MIYAMOTO

WE SPEAK TO SHIGGY ABOUT HIS FU­TURE PLANS

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Shigeru Miyamoto, the cre­ator of Mario, Don­key Kong, Zelda, and sev­eral of Nin­tendo’s other long-run­ning beloved fran­chises, is a short man. In per­son he looks con­sid­er­ably older than he does in the videos Nin­tendo re­leases, his hair greyer, his skin more wrin­kled, and on the last day of E3, as I walk into the of­fice space Nin­tendo has pro­vided for our in­ter­view, he looks ex­hausted. To Miyamoto, this is sim­ply the lat­est in a long line of in­ter­views. For me, it’s the sin­gle most sig­nif­i­cant mo­ment of my games jour­nal­ism ca­reer by an enor­mous mar­gin.

Bill Tri­nen, the Se­nior Prod­uct Mar­ket­ing Man­ager for Nin­tendo Amer­ica and Miyamoto’s per­sonal trans­la­tor, is there. Be­fore we be­gin he ex­plains to me that the man next to Miyamoto is Shinya Taka­hashi, one of the act­ing di­rec­tors of Nin­tendo Ja­pan and the gen­eral man­ager of Nin­tendo’s Soft­ware Plan­ning & De­vel­op­ment (SPD) teams. Miyamoto heads up the En­ter­tain­ment Anal­y­sis & De­vel­op­ment (EAD) di­vi­sion: these two men are re­spon­si­ble for pub­lish­ing ev­ery game Nin­tendo re­leases. I had no idea that he would be here, and the full weight of this in­for­ma­tion doesn’t quite hit me un­til much later as I tran­scribe my in­ter­view. Miyamoto had two games show­ing on the E3 floor. Nei­ther of them were con­ven­tional, full ti­tles, and nei­ther of them were com­mand­ing much at­ten­tion from at­ten­dants. They were ex­per­i­ments re­ally, lit­tle minigames like the sort we saw in Nin­ten­doland, one far more fleshed out and in­ter­est­ing than the other. The less in­ter­est­ing one, Project Gi­ant Ro­bot, lets you con­trol the epony­mous gi­ant ro­bot as it knocks over blocks and fights other ro­bots in a city set­ting. The right trig­ger moved it slowly for­ward, the left trig­ger moved it slowly back­wards, and the sticks con­trolled each arm in­de­pen­dently. The gy­ro­scope in the GamePad con­trolled the rest of the ro­bot’s body, so throw­ing a solid punch in­volved tilt­ing the pad while mov­ing the stick for­ward in synch, a mo­tion that was dif­fi­cult to pull off. Still, it showed off the po­ten­tial for the GamePad to repli­cate a sort of phys­i­cal­ity by mim­ick­ing your move­ments on screen. Project Guard was a bit more ex­cit­ing. The tele­vi­sion showed im­ages from twelve dif­fer­ent se­cu­rity cam­eras on some sort of space sta­tion. Ro­bots were flood­ing in to at­tack, and the player had to switch be­tween screens to fend them off with the at­tached laser guns. This could be played alone, but game’s true ap­peal be­came clearer when a crowd as­sem­bled and started to help me spot ro­bots. When a crowd mem­ber yelled a cam­era num­ber, I would touch it on the GamePad map and jump to that lo­ca­tion, fend­ing off the ro­bots. Miyamoto’s teams are also head­ing up Spla­toon and Cap­tain Toad: Trea­sure Tracker, but these two games were very much his ba­bies. STAR FOX, RE­PORT >> But nat­u­rally, the first ques­tion out of my mouth was about Star Fox. Dur­ing Nin­tendo’s E3 Dig­i­tal Event two days ear­lier, a smil­ing Miyamoto had sat in front of a blurred screen play­ing what was clearly a new Star Fox game. Why the

HE LOOKS OLDER THAN HE DOES IN THE VIDEOS NIN­TENDO RE­LEASES, HIS HAIR GREYER, HIS SKIN MORE WRIN­KLED

long wait, Miyamoto? Why did we never get a Wii ver­sion, when the con­troller seemed so suited to it? Miyamoto laughs at the ques­tion. “We ac­tu­ally did quite a few ex­per­i­ments around Star Fox on Wii”, he says. “Pri­mar­ily those fo­cused on aim­ing with the pointer, and that felt pretty good, but it just didn’t feel new enough. And then when we started work on the Wii U, we started try­ing all kinds of dif­fer­ent game­play ex­per­i­ments, try­ing dif­fer­ent game­play me­chan­ics. And that in­cluded Project Gi­ant Ro­bot, Project Guard. Among the ex­per­i­ments we were do­ing were some that used the two screens, the Wii U GamePad and the TV, and

IF THE OLD STYLE STAR FOX GAME WAS LIKE A FILM, THEN MAYBE THIS NEW STAR FOX GAME WILL BE MORE LIKE A TV SE­RIES

the fact that we have two dif­fer­ent cam­era po­si­tions with those two screens. And there was one ex­per­i­ment that we were work­ing on at the same time, and we found that the play ex­pe­ri­ence was go­ing to be best suited to a Star Fox style of game. It was only within the last month or two that we ac­tu­ally went into full de­vel­op­ment on Star Fox, but I wanted to be able to come to E3 and tell ev­ery­one that we were work­ing on a Star Fox game.” The GamePad’s sec­ond screen is open­ing up new game­play pos­si­bil­i­ties that sim­ply wouldn’t have worked on the Wii. “That sec­ond screen and that sec­ond per­spec­tive, it lets us have, on the TV screen, events or cin­ema scenes where you’re still able to in­ter­act with the sec­ond screen. Or with that third per­son cam­era pulled back, we can do dif­fer­ent things with the en­e­mies who are at­tack­ing from be­hind. And then what’s nice is that you have the abil­ity to pi­lot the ship in­de­pen­dent of aim­ing. In pre­vi­ous ver­sions you had to fly where you aimed, and that would cause the ship to fly a lit­tle bit weirdly, be­cause any time you wanted to aim some­where else the ship had to move in that di­rec­tion. Now you’ve got the free­dom to in­tu­itively aim wher­ever you want with the GamePad. The two dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives give us the abil­ity to do some unique things with co­op­er­a­tive play as well.” The game is at the point where the game­play ba­sics are down, but the mis­sions have not yet been de­signed. It’s not ready to be shown to the pub­lic, Miyamoto says, be­cause “the new play style us­ing the GamePad in con­junc­tion with the TV is pretty novel and new for people, and you need a fair bit of time to get used to it and un­der­stand it.” KEEP YOUR GUARD UP >> Miyamoto hasn’t fully de­cided how his lit­tle ex­per­i­men­tal ti­tles will be re­leased: “They’re in full de­vel­op­ment, so as we con­tinue to de­velop them we’ll de­cide how to re­lease them. We’ll take a look at these games and de­cide what the best way to bring them to­gether as a prod­uct that fits with this par­tic­u­lar era and what we’re able to do dig­i­tally”. It seems likely, how­ever, that Project Guard will re­late to the new Star Fox in some way – dur­ing my time with it I couldn’t help but no­tice that the cam­eras had lit­tle Star Fox lo­gos on them. When ques­tioned on this, Miyamoto’s an­swer was cryptic yet en­light­en­ing: “If you think about the N64 Star Fox game, it was a fairly big game – it had a full story mode, and other modes, things like that. And what we’re think­ing about right now – we haven’t de­cided any­thing yet, but for this Star Fox game, we’re look­ing at hav­ing some dif­fer­ent ve­hi­cles and dif­fer­ent ideas. And of course the Star Fox se­ries has many dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters in it that we can lever­age. I’m won­der­ing if there isn’t a way… if the old style Star Fox game was a film ver­sion of Star Fox, then maybe this new Star Fox game will be more like a TV se­ries. But we haven’t de­cided any­thing just yet. But within this idea, at least in my mind right now, Project Guard would po­ten­tially be one episode in that se­ries.” LIFE EX­PE­RI­ENCE >> I turn to Miyamoto’s de­sign philoso­phies. His games are of­ten based on ex­pe­ri­ences within his own life: the Zelda se­ries is of­ten said to be based on his child­hood ex­plo­rations of forests and caves, while Star Fox was in­spired by walk­ing un­der arch­ways leading up to a fox shrine that he vis­ited. How is his life in­flu­enc­ing his new works, I won­der? “It’s not that spe­cific ex­pe­ri­ences I have will au­to­mat­i­cally give birth to a game idea”, he says. “The one ex­am­ple where that hap­pened might be Nin­ten­dogs, where we bought a dog and started to train the dog, and I thought that there were some in­ter­est­ing in­ter­ac­tions there that could work in a game. But then that very eas­ily could have turned into some­thing that wasn’t a dog train­ing game, it could have been, say, a dragon train­ing game. So… it’s a lit­tle bit less about me specif­i­cally do­ing some­thing and want­ing to turn it into a game. But in the case of Gi­ant Ro­bot, in Ja­pan – maybe it’s com­mon around the world as well – young boys have these ro­bot toys, and vi­sions of these gi­ant ro­bots march­ing around. So I think that’s where the idea came from. In the case of Project Guard, it’s a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Cer­tainly I think most people can look at that screen and im­me­di­ately fig­ure out what’s go­ing on, and what you’re try­ing to do, be­cause most people are fa­mil­iar with the idea of a se­cu­rity room. But very few people ac­tu­ally come into in­ter­ac­tion with one. But that fa­mil­iar­ity is some­thing that we thought we could use: if we take some­thing that ev­ery­body knows, that we have a com­mon un­der­stand­ing of, and cre­ate a game out of it, that will make it eas­ier for ev­ery­one to get in­volved and play in that game.”

Nin­tendo’s ‘get ev­ery­one in­volved’ phi­los­o­phy was par­tic­u­larly clear when the crowd gath­ered to watch me play Project Guard. “From our per­spec­tive, we re­ally view the Wii U as the best sys­tem to have con­nected to your TV in your liv­ing room”, Miyamoto ex­plained. “We don’t look at it as a com­pe­ti­tion be­tween us and Sony and Mi­crosoft, but our con­cept from the very

Star Fox SNES

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