Part 5 of Terry's Wonderland.
5. The Essence of “Dragon Quest” Can’t Be Put Into Words
Iwata - By the way, what did you feel was the core of this dense, short development period?
Inuzuka - The portions related to story. At first we racked our brains over how much respect we should show to the original title. And then in addition to the fact that there’s an overwhelming difference in what can be portrayed on the Nintendo 3DS compared to the Game Boy, the story of the original was pretty simple - it didn’t have any unnecessary explanation.
Horii - That’s why I said to, “Match it to how the player’s think they remember it.” Everything is always better in our memories, so I said I wanted the dev team to match it to that.
Inuzuka - Since Horii-san told us to match it to the memory, we created the game by matching it to that image in our minds rather than the actual original title.
Iwata - Back then players corrected that pixel art in their minds and envisioned the pictures that Toriyama-sensei drew, so that means actually showing that art to the players. Well then, I guess that meant you made something different from the original.
Inuzuka - In the end, yes. (laughs)
Horii - Right at that time Uchikawa-san, who was directly below Inuzuka-san, assisting him, was really into “Terry.”
Iwata - Ah, so he was playing the part of a young boy playing “Terry’s Wonderland” from 14 years ago, then.
Inuzuka - Yes. This time we had staff members like that who were in charge of remaking the scenario for the 3DS version, and so they would take his impressions for reference as they worked.
Iwata - Hearing that makes it feel like games have certainly grown a full generation since then.
Horii - Yes, they have. Kids that grew up on “Dragon Quest” are of the age now that they’re the ones moving society forward, so lately those people come to me for proposals to work together on things (laughs). The exhibition at Hills (※31), and Google Maps (※32) and so forth. Lately there’s a lot of those kinds of discussions.
※31 Exhibition at Hills＝ “The Dragon Quest 25th Anniversary Exhibition,” held at the Mori Art Center Gallery of Roppongi Hills from October 8 through December 4, 2011.
※32 Google Maps＝ Map search service “Google Maps.” On April 1, 2012, the map implementation changed to an 8-bit game representation like in the Famicom version of the original “Dragon Quest” as an April Fool’s joke.
Iwata - I bet that the developers of Google Maps just really wanted to do that. It seems that they took advantage of the famous “20% Rule” (※33) - I bet actually developing that required quite a bit of money and energy, though.
※33 The Famous 20% Rule＝ At Google there’s a special rule where internal developers can use 20% of their normal working hours on side projects. See “Iwata Asks - And-Kensaku” for details.
Horii - They made 8-bit colored pixel images for characters and buildings as well, apparently.
Iwata - Remember, it’s all just for one day (laughs). It makes sense that “Terry” would be reborn differently from the original now that a full generation has passed. Perhaps in another 20 years or so we’ll have developers making games that grew up on this remake of “Terry” again.
Inuzuka - That would make me happy. I wonder what “Dragon Quest” will be like then…
Iwata - What do you think it will be like, Inuzuka-san?
Inuzuka - …I’m sure I’m going to get flack for this, but I think that “Dragon Quest” is Yuji Horii.
Iwata - I’m sure that there’s a lot of people that think that. Rather, that “Perhaps ‘Dragon Quest’ is the embodiment of Yuji Horii’s omotenashi.”
※Omotenashi - the Japanese concept of providing an extra level of service beyond the norm to customers, patrons or guests.
Horii - Stop embarrassing me (laughs).
Inuzuka - I think that shows in “Dragon Quest.” In both good and bad ways, Horii-san is imprinted on the series.
Horii - But I’ve had a lot of help from everyone around me. Lately everyone understands my way of thinking, and they do a fantastic job of creating that content, so I just think about how it’s going to be eaten, or what kind of seasoning to add - relating it to culinary terms, of course.
Iwata - Your role is to take that finished project and consider that, “Players are going to feel this way about this particular thing, so we should do this.” In doing that it becomes even more “Dragon Quest”-like, and at the same time that’s when the game transforms. I suppose that’s the seasoning, so to speak.
Inuzuka - There’s no doubt about it. Even when balancing the game, just changing certain values a little changes the game entirely.
Iwata - But, having worked with Horii-san as long as you have, don’t you find it funny how he can pin-point specifically which values need to be adjusted to what on the spot?
Inuzuka - I mean…That’s just how Horii-san is defined as a person in my eyes, so it’s not weird or anything, rather it gives me a sense of security, I guess you could call it…
Iwata - Ah, so you’re no longer phased by it (laughs).
Inuzuka - It’s just natural at this point, like the way someone who’s amazing at carnival games hits the target every time, so even when I get an order from him that makes me think, “Wha-?” at first, I quickly understand where he’s coming from.
Iwata - I bet that Horii-san couldn’t really explain it logically if he tried.
Horii - Right, I can’t, honestly. It’s just… a feeling.
Inuzuka - But what’s impressive isn’t just his ability to make decisions, but that he’ll also always accompany it with “well then, what shall we do?” Basically whenever there’s a problem Horii-san never just goes away to think about it.
Horii - Well, I’m lazy. I’m always thinking about different ways to make things easier to deal with so I can slack off. Ha ha ha (laughs).
Iwata - Come on now, don’t say that! (laughs)
Horii - So I also think about, “Just how easy can I make things for the player?”
Iwata - I bet that Horii-san is the kind of person is incredibly sensitive to how easy it would be to get lost, feel stress and want to give up when things aren’t easy enough.
Inuzuka - There are plenty of times I’ve wanted to peek inside of Horii-san’s mind, but I’ve given up at this point. I really don’t know. It just must be this personal sense he has.
Iwata - Even after 20 years together.
Inuzuka - Yes. Also, one thing Horii-san often says is, “You can’t get one step ahead of the player.” When making games, you tend to get ahead of what the player is sensing, as it were.
Iwata - That’s why perhaps the thing that Horii-san holds most dear in terms of his omotenashi is “Don’t leave the player behind.”
Horii - Hmmm…Maybe. Developers tend to already know everything about the game, so they tend to get ahead of the player. So I guess you could say that I don’t want to leave them behind…
Iwata - Well, forcing it into words, anyhow. But…I’ve started to feel that maybe it’s best not to try and explain “Dragon Quest” in too many words.
Horii - That’s right, really, it’s best not to.
Inuzuka - There’s no doubt that if you tried you’d miss something incredibly important.
Iwata - But Horii-san’s idea that he’s “lazy” or that “it feels natural” - all of these things end up being linked to creating this world for the players in only the way that Horii-san can. And because of that, I don’t think there’s anything that goes to waste as a result.