The Hitchhikers Guide To Video Games 02.10.04

Hola, amigos! It’s Tuesday, and that mean it’s time for The Guide. I’m Misha, your ever-British host…..
*silence
… C’mon, Marvin! That was your cue!!!
*Leave it alone. I told you this was a bad way to introduce the column
Oh, and of course, you were *full* of good ideas….
*And I thought heavy sarcasm was MY trademark…

Well, anyway. Mr Optomism over there is Marvin, the Manic-depressive Maverick. He and I will be your host for today’s news.

Miyamoto Speaks!!!!…… A bit

Apparently,. the reason nobdy’s heard anything about Mario 128 is because Miyamoto-san has been VICIOUS in his secrecy, lest someone get wind of his ideas and steal them. Speaking to the UK’s “Official Nintendo Magazine” (yes, the one I’ve bashed horribly in my previous columns for being a shameless corporate sellout), he explains a lot, and dodges a few other questions….

Misha: No comment here… See below for more.

Sega goes Handheld… Again

In a move likely to see Bebito pre-order both systems out of Rabid Fanboyism, Sega president Hisao Oguchi has announced that his company plans to develop games for both the Nintendo DS *and* Playstation Portable. Apparently, Sega have had development kits for the DS since last year.

Misha: Well, there’s a bit of good news for both systems. Sega make damn fine games, and this little factlet serves to put major third-party support behind Sony and Nintendo. Some (such as Marvin) might accuse Sega of cynicism in “hedging their bets” with the new formats, but I don’t. I’m just waiting to see what they come up with…

credit: gamesradar.co.uk

There are some things Man Was Not Meant To Revive…

The original Virtual Pets are back. Tamagotchi have been reincarnated. the new version, known as Tamagotchi Plus, have the ability to communicate with each other via infra-red ports… As such, they will be able to interact with each other, even to the extent of daating, mating and reproducing. Yes, if your new Tamagotchi find a likely partnes, you may well find yourself the pround owner of Tamagotchi babies…

Marvin: Oh, for Zarquon’s sake… Now we have to deal with this crap again. People obsessing over there stupid inanimate objects… Excuse me while I deactivate myself…

credit: gamesradar.co.uk

Yet another PS2

Sony have announced plans for a limited-edition “Shiny Aqua-Blue” PS2, along with similarly-hued accessories. Release is due to be around March-time.

Misha: Yes, I’m stretching for news, I know… It’s just been a slow week.
Marvin: And he still tries to put positive spin on things: Anyone with half a brain can see that this is yet another shameless cash-in. It’s times like this I feel ashamed to be electronic…

credit: computerandvideogames.com

Commentary

The man I worship most in the whole of videogaming, Shigeru Miyamoto, has given an interview to a UK magazine. And as befits a shameless mark, I’m going to dissect the interview. Marvin will be on hand in case I reach fanboy-overkill. The full original review can be found here on the website of UK games mag “Computer and Video Games” (aka CVG). Be warned, you may have to register with the site…

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Which other games designers/producers do you admire?

Miyamoto: There is no specific person I can think of. Please do not misunderstand; I am not speaking from arrogance. In fact, there are a number of developers who have made games that I think are wonderful. For example, I love Pac-Man created by Mr Iwatani of Namco so much that we even created Pac-Man vs. for GameCube for ourselves, taking advantage of the connectivity between Game Boy Advance and GameCube.

However, videogaming is one of the entertainment commodities. As long as we are creating an entertainment commodity, the creators of them must always make an effort to entertain people with something unprecedented. Looking back at the past and admiring others with great track records will not help us come up with unique and unprecedented ideas.

Misha: Interesting point to make… Video games, like any industry, must advance or die. I’m willing to bet that Miyamoto has plenty of famous coders on his list of people he respects, but it’s still interesting to see how focussed on the future he seems to be…
Marvin: Feh. he’s dodging the question, pure and simple

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Now games are 3D, what do you think is the next significant step forward?

Miyamoto: It is something the readers of this magazine can hardly dream of. I know my answer is not too clear, but I am not casting you a Zen riddle because I am Japanese! One of the biggest jobs we, game creators, have is to surprise people. Nintendo spread its NES system across the world and 3D games are found everywhere today because both of them were able to successfully destroy the fixed concept that people around the world had, therefore such a thing should not be impossible.
Further improvements in graphics, sound and online gaming are what anyone can reasonably expect today and, therefore, cannot generate the sheer surprise. We are experimenting and preparing a variety of ‘surprises’ now, but I am unable to talk about them here because the core element of great entertainment ideas is always something that is hard to hit upon, but easy to be imitated once known.

Misha: For someone not trying to be cryptic, he’s doing a good job. Surprise is good, and I trust Miyamoto-san to deliver on his promises, but WE NEED GOSSIP!! How can self-respecting news writers like myself find material unless people leak random snippets??

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What can you tell us about the successor to GameCube?

Miyamoto: We are currently developing the machine that can realise a number of brand-new and enjoyable ideas. But I’m sorry that I can’t dwell on the details today. In 2004, the titles which make use of the connectivity between GameCube and Game Boy Advance will be enriched, including Pac Man vs. and Zelda: Four Swords. You will see that the great potential of GameCube will come to fruition.
Before you will touch and play with our next-generation products, we will provide you with a number of unique experiences and unprecedented joy with the existing machines, including Game Boy Advance. Please keep your eyes on Nintendo in 2004!

Misha: Shill the product, shill the company, and say nothing…. again, we have the evasion. Shigeru is know for being a tricky interview subject, but this is like talking to a politician; totally unable to give a straight answer.
Marvin: Someone cynical might suggest that he’s hyping a whole lot of nothing. Of course, *I* never would. But *someone* might….

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What was the best game you played in 2003?

Miyamoto: I have to compliment Wario Ware Inc. as it has successfully attracted new audiences, who would not have an interest in gaming otherwise. I also very much enjoyed playing Wind Waker myself.

Misha: Sometimes, it’s hard to see one’s own creations taken to “the next stage” by others. However, Miyamoto seems to be genuinely happy with seeing other people work on his creations. wind Waker was one of 2003’s finest games, and is fully wothy of inheriting the Zelda legacy

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Were you sad to see Rare part company with Nintendo?

Miyamoto: Well, we have had a long-time relationship. But we still talk with each other and there will be upsides too because the two companies continue to make something unique and original independently. While I miss the opportunity to work together as partners, since we are sharing the same posture of always challenging something new, I hope we will both grow as good rivals.

Misha: Clearly subscribing ot the adage that top-level competition will encourage the Raising Of One’s Game, we see that Nintendo don’t plan to let the loss of one of the world’s premier software houses faze them. I have no doubt that Miyamoto himself is secretly welcoming the challenge to trump whatever Rare, or anyone else, come up with.
Marvin: *COUGH*overcompetitive*HACK*

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NOM UK’s readers recently voted Ocarina of Time as their favourite game ever. Why do you think it endures as a classic, despite being technologically inferior to today’s games?

Miyamoto: Thank you very much! The respect of game players is always the energy source for we creators to make something new. Maybe you know better than we do when it comes to the reason why The Ocarina of Time could be appreciated by so many people around the world who have different languages, practices and customs. If there is something I can comment on from the creators’ side, I think it may be attributed to the feeling of the Zelda universe.
Since I started working on the very first Legend of Zelda, which was launched in 1985 for NES, I have been making much of the ambience that players feel, as if they had actually visited and explored a miniature garden called Hyrule that can be placed in your desk drawer. In The Ocarina of Time, we committed ourselves to look carefully into both the total feel and each element of the expressions of the game so much that players would be able to even feel the coldness of the air.
However while graphics technologies may be improved, the technology itself help a player feel the coldness of the air. The atmosphere of the Ocarina of Time universe was created not by solely relying upon visual and audio effects. Maybe it was something which could have been created only when each different element of the game, including such details as how the scenario was made, how it progressed and how each character moved, was integrated in a desirable manner.

Misha: It’s unfortunate, but true: NOM readers are very much UK Gaming Sheep. It may sound like me trying to “Do a Lucard” by trying to act all “k3w|_, l33t + h4rdc0R£”, but in my experience, the magazine is, by and large, trash. Ocarina is an amazing game, to be sure, but Best Nintendo Game Ever? No way. There are too many other contenders: Goldeneye, Super Mario World, But anyway… It’s interesting to see inside the mind of the designer… As I play OOT, I can see the manner of design that is described here shining through.

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Why are you hiding Mario 128 from the public?

Miyamoto: I’m sorry that I have been unable to talk much about that title. With Mario 128, I have been challenging many unprecedented things, not found in existing videogames. These new ideas are prone to lose their freshness or to be imitated once they go public, so we must be extremely careful when we discuss such things. I have been feeling the pressure that I have to complete this project. Would you please be patient?

Misha: Oh…. Alright then. But only because you said please.

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With mobile phone technology improving, what do you think is the future for handheld gaming?

Miyamoto: The designing of mobile phones must be done so that the product will be shaped most efficiently for making and receiving calls. What is required for mobile phones is significantly different from what is required for portable gaming. As well as the size and the positioning of the buttons, if you are playing with a videogame for a short time, this would consume the batteries so much that you couldn’t receive calls thereafter, like what is actually happening today – this means it can’t be called a mobile phone anymore! By now, both Game Boy Advance SP and mobile phones have become compact enough for us to carry both around, so it makes more sense to me to own them separately.
When we can create an entertainment that will be uniquely fun to be played with mobile phones, we will provide such by making use of the Game Boy Advance.

Misha: On this, he’s right. Look at the N-Gage… It tries to be everything, and wound up being nothing.

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Have you got any new characters and franchises up your sleeve, or will you continue to work with the established ones?

Miyamoto: I would like to expand the Pikmin concept, but I would also love to collaborate with other new designers in order to create new characters.

Misha: Pikmin? Hmmm, I have my doubts…..

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How do you see Nintendo’s place in the market evolving? Surely beating Sony isn’t part of the strategy?

Miyamoto: Making something better than the others is always the idea which is easy to be understood, but it cannot be applied in the entertainment business. It is imperative that we are in a position to do things that others don’t, rather than to make the same thing better than the others. It can never be an easy job to create entertainment that has been unprecedented and yet shall be appreciated by many people around the world. However, Nintendo has the track record of expanding home videogame entertainment to the world and of creating portable gaming entertainment, too. Please look forward to what Nintendo will create next.

Marvin: Basically, he’s saying that Nintendo knows it can’t beat Sony
Misha: Well, yes… But at least they’re not giving up on their traditional values of “make great games”.
Marvin: Whether that’s enough remains to be seen… They could wind up like Sega…

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Why don’t supposedly ‘Japanese’ games like Animal Crossing and Giftpia ever get released in Europe?

Miyamoto: We at Nintendo are always trying to develop software that will be appreciated by people all around the world. On the other hand, however, peoples’ likes and dislikes of game content are increasingly becoming apparent by each market in the world.
This is not confined to the European market, but some software in this industry in general is now marketed in limited ways. Plus, when we launch software in Europe, it is necessary to localise the software (such as translations into different languages). However, we really do not want European fans to wait for a long time, so that we are facilitating the localisation processes, with Nintendo of Europe as the driving force for this. As the result, Mario Kart Double Dash was introduced around the globe almost simultaneously, for example.
Please understand that we are putting significant time and resources into localisation activities and that we are hiring excellent localisation specialists so that the resulted software is achieving a very high level of localisation quality among this whole industry. We understand that we need to lay down this solid foundation so that we can introduce you to more new software. Once we can do this, games like Animal Crossing shall be available.

Misha: Meh. Excuses, excuses. Mario Kart saw nearly-simultenous global release, but THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH! once the English language version is ready, put it out on PAL and NTSC at the same time. you’ll get a lot more consumer goodwill that way. Some stuff will never sel;l in Europe, I accept that… But there’s no reason not to give it a chance.

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Is there going to be another Zelda game on GameCube? Perhaps a side story like Majora’s Mask?

Miyamoto: In 2004 you will see a variety of activities regarding The Legend of Zelda. Nintendo of Europe will announce the launch date of the Four Swords game this year, which we have shown at ECTS and E3. The development of the new Wind Waker is underway and we would like to discuss the details in 2004, too.

Misha: Right, that’s it. Chris, I accept that I’m never going to be on the guest list for E3. But you *have* to get me into the ETCS ;)

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What project are you working on right now?

Miyamoto: I am working on many titles with young directors. I am hoping to make something brand new by working with them and also hoping to teach them, too.

Misha: Game design Jedi Master am I, yes. Learn, you will, young Padawans, yes….

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Would Nintendo ever consider making games purely for an adult audience, like GTA Vice City?

Miyamoto: 20 years ago, when Nintendo introduced its first games console in 1983, the NES system was called Family Computer System in Japan. Now that the young people who used to play with NES are becoming parents, circumstances are there for the whole family to enjoy themselves with videogames. As you know, while there are a number of games for Nintendo’s systems solely made for adult players, we are putting a significant importance on the development of games that can be enjoyed either playing or watching others’ playing among a group of friends or family members – from very small children to their grandfathers and grandmothers all together.

Today, a great many developers in the world are making astonishing numbers of games. Every one of us should try and make unique and independent software – that’s what I believe.

Misha: Again, the company line. I’m getting a bit sick of it, TBQH. Though Nintendo have never been big on breaking their habits, and good games result, so I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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The games that you’ve created and made show a great amount of imagination. Have you always been this creative, or did your imagination only develop after you started working for Nintendo?

Miyamoto: Thank you. But, honestly, I am always feeling that I really need something more that I don’t possess in fact. If I say so, someone may say that I am trying to be a perfectionist. Actually, I am quite a lazy person by nature.
The reason why a lazy man like me can push himself so hard in order to complete his works is because there exists the company I work for, the job I have and the responsibilities I have to shoulder. In that sense, I should say that I developed myself after I started working for Nintendo.

Misha: Lazy? The man who created entire genres, and even now continues to push the boundaries of gaming as an industry, considers himself lazy?
Marvin: Well, he does have a point. One game every three years? That’s not effort…
Misha: Firstly, genius takes time, and cannot be rushed. Secondly, SHUT THE HELL UP BEFORE I DEACTIVATE YOU!!!
Marvin:…..

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Conclusion: Well, that explains some stuff. not as much as I’d like, but The Man has his reasons… And my appetite is shamelessly whetted. I’m trusting the man who gave us Mario, and I exhort you all to do the same.

Pluggage

Williams feels like he’s finally finding his mission (aside from being a DDR God and norwegian athlete). Check this as a taster… Here’s a man who’s going to take it up a level, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming….
Laflin has clearly been swotting up on his Euro-references. PMQ, UEFA, and other acronoyms are all to be found within…
Platt scares me. Especially since I know for a fact that the cversion you’re seeing there is heavily edited. Release the Director’s Cut already!!!
Badlissi honours Dr Mario
Baxley finds safety, but it’s a Risky Safety….
Berg is talking Superbowl, and doing some crystal-ball-gazing.
It’s the feature you’ve all been waiting for… Lucard is going for his Top 30 RPGs. But check the preable first, because it’s cheaper than flameproof clothes…
Liquidcross has some choice thoughts on the Nintendo DS.

And that’s it. Read everyone, and I’ll be back next week