GDC 2007: Live blogging Miyamoto keynote

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Finally we got an Internet connection here. So, hit the jump for the live blog.

OK, it just ended. Sorry, lost Internet there and was forced to cut myself. Check out the chronicle of the most non-epic event ever after the jump.

I saw the 1UP comments, we ended up getting the plush seats. Too bad, so sad. We sat right behind some of the Kotaku boys in the front.

10:42: Show is a little late and Phil Harrison is sitting in the front row. 10:43: The entire Dtoid crew is here, robot in all. We are right in front of the stage, second row. I should be able to see Miyamoto’s nose hair.

Over, here was what happened:

 

–Phil Harrison sitting in the front row, middle.

–Lost the Internet connection about 5 minutes ago. Baby Jesus’ crying all over the place.

–Pre-keynote music is God awful. I want to slit my wrists.

–Show is already 30 minutes late now. Miyamoto is a diva.

–Show starts with Miis being made of Miyamoto and others.

–Huge round of applause, of course, for Miyamoto.

–Says he’s amazed it has been 8 years since we could talk.

–Brought a Wiimote with him and is using Wii Photo Channel for presentation.

–Showing his garden, looking for Pikmin.

–In 8 years, many things do change and wants to talk about it.

–Stereotypical image was kids playing video games in the past.

–In 1998, top selling games were headed by Goldeneye 2007.

–People believed gamers were just having fun. Something changed.

–Top games in 2004, games were more adult-oriented — no Nintendo in top 5 like in 1998.

–They thought we were changing gamers into zombies. Stereotype turned into something else. Our reputation went down, as gamers, while industry took off.

–Players want more of the same type of game. We as devs feel threatened that we had to make these games to sell more.

–Nintendo found ourselves at a crossroads. Had to decide on whether or not to pursue historic vision. Leads to topic today: The creative vision and Nintendo’s vision.

–No matter how clear your vision, it must resonate with your company. What I believe has always meshed with what Nintendo believes.

–The Nintendo difference: 3 elements of corporate vision.

–First: Expanded audience. Explaining it with thing called the “Wife-o-Meter” based on the interest level of his own wife. Classic gaming moments not important for wife, but then Tetris came out and I thought wife would be interested, but wasn’t. Daughter played Ocarina at home and there was change. Wife went from disinterest to active observer, I thought “maybe there is hope” and wife-o-meter went up. Then came Animal Crossing. I assured my wife there were no enemies and she agreed to touch controller. She became happy exchanging letters and cutting trees, so meter went up a little more. I thought, I need to get it higher. My wife loves cats, but I’m a dog lover. Showing how most Wii owners agree with him and like dogs. Showing results by country. Showing picture of his dog. Dog made them happy. Back to point … this does relate to wife meter.

Watching dog friends and wife, and thought maybe we could turn them into game players. We could expand user base by doing this. Saw elements of dog training I could turn into a video game. Showed wife and she looked at it in different perspective. Then came Brain Age. This is the game that turned her into a true gamer. She has accepted games into daily life. Wife meter went up even more. Today, of course, we have a Wii. Last month, on Valentine’s Day, in Japan women give chocolate to men. I came home late from work and expected her to be asleep and heard the sounds of the Wii. Thought she waited up to give me chocolates, but instead she was voting on votes channel. She herself used the Wii and downloaded the channel on her own.

Showing Brain Age 2 with Dr. Mario-type game in it. Wife says she can beat Miyamoto at anytime. She turned into a hard core gamer much faster than I expected. Wife meter jumped dramatically. Now she’s playing a lot of Wii Sports. She makes Miis for everyone and enjoys showing them to everybody. This is very lucky for me. Because now she’s getting a taste for what it’s like to create something. Her first step toward game design. We’ll be competing now and she’ll come up with unique idea. When she does, I can retire.

–Second: Balance. Devotion to entertainment business. We don’t have to worry about expanding business and diversification. Makes us more efficient not to have to focus on extras. At Nintendo, all teams work together in same building. Chance for collaboration happens all day long. I’ve been involved with the design of every control since the NES. The people I worked with in designing them had worked with me previously. We understood each other and worked very effectively as a team. Don’t want people to think that anyone person created a controller, it was a group effort. We had different teams try to reconcile view points. One team focused on gameplay, another team want gamers to continue to play historic franchise. A third group wanted to make sure 3rd-party games could be played with new controller. The Wii team wanted a controller that would be simple and accessible to everyone. Some people didn’t want something so different that it would turn backs on past. Had dozens of prototypes.

Took prototypes and created test programs for each one. Asked what shape it should be, what technology, elements, that would create the most entertainment for the most users. Any idea could be suggested, but we felt we were at a long tunnel with no light at the end. Finally, thought we would mimic the look of a TV remote. The final version is the result of a very widespread collaboration. We took these conversations to the extreme, balancing software and hardware. With recent advances in portable, did we really need a home console … (couldn’t understand what he said there). With Wiimote, felt we moved out of long tunnel.

As a controller, the Wiimote does a lot of what I dreamed of for many years. It’s important to make hardware that is compatible for software designed for other systems. But, want creators to give unique experiences. This is Nintendo’s mission. Going to use our experience to create new and better entertainment. Nintendo’s definition of technical progress has to do with interface as well.

Showing a picture of a building now, a museum in Kyoko. Place has nothing to do with video games, but it’s a museum that has playing cards from Japanese history. Talking about cards and how Nintendo made them. He was put in charge with putting together attractions for this facility. Showing slick technical exhibition with LCDs on the floor and when you enter, you get your own modified DS. Museum knows where you are and you can change cards. Just showing all the cool stuff he did at this museum and what you can do while you’re there.

Most rewarding part of experience was seeing the bridge in gap between generations. Our priority with this project was to provide the young and others to touch and learn traditional culture. More important than offering detailed info. Feel we’re expanding entertainment in new way.

–Third: Risk. Encourage employees to do things differently than anyone else. Nintendo prepared self for risk. Challenged our own definition of what a video game is. Good example is the Nintendo DS and the Touch Generations titles. Our ultimate goal is to make games fun. None of our risks has ever rivaled the Wii. GameCube was a half step in working toward an expanded audience. I wanted it to appeal to a wider audience.

That’s why in the design of the controller I wanted the A button larger and a different color. I wanted anyone to pick it up and start playing. In the end, too complicated for new gamers. In the Wii, we had to debate that and ask how to evolve. We dared to take the greater risk. In all honesty, there were concerns, even from me. For the last 20 years, we’ve been creating controllers you have to use 2 hands with and this was a big departure. While development was going on, I was an evangelist in the company. Have to think about what is gained, not lost. I gave myself confidence by always doing this. Spoke with Iwata about it several times and the more we talked together, the better we felt.

Wasn’t until last spring at E3 when we saw the lines and happy faces and that was the moment when we knew the risk was worth taking. Corporate vision is essential, but people make video games, not corporations. Moving to his own personal vision. Always asked where I got my ideas on characters and levels. Primary focus is imagining the face of the player when he/she experiences the game. I want to know how the players will feel, I want them to be entertained. I was reminded when we launched the DS in Japan. Showing pictures of people playing the DS for the first time.

Not only is the person playing the game entertained, but the person caught in the excitement is as well. That’s what I wanted. My personal view as a designer is I always was that reaction to be positive. We use a variety of emotions in games. I always want final emotion to be positive. I understand that other designers work with other emotions, and that’s fine. There is no right or wrong in feelings triggered. In my personal case, the feeling I go for is positive.

I keep picture of player’s mind throughout development. If I see it go astray, then I take a risk. I just want to make sure the game is as fun as possible. We as game designers make the same mistake, we know too much about the game we’re making. We forget gamers will come into it and not know the game we created. It’s a common mistake. When we create a game, we have to force ourselves to make game from viewpoint of game player.

I believe my vision of a happy player’s face is also a good match for Nintendo. I should say that these positive emotions are effective in expanding the market. When someone is experiencing joy, then others see that and want to try themselves. Seeing that in Japan with Wii Play. The game seems too elementary for core gamers, but we learned many core gamers enjoy Wii Play because there is new value in software — it’s a game they can play with their own friends. Game reviewers need to add new category — How fun it is for people who don’t play them. Game players are encouraged to think about what they do in the game and this interests  me.

–Communication. It’s a key topic, but many games don’t have anything to do with communication. Talking about the old games. These games are very popular because they provide a personal sense of fulfillment. I thought Zelda could create a different kind of communication within game itself. Some people didn’t want multiple paths, but I ignored them. Instead of making the game easier, I took the sword away from them.

Back then, no chat rooms, but still players found way to communicate. In this sense, Zelda was inspiration for Animal Crossing. A game based solely on communication, no competition. Our team were looking for elements that would make the player happy for just moving player around the world. Found many hard core gamers like it as well. Not all gamers are looking for best graphics, audio or better production.

–Prioritization. Not enough people, budget, time. We want maximum enjoyment for players. Sometimes we think content and graphics will lead to more enjoyment. As a developer, I don’t want to disappoint people and I go to Iwata with same complaints. He responds with, “too bad.” He really means I need to use my head a little more. Applying prioritization to Wii Sports: If there ever was a game I wanted to add realism to it was baseball. But the Wii Sports game only has one stadium and other features are lost. The games only last 3 innings, and that’s not very realistic at all. Thought of better ways by making the game “feel” realistic. We thought with the Wiimote we could create a new kind of realism. It would allow people who didn’t understand fundamentals of baseball to enjoy the game. At one point, we tried to use Mario characters, but we found without arms and legs, people like current style better. By applying prioritization, we completed it on time. We now have a baseball game that can be enjoyed by everyone. People are shocked they can play without pressing a button.

–Tenacity. We’ve done something very simple. We waited for the right technology to come along. Famicon is example of tenacity. Now talking about N64.

–People here are sleeping.

–Miyamoto: free pass.

–Showing more old footage and old Nintendo stuff.

–Showing game with characters dancing. Trying to wake up crowd with music and clapping. People are wiping the drool off their face.

–Team thought about how to use older ideas on the Wii — specifically face creation. Working on idea for 20 years, but was never able to do much with it. Creating Miis didn’t need to be a game in of itself. Could stand in for characters. Because of WiiConnect 24 you can share with friends. I had been seeing things backwards. By insisting advance in hardware, it turned into less of a game and more of a utility. We were creating something the average person would see as too complicated. We were reducing the number of people that could use it. Once we reconsidered, all the problems were solved. Pursuing latest technology is one way to advance. Talking more about Mii channel.

–One final example of tenacity. Showing Mario and how he came from humble beginnings, been in too many games, perhaps. What happened to Mario 128? Mentioned theory 10 years ago and showed tech demo in 2000. The purpose of demo was to show GameCube tech that could change Mario games. Mario 128 turned into a game called Pikmin. Another element of Mario 128 is Super Mario Galaxy. The power of the Wii allows us to bring this to reality.

–Showing Mario Galaxy. Mario is flying. Jumping and running and stuff. Looks like a huge world, maybe. Very abstract. Odd worlds, full of color. Had a kind of Elebits moment at the end. You’ll be able to play it this year.

–My main message is that creative vision is not just one element. It is the very essence of game design. Your vision does not have to be my vision. The future of our industry depends on how successful you will be applying your vision to video games. Indie games have given me hope. We must reach out to others.

–One last look at the how the gamer used to look 10 years ago and how it has changed because of the Wii. Our job is to entertain. We must always remember the human touch. Consider the number of new gamers Wii Sports has brought into the fold.

–Talks about how if we can convince his wife, we can get anybody.

–That is it. Wow, nothing happened.
 


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