wii from the start, but I knew the customers wouldn't have any sympathy for that kind of excuse. In any case, it was clear that some serious changes had to be made. Actually, it was the time after E3 that gave us the most headaches with the controls for the Wii version.
Iwata: So, which parts did you begin by changing?
Aonuma: Firstly, we tried to take out all the aspects that had a negative reception during the showing at E3. Then from there, we took things back to the drawing board, going back to the original concept: "What are the best things about using the Wii Remote in this version?" We heard a lot of things like: "We want to use the controller like a sword" at E3. Of course we had already done some experiments involving swinging the Remote like a sword and seeing Link's action mimic this on-screen. During these early experiments however, we were faced with the fact that players doing this repeatedly would become tired, and so in the end we chose to remove it. Especially at the beginning, we made the game respond to various movements of the Remote. For example, if you swung the Remote vertically, Link would swing his sword vertically. But we felt this would actually become restricting to the player, and would tire the player out if they kept playing this way.
Iwata: But the crowds at E3 seemed intent on being able to wield the Remote like a sword. And so you found yourselves in a tough situation.
Aonuma: Perhaps the most persuasive point for us was that the players who tried the game at E3 instinctively swung the Wii Remote around like a sword. It wasn't just the sword either, we also noticed that during the fishing sections, players were manipulating the Remote like a fishing rod and reel, even though it was controlled by the buttons. Seeing this, we realised that this must be an intuitive movement. We knew we had to make some kind of adjustments to the game to incorporate this. When people first pick up the Wii Remote, they are expecting the game to respond if they swing it. That's why we knew we had to integrate this functionality into the game. We worried a lot about the actual implementation of these features, but decided to simplify the system so that swinging the Remote did in fact create a sword-swinging motion in the game, but didn't cause people any stress when trying to do so. Luckily, Zelda isn't just about slashing away at enemies from start to finish, and I was glad when we were able to recreate a spinning attack with a simple flick of the wrist, which is a lot easier than trying to do it with button commands. Getting to that stage though was very time-consuming, and full of adjustments.
Iwata: It certainly seemed that once E3 had ended, there were a lot of issues concerning the Wii control method for Zelda, but that you really knocked it into shape. In retrospect, even though it was a struggle, are you glad you had a playable version of the game in time for E3?
Aonuma: In the end, I'm glad we managed it.
Miyamoto: I was rather surprised by the reception the game got at E3 as well. I'd expected it to fare a lot better and, in all honesty, I wasn't prepared for the number of people that found it difficult to use the directional pad while gripping the Wii Remote. Since we're all very used to using the Remote and very dexterous when it comes to using all the buttons while holding it, seeing the way first-time players gripped the Remote really tightly was surprising! (laughs) It made me realise that it's not easy for most people to move their fingers, as if to utilise a directional pad, when holding something rod-shaped.
Aonuma: One thing we know for certain is that we didn't perfect the control system with a single idea: making the Remote work by swinging it, or by minimizing the need to use the directional pad, for instance. Even once we'd decided to proceed in a certain way, we still conducted countless tests in an attempt to iron out the small imperfections and give the system a complete overhaul. It was Miyamoto-san and I, through plenty of tweaking and endless discussions of: "You mean like this?" "Yes, like that", that got it done.
Miyamoto: Yes, and the development process really starts from there. For software in the development cycle, it's relatively easy to assign functions to a certain button, but the problem was how to make the players really feel they have total control over Link's movements. If we didn't go through all the possible control functions thoroughly, and make sure that things were absolutely perfect to prevent minor control errors, we couldn't really say we'd "tested it", could we? We honestly did a huge amount of fine-tuning!
Aonuma: We certainly did!
Miyamoto: Even though we managed to find our way through that particularly grueling stage, probably the biggest obstacle we had to face on the long journey to completion was at the beginning when the team leaders were under the impression that, even though the game was going to be released on Wii, they didn't think they'd have anything to do with the development of that version.
Iwata: I see. Back when you first decided to produce it for Wii?
Miyamoto: Precisely. The staff only thought they were to be involved in the GameCube version, which would be compatible with Wii. They believed that the Wii version wasn't for them to worry about. So it was only myself, Aonuma-san and the lead programmer who had fully devoted ourselves to doing this version! Once the revelation that "we're making a Wii version of Zelda!" had sunk in, everybody began putting their all into the project.
Iwata: Ah...
Aonuma: And so at the very end, when we entered the debugging phase and I announced to the staff that they were to begin debugging the Wii version. I was worried that everyone would say: "But we did the most fine-tuning on the GameCube version!" But luckily it didn't take long before everyone adapted to the Wii version, and subsequently found it tough going back to the GameCube one! (laughs)
Iwata: In interviews with the other developers, the general feeling is that they feel confident about both versions.
Aonuma: I'm glad to hear it! (laughs) A lot of the staff became really passionate about the GameCube version, but they found that because of the differences in the aspect ratio on the Wii version, the player's field of vision is bigger than on the GameCube version. For that reason, a lot of them felt that the Wii version was easier to play. I think that in the end, everything worked out just fine.
Miyamoto: The fact that on the GameCube version left and right are reversed also adds a new enjoyable dimension to the game.
Iwata: I see. Next, I'd like to talk about graphics. In Twilight Princess, the style of the graphics is more real, but your aim wasn't to make them photo-realistic, was it? Aonuma-san, you originally come from a design background, so I'd like to know how you came to settle on the final style?
Aonuma: When I first found out that this Zelda was going to feature more realistic graphics, my initial concern was that we'd just be making a lot of extra work for ourselves. For example, when a realistically proportioned Link jumped in the game, it wasn't a good representation of how someone would jump in real life. If I tried to make it too realistic, the game would suffer as a result. And so, even though there are parts that lacked total realism, I focused on the adjustments needed to make Link move smoothly. This was very difficult, but we didn't have to make it ultra-realistic. To quote Miyamoto-san: "What's happening in the game world should feel true to life." And so our ultimate goal was to ensure that the character's design and movements weren't labored and were at least close to reality, without us expending too much time and energy on it. We didn't have to do this for everything of course, just those certain aspects that required it. Finding those aspects however, was the most challenging part.
Miyamoto: In other words, it's like setting the scene for a play rather than recreating the world as it is. If you don't tell people they should be making a stage, they go ahead and try to make an entire world. There is an art to how you properly set a stage and that's what I had to carefully explain.
Iwata: Is there anything you could tell us specifically?
Miyamoto: Well for example, imagine a scene with lots of small stones. On the one hand, you could make it so that the player can move every single one. But if you can successfully communicate the premise that there are also stones that don't move, they will accept this. So, it is far more important to make the stones that can be moved, to move naturally from the player's perspective, rather than making every single stone movable. When and where to do this while constructing the game's world is something that clearly wasn't going well when I stepped into the development of this project, and I found myself having to drill the details into the staff.
Iwata: Did those problems have anything to do with the sheer size of the project?
Miyamoto: Yes, I think they did. These days development is much more fragmented with separate people working on tasks such as graphics, movements and item placement. When creating realistic movement within the game's environment everything is essentially connected; whether it's the way the graphics are drawn, how the program is written or even where the objects are placed, even the designs have an impact on this. And when one aspect is out of place in the game world, it loses its seamless connection to the other parts. When I find one of these problems and attempt to locate the cause, people tend to point the finger at someone else and have me going round in circles! (laughs) And just like I've mentioned before, I'll then get angry: "Who put this stone here?" Somebody must've put it there! When I try to track the culprit down, it always comes back to the director. "The designers and programmers didn't do it, so it must've been the director! Who's in charge here!" This happened quite a lot.
Aonuma: But there really are times when a stone is placed somewhere for absolutely no reason whatsoever!
Miyamoto: And when I find one of them, I'll always ask: "Why was it put here?"
Iwata: And the answer is usually: "I just felt like it." (laughs)
Aonuma: I know, or "I just thought I'd put it there" is another one. (laughs)
Miyamoto: I'd actually be happier if someone said: "It looks good, don't you think?" (laughs)
Iwata: "I just felt like it" really is the worst possible answer you could get!
Miyamoto: I mean, everyone's so busy every day dealing with other problems that I they rarely have time to give the stones a lot of thought. They often just stay exactly where they're put.
Iwata: I see. Now, let's turn again to the game's graphics. When we see a picture of Link, we don't merely see a CG model, or a comic book character, we see a fully-developed character who feels realistic when he moves and has a really unique sense of balance. I personally felt that this style was unique, but how do you feel Aonuma-san, speaking as the person who realised this style?
Aonuma: But it's not just the individual pictures, I believe the amalgamation of everything produces a real power which makes Link unique. There are so many people working on the various designs that there is inevitably a degree of inconsistency. This is where the senior directorial staff, beginning with Takizawa-san, have to step in, and as we were saying just now, decide the points that are essential, focus on retaining them and thereby maintain the game's coherence. But this time round, this was especially challenging due to the sheer amount of these tasks. But thanks to a lot of trial and error they conducted right down to the lighting and the very atmosphere of the game so that you can feel the air around you, the whole world really came together well. And the result of all these elements coming together is that Link now moves exceptionally well. The atmosphere in this game reminds me a lot of Ocarina of Time. That game's atmosphere really was in a class of its own and I'm sure fans of the series will agree. The staff here held that as one of their aims and believe that, by using Ocarina as a basis, they've been able to revive that atmosphere in a new form.
Iwata: The game certainly does have that feeling about it. What do you think of the new Link, Miyamoto-san?
Miyamoto: The new Link is truly wonderful, isn't he? It won't be easy to make something as good as this again. Even by Nintendo standards, this is first-rate.
Iwata: Wow! (laughs)
Miyamoto: No really, I think this is something we should all be proud of. The person in charge, Nishimori-san, may be one of our younger members of staff but he's been working closely with an experienced programmer. Aonuma-san and myself have been discussing things with him since the planning stage and have checked everything exhaustively. We would discuss the best methods of programming right down to the nearest millisecond.
Iwata: So, Miyamoto-san, you've no more complaints about Link?
Miyamoto: None at all. But there's plenty I'd like to say about the movement of the animals! I'd be saying: "You call that an animal?" (laughs) "You call that a horse? Go and see what a horse really looks like!"
Iwata: Yes, that has come up in the interviews before! (laughs)
Miyamoto: Ah, they told you about that? (laughs) But back to Link, I really think that for a player character the quality of his movement is unsurpassed. Even right near the end when I spotted something and said that it would be a shame if it wasn't perfect and that we should fix it, everybody was happy to put the work in and get the job done. I said a bit hesitantly: "At least let's fix this", but the team responded with: "If we're going to fix it, let's fix it properly!"
Aonuma: You were hesitant? (laughs)
All: (laughter)
Iwata: Also, this Link not only moves very well, but he also has real charm.
Aonuma: Even though he's the player's character, he comes with his own personality, which sounds a bit strange, but I think that his uniqueness probably became apparent right after Miyamoto-san had him throw that goat! (laughs)
Miyamoto: This was one time I just had to speak out. With this project I was supervising, and entrusted the planning side of things to other people. But in exchange I said: "Let me throw that goat!" (laughs)
Iwata: Another act of violence! (laughs)
Aonuma: Well, that was one big goat! Up to that point Link looked a bit doll-like, but once he threw the goat we started to think: "Maybe he could do this" or "Maybe he could throw that!" The things Link could do grew and grew...
Miyamoto: Throwing the goat, throwing the mid-level boss.
Aonuma: Let's try not to give too much away! (laughs)
Miyamoto: Oh, yes... (laughs)
Iwata: Whatever the case, this Link feels very responsive.
Aonuma: Yes, and there were plenty of other things I wanted to add! But if I mentioned this you'd probably say: "What? You want even more time!" (laughs)
Iwata: I probably would! (laughs)
Aonuma: But even so, in all honesty there were other things I wanted to do.
Miyamoto: I think what we did was enough, but even that didn't satisfy my desire to do more. If only I could change it just a little bit more... (laughs)
Iwata: I suppose that's what makes it Zelda.

Part 9 - Each Philosophy Benefits from the Existence of the Other

Iwata: The image of Wii in the lead-up to its launch has been shaped by the fact that most of the attention is being given to games that can also be easily enjoyed by non-gamers, typified by the Wii Sports package. That's partly due to the fact that Nintendo's primary goal is the expansion of the gamer population. However, that doesn't mean in the least that Nintendo feels the games most enjoyed by our core fans like Zelda aren't important anymore. Quite the contrary - our ambitious plan was to create and launch the ultimate traditional gamer's game at the same time as Wii, a console designed to expand the gamer population. Did the co-existence of these seemingly disparate goals in the company ever make it hard for you to continue with the lengthy development of Zelda, or make you question the value of your work to the company? This is actually a question that I didn't ask the other developers.
Aonuma: You didn't? I would've liked to hear their comments. Well, hmm...let's see. This might not be the best way to put it, but at the beginning of development, we started work on Twilight Princess with the intention of helping the GameCube go out in style. Put another way, we wanted to proceed straight ahead within the framework of traditional gaming and make a game that would really blow people away. Our focus was clearly different from that of Wii, which was designed to be easy to play and to be something everyone can enjoy. However, I think the fact that this Zelda can be played on Wii helps build a number of bridges. It will provide a chance for people who bought Wii for the simple and intuitive controls to see how much fun traditional games can be. At the same time, for people who like traditional games and are harboring some doubts about Wii games, or who have already decided that Wii is not for them, Zelda might become a gateway for them to see how much fun Wii is.
Iwata: I see.
Miyamoto: But what about the state of mind of the internal staff members? A few years ago, for example, the Zelda team was considered to be the top development team within Nintendo. Of course the various development teams in the company weren't ranked, but it would be fair to say that the Zelda team represented the whole company. But then the Nintendo DS came along and its simple and fun games were huge hits. We became able to keep putting out great games without investing a lot of people or time in development.
Aonuma: Hmm, well yes, that's true.
Miyamoto: In the context of this new climate, when Zelda became the biggest project in the company, some people started to say half-jokingly: "We could probably make five other new games if we didn't have Zelda." It would be going too far to say that making this kind of huge game is somehow obsolete, but there are trends even within parts of Nintendo to move away from this approach. During development, wasn't there any sense of melancholy in the team, a feeling that the days of enormous projects like this were numbered?
Aonuma: Let me think about it for a moment...... No, I don't think there was anything like that. The feeling in the team was more like: the DS is the DS, Wii is Wii, and more importantly for us, Zelda is Zelda.
Miyamoto: So no one was worried about being left behind?
Aonuma: Well, I'm sure some people felt that way. We were continuing to do what we've always done in the midst of a change of direction within Nintendo, so I would be lying if I said that no one was worried about being left behind. When we missed our window of opportunity to help the GameCube go out in style and it was decided to also make a Wii version, things got a little chaotic. But despite that, no one ever said anything like: "We shouldn't be spending time on making Zelda anymore." No matter how much trends in the industry were changing, we had absolute and unwavering confidence in what we were making.
Iwata: I'm sure that you wouldn't have been able to create a Zelda like this if you'd felt that this kind of big project was becoming a thing of the past. So as you said, I don't think people in the development team were concerned by this. Or if they were, it was in the sense that the company's new direction acted to motivate them.
Aonuma: Yes, I think it probably helped motivate the team.
Iwata: I think there is value in the mentality that was brought about by the success of the Nintendo DS, namely that it is possible to create a good product without investing a huge amount of time or resources. On the other hand, making games like Twilight Princess is also important because it gives us a chance to impress players with what we can do when we devote a talented team of people to making a single game over a long period of time. I also think each philosophy benefits from the existence of the other. I think that without either one of them, the resulting lack of variety would be unhealthy.
Miyamoto: I think that's true.
Aonuma: As do I. Since I've only worked on large, epic games before, I realise that I'll need to start thinking about things from a slightly different point of view from now on. I think that all of the other staff are becoming aware of the need to do this, too. While we don't have any regrets whatsoever about how this Zelda has turned out, the next time we are deciding what kind of game to make, I think the differences between these two philosophies will become a constructive topic for debate.

Part 10 - I Simply Want Everyone to Enjoy this World

Iwata: Every time I helped with testing in Zelda: Twilight Princess, I find myself taken aback, thinking: "I can't believe you even included this!" And since you've put so much effort into refining the game to that point, in this final interview I think it's only fitting for us to introduce these touches to all the fans who've been patiently waiting for the game's release. Some examples include the changes throughout the four seasons and the weather at the fishing pond, when the water becomes muddy after it rains. Another one is when you drink from one of the jars, the surface of the liquid remains level even when you tilt it. Why has so much time and effort been invested in making these minor details? (laughs) I was really left shaking my head in disbelief when I saw the sheer number of these touches throughout the game. But even though I'm still wondering why would you go to all that trouble, I still really want people to know about these details. I want them to appreciate the lengths you have gone to in order to create such a foolishly detailed world! (laughs)
Miyamoto: Well, on this subject, I've often said half-jokingly: "In this game, even the sides of the ladders have patterns on them!" (laughs) But whenever you climb a ladder, the camera moves so it's directly behind you meaning you can't actually see the sides of the ladder!
Aonuma: Miyamoto-san, are you implying that there was some bad management in the development team? (laughs)
Miyamoto: How much time did you spend on that part? (laughs)
Iwata: Well, let's forget that particular point for now! (laughs)
Aonuma: Agreed! (laughs)
Miyamoto: It's a well-known fact that Zelda games always have signposts that can be sliced apart by the player. The village at the beginning of this game is no exception. However in this game, finally, the pieces you cut off can be picked up!
All: (roaring laughter)
Aonuma: And of course, if you throw them into the river they float
All: (laughter)
Miyamoto: They really do float. The reason we enabled the player to pick up the pieces and carry them was because there were no signposts right by the river.
Aonuma: Exactly! (laughs) If you don't take them and throw them into the river, they're not going to float.
Miyamoto: And because we've made it so the pieces float, it'd be a real waste if the player didn't get to see this. That's why we let them pick them up, carry them to the river and throw them in! Setting up this feature took us about the same time as it did to work on one of the horses! (laughs)
Iwata: A fine example of putting the cart before the horse! (laughs)
Miyamoto: It really was! (laughs)
Aonuma: We often couldn't be sure which was the horse and which was the cart! (laughs)
Miyamoto: There are plenty of these touches in this Zelda for the player to enjoy. And why did this happen, you might ask. Well, in the early stages of development neither the overall direction of the story, nor its finer details had been settled on. For that reason, the development team concentrated on creating things that could be used however the story turned out. The enemies were designed so that they could appear at any location throughout the game and the items were made so they could be used just about anywhere. Normally, when the framework for a game is decided you basically try to put all of the things you have made already into the game, making adjustments to them to ensure the minimum amount of waste. However, this time round with Zelda the trial-and-error process was so long that a large number of things made with great attention to detail remain in the game without having been through that adjustment process.
Aonuma: The perfect example are the characters who duck when you swing your sword at them! (laughs)
Miyamoto: Ah yes! (laughs) There are some children who duck out of the way when you swing your sword at them!
All: (laughs)
Aonuma: In previous Zelda adventures, the non-player characters show little or no reaction if you swing at them. We had this feature left over from something made as an experiment quite some time ago, and for some reason we made it so only the children dodge Link's sword.
Miyamoto: Well, speaking to those children isn't particularly interesting, but when you swing that sword they all duck! People say things like: "That's the funniest part!" (laughs) Actually, one of them dodges the strike by bending backwards.
Aonuma: The shortest one, right?
Iwata: Well, seeing as this rather silly part of the game doesn't ruin the storyline, it'd be nice if we could show a video clip if at all possible...
Aonuma: There are many of these kinds of moments in the early stages of the game. We were making them right from the initial development stages.
Miyamoto: What else was there... Ah yes, we already talked a little about the goat-throwing section, but to continue from that, there are a pre-determined number of goats that appear in the game. When I found out the reason for this, I was quite speechless! (laughs) The way it works is, there's an event where Link has to round up a certain number of goats. The number of goats isn't determined by the event's difficulty, but instead by the number that can fit into the pens in the barn!
All: (laughter)
Aonuma: The number of places in the barn was set and that dictated the total number of goats we could have...
Miyamoto: I spoke to the director about why we couldn't have a larger number, but he told me that it wouldn't be possible because there were only twenty-four spaces in the barn! (laughs) Also, in early versions of the game, Link couldn't even enter the barn.
Iwata: So, you couldn't even see the number of pens?
Miyamoto: Precisely! (laughs) What were you thinking, limiting the number of pens! But in the end, Link became able to enter the barn.
Aonuma: And from time to time when the goats escape, you can now go into the barn and check to see how many of the pens are empty. That's the kind of detail the team spent their time implementing! (laughs)
Miyamoto: Nobody's going to check anyway! (laughs) There were many points like this throughout the game.
Aonuma: That's true. Before we knew it, all these details were already in the game!
Iwata: Really? (laughs) So many nice touches have been put in the game, I think the most fun thing will be laughing out loud as you find them one by one. Since you're paying for the game anyway, you may as well get the most out of the experience!
Aonuma: Of course! (laughs)
Miyamoto: For those who play the game, try moving the camera around from time to time and you'll find all kinds of wonderful things hidden away outside the main gameplay area if you take the time to look. (laughs)
Iwata: We couldn't claim this to be a major selling point for the game though! (laughs)
Miyamoto: There is a wealth of detail in the graphics so that when you pull the camera away it looks really impressive. This is in spite of the fact that you can't see these things when just playing through the game normally! (laughs) By changing the camera view occasionally, you'll suddenly catch a glimpse of some truly wonderful views.
Aonuma: That's absolutely right. Taking the time to have a look around can really pay off. There really are points that will make you think: "This is a breathtaking world." But that doesn't necessarily make the game good... (laughs)
Miyamoto: I think it's a good thing. Even the enemy characters are wearing great-looking armor and equipment decorated with finely detailed textures. Our developers made it this way without considering how much you'd be able to see it when playing the game! (laughs) But they did think that you'd be able to get a better look once the enemies had been knocked down.
Aonuma: In this sense, we haven't made any compromises in bringing this world to life, and it's clear to see that the staff haven't cut any corners either.
Iwata: It certainly gives that impression.
Miyamoto: I once had a discussion with Hayao Miyazaki when he was making Porco Rosso and he asked me if I knew the way to make a landscape look authentic from a bird's-eye view. I wasn't sure and when I asked him what it was, he said: "Just keep drawing!" (laughs) It seems it's all about putting your nose to the grindstone and adding more and more detail. With this Zelda there were times when that was just what we did, and it was precisely because we put so much into the graphic detail that the game looks really good when the camera pulls away to take in the surrounding view.
Iwata: Yes, I'd have to agree with you.
Miyamoto: Those aspects might not always be seen when playing the game, but nonetheless I'd like to praise the staff on all the work they put into making those fine details! (laughs)
Iwata: Everything you see in the game world is fully-formed, not made in the same way as the set of a TV show which, if you view it from a certain angle, hasn't been fully built. Realising a vision like this may have been hugely expensive but you've really come up with a world you rarely see in video games. A lot of time and effort has gone into crafting all the details in this game, so I'd really like the players to thoroughly enjoy this rich gaming experience.
Miyamoto: Even things such as the doors have been lovingly put together.
Aonuma: It's just another indication of the quality that's found in Zelda games. If we were making a game that only used a fixed camera angle for example, there would be no need to make things that appear on the sides or behind the player as they wouldn't be seen. But that's not the kind of approach we like to use for a Zelda game. We were also keen to make the locations on the landscape interconnect and make them accessible from any direction where possible, that's why we really feel that no corners have been cut. The reason we made such an effort to include as many features as possible is because our aim is to make people feel that the vast land of Hyrule is a true living and breathing environment.
Iwata: Okay, finally I'd like to ask you both to give a message to the many fans who've been waiting for Zelda: Twilight Princess. Aonuma-san, would you like to start?
Aonuma: Well, to put it simply, I just want the fans to really embrace the wonderful world we've created. We worked ourselves to the bone making this and feel we've accomplished our goal and produced a truly great piece of work. I really hope you take the time to play this game as a new type of Zelda experience awaits you.
Iwata: Miyamoto-san, what would you like to say?
Miyamoto: I doubt there are many teams out there that could make something of this caliber. It's completely faithful to the spirit of Zelda, I mean, this game sticks to that clear path that a Zelda game must stick to. I know I can't predict how the world will react to this game, but I think I can safely say that there's nothing else like this available. The staff remained positive, and even when they were exhausted they worked hard right until the last moment putting everything together. Because this game contains so much energy, I'd really like people to pick it up and give it a try. As for my role this time, I feel I've helped more in putting everything together into its final form, rather than assisting with the creative side. Now it's finished, I can look back and feel that it's been a very enjoyable experience. What do you think, Iwata-san?
Iwata: Firstly, I think the final product really benefited from the decision to extend the development time by an extra year. The sheer scale of this project meant that there wasn't a clear plan from the start, but in spite of this I feel that the Zelda development team achieved their true potential and demonstrated their astonishing ability by bringing all the elements of this game neatly together in one well-rounded package. I haven't had the chance to play the game through in its entirety yet, but I have been able to check all the individual pieces and can confidently say that the wealth of ideas and energy that has been put into this game really shines through. Even with all the resources we have here at Nintendo, we could only make something like this once every few years. In fact, it might not be easy to do something like this again, so I really want everyone to have a wonderful time playing this game.
Aonuma: Indeed, and with this version of Zelda, you should really get your money's worth with over a hundred hours of gameplay.
Iwata: And none of that time feels in the slightest like a chore, which is really an achievement.
Miyamoto: When we say it will take a hundred hours, we don't mean you will spend half the time just building up your strength and supplies... Well, perhaps there is the odd time you have to collect rupees, but that's it! (laughs) Even then, we have made it so that the player will have fun coming up with ideas to get those rupees. This is a game you won't tire of!
Aonuma: Another thing is that this project has seen a mixture of creators, both old-timers and newcomers alike who've worked together to produce ideas that manage to combine a fresh approach with oddly nostalgic gameplay.
Iwata: And because of that, I think we've made a game that has a very broad appeal.
Aonuma: That's right, and even people of Miyamoto-san's generation will be playing this one! (laughs) Three generations of people will be able to enjoy this gaming experience.
Iwata: By "three generations", you mean like Touch Generations, right? (laughs)
Aonuma: Right. Which is a good thing! (laughs)
Miyamoto: I also wanted to mention the sound and programming teams as well as the people who made the videos and demos. They didn't take part in these interviews, but worked just as hard as the rest.
Aonuma: That's right.
Iwata: To tell the truth, I still have lots of questions I wanted to ask the developers in these interviews...
Miyamoto: Speaking of which, these discussions are being translated and put on the international Nintendo sites as well, aren't they? I just wanted to add to the many fans of Zelda around the world that members of the foreign localization teams came over and worked with us during the development. And to these teams, I wanted to say that they really are very dedicated to what they do.
Aonuma: They certainly did work hard. This is actually the first time a Zelda game is being released simultaneously worldwide too. Various localization teams from around the world came to Japan and worked together with us on making this possible.
Miyamoto: They even worked alongside us until late at night.
Aonuma: They did. Generally speaking, I heard that most people in other countries tend not to work that late, but these guys sometimes worked until 1am!
Miyamoto: I said to one of the European team members: "You're working late!" and they replied: "Yes, because the Japanese staff haven't gone home yet!"
Iwata: (laughs)
Aonuma: There was a good sense of unity among us. When they went to the local convenience store to buy a late-night bento box to eat, we thought: "That's just what we do!" (laughs)
Iwata: To the localization teams that worked together on this project, you certainly know your Japanese culture!
Aonuma: I agree.
Miyamoto: Another thing, there are more people translating the game's text into English than there were making the original Japanese! (laughs)
Aonumas: There were, weren't there? (laughs) There were people to pick out the intricacies of the original Japanese, others to convert the language into English and then even more people in charge of perfecting it and making it sound natural!
Miyamoto: Not forgetting the people who iron out the parts of the story they think are weird! (laughs)
All: (laughter)
Iwata: I'd just like to say thank you to everyone for spending such a long time today answering my questions.
Aonuma: Thank you.
Miyamoto: Thank you very much.