Untitled Document

Miyamoto Speaks

Nintendo Power volume 89
October 1996
Typed by Mak

In August, Famimaga 64, a Japanese gaming magazine, interviewed Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto regarding the N64 and upcoming games for it. This month, we're letting you listen in to hear what he has to say.

Ed.: When did you start planning Super Mario 64?

SM: I'd had the concept for the game for a long time but didn't write the specs for it until just before Shoshinkai last year. I had wanted to make games using polygons even before the Super Famicom was released. Of course, polygon graphics originally didn't work well with the Super Famicom. When the FX chip became available, I tried and tested polygon graphics many times while making Starfox and Wild Trax [Stunt Race FX in the U.S.] and slowly constructed basic ideas about using them. It was about three years ago when I finally understood what specs were needed to move a certain character or object. I was finally able to visualize the N64 at that time. Then it took another year and a half to translate to N64. In the beginning, we weren't sure whether or not the N64's specs and abilities were real.

ED.: So it was about a year and a half ago that you came up with Super Mario 64?

SM: Yes, we made samples and tested them for the first half year, then we spent about a year in actual development and production. The development/production process took a year, but in total, it took 5-6 years for us to complete the game from early idea to finished product.

ED.: Which part did you develop first?

SM: We spent a year or so developing the characters and camera angels before we went into details. Mario and MIPS the rabbit in the basement of the castle, were the only characters we had in the beginning. We used them repeatedly for testing. For example, we had the rabbit follow Mario to a mountain summit, then we changed the viewpoint there, and so on. We thought about using a different character in the basement of the castle for the final version, but we couldn't ignore the rabbit. We must say that the whole process of developing this game began with Mario and the rabbit.

Ed.: How did you decide what the world of Super Mario 64 would be like?

SM: I always decide on the basic ideas/concepts (such as Mario's moves) first, then I add other things until it takes a certain shape. After that, I start the total concept of the game. In the case of Super Mario 64, I began creating the world after Shoshinkai [November, 1995]. Before that, I had only general ideas, such as what kinds of monsters we wanted, and that there would be no blood. Ideas such as the structures of courses or hanging pictures on the walls in the castle came later.

Ed.: So you started with Mario's actions, or movements, when making the game?

SM: Yes, they're the core of this game. Mario's actions came first, then we made the courses that fit his movements.

Ed.: There are lots of actions and moves in the game, but some of them are not necessarily critical to defeating enemies or clearing obstacles. Did you put them in on purpose?

SM: The leg sweep, trip move was supposed to be a useful skill at first. It could be used to knock bamboo poles down or to defeat Goombas. There are lots of things I planned, but of course, not everything came out exactly as I wanted. I just wanted to create as many moves as possible that could be controlled with a combination of the Control Stick and buttons, not only for a practical purpose but also to have fun playing. A player might discover a new one as he plays and say, "Whoa! I've found a cool move!"

Ed.: Yeah, and controlling the moves isn't very complicated, is it?

SM: Basically, only the A and B buttons are used in the game for control. Other buttons are not necessary for game play, but they are quite handy once you learn to use them. I spent quite a bit of time coming up with the functions of the C Buttons. I wasn't sure how I should set the C buttons: Should the camera angel move to the right, or should you see Mario's right side when you press the right C button? In the end, I set the C Buttons so they work like the contols of an airplane. The camera zooms in when you press the top C Button, and it turns to the right when you press the right C Button.

Ed.: Regarding the viewpoint, there are places where the player can't see, such as in narrow areas. Do you think it's a problem?

SM: The N64 may be the only home machine that can create a correct, three-dimensional view, no matter which direction you're looking. Because of this ability, Mario cannot be seen when he's behind a wall, and this agrees with the natural physical law. It wouldn't have been right if we had changed the settings so that Mario could have seen through the wall. On the other hand, if we had set the viewpoint to shift each time Mario moved, it might have been quite confusing. I believe we have done everything to get the best possible viewpoints.

Ed. Will the viewpoint be improved in the future?

SM: Of course we should improve it to a certain degree, but we can't do much with the things that are physically correct. We can only suggest that players move around or stop for a better view.

Ed.: What are the differences, other than the language, are there in the Japanese and English versions?

SM: In the English version, characters speak much more than they do in the Japanese version.

Ed.: Where did you add voices for the English version?

SM: For example, you'll hear Mario's voice say, "Here we go!" when you enter a course. Also, Peach talks during the final scene. I wish we could sell this version in Japan for the one-year anniversary or as a Christmas special. But, realistically, I don't think we can sell the English version in Japan, since so many players already bought the Japanese version as soon as it was released.

Ed.: By the way, do you make changes in American games to fit the Japanese market?

SM: We translate them from English to Japanese, and basically, that's all. Of course, there are some games, especially sports games, that we make some changes to in order to sell them in Japan. If we released Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball in Japan, we would need to make minor changes, like adding scenes and the sounds of fans hitting bells and drums to make it fit better in our culture.

Ed.: There are more puzzles to solve in Super Mario 64 than in other Mario games. Why is that?

SM: I was developing Zelda 64 while I was working on Super Mario 64, and I had lots of ideas for Zelda. Since Mario was going to be released earlier, I used some of those ideas in it. I did the same thing when the Super Famicom versions of Zelda and Mario were being developed: I switched ideas between the two games.

ED.: Is Zelda 64 going to be similar to Super Mario 64?

SM: They resemble on another in some parts. Of course, about half of Zelda will be completely different.

Ed.: Are the characters in Zelda 64 going to move around in 3-D fields like the ones in Mario do?

SM: Yes, in some places.

Ed.: So, will Zelda 64 be like an RPG of Mario with a sword?

SM: No. I'm sure everyone would complain if we did that. They'd think that Zelda 64 looked too much like Super Mario 64.

Ed.: Then what makes Zelda 64 different from Mario 64?

SM: I can't say anything yet. Well, the camera system...

ED.: We saw the video of Zelda 64. Have you made any changes since that video?

SM: Yes, scenes in the final version will be quite different from those in the video, but you will still see some scenes from the same angels you saw in the video. We aren't sure if it's the best angle for actually playing. It's possible to make demo scenes from that angle-they aren't difficult to create. By the way, some people thought that the demo scenes at Shoshinkai were playing on development equipment, but they were actually playing on the N64.

Ed.: We were shocked when we saw that demonstration video.

SM: What parts of the video were most amazing to you? Were you surprised by the shining, metallic-looking soldiers?

Ed.: I couldn't believe that those amazing characters were in the actual game. I thought images like those were possible only with development equipment.

SM: But you saw them actually move in the video. You might have noticed the soldiers stop for a moment just before making a move, such as just before swinging a sword. Their action didn't look natural because of those brief pauses. We need to adjust this problem in the final version.

Ed.: Regarding Wave Race 64, why did you make such big changes in the watercraft? They're very different from the ones we saw at first.

SM: Before Shoshinkai, we concentrated on making the water as realistic as possible on the screen, and we concentrated on the vehicles after the show. Although we used boats in the video, we decided on jet skis later. Boats looked pretty good at the show, but I didn't think that Wave Race 64 would be unique from similar games on other systems if we used boats. Jet skis can show many maneuvers that work well in the realistic water of Wave Race 64.

Ed.: How is Star Fox coming?

SM: Everything is going well. That game, I must not give anything away. Well, its graphics are sharp and clear.

Ed.: How about the player's vehicle? A tank was used in the Shoshinkai video.

SM: Player's vehicle? I shouldn't make comments on this... I can only say that the tank is a player's vehicle...

Ed.: Everyone is really looking forward to seeing Super Mario Kart R. How's it going?

SM: We are working on high-speed processing and other technical improvements. We want to design this game so that users can play in four-player mode as well as in one-player mode.

Ed.: The video version looked nearly complete. Do you still need time for adjustments?

SM: Yes, that's one of the reasons we're still working on it. We are also spending time creating different driving styles. The Control Stick will control the cars, and the cars in this game will run very differently from one another. Soem cars have very touchy handling, while others have straight-forward handling. We're also spending lots of time on characters, like changing Donkey Kong to Super Donkey Kong.

Ed.: Regarding the control, it the Control Stick just for handling the wheel?

SM: Well, I can't tell you. How to use the Control Stick is the most critical part of the game, but, again, I can't tell you...

Ed.: Almost all of Nintendo's new games, including Super Mario 64 use polygon graphics. Are you going to use polygon graphics in your future games?

SM: One of the major reasons that I wanted to develop for the N64 is that it makes it possible to draw precise, realistic 3-D images and scenes. The video world will not expand without accurate graphics and scenes. For that reasons, we will be using polygons more in designing games.

Quality per pixel of a picture is very high, so even 2-D games look totally different. Pictures can also be reduced or enlarged without any problem.

Development of Super Famicom games depend on the specs of the hardware. We needed to know how many sprites were possible on the hardware. On the other hand, that made it easy to create a game. But the N64 is programming-free hardware. A designer can create whatever he wants without worrying about sprites or cells.

Unlike programming for the Super Famicom, we don't have to consider the specs of the hardware when making 2-D games for N64. Designing games will depend on what the programmers do. They can use the N64 to do whatever they want, such as morphing.

So we may see games that make us wonder how they were created. The N64 is really an interesting and exciting machine. In some cases, 2-D images created on the N64 may be more interesting than 3-D graphics. Right now, we're making Yoshi's Island in 2-D.

Ed.: Nintendo released Yoshi's Island for the Super Famicom after Donkey Kong Country. The graphics for Yoshi's Island were, by contrast, softer and more pastel.

SM: Yes, you're right. Regarding the release of Yoshi Island for N64, we want to wait at least six months after the release of Super Mario 64 to release it.

Ed.: What do you think about connecting the N64 to a network system?

SM: Networking is one of the important ideas in the long run, but I don't think that we need to discuss a long-term plan with consumers right now. Frankly, I wouldn't be interested in networking right now if I were a consumer. Why do we need to worry about things that might be available in the future? We should consider networking when it becomes truly available. I believe that recent debates on networking are discussed primarily to profit hardware manufacturers and stores. It's like the multi-media boom we experienced a while ago. Networking N64 will be realistic when the N64 is in about five million households. Nintendo hardware can be easily applied to a network at any time.

Japan is not ready for a network yet. Regular households have only one telephone line. If a gamer were occupying the phone line with the network, other family members wouldn't be able to use the phone. We'll have to wait until the government takes the lead in networking or until the household environment is ready for a network.

Ed.: I understand that it will take a while until networking will be widely accepted.

SM: I am looking forward to that day. Some households may get extra telephone lines for networking in the future, but it isn't realistic in Japan right now. I am more focused on simultaneous multi-play.

Ed.: What about 64DD?

SM: You will see it at Shoshinkai in November. I can't say anything else right now.

Ed.: I heard that the 64DD uses a writable disk. If that's true, how will you use it for the upcoming Zelda game?

SM: That's top secret.

Ed.: How is the controller Memory Pak used?

SM: It can be used as an optional accessory. You can use the Memory Pak for backing up certain game data. Of course, the 64DD will be used for back-up in the future, too. I am hoping that players use the Pak to save their personal data for sports games, then play together. That will be fun.

A message to readers from Mr. Miyamoto:

Isn't it a great feeling to complete courses, or to discover secret shortcuts? All players like to discover tips and figure out new ways to do things. It's the same all around the world. Figuring things out in games is common ground for players everywhere. It's possible only in the virtual world, and that's what we want to create with the N64.

The N64 enables us to create completely different scenes and new games that no one has ever experienced before, and we're working hard to do that. Even if people see what we've done and say that it's not a game, we want to continue to create new experiences, things that people haven't seen before. We're going to produced many excellent games for the N64. I assure you that you'll never regret buying an N64! Please look forward to it.

Power Goes Inside EAD

Last summer Senior Editor Leslie Swan went to NCL in Kyoto to work with Nintendo's exclusive EAD group on the English version of Super Mario 64. She wrote the English screen text, then had her voice recorded and digitized for the game. (She's Princess Toadstool.) "They asked me to sound 'sweet,'" she said. "It was a stretch."

Her impressions of Mr. Miyamoto: Interesting, creative, busy. "He's directing several projects at once, and he oversees even the smallest details to make sure that they're right. But as hard working as he is, he also has a fun, creative side. He likes music and plays in his own band. When it came time to take a break, he'd get out his guitar and play right there in the office.