While Nintendo as a company and platform holder naturally has its ups and downs, many agree that its core, big-name games deliver a distinct level of quality and refinement. From the precision platforming in Mario games to the structure and design of Zelda titles, to recent examples such as Splatoon re-shaping how we play and control competitive shooters, there's a notable Nintendo style that often shines through.
Kotaku has now published an interesting interview that took place during E3, in which its editor Stephen Totilo sat down with Shigeru Miyamoto and Bill Trinen to primarily talk about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The topic pivots, somewhat, to more general principles of game development, which is also appropriate considering the manner in which the new Zelda title impressed media and audiences during the June event. That game's unveiling seemed to be a reminder, if we needed it, that the big N's star development teams still demonstrate extraordinary skill and creativity when the opportunity arises.
The interview addresses a number of topics; we've picked out an exchange about controls and the 'feel' of Nintendo games.
Kotaku: When I'm thinking about what sets a Nintendo game apart, often it's the feel of it. It's the controls. It's how Mario jumps in Super Mario 64, which just feels so good. I can't explain in words why that is. And I feel that in the better Nintendo games. I assume you feel it, too. How important are controls, and how hard is it to get them to feel as good as they feel?
Miyamoto: So you know programming is all about numbers. The challenge is getting this kind of feeling into numbers. So there's a lot of back and forth between the programmer and myself and the director. We really go in deep about how to create this feeling. We do a lot of back and forth.
Trinen: It actually goes back to the way they designed the original Super Mario Bros., where when they tested it, originally, there was no Mario and there was no person. It was just a block. And you would press the button and see the block move. There's actually a word in Japanese that describes what you're talking about–the feeling–which there is no word for in English. In Japanese it's called tegotae...
Miyamoto: ... tegotae...
Trinen: ...which if you were to translate directly sort of means 'hand response.' There's also hagotae, which is the sense that you get on your teeth when you're eating food. Tegotae is the word that you're describing when you talk about that feel of a Nintendo game and it goes back to the focus on the notion of pressing a button and what happens on screen and how do you feel.
Miyamoto: So the next one is weight. It's really important to make the player feel as if they are there. There are many different ways to create the idea of weight. So, for example, if someone jumps from a high place, how long that character stays there.
I think the other thing is response. If we really wanted to make something look pretty, we would just have [the] animator create it and you would just replay it. But there's no sense of control there. If a character is in front of a wall and they start moving like they're not in front of a wall, it creates that disconnect. And it becomes unnatural. So it's really about taking what the animator does and polishing it up and making it so it's interactive.
The full interview is most definitely worth a read, addressing a number of areas that reflect Miyamoto-san's principles and ideas for managing and creating high quality games. Shigeru Miyamoto also remarks at one point that he doesn't feel that he's 'gotten old' - we certainly hope he'll be leading and guiding development teams for years to come.