Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Notes from Nintendo's E3 2010 Developer Roundtable

An E3 tradition has developed over the past few years: An annual Nintendo developers roundtable, a 90-minute informal talk by Shigeru Miyamoto and his associates about the company's biggest titles and announcements for the year. This year was no different, and a select group of media watched as Miyamoto talked abut the Nintendo 3DS and some of its select titles, as well as the latest Zelda, Skyward Sword, along with Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma and 3DS lineup producer Hideki Kondo.

Miyamoto on Ocarina of Time 3D:
"I wanted to experience vast Hyrule Field with those 3D effects. I thought it would feel like you were really there."

On Steel Diver:
"Development is moving along nicely, and in fact it's almost complete. The reason for that is that we've been making it for the past six years! When we first showed Nintendo DS, we showed this game as a demo. It seemed ideally suited to a touch interface, since it's about a submarine and submarines are slow. Now, I'm the kind of gamer that gets frustrated easily, so sometimes it's nice to play a game that moves slowly and gives you precise controls."

On Star Fox:
"In shooters, it can be hard to judge the depth of your bullets. But that becomes clearer in 3D, so I wanted to work on a Star Fox game for the system. Of course, if all we were to do was take these games and port them over to 3DS, we'd just have a collection of old games. So we're talking to the developers about adding new elements."

On the 3DS hardware:
"Even something as simple as trying to jump onto a stump or hitting a question mark block can be difficult. Once you have 3D visuals to go along with a fully-rendered world, that space becomes easy to understand. Since 3DS is a portable system, everyone has the same setup, the same 3D screen. Developers can work around that set 3D spec."

Kondo on Nintendogs + Cats:
"I'd hoped to keep this game a secret until E3, but unfortunately last year Mr. Miyamoto announced last year that he had gotten a cat!

"We wanted a new kind of communication between the user and the dog. We're using the inner camera to recognize the player's face. If you look at the screen and tilt your head from side to side, the dog will recognize that and turn to look at you. If you put your face close to the screen, the dog will come closer and lick your face. It will also remember faces, so if the dog is used to playing with me, it will recognize me. But if Mr. Miyamoto plays, the dog might run away and bark at him from a distance.

"My ambition is to take the Bark Mode from Nintendogs and make it more widespread, which we've done by making it a part of the 3DS hardware itself."

Miymoto on cats:
"Cats are great, but they're kind of like girls. If they come and talk to you, that's great. But if you go and talk to them, it may not go so well. We had the Nintendogs program and put cat models in their, so we had these cats walking around, and they'd sit if you told them to, which was weird. But their tails were wagging around! So we put both in the game and came up with new ideas."

Miyamoto on Bark Mode:
Shortly after Nintendogs came out, you could walk around with the system in bark mode and exchange data with almost anyone. More recently, we've seen the same thing with Dragon Quest, where people will cluster around the 'electric towns' just waiting for new contacts to exchange data with.

"If you were to use the Internet to do this, it would be simple. But the fun of this comes in the fact that you're interacting this way in the real world."

Miyamoto on Skyward Sword:
"One of the reasons people keep coming back to the Zelda series is because the core mechanics are so good. But I think people tend to fixate on how big the game is and how many dungeons there are. One of the things we wanted to do this time around was bring it back to that core gameplay and how we can make it as engaging as possible.

"When you're first developing a game you spend a lot of time thinking about what you want it to look like. A lot of times there can be a big lag between when the graphics are complete and when the game is done. Last year we showed a piece of art from the game. At that point, most of the game was complete, but all we had to show visually was that single piece of art. In terms of development from here, we have a few more dungeons to create, and a few more bosses. But because this style of development is different than what we've done in the past, we're not sure we can finish this year."

Aonuma on Skyward Sword's story:
"The trailer we showed you this morning was Link diving off a cliff into a sea of clouds. That's a very important point in the storyline. Link is a man who was born and raised in this land above the clouds, called Skyloft. One day, an incident reveals to him that there's another land beneath the clouds. This other world is a place ruled by evil forces and is very dangerous, yet Link is forced to go into that world and has to travel between Skyloft and that other land.

"The thing that leads link into this other land is the Skyward Sword. The mysterious figure you see in that artwork was the Skyward Sword; when it's giving Link advice, it will take the form of that figure. You may have figured this out, but this is the Master Sword -- the Skyward Sword eventually becomes the Master Sword.

Aonuma on Skyward Sword's art:
"The sky is also something that's important to the game. We want to play up the sense of the sky, which is why we've implemented this art style."

Miyamoto on Skyward Sword's art:
"I really like this style. It took just one step in the approvals process. I'm a big fan of impressionism in the art world, so we've drawn on that. There's a definite [Paul] Cezanne influence.

"If we'd just used the same graphics from Twilight Princess, the game would already be done."

Aonuma on Ocarina of Time 3D:
"One of the problems that made the Water Temple difficult for everyone was putting on the heavy boots and taking them off again, and how complex the interface was. The 3DS has a touch screen, so you'll be able to change the boots and your clothes much faster this time.

"This is an important point for Skyward Shadow as well. We've put a lot of thought into switching between the sword and weapons. It's a little different from what you're used to, but once you get a feel for it you'll find it becomes easy."

Q&A notes:
On wireless functionality: The 3Ds does not include 3G functionality, but it can use open wi-fi access points to receive push data -- similar to Wii Connect 24. 3G carriers may be in the cards down the road, but it's not something we're working on now.

Miyamoto on orchestrated soundtracks: "I don't think we could do what we did with Mario Galaxy 2 and not try to match that with Zelda."

Miyamoto on Pikmin 3: "One of my concerns coming into this show was that with so many great games on display, Pikmin might be overshadowed. Rest assured we're working on it... but please don't make that the top story of the evening!"

Kondo on 3DS battery life: "We'd like to match Nintendo DSi."

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