Day to day life.
4. An Atonement Letter
Iwata - Back when “Animal Crossing” came out I had heard a story that sounded too good to be true, and thought “there’s no way”.
I had read about a father who always came home late, would get home at night and begin playing “Animal Crossing”, getting letters from his child that said, “Hi Dad. Today I did such and such.” A dad is a dad, so he would remember the things that the child wanted and find them at night, sending them with letters that said, “I managed to find it.”
I thought, there’s no way something so perfect would actually happen. And it turns out… it was actually pretty common, those kinds of stories. How did you manage to create that kind of system?
Nogami - Before the letters we had created the bulletin board, we wanted to set it up where dad could leave messages and the child could see them there. I think the reason we made it that way is probably because we wanted to be able to do that ourselves.
Eguchi - Ya, I did want to do that.
Miyamoto - Looking for atonement, right?
Attendees - (laughs)
Eguchi - To say sorry I always come home so late (laughs).
Iwata - That feeling of wanting atonement as a parent is what allowed you to make that kind of system.
Eguchi - In a “let’s keep it secret from mom” kind of way (laughs).
Iwata - But you know, when a creator has something they personally want, it gets put in the game’s design, so it actually ends up occurring in real life.
Nogami - We did make the game wondering how customers would respond if we did such and such thing.
Eguchi - That’s not just for “Animal Crossing” though.
Nogami - Good point.
Iwata - I tend to think that this kind of thing is one of the common aspects of your team’s, actually - even more so Miyamoto-san’s team’s game creation.
Eguchi - We try our best to envision how people would play. For instance, in what kind of environment, in what kind of place, what kind of people would play at what time?
Iwata - One thing I make the effort to think about is envisioning what it looks like for someone who’s experienced the game to recommend it to another, and the easier it is for that person to recommend, the stronger the possibility it’s going to spread. In those terms, “Animal Crossing” is the kind of software you want to invite people to play.
Eguchi - But you know, we were often told by PR people, “It’s a hard game to explain…”
Iwata - It wasn’t the kind of game that you can express comparing it to something else.
Nogami - When asked, “what do you do in this game?” there was no way to explain.
Iwata - Because, “There’s no goal. It’s a game where you live each day at your leisure.”
Eguchi - As such, we racked our brains over the title, and thought about maybe calling it, “That Day to Day Life”.
Attendees - (laughs)
Nogami - We were told not to though (laughs).
Iwata - We threw away the name “That Day to Day Life”, but over a long period of time we created different kinds of items - it’s rather apt.
Nogami - People often say they want to collect items, but our intent was to make so many items that you couldn’t collect them all. So many that you’d just want to give up collecting.
Iwata - Ha ha ha!
Eguchi - From the beginning we decided not to think about making your goal to complete the whole set of items. So we figured lets not say how many pieces of furniture there are. Our intent being that you can’t then figure out just where it bottoms out, and because you don’t know how many there are you can just feel satisfied when you’ve collected what you feel was enough, and everyone’s threshold would be different.
Iwata - Perhaps everyone who’s listened to our discussion today have realized that your image of gave dev is different from what happened with this title. On the other hand, I think the reason why this game has been so embraced all around the world is largely because there was a basic structure that never changed during the beginning - in other words, in terms of the development of this software it was huge that there was a type of play we wanted to provide to customers, and we continued to make the game without ever straying from that.
In closing, let’s hear one last thought from Eguchi-san and Nogami-san before we finish up.
Eguchi - Earlier I mentioned that it’s important to create games envisioning people playing them, but there are times you get so busy you forget to do that. Regardless of the hardware, yo can never forget how they’re going to use the hardware, or where they’re going to play the game and be sure to obsessively think about how you’re going to reflect that in the software.
You are all creating DS software, so if even a little, it might be good to think about what merits playing on the DS brings, what the hardware isn’t good at, and use that to course correct now and then. I guess that’s something for me to reflect on as well.
Iwata - OK, Nogami-san.
Nogami - Having discussed this I kind of got to recall that initial enthusiasm I had starting out. It turns out that there’s a lot that stumps you during game dev. Sometimes due to limited time, others due to limited human resources you come to points where you have to decide to give up, or to throw things away. When making those decisions, the most important thing is to make sure you don’t forget what it was you were thinking when making that game in the first place. I’ve reaffirmed that if you do forget, your decisions will falter, and it won’t be hard for development to stray.
Iwata - That feels good, getting to learn what I did today. Thank you all very much.
Attendees - (applause)