Read a thorough account of Shigeru Miyamoto's presentation to the gaming media, including the Q&A session.
Nintendo’s annual developer “roundtable”, featuring Shigeru Miyamoto, revealed a new Zelda project and contained new details on a number of upcoming games.
Nintendo usually trots out Shigeru Miyamoto and one or two other developers for a large media presentation on the first evening of E3, but it was just Miyamoto himself this year. NOA’s Tim O’Leary of the Treehouse handled translation throughout the event.
Miyamoto began by noting his busy schedule, saying that he has been sending emails back to development teams in Japan from his hotel room. He expressed relief that he didn’t have to go on stage at that morning’s Nintendo press conference, joking that his poor performance in last year’s Wii Music presentation led to him being omitted from this year’s stage program.
He said one thing taking up a lot of his time is the plan to have DS owners use their devices in real world locations, such as when shopping or visiting the museum. Some experiments in this vein have already debuted in Japan (Ed. – also in the Seattle Mariners games, here in the U.S.), and he thinks there are many more opportunities. It’s even being used in Japanese schools for students to submit answers.
Taking an abrupt change in topic, Miyamoto began commenting on Nintendo’s new games being shown at E3 this year, starting with New Super Mario Bros. Wii. He expressed a long-time desire to put multiplayer in Mario, to recapture some of the experiences in the original Mario Bros. arcade game. Many Mario games over the last twenty years began with a multiplayer feature that eventually had to be cut due to time constraints or problems with implementation. With the processing power of the Wii, he now feels it is possible to create an entire Super Mario game that can be played by up to four players. Miyamoto and members of the Treehouse played a demo of the game, showing new elements such as Yoshi (who can swallow other players as well as their fireballs) and the new Penguin Suit, which lets you slide through blocks and shoot an icy version of the classic fireballs. Miyamoto thinks this is one of Nintendo’s games that can allow new players to join up with veteran players, with everyone having a good time together.
He moved on to Super Mario Galaxy 2, showing the trailer once again. He admitted this game is an exception to Nintendo’s usual way of handling Mario games and sequels. It began as “Galaxy 1.5”, simply an extension of the original that included some of the ideas they couldn’t fit in before. But as development continued, they came up with more and more ideas that pushed it into being a completely separate sequel. At this point, Miyamoto promises that up to 99% of the content is new, with the remainder being remixed from levels or challenges seen in the first Galaxy. The new game, which is approximately the same length as the original, is very far into development. In fact, it probably could have been released this year, but since New Super Mario Bros. Wii is already scheduled for the holidays, the Galaxy 2 team is going to use a few extra months to polish up that game.
Miyamoto’s comments on Wii Fit Plus were very brief, noting that it should increase communication within families who are using the program. He hopes it will give Wii Fit owners a reason o “dust off” their Balance Boards.
Moving on to Resort, Miyamoto said the location of the game, WooHoo Island, is the same one from Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus. He expressed a desire to establish locations like this one in the same way that Nintendo has established characters. He joked that a future game might involve solving a murder mystery in a hotel on WooHoo Island, and the player's familiarity with the location could aid in finding clues. He said that when Nintendo was considering which activities to include in the original Wii Sports, they found that certain sports had subtle elements that were hard to recognize with the original Wii Remote technology. Examples cited were releasing a basketball, throwing a dart, and flinging a Frisbee; these actions can now be represented accurately with Wii MotionPlus. Several activities were demonstrated in Wii Sports Resort, including table tennis and the new version of golf. Miyamoto also revealed that bowling will return, and while it was not shown at this event, he promised that it feels very different with Wii MotionPlus. Each activity in Resort can be played in multiple variations. There are 100 stamps in the game, earned for certain accomplishments. Miyamoto hopes the stamp system will draw in experienced gamers who will enjoy playing the game alone (to get all the stamps) as well as in group settings.
Miyamoto didn't talk too much about The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, but he did narrate a demo of the game in which Link controlled a phantom (looks like a bulky suit of armor) in a dungeon. At times, Link would send the phantom through dangerous areas, use it to block strong wind, and even ride on its head to traverse lava pits. Miyamoto also spoke of the history of multiplayer elements in Zelda games, starting with Four Swords on Game Boy Advance and leading to the two-player online mode in Phantom Hourglass. Noting that many players considered the last game's multiplayer to be too difficult, he confirmed that Spirit Tracks will include a retooled online mode for up to four players.
He then transitioned into a more philosophical tone regarding Zelda. Eiji Aonuma, the director of Zelda games since Majora's Mask, has lately been discussing the series with Miyamoto, and they have been asking themselves, "What is Zelda?" They would like players to feel that each game gives us an opportunity to travel with Link, exploring the same places as him and creating memories with the characters in these worlds. Miyamoto stressed that players should ideally create individual memories, such as unique approaches to solving a dungeon. From this general (but clearly foreshadowing) topic, he bluntly stated that he wanted to show a new Zelda game for Wii at this E3, but it was not possible. Instead, he showed us a piece of concept art with some clues as to the game's story. The art was a water-color painting of an adult Link, standing back to back with an unknown character who appeared to be a pale, young girl wearing a white cloak -- she did not appear to be Princess Zelda, based on the lack of any traditional markings or clothing associated with that character. Both characters stood before a gaping, orange-colored doorway or portal. A logo at the bottom simply said: "The Legend of Zelda". Miyamoto and Aonuma plan to launch the next game in 2010 (or even later) and would like to implement Wii MotionPlus, even require it. Of course, there is some risk to mandating the accessory, so he joked (?) that it may depend on sales of Wii Sports Resort. He also hinted that, if you want to get an idea of how the next Zelda might be controlled, you should look to the sword and archery parts of Resort.
The presentation concluded, and a brief Q&A portion began. Questions are paraphrased and will be attributed if possible. All answers are paraphrased from Shigeru Miyamoto and his translators, Tim O'Leary and Bill Trinen. The audience was encouraged to focus questions on games that will be released this year.
Q: What are your thoughts on the motion controls being announced by Microsoft and Sony? - Sean O'Neill, Kombo
A: At Nintendo, we prefer not to announced technology until we can demonstrate it with a compelling new game experience. (Ed. -- They didn't do that for Wii Vitality Sensor.) We are always evaluating new technologies and have seen camera interfaces and other advanced controls before. When we began developing Wii Sports Resort, we expected to finish in about six months. However, implementing advanced motion controls proved to be more difficult than we thought, so it took an extra year of development to finish the game.
Q: What are your ideas for using the Wii Vitality Sensor in games?
A: I've been interested in this kind of control for a long time. Whether it's pressing buttons or moving the Wii Remote or stepping onto the Balance Board, game control has always been very intentional and under the player's control. I think it's interesting that the Wii Vitality Sensor is a kind of input that the player cannot consciously control. Nintendo had something like this a long time ago, in a device called the Love Tester. President Iwata and I also experienced an interesting technology several years ago, in which we used a brain-reading device to control a robot. We both thought about using such a device to create a new Pokemon, so maybe it's possible to get a Pokemon egg from two males. (laughs)
Q: I enjoyed the DS version of New Super Mario Bros. but found it to be very easy. My favorite Mario game is the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2. (Ed. -- It's called Lost Levels outside Japan.) Will there be any levels in New Super Mario Bros. Wii closer to that game's kind of difficulty?
A: We always want these games to be accessible for new players will still satisfying long-time gamers, and that is a very difficult balance to achieve. I can tell you that there will be some areas of the Wii game that are quite challenging, even for veteran players.
Q: Are the stamps in Wii Sports Resort an attempt to match the achievement and trophy systems on other consoles? - Craig Harris, IGN
A: I don't think the stamps are similar to what you are referring to, at least not in an overall, system-level sense. I'm not a fan of providing carrots to the player -- we want you to keep playing the game because it is fun. I think the stamps in Wii Sport Resort add depth, especially when playing the game by yourself, by encouraging you to play the game in different ways that you otherwise might have missed. Honestly, I would prefer for all parts of a game to be unlocked from the beginning, because the player has paid for the entire game. But often, we need to build in some progression in order to balance the difficulty.
Q: With this month's launch of Wii MotionPlus and today's announcement of Wii Vitality Sensor, I have been thinking about another accessory that we were shown at this same event last year: Wii Speak. Since the release of Animal Crossing: City Folk, Nintendo hasn't released or even announced any other games that support this hardware. Can you say whether Wii Speak support will be included in any of Nintendo's games this year? I would love to use it in an online multiplayer mode for New Super Mario Bros. Wii, if one exists. - Jonathan Metts, Nintendo World Report
A: Well, thank you for that idea! (laughs) With each of our games, we consider the possibility of supporting accessories like Wii Speak, and sometimes it is simply not possible. For instance, with so much happening and four players on the screen in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, we are using all the processing power of the Wii hardware, and there is not enough left to support online gameplay and Wii Speak. (Ed. - The wording in this answer does not necessary preclude online play without voice chat.) You can be sure that we will continue looking for opportunities to use Wii Speak in games. I would also like to mention that we released the Wii Speak Channel, a free way to chat with other players, so if you have not tried that program, please do so.
Q: So, are you saying that the Wii hardware's processing power is limiting what you can do with games like New Super Mario Bros. Wii?
A: Ever since the 8-bit days of gaming, we have been limited by the hardware. We game developers always want to push the limits of what the technology can do, so this is always a problem even as new systems become more and more powerful.
Q: Some people were disappointed by Nintendo's presence at last year's E3 press conference. Were the announcements this morning meant to be a response to those fans and critics?
A: I feel responsible for people's disappointment last year, because I didn't uphold my end of the instrument playing on stage. (laughs) I'm always too nervous when playing music in front of people. So this year, it was really a relief to watch the press conference from the audience.
Q: Can you name any games that influenced you, other that those you worked on?
A: Well, even though I was somewhat involved in this game, I would point to Will Wright's game, SimCity. Other than games, I have been influenced by many Japanese comics and more traditional kinds of art and storytelling in Japan.