Nintendo Power interviews Miyamoto, Tezuka, Koizumi
August 9, 2002
Transcript from Miyamoto Shrine
Firstly, Mr. Tezuka spoke about his involvement with Super Mario Sunshine:
TT: I was the producer of Super Mario Sunshine and worked closely with Mr. Miyamoto. I worked on all the past Mario series and I tried to advise the younger members of our staff based on these experiences.
Next, Mr. Koizumi talked about his involvement:
YK: I'm Koizumi. Since this was the first time I'd taken the director's role in any game, I was kind of tense throughout the development process. Even now, I still feel a bit nervous. I'm thankful for the help I've received from so many people at Nintendo who helped complete the game. I'm very glad that we have created a game that I, myself, really want to play.
SM: Thank you for coming. Mr. Tezuka, as you know, has been working with me since we created the very first Super Mario Brothers game. Mr. Koizumi worked on Super Mario 64, too, and he played a major role, especially on the character of Mario. I also worked with him on The Legend of Zelda. These guys are two important assets for Nintendo. Of course, none of us can make games alone. We make it a point to be involved with many projects. When people seek my assistance, I offer it gladly.
Whenever we are working on so-called series games, I really feel it's necessary to make the interval between a game and its sequel as short as possible, and we have to do something to improve the situation for our fans. Accordingly, people who used to work together on the Mario series have been split into several teams in order to introduce Mario series games with less lag time between them. We are taking a similar approach to the Zelda series. However, all the games shall be developed so that they retain the high quality that people have come to expect from Nintendo. Although we call some people who are involved with game development "producer" and others "director," each person does more than what you might expect from them, given their job title. We want you to feel like the games themselves are more important than who produced or directed them. Having said that, however, if we become too secretive about who works on games, it's not very interesting for you to report. That's why we're holding this event where we'll accept interview questions.
I know you've already played Super Mario Sunshine. Is there any person who has not obtained 30 Shines yet? Oh, I'm afraid there is one. Let's ignore him. [Laughter.]
Whenever we create a new Mario game, even though it's a sequel in a series, we always try to offer some new challenge. Especially when a young director is in charge of a game, we expect something really unique. We want to incorporate everything that the existing technology makes possible. We want to be able to say, "We have used the full functionality of the hardware so we can not do better on the current console." When a new game was to be developed for Nintendo GameCube, we approached the project with very high aspirations. About a year ago, when we showed the first video of Mario Sunshine, even though we offered a glimpse of something really unique, we did not show Mario using the water sprayer. We didn't want that idea to be stolen at such an early stage. As a result, I'm afraid that you might not have found the video footage very exciting when you saw it. Around that time, the basic game system was complete and new characters were moving around in it. Over the past year, we've changed the direction of the game so that Super Mario Sunshine is more like Super Mario 64 -- a kind of conservative move.
How do I want gamers to play Super Mario Sunshine? In each Mario game, players sometimes move around without any specific purpose, yet they may find some secret as a result. While wandering around, players get accustomed to the gameplay so that Mario moves just as they want him to. Then gamers feel some attachment to the game and don't want to sell it to used-software shops. So, the more you play, the more attachment you feel. This is an important element we want you to advertise. Whenever we make a Mario game, or whenever we make any game, we want to make it so that any person can play it, regardless of his or her age.
Technology is advancing and we have to show that we can take advantage of innovations to demonstrate our superiority over our competitors. For example, if we choose not to include a movie sequence in a game, our competitors may claim that our system cannot support this kind of feature. That sort of thing could happen. [Laughter.] And perhaps no one would play Super Mario Sunshine. That would be a shame. I want people who have not played any video games for the past 10 years to try Super Mario Sunshine -- their first gaming experience in 10 years. The video game industry has changed a lot, and people who try a video game for the first time in 10 years won't have a clue about what's happened in the interim.
This is the current situation with many popular game series -- the original games were released more than 10 years ago. Super Mario Sunshine is in this category. People who have been away from gaming may have trouble understanding Super Mario Sunshine the first day they play it; however, on the second day, they will start to understand its charm. Even though you might feel like stopping on day one, please don't. If you play Super Mario Sunshine for three days, you'll make the reentry into video game culture. [Laughter.] I am not saying that it's an easy game, but that most people will understand its charm instantaneously. It's not an easy task to make a game that seems straightforward to casual players and, at the same time, can be appreciated by devoted Mario fans, the kind of people who might ask, "How many Stars do I need to collect to complete a very specific task?" I believe that Super Mario Sunshine will appeal to both sorts of players, to some extent.
TT: The basic game is similar to the N64 version [Super Mario 64]. We have intentionally made it seem familiar and simple to play. Those who have played Super Mario 64 can recall the experience and find new joy with Super Mario Sunshine. Personally, I am not an expert at making beautiful graphics. Koizumi is the expert in that field. He has come up with many excellent ideas, including the movie sequences, that fit with the world of Super Mario Sunshine perfectly. Rather than dwelling on the game's merely attractive points, I know that the players will feel joy in their bones as soon as they start playing it. The world of Mario is a kind of miniature garden in which players can move around as they like -- that is certainly the case with Super Mario Sunshine. I hope everyone will enjoy it.
At first, Koizumi created Isle Delfino with clay, in the shape of dolphin. Young men, I mean at least younger than me, come up with interesting and creative ideas. The making of Super Mario Sunshine involved many new and innovative contributions by younger creators.
YK: Mr. Tezuka spoke about graphics, but what are important in games are their feel and touch. What I really wanted to reproduce with this new game were the feelings we had in our childhoods when we were playing. The water pistol idea came from this effort. I wanted players to feel the coldness of water. I wanted players to engage in mischief, such as watering other characters or playing with mud. I wanted to simulate child's play. That was the first priority. Graphics helped me integrate such concepts into the new Mario game. I have to wait for your judgment about whether or not I was successful in that attempt. You may say that this new Mario is a kind of cinematic experience. We have prepared players for the ending. You may cry about that, but please enjoy it.
SM: I'd like to add one more thing. Not everyone has used the Nintendo GameCube Controller. So, those who play Nintendo GameCube for the first time may feel a bit uneasy initially. Of course, we, the developers, have been playing exclusively with the GCN Controller so we can't play with any other controller. I had some confidence with the N64 controller, too. However, when I compare the two, I can tell that the GCN Controller is better designed for game play. What I really want to say is, "Get accustomed to the GCN Controller because, 10 years from now, this controller will be the standard."
Q: In developing Super Mario Sunshine, what kind of experiment did you start with?
YK: When I submitted the basic proposal for the game to Mr. Miyamoto, I had already come up with the water-pistol idea. I tried to explain how the analog stick could make players feel the touch of a water pistol. Letting Mario have a water pistol alone wouldn't make the game fun. I started thinking about the best way to feature the water pistol, how Mario should move and show the water pistol. I liked the basic play control style of Super Mario 64 and thought that it should be applied to the new game. I tried to imagine what Mario would be like on the Nintendo GameCube, and, from the very beginning, I let him have a water pistol. This is where I started. Then, I built upon that to imagine why Mario might have a water pistol; what kind of actions he would have. Then we came up with the graffiti-like elements.
SM: Talking about experiments, we experimented with watering and graffiti drawing and erasing, among other things. In video games, it is not a simple task to draw graffiti and have it remain there. When you remove a treasure from a treasure box, you shouldn't find the stuff in the box afterward. It's not as easy as it seems. Painting and maintaining a screen-full of graffiti is very difficult in a video game. It can be accomplished only with the GCN. Some PCs can do it, but not at such a fast speed. That is an example of one of our basic experiments.
To tell you the truth, Super Mario Sunshine was developed on Nintendo's new R&D system, which integrates a 3D engine with other engines. This is a new system. When you use it, the time required for game projects is significantly reduced. So, Super Mario Sunshine was the very first game to be developed on this basic system. The second game is The Legend of Zelda. When we were creating the development system, we were unable to concentrate upon Super Mario Sunshine. If we add the development period for this engine to the overall development time, the development of Super Mario Sunshine took a relatively long time. However, after we started actually making the game, it took about one and a half years to complete Super Mario Sunshine. It wasn't very long. I think we have created a fairly good development system.
I often say that Nintendo GameCube is an easy machine to make games for. Some people may realize that Super Mario Sunshine does not work on 60 frame per second. What you are seeing on-screen is 30 frames. However, the game is made so that you will feel it is more than a 30-frame game. We have worked on various technologies. There are many characters in the game: Mario, Peach and many others. We will make use of the same character models in future games, such as Mario Party. Before, we had to create each character for each game. Standard character models are being created by one team at Nintendo, which will be shared by other game creation groups. Of course, we cannot work that systematically 100% of the time. However, when we make a completely new Mario game, the game development time will be significantly reduced. This is one way to shorten the development time by improving the R&D circumstances. The artists working on Super Mario Sunshine did not create many of the traditional Nintendo characters, which were created by another team. They concentrated upon making the enemy characters.
Q: Is Isle Delfino a part of Mushroom Kingdom? It looks like Princess Peach could not exert her royal influence in the island.
YK: They are on vacation and visiting a foreign island, just like Japanese tourists traveling to Hawaii for pleasure. The faces and appearance of the island residents are completely different from those of the characters living in the familiar world of the Mario series.
Q: You said that the basic system is the same as that of the N64 version. This time, the camera angle is controlled by the player. In the older, N64 version, the camera angle changed almost automatically. Why did you opt to change this?
SM: That question isn't very easy to answer. Some say that Mario games should be very easy to play, so the camera angle should be fully automatic. We have tried many different camera systems, including semi-automatic ones, but they did not appeal to everyone. Some liked it and some didn't. Now, as far as the camera system is concerned, we tend to leave greater autonomy to players, but not to the extent that it may prevent smooth game play.
YK: You do not have to change the camera angle all the time in Super Mario Sunshine, but, at some points, you can see cool graphics by changing the angle yourself. I hope people will get accustomed to it.
SM: In many games, we are now incorporating the notion that, if you press L, the camera will show the view at 180º. As long as that kind of system is in place, it may be better to leave the camera angle to the discretion of players. If we like, we can incorporate both the automatic and manual modes so that players can chose whichever one they like. Our game system has already become that sophisticated.
YK: Right, but I tried both and found the free-camera-angle style easier to play.
Q: How did you evolve from the original water pistol idea to cleaning up graffiti all around?
YK: When I was wondering what we could do with the Nintendo GameCube Controller, the water pistol idea came to my mind first. I am right-handed. When I was pushing the button, the stiffness reminded me of the trigger of the water pistol that I used to play with. I thought, what would Mario look like if he sprayed water around with it? So that's where it comes from.
Then I asked myself what Mario should aim at with the water pistol. Opponents? A wall? Around that time, we decided to include the Wall Jump move, so we wanted to create a number of tall buildings that Mario could jump around. So, why would Mario have to move around a town with many walls? Maybe he had to clean up the town with the water pistol. I thought of the idea of painting all over the town with mud. The idea of leaving Mario's footprint on the dirt followed this original idea. In the end, I thought we could reproduce the feeling of childhood play.
Q: You say that the game may be difficult for casual gamers or those returning to gaming after some time. Why did you make such a game balance?
SM: I must say that all the 3D action games are hard for returning players. Still, I believe Nintendo had to make a game that could be appreciated by players with various levels of interest in gaming, and I thought Mario might have that kind of mission, to some extent. What I was trying to say is that Super Mario Sunshine may not fully appeal to causal players. That's all. The game is very well-balanced, so don't worry.
Q: If 3D games are not for returning players, why did you start working on the same game system that was used with Super Mario 64?
SM: We are working on many different projects. We have shown the idea for Mario 128 before, which is headed in a different direction. But Super Mario Sunshine took this direction -- it is an authentic sequel to Super Mario 64. I regret this somewhat -- not because of the quality of Super Mario Sunshine, but rather because this Mario game may not attract players who are returning to gaming after some time.
Q: Why did you place a "Mario Action Stage" in each area? I mean, like the ones found in Super Mario 64? Did you want players to associate the game with Super Mario 64?
SM: That is the basis of the Mario series. Though the freedom of action seems to be the essence of Mario games nowadays, simple mission are very important for Mario games. One thing we may need to reflect upon is that players have to clear all of the stages in order to get to the final one. We should have designed the game differently, but we couldn't.
YK: The water pistol makes the game relatively easier. We had to limit the areas where Mario could visit by hovering, for example, to make the game play more tense. Making the stages you mentioned compulsory helped balance the difficulty level in the game.
Q: In Super Mario 64, we could play with Mario's face in the beginning. Why didn't you do anything like that this time?
YK: We want the game to be judged by its overall elements. Speaking of facial expression, seeing how peoples' faces change when you water them is lots of fun.
SM: Game creators, in general, are putting so many minigames in games today. I am concerned that they're spending too much energy on these extra-features and not enough on the larger game.
Q: What happens when you have obtained all the Shines?
YK: Something happens. Please look for it yourself.
Q: Did you actually visit a tropical island in order to make the game?
YK: It was great. [Laughter.] No, never. I'm joking. On the other hand, some of the staff members took days off, spent their own money and visited several different places. They recorded the scenarios in their minds and came up with the background.
Q: Yoshi seems weaker than when he used to appear in other games -- he now disappears in water. Is Isle Delfino Yoshi different?
YK: Can I tell? No, it's a kind of secret.
SM: Speaking of Yoshi disappearing into water, isn't the water beautiful? It ripples and, when you enter water with mud on Mario, oil will float to the surface. Even Mario's outline may distort. Our creators wanted to use these effects.
Apart from its visual effects, in terms of its 3D game play, I believe Super Mario Sunshine represents a kind of breakthrough. Making precise movements, such as jumping, are not easy in 3D games. I will be 50 this year and I am an ultra-good player for my age. Still, it is not easy for me to manipulate characters in 3D games. Hovering contributes to the smooth play. It is like a jump game in zero-gravity space. It is very comfortable. Of course, it could make the game too easy to play. That's why, at some points in the game, you can't hover. Even though 3D games may be difficult for casual players, Super Mario Sunshine is different.
Q: You said that you got some inspiration for Pikmin from gardening. Now you say you started with the water pistol idea for Super Mario Sunshine. Is that actually the case? Or did you first come up with the tropical island scenery and then come up with the water pistol idea?
YK: It was the water pistol that came to my mind first. The water pistol game play reminded me of summer and then I came to think about a tropical island. Isn't it great to play with water on a hot island?
SM: Nintendo GameCube can reproduce water beautifully. We thought it'd be a shame not to show the beauty of it, so we wanted to use water in many different ways. From the beginning of the project, we wanted to sell the new Mario game during the first summer after Nintendo GameCube's debut, so featuring water sounded like a great idea.
Q: How did you come to the idea of a water tank after starting from a water pistol?
YK: Well, I thought it was like a child's dream come true -- flying in the air by using the equipment on your back.
TT: Although we call it a water pistol, we tried to design it so that no associations could ever be made between it and actual weapons. So we were trying to design the weirdest and funniest gadget, which turned out to be a water tank you wear on your back.
Q: Today is the launch date for Super Mario Sunshine [in Japan]. Were you trying to offer some message with Mario's new mature look?
SM: I will be 50 this year. This is becoming my life's work. I hope to make more and more Mario games that can be played by anyone. You said Mario became mature. We enjoy ourselves by fiddling with his face and clothes. To catch up with the trend in fashion, you must play a new Mario game every year. [Laughter.]
TT: When Koizumi submitted the original idea, he asked if we could change Mario's clothing. At first, I took a rather conservative attitude and said, "He is not Mario without these clothes." But I also said, "You may let him wear short-sleeved shirts, though." Some people want Mario to wear different clothes. I sometime feel like this, too. I think we should present many different Marios from now on.
YK: Now that two original creators of Mario are present, I don't have much to say. But sometime before, I recall Mr. Miyamoto asking me, "How about making Mario wilder?" He ended up using the toy-like gadget of the water pistol. But Mario's actions are rather wild, I think. I don't know what the next adventure for Mario will be. Maybe he will be engaged in many different jobs. But I, myself, am now a bit tired. I have put all my energy into Super Mario Sunshine. All I need is a little rest. The idea of letting Mario use some tool initially faced opposition. Now that he is using a water pistol, he may also use other tools. In that sense, Super Mario Sunshine may have paved a new way for Mario's future adventures.
SM: We have had rather serious discussions over the question, "Can Mario use tools?" It may be Okay for Luigi. [Laughter.] The water pistol was created by the same designer who armed Luigi. If that's the case, Mario can use one, too. [Laughter.] We have had serious discussions about clothing, as well. For example, people may not see him as Mario if he wears a running shirt. Last year, there were sightseers in the game, but I felt it was too strange for Mario to encounters ordinary human beings -- rather than the ones living in his world. Each member has his or her own opinion about what Mario and Mario games should be like.