DICE Roundtable with Miyamoto and Aonuma
Transcript from Gamecubicle
Nintendo luminaries Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma recently took part in a roundtable discussion at the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences D.I.C.E. Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada. Subjects of discussion included everything from The Legend of Zelda, Metal Gear Solid, and HAL Laboratories, to Miyamoto's new dog. The following is a transcription of the roundtable discussion in in which Miyamoto and Aonuma share their insights on many Nintendo-related subjects...
As a man who seems essentially a creative person, how do you find balance in your life with the stresses and pressures of the roles you've taken on at Nintendo?
MIYAMOTO: That's a very large topic. Once I turned forty, I actually took up swimming and now I'm swimming at least one or two kilometers every week. Also, about that time, I quit smoking. Of course, weekdays I work very late hours generally. So I'm certain on the weekends to spend all my time with my wife and family.
As a creative person, does part of the creative process involve having a space to be creative?
MIYAMOTO: I think that is very important. You do need a lot of space and some freedom in order to come up with some ideas. But I'm actually more the type of where I come up with ideas when I'm working and so it's not as much of a challenge for me. Really, I try to find that balance and space by expanding out into new areas. Lately, my family's gotten a dog. We've been spending a lot of time with the dog and taking care of it. That's brought me some pleasure too and a little bit of balance.
A lot of the games and announcements we've seen so far this year are sequels. Will there be a healthy introduction of new franchises this year as well?
MIYAMOTO: Yeah, I do intend to show something at E3.
What do you see as being your biggest challenge this year?
MIYAMOTO: I think this year our biggest challenge is to really take connectivity to the next level and put it out in a form that people understand what the real concept of it is and can see where they can take that. Of course, with the e-Reader out, we're looking at finding ways to incorporate the e-Reader into gameplay and really create new styles of gameplay that only Nintendo can offer.
Everyone loves Wind Waker. But a lot of people preferred the more realistic-style of the Zelda of Space World 2000. Do you have any plans to explore that style?
AONUMA: The first thing I'd like to say is that I think that once people actually play The Wind Waker and get into the game, they immediately understand why we chose the graphical style that we did to go with this game. So even if people are fans of the more graphical looking Zelda games, I think if they'll just give this game a chance, pick it up and play it, I think they'll immediately, once again be engulfed in the Zelda world, really understand, and kind of accept the game for what it is.
As for whether or not we'll actually go and create a more realistic looking Zelda game, it's really a question of what kind of game the next one will be. Obviously, the graphical style or methods of expression that we choose for that game are going to be highly dependent on what type of game it is. We haven't come up with the idea yet for the game. But once we do, we'll then have to take a look at what the best method of expression is going to be for that game and so we'll go through that process. So definitely there's a possibility that we will create a more realistic-style Zelda game.
MIYAMOTO: Obviously, we've seen in Soul Calibur and Smash Brothers, a definitely more realistic-looking Link. So hopefully that can tide people over. Also, we have the experiment that we did to create the Space World 2000 video. So we have those models and we have them moving around, working. We don't have a game for them but that system is there and it works and it functions.
Also, you take a look at The Wind Waker and this is a game where you have child-Link throughout the game. You never see adult-Link in the game. I really can't picture adult-Link in a toon-shaded game. It doesn't really match for me. That's why we say we'll think about what the next Zelda game will be. We may have to re-evaluate which style we use.
Do you find that putting an emphasis on realistic graphics limits your creativity and were you able to do more things creatively because of the fantastic style that The Wind Waker has?
AONUMA: Yeah, that's a very good point. As you can see within The Wind Waker, Link's got very large eyes and he's always looking around. They move so much, and they'll look at things and draw a player's attention to objects in the environment. I think with realistic graphics, there's no way that you can do that and have it look right. That's one example of how we were able to do something new with the toon-shaded graphics.
The main reason that we chose the toon-shaded style for The Wind Waker was because we wanted to present the player with a much more smooth and natural looking movement style, this kind of deformation style of movement that we've given Link. Out of that grew these other ideas of how we could use the toon-shading. Like for the eyes to give hints and other ways of expression within the game. I think that's why it's so important to really think about what your objective is and what you intend to use some of these movements for. That's the main reason that we chose toon-shading and there's definitely advantages to it.
MIYAMOTO: One of the most important things with the Zelda franchise is that players really must feel that Link is really almost themselves in the game. In that sense, there has to be very natural and fluid interaction between the player and the character. When you don't have that, you certainly lose some of the nature that makes Zelda what it is. If you were to go with the more realistic-looking Link, then you'd have to have so much movement in the face for [Link] to be able to essentially effect the emotions of the player and make it feel like the player is emoting through Link. That would require so much time and energy in order to create those graphics to allow the face to do that.
Also, particularly with realistic graphics, when you have a character and their arm moving through objects or bumping into things in an unnatural way, it just stands out all the more. I think that that's even more unnatural than having these toon-shaded style graphics with extremely natural and realistic movement. That's why this time we've spent so much time and energy with the director and the designers to go through and really focus on making the gameplay fun and making Link really emotive in the game to really draw the player into the world.
If you didn't have to worry about game sales at all and could just make the game that you wanted to make, what would that be?
MIYAMOTO: For me, it's really a game that really anyone can play and just pick up and get involved in. Like the kind of game that I could just set out on the street and people could just walk by and pick it up and play and have fun with it.
Is there any game that you would like to do but say to yourself, "I can't do that because it's not going to sell?"
MIYAMOTO: Yeah, there are a lot of ideas like that which I do have and that we never really quite get to bring out. Recently, one example would be Stage Debut or Talent Studio, which I think we showed at E3 last year. It's a really simple system, it's really fun. You can take someone's picture using a Game Boy Advance camera and put it onto models in a GameCube game and make them do things. It's a really fun idea and we've had three or four people working on it for quite a while but we just can't seem to find a way to turn it into a product. But the nice thing about that is that even with three or four people working on a project like that for two years, that's still cheaper than one month of selfless development of Zelda. [Laughs]
During Miyamoto's European tour, there was some mention of a Metal Gear game for GameCube and Game Boy Advance. Can you clarify what was said about that at that time?
MIYAMOTO: It is true that we are working with Mr. Kojima to try and bring the Metal Gear series to the GameCube but at this point we really haven't talked at all about any kind of connectivity features. I think what happened was that at the same time I mentioned that, I was also mentioning that we were in conversations with Electronic Arts about how to bring more connectivity to their games and add some new gameplay style that way. I think that somebody took the two and kind of combined them together to create what's turned out to be a little misunderstanding. I think I also mentioned the fact that Mr. Kojima is working on a new Game Boy Advance game at the same time so I think the three of those together got all mixed up and some wires got crossed.
When can we expect Metal Gear for GameCube?
MIYAMOTO: It is in progress, but please talk to Konami about that.
Anthropologists say that if you look at the games of the children, you can see the next hundred years of a society. You always emphasize fun in games, and I'm wondering if on another level if you've though about what videogames as the new game for our children is fostering.
MIYAMOTO: Well as a creator, I really strive to create videogames that people play not so much alone, but with their family and that people play together. And so, in that sense, in looking at the games that I've made, I really hope that I'm trying to foster a situation where children are essentially getting the same kind of communication and interaction with other people that I had when I was a child.
But yeah, on the other hand you do have things like the Internet where people can go online and talk to people far away. You can talk to people in chat rooms and you may trust them despite the fact that they could be giving you false information or may be untrustworthy. And so I think there are definitely some aspects to this that people need to pay attention to and be weary of, and try to find ways to improve. I think especially as an interactive medium, it really does go beyond just the freedom of expression and the freedom to create. We really should take a look at what the effects of this will be and parents should look at how they can keep track of what their children are doing. Because we're at a point where children can sneak off and secretly buy mature-rated games. There's definite affects to that and I think it's something that we should all be thinking about.
Whenever Nintendo's been asked, "When are we going to see more online games?" The response has always been, "When we see that the market is ready." Is there a possibility that at E3 this year, we'll be able to see more online or LAN-style network games from Nintendo?
MIYAMOTO: I can't really say a whole lot about E3 right now, but Nintendo is still at a point where we don't currently see online games being successful as a business model at this point so I don't think you can expect to see any serious look at online games at E3. I do think that the communication aspect of networking and linking games together, including LAN games, is definitely very interesting. We're going to look at ways to show that off at E3. Particularly linking the Game Boy Advance and the GameCube and linking four GBAs together, which is also kind of a form of communication and networks.
What about linking GameCubes together?
MIYAMOTO: [Laughs] Unfortunately I can't say anything today.
How content are you with the connectivity Nintendo's been able to show off on Game Boy Advance so far?
MIYAMOTO: No, I think we're still in the middle of a big challenge in trying to show off the capabilities of [connectivity] and we're still looking for some more definitive examples to show off. One of the preconditions for connectivity is that everyone has to have all these cables and people who have a GameCube also have to have a Game Boy Advance and that may not always be the case. Up until now, we've really been focusing on taking the idea of connectivity and presenting it in a way so that people who do have both can find, "oh, I do get more value out of this," or, "this is a little bit more fun," or, "this is an interesting experience." We're looking more at trying to build on that and establish the basic groundwork for us to go forward.
This year we're going to see 70% to 80% of all first-party releases are going to have some form of connectivity with them. In Japan, we've also released Nintendo Puzzle Collection for GameCube and that has a cable packed in with it. So we think that we're actually going to get to a level of proliferation with the cables and Game Boy Advance and GameCube connectivity that we'll be able to show some more concrete examples. This year we'll be showing off more concrete examples of that with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles and perhaps - and this is not necessarily certain - with Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire versions of Stadium for GameCube, maybe something like that.
Does Nintendo feel they need to wait to show off connectivity at the level that we saw at Space World one year where they swapped Kirby in-between GameCube and GBA until they have an installed user base for it?
MIYAMOTO: Actually, unfortunately work on the Tilt and Tumble project, or the Roll-A-Rama project, has kind of slowed at this point because of the demands of many of our other projects that we've been working on. But definitely yeah, that's an example of a game that does require that special user base and a cartridge with tilt sensor technology. And we've come up with a lot of other good ideas as well so… hopefully.
What's happening with HAL? Are they the developer of Kirby and, if not, is there another Smash Bros. game in development? In addition, will Nintendo be partnering with Namco, Sega, or any other companies, in terms of including their licenses in a new Smash Bros. game?
MIYAMOTO: Is that what you're asking? [Laughs] Unfortunately, I can't discuss in detail anything that HAL Labs is working on at the moment. What I can say is that they have increased in size recently and, in conjunction with that, they have increased the number of projects they are working on - the amount of work that they're doing. So that's some good news. As far as us having Namco's characters appear in another Smash Bros., we haven't actually discussed anything like that at this point. I personally always like to joke about putting Sonic in Smash Bros. [Laughs]
Is HAL the developer of Kirby's Air Ride?
MIYAMOTO: Yeah, HAL is working on that.
Can you clarify who is the developer of Wario World?
MIYAMOTO: I don't know if I can say this. Tell you what; Wario World is being developed by Nintendo in conjunction with a second party that we've worked with in the past. [Laughs]
You implemented your hobby of gardening into Pikmin. Have you been thinking of ways to implement your new dog into future games?
MIYAMOTO: Yeah, I think maybe we'll put a dog in Pikmin that will come running out and just gobble up the Pikmin.
I don't specifically take my hobbies and try to find a way to tie them to a game or anything but one thing that I think is very interesting about dogs and raising dogs is, and it's really funny, I always wonder why people think the way they do towards dogs and why dogs think the way they do towards people. Dogs obviously don't understand words really and yet people talk to them as if they do. And I find myself doing this as well and I sound like a complete fool saying complete sentences to my dog, which it doesn't understand, whatsoever. So I think for me, right now, having and interacting with a dog is really just a game for me.
The same way that you were able to implement playing in a cave in Kyoto into Zelda, I'm sure you see something with a relationship with a dog that none of us have seen. What new things has the dog brought to your life and your thinking?
MIYAMOTO: I definitely think that something like that has the high possibility of popping up in a game idea somewhere. Probably, if we do it, it won't be a dog in the game.
The Zelda: Ocarina of Time pre-order disc has been a pretty big success. Do you think that you might ever do that with a future game?
MIYAMOTO: The Zelda pre-sale was actually kind of a unique case in the sense that we had actually gone through the trouble of developing Ura Zelda (Master Quest) in Japan and we ultimately never released it, primarily because the contents of the game had not changed enough from Ocarina of Time to provide enough value in the product, we thought. But the people who worked on it really wanted to get the game out there and we did too. We actually looked at many possible ways to do that including tying up with magazines and trying to sell it through magazines. But ultimately we never really found a way of providing that to the consumer.
This time around with the release of Wind Waker and the fact that we'd gone from a cartridge-based media on the N64 to a disc-based media caused a [cost] drop so significantly that we found we could take this N64 game, put it on the GameCube disc, put it in high-resolution, and let people play through the Ocarina of Time game again and then follow it up with the Master Quest at a relatively low cost. So there were some unique circumstances with Zelda. It would certainly be possible to do it with other games but we just haven't thought about doing with anything else at this point.
To follow-up, you know, we've never gotten to play Star Fox 2.
MIYAMOTO: Star Fox Adventures was very different from any of the other Star Fox games that we've made. We actually were working on that, after the fact, I thought it would have been kind of nice if we had done something similar with Star Fox 64 for that game. I'll give that Star Fox 2 idea some thought though. [Laughs]
Now that Nintendo and Rare have parted ways, where does that leave the Donkey Kong series? Has Nintendo taken that back and are you going to leave the Rare art style of Donkey Kong as opposed to the old Miyamoto-style?
MIYAMOTO: I don't know if I can say this. I guess I can say this. We are working on a Donkey Kong game. Really, it's our policy with the separation with Rare to not allow that to open any holes in Nintendo's library or lineup. It's not as if we got into some big fight with Rare or anything, we just had some different opinions about business models and where we were headed. We obviously have a strong relationship with Rare and got along very well with them. So when we did finally part with them, we were able to clean up all the rights and issues surrounding all the characters and franchises very easily.
Will we see the new Donkey Kong game at E3?
MIYAMOTO: [Laughs] Unfortunately, I can't answer that question.
You've just come back from a tour of Europe and now you're in Las Vegas doing PR for Zelda as well. What kind of responses are you getting on The Wind Waker from people who have actually played the game?
MIYAMOTO: Actually, the response we've been getting has been drastically different and I think the reason for that is because very few people in Europe have actually played much of the game yet. So in Europe, it's a really kind of a lot like some of the feedback we had gotten when we first showed pictures of the game where people are just overwhelmingly concerned about the graphic style and haven't had a chance to see how it's working with the gameplay.
Whereas, conversely in the United States, where most everybody has actually played the game or gotten to see it, they finally understood why we chose the graphics style we have. It's much more positive. In Europe, a lot of the press has actually played it and they understand it and now essentially a lot of them are asking us how they can help convince people that they need to try this game.
In Japan, after people played Wind Waker, we had a lot of feedback that the collection of Triforce pieces in the game was kind of difficult or tedious so we actually touched that up and made some changes to that part of the spec for the U.S. version and that will be reflected in the first build of that coming out [in March]. It's just a few small changes but hopefully that'll improve some of the feedback we get. [Laughs]
You made an appearance at the Virgin Megastore in London to huge successes. Might you in the future do something like that in the U.S. or perhaps in Japan?
MIYAMOTO: I was very surprised by the turnout for the public appearance and autograph session at the [Virgin Megastore]. Actually, Britney Spears had done one just before I did and a thousand people came to mine and that was more than she had attracted. So that was very flattering. [Laughs] Actually, the staff was very helpful. They were worried that maybe if they didn't have enough people there, then maybe it wouldn't look good so they kind of planned to have some people lining up early and said that I could take up to fifteen minutes for each person but in the end it turned out that there were way more people than anyone expected. At this point, I don't have plans to do any more. I'd be too embarrassed to do it in Japan. [Laughs]