Untitled Document

Oracle Games Interview

Originally from: Ki no ue no Himitsu kichi
April 11, 2001
Translated by Nintendo Power
Transcript from

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons are the result of a collaboration between game developers from both Nintendo and Capcom. The Japanese website Ki no ue no Himitsu kichi recently conducted an interview with Nintendo's renowned Shigeru Miyamoto (M), Capcom game director Yoshiki Okamoto (O) and Capcom director Yoshifumi Yamashita (Y) about the process of making two new games at once.

Q: How old are you, Mr. Okamoto?
O: I'll be forty this year.

Q: You look younger than that.
O: Well, I've been working out! [laughs]
Y: Hmm ... [laughs]
O: What are you laughing for! [laughs] I really am working out, though. I've been doing push-ups every day. See? [does push-ups] I've really been shaping up.

Q: You do look the athletic type. I'm kind of surprised.
O: When he [Yamashita] turned 40, he was like, "I gotta exercise, I'm gonna work out until I get totally ripped." Right?
Y: Right. I went right back to normal after that, though.

Q: You do a lot of sports too, don't you, Mr. Miyamoto?
M: Not nearly as much as this guy. We...
O: No, no no. We're the ones not doing it nearly as much as you. Miyamoto works out at a totally different level than I do. You exercise, like, nearly every day right?
M: I don't, I don't.
O: Oh, really?
M: Basically twice a week.
O: Well, see? You're keeping it up.
M: My wife's been yelling at me to start walking to work, so I've been doing that recently.
O: She was getting on your case about your health, right? [laughs]
M: Right.
O: So you quit biking?
M: Well, I actually rode my bike today. [laughs]
O: You cheater!

Q: What kind of bicycle do you ride?
O: Something really cheap, right?
M: It's a mountain bike. Well, it's really a mountain bike, but I actually camouflaged it to make it look like a piece of junk.
O: Oh, so you put a basket in front?
M: Yeah, yeah! [laughs]

Q: So you're styling with that?
M: Oh, all the way.
O: With the outfit and all?
M: Well, no, I just go like this. [points to what he's wearing] Plus it's cold so I put on this wool hat. [laughs]
O: Kyoto's cold right now, isn't it? And it's too hot in the summer.
M: I probably should be putting on a helmet, but ...

Q: I was recently talking with the Takahashi brothers [designers of Mario Tennis], and they're actually fairly muscular as well. I got the impression that everyone releasing good games these days are all so fit and healthy, so I figured maybe you two were the same way.
O: Well, you gotta be tough to make games! It's hard to make them when you're sick all the time.

Q: Developers have the image of a bunch of people that sit in front of computers all the time ...
O: Kenji Eno's the only one like that! [laughs]
M: Oh, is he?
O: Well, I don't think he's working out! I don't know about Nintendo, but at Capcom people that have their eyes glued to the monitor all day don't tend to amount to much.

Q: Really?
O: Capcom's pretty much overrun by track-meet kind of people.
M: Not just pretty much. Mostly.
O: We've got this thing called the Capcom UTFC going on right now.

Q: Ultimate Training?
O: Actually it's the Push-Up Club. [everyone laughs] Actually there's the Capcom Friendly Club, and then going against that is the Capcom Sit-Up Club. [laughs] Like, instead of going to work out at some training gym, they just sit around and do nothing but sit-ups and push-ups.

Q: Umm, so Zelda on the Game Boy Color ...
O: Nice subject change! [laughs]

Q: Mr. Macho Man himself, Mr. Okamoto, you've done all the production work for this game.
O: I've been allowed to supervise everything, right.

Q: I'd like to ask about those macho-man developers at Capcom, but before that, I want to ask you and Mr. Miyamoto how you think your team's been progress the game along.
O: Well, for the first little while I had left the team totally alone [without Miyamoto's help] because I figured they'd easily be able to do this much by themselves. So I left them alone, and for the first year we did nothing but lose lots of money.
Y: Lots and lots of money.
M: He told me that even a year ago. [laughs]
O: It's been taking up money for ages now, with all the people we've brought in. So I came in, and I saw that nothing was working out, and I went up to Miyamoto and was like, "Help me!" [laughs]

Q: Did you think that leaving the team alone would be alright, Mr. Miyamoto?
M: Well, I trusted him. [laughs]
O: That trust sure stabbed you in the back. [laughs]
Y: Big time. [laughs]

Q: What made you realize that you needed help?
O: The members of our team weren't agreeing over the direction that game development should take. I thought that we should produce a new version of the first Zelda game (released for the NES in the U.S.) for Game Boy Color. Then, if it went well, we could move on to the next stage (making a more ambitious game). But, my people wanted to skip that first phase and create their own Zelda game from the beginning. Mr. Miyamoto normally creates the game scenario (story and characters) after the initial game play is designed. If the action part of the game is solid, the scenario can be developed from there. We started by using the Capcom scenario creation company, Flag Ship, to create the scenario first. Then, we created maps and started developing the game. I don't believe that worked.
M: That didn't work? [laughs]
O: Using that system, the team had to redo both the scenario and the maps several times to make all the elements fit. During that process, we realized that, since the Game Boy Color screen is narrower than a TV screen, the player must scroll the screen to the left and right to see the whole room. That created some difficulties in game play development. If you see a crack on a wall, you know that you need to use a bomb to break through. But, if you can't see the crack, because all of the walls in the room aren't visible at once, you could miss it. That led to more difficulty in developing the maps.

Q: It wasn't something you could easily port over.
O: You could end up completely missing stairways and things and you wouldn't be able to advance at all. So we ran into all sorts of problems.
M: Well, do you want to switch to Game Boy Advance? We could start right now.
O: Stop it! [laughs] I'll get you for that!

Q: Actually, considering the timing you're releasing this, you still didn't have any intention of releasing it on GBA?
O: No, that's why we really had to put this out ages ago.
M: We intended to put it out ages ago, but we got closer and closer to the GBA's deadline. So then we were thinking about adding a couple of extra bits for when the game's inserted into a GBA, but then that would've made the game come out after the GBA's announced released date. Fortunately, the GBA just happened to fall behind a bit ...
O: Just happened to.
M: And so we'll manage to just barely put it out before the GBA. [laughs]
O: For the last month or so it's like we've been sliding headfirst into home the entire time. We're right at that point now. Afterwards I'd like to be able to say, "Whew, we finally made it." But we've got a lot of hard work to do still. [laughs] The staff's still debugging the game today, even.
M: I've begun my final check on the game, but I feel like if I say anything I'll delay the game. I think everyone just wants me to shut up. [laughs]
O: We won't fix anything. I don't mind if you say stuff, but it won't get fixed.

Q: I guess I picked the wrong time to interview you two .. [laughs]
O: We're right at the point where it gets fun, though, aren't we? [laughs] Right where it gets fun.

Q: So, you asked for Mr. Miyamoto's help about a year after you started the project. Is that right?
O: Yes. I would say it was more of an SOS signal.
M: Not just a call for help. [laughs]

Q: Did you have to start from the beginning after that?
O: No. The basic programming was done. We were able to proceed in the right direction from there. At that point, I asked Mr. Yamashita to join the project and I started to use Mr. Miyamoto's name when talking to the development staff. Everyone worked harder if I said "because Mr. Miyamoto said so!". [laughs]
M: Even if it wasn't that important?
O: It didn't matter how important it was. When I said "Mr. Miyamoto said so," they said, "Yes, yes. We'll do it!" My people really threw themselves into their work when I said the name "Miyamoto."

Q: So, that was effective?
O: Yes. It was very effective. They don't care when they hear "Because Mr. Okamoto said so."
M: That's because Mr. Okamoto is always overseas. [laughs]
O: Yes. That's true.
M: I think I understand their enthusiasm. They played Mario and Zelda games when they were growing up and now they are in the position to develop those games. This is very special for them. I really appreciate their efforts.
O: But I didn't expect so much enthusiasm.
M: They don't want to be embarrassed [by poor products].
M: Back when Okamoto first said to me, "Let's make a Game Boy Zelda," he gave me a development schedule for the game that was just ... I couldn't believe it at all. But he said, "Oh, we'll just bang them right out." I thought then that if he was able to pull it off, then he must really be something. Capcom itself must really be something ...
O: Well, we are! [laughs]
M: And then he ended up not making it at all, so I was a little relieved. You really do need time to make a project like this after all.
O: What're you talking about? The very first idea I gave you was a remake of the original NES game.

Q: How much time had you given yourself?
O: I figured about three or four months would do for development.
M: "Give me eight months and I can crank out three titles, just like that." Something like that ...
Q: These games would all use the same system?
O: Right. I figured we could just use the old game system. Then it'd be no problem time-wise to work on the graphics and things. It's go right out the door, or so I thought. And if we were going to make three in a row, I figured it wouldn't be a problem to work on them all at the same time. Once the engine's done, you put the maps in and presto. But our staff didn't get to that point. They were still making the game itself. We actually had another Zelda game finished ...

Q: Another one?
O: Yes. The third one. Well, actually it's the first Zelda I was talking about before. As for that one, well, we'll be debating about that later. [laughs]

Q: About whether or not you'll release it?
O: We'll be debating it later. Like, "Come on, release it!"
M: There are actually four.
O: Oh, right, four.

Q: Huhhh? [laughs]
O: The fourth one was cancelled.
M: right, that was the most producer-like think I've done on this entire project! [laughs]
O: Mr. Miyamoto can always see the big picture. There were some issues that we could not see clearly from the beginning. After we started to produce a three-title concept, where players would reach the same goals no matter in which order they chose to play the games, it was difficult for us to see all of the problems in making three linking games. When Mr. Miyamoto said, "Wouldn't it be simpler to create two titles, instead of three?" we said, "Yes, of course!" He really saved us. Then, we moved in the direction of the two-title concept. To be honest, I think that it would've been impossible to develop three titles like that. Even now (with two titles releasing simultaneously) we are working very hard to prevent program bugs.
M: When the concept is to develop two games that link together, it is easier if both titles work under the same basic program. But for this project, we had to link two completely separate programs. One reason for launching both titles at the same time is that it's more fun [for players]. Another reason is that we can test them together. If we released the titles separately, it would be more difficult to match the second game to the first game.

Q: Did you ever consider combining both games into one big adventure if memory size allowed?
O: No. We wanted to go in a different direction from the big serious story games like Final Fantasy. This is an action-oriented RPG. It's a "lighter" style, kind of like a weekly TV drama (as opposed to an epic film). We knew that we could use the same basic style as the existing Zelda games and make two really fun games. We also liked the possibility of having multiple endings and the replay value that you get from two linking games. I knew that we could project a fun, entertaining style with multiple titles.