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Iwata Asks: In Commemoration, Part 9 - And-Kensaku

And-Kensaku, Part 4: Combining The Number of Search Hits and Bingo

by the NWR Staff - September 2, 2016, 1:05 am EDT

Part 4 of And-Kensaku.

4. Combining The Number of Search Hits and Bingo

Iwata - In the 2nd part of this series we’ll be talking with the people that developed “And-Kensaku,” so we’ve had two members from Shift (※1) and those who handled the software at Nintendo today. Let’s start with introductions.

※1 Shift=Developer of action puzzle games, established in 1999. Their first title for a Nintendo platform is “And-Kensaku.” Their HQ is located in Fujisawa City, Kanazawa Prefecture, Japan.

Soya - I’m Soya from Shift, and I was the main planner on this title. I was involved in this title from the very beginning, creating the design proposal.

Iwata - When was it that you made that first proposal?

Soya - It was about three years ago, in February of 2007. I’ll never forget - the idea came to me out of nowhere when I was walking the streets at night as I happened to be turning a corner.

Iwata - So you clearly remember the moment the idea for this game came to you?

Soya - Yes. You tend to hear lots of stories about how people get ideas from out of nowhere as they’re walking down the road. But it had never actually happened to me, so I figured I better take note when it finally did!

Iwata - I see (laughs). Let’s come back to that in a bit and move on to Yui-san.

Yui - Hi, I’m Yui from Shift - I was the main programmer. Continuing on from what Soya-san was saying, when I first heard the idea from him of comparing the number of hits from a search engine, honestly I didn’t think it was very interesting, but then his boss suggested, “It might be interesting if you make it like bingo,” and I thought, “Well, in that case,” and so we entered into prototype from there.

Iwata - Ok then, Nishimura-san from Nintendo, please introduce yourself.

Nishimura - I’m Nishimura of the Planning and Development Group. For this title I’m listed as the producer, but mainly I did a lot of coordinating, and at times game design - performing various kinds of support for the game.

Iwata - For these last two and a half years, Nishimura-san has been kind of the “principal” for the Nintendo Game Seminar (※2). This title has been in development since before you started that though, hasn’t it?

Nishimura - Yes. It was certainly a long project - I’ve been part of two graduation ceremonies since it began!

※2 Nintendo Game Seminar=A game development seminar run by Nintendo aimed at students.

Iwata - And with that, let’s go back to Soya-san and talk about how that idea came to him. At that point, was the only image you had in your mind the “comparing number of search hit” portion? Or did it come as a set with some other idea?

Soya - It was a set. The first image I had was that of a real time strategy (※3) type game. At the bottom of the screen you’d have a search window, and by typing a word there it would become a unit, and you’d attack your opponents based on the number of hits the search brought up - that’s how you would defeat them. And then when I explained that to my boss, he said, “The search hit part is interesting, but the rest isn’t so much.”

Iwata - So he said half the idea was OK, but the other half was no good.

※3 Real Time Strategy=Simulation game where fights with the enemy proceed in real time, rather than by turn.

Soya - Right. So based on that idea numbers of search hits, we decided to expand on the idea in a different direction. As Yui-san mentioned earlier, we decided to try and prototype something combining it with bingo.

Iwata - When was the prototype finished?

Soya - In June of 2007.

Iwata - That’s about four months after the idea first came to Soya-san. When you first heard about this, Nishimura-san, did they bring the prototype with them? Or had you already had some back and forth prior to that?

Nishimura - There was no prior back and forth - first they showed us the prototype on PC, and at that point you could already play against each other in a four player game. Already at that point it was really fun to play four players.

Soya - During the prototype phase the only game we had is what we call “Panel 9.”

Iwata - The 3x3 bingo game.

Soya - Yes. First you have nine squares with keywords, and by combining them with different words that get displayed you compete to see who can come up with the AND search (※4) that has the most hits. We had so much fun with that internally that at first we thought it would be enough if that was all that was in the game.

Iwata - Even during the prototype phase people had a lot of fun playing together.

※4 AND search=Search method in which you string together multiple terms by a space, such as “Kyoto weather” to narrow down search results.

Nishimura - Indeed. When your opponent was trying to come up with word combinations you’d naturally get this communication, saying things like, “Ah, no! Not that one!” or “Nah, I think this is better.” - there’s no doubt that it was fun. So we decided to green light development, and after a while my boss said to me, “What about if you want to play alone?”

Iwata - So even though it was fun with multiple people, it felt like something was missing for single player?

Nishimura - That's right. It just didn't feel like enough when playing single player, and even in multiplayer the amount of fun you had depended heavily on who you were playing with. We were also worried about whether we would be able to provide enough volume to sell it as a stand alone package.

Iwata - Once you had identified these problems, what did you decide to do next?

Soya - Nintendo said, “We’d like you to add about ten more modes,” so we began to think about what modes could be implemented. It made sense - we also felt that “Panel 9” just wasn’t enough.

Nishimura - There was no doubt that “Panel 9” would be fun played as a party game. We could have leaned in that direction, but we figured it would be best if it was like Mario Party (※5) where there were a couple different types of game modes, some that would be for single player, some for two player and some for four player, so that customers should pick how to play the game, so we asked Shift if they had any other ideas.

※5 Mario Party=Party game first released for the Nintendo 64 in December 1998. Has logged ten titles in the series including portable entries.

Soya - We then focused on coming up with new ideas in the summer of 2007, starting with different experiments.

Iwata - How did those experiments go? Were the first ones you came up with interesting?

Soya - Nope.

Iwata - (laughs)

Soya - On paper you’d have games that seemed like they would definitely be fun, but then when actually making the prototypes, the influence from the number of hits made it so that they just weren’t working as games.

Iwata - Was it due to the fact that you had a dynamic range where, when you had a small number of hits they were overwhelmingly small, but when you have a lot you’d get millions of hits?

Soya - Exactly. Furthermore, it just wouldn’t go as you’d expect. For instance, when creating an RPG you can set an enemy’s parameters as you’d like from the developer’s point of view, but in this game you use the number of hits provided by Google, so you can’t just change the data to match your needs. Furthermore, there was just an overwhelming number of keyword combinations.

Iwata - And from there even more unexpected things occurred?

Soya - Yes. There were a lot of things we learned having gone beyond even our own animations and actually making those things.



famicomplicatedJames Charlton, Associate Editor (Japan)September 02, 2016

This game is crazy! (Overview video)

Awesome work with the translation as ever Matt!  :cool;

Thanks bro! Glad people are enjoying them. ^^

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