Today I will be discussing the Nintendo 3DS title, New Art Academy, and finding out more about how it came about. I’m joined here in Japan by members of the Nintendo development team, along with two representatives of Kuju Entertainment in the UK. I’d like to start by asking each of you to briefly introduce yourselves. Could we start with my two guests from Kuju Entertainment?
Certainly. My name is Tancred Dyke-Wells and I have worked for eleven years for Headstrong Games, one of the development studios that make up Kuju Entertainment1. I worked on the previous Art Academy2 title and was involved in this new title as a supervisor, responsible for the overall planning of the project in terms of the art content and software design. 1 Kuju Entertainment: A British game developer with a number of development studios. It was founded in 1998. 2 Art Academy: Software that was initially released as the two separate Nintendo DSiWare titles, Nintendo DSiWare Art Academy First & Second Semester, which came out in Europe in late 2009 and early 2010 respectively. These two titles were packaged together and appeared on the Nintendo DS as Art Academy, released in Europe in August 2010.
My name is Jason Howard, and I have been involved in this project since the original Art Academy. As the lead artist, I oversaw the creation and editing of the individual art lessons.
My name is Keisuke Terasaki, and I work in the Software Planning & Development Department at Nintendo. My official role in this project was as the producer, but in fact my real role was to be ‘Student A’! (laughs)
So the two of you from Headstrong Games were the teachers, the sensei, and Terasaki-san was ‘Student A’. (laughs)
That’s right. I have been ‘Student A’ since the original Art Academy.
Ever since the first Art Academy, Terasaki-san has been coming to me saying ‘Look what I did!’, proudly showing me the pictures he has come up with,
I’d say that the pair of you sitting beside Terasaki-san today have had even more experience than me of him showing off his handiwork.
Absolutely! (laughs) My name is Kaori Miyachi, and Terasaki-san has shown me a huge amount of his pictures.
In terms of the development of this title, I have been involved in all manner of things, from supervising the contents to giving support to the rest of the team. But I would say that my real role in this software has been as ‘Student B’.
I see! (laughs) And so I take it that makes Ichijo-san ‘Student C’.
That’s right! You’ve introduced me before I got the chance! (laughs) My name is Yuji Ichijo and I am indeed ‘Student C’. I only became involved in this project part of the way through, so I suppose you can think of me as a kind of transfer student. On this title, I was chiefly involved on the system side, utilising the capabilities of Nintendo 3DS.
Now before we look at the software in detail, I wonder if Terasaki-san and Tancred could tell me a little more about how Headstrong Games and Nintendo came to collaborate in the first place.
Sure. I actually thought that you’d probably ask about this, so I went and did a little research. It turns out I first met Tancred in August of 2003.
So that was exactly nine years ago.
That’s right. I had gone to London to visit Kuju’s studios before Headstrong Games existed. I was going to take a look at the prototype for what would later become Battalion Wars3, and that’s when I met Tancred for the first time. 3 Battalion Wars: A strategy war game released in Europe in December 2005 for the Nintendo GameCube. A sequel for Wii was released in Europe in February 2008.
Tancred, can I ask you about your initial impressions when you first became involved with Nintendo?
Well, as Terasaki-san just said, it’s been nine years since that initial meeting, so casting my mind back and trying to remember all the details of that first encounter is actually quite difficult, but I know that I found it very exciting. When development began on Battalion Wars, I got to experience the unique way that Nintendo went about things, and learned about the philosophy the company applies to game design.
So you made two Battalion Wars titles, then went on to work on Art Academy.
You wouldn’t think that the same people had been behind those two very different titles. They both come from completely different genres, and have very different aims.
Yes, you’re right! (laughs)
Can you tell me where the idea for Art Academy originally came from?
The development studio where I work had originally been focused on military and horror-themed titles. It’s very difficult to explain how we went from there to working on Art Academy, but if I had to put my finger on it, I’d say it was connected to the importance we had always attached to the art style in our games.
So you had developed games in which you’d paid a great deal of attention to the art style.
Yes, that’s right. Then, when I came to study the hardware for Nintendo DS, I remember wondering what exactly the stylus could be used for. I realised that it could be used for drawing pictures, that the Touch Screen could function as a canvas or sketchbook, and that tutorials could be displayed on the upper screen. These ideas came to me one after the other.
So the basic concept of Art Academy came to you just like that.
Right. Now, you just mentioned that you’d never think that the team that created Battalion Wars would be behind something like Art Academy, and I think you’re exactly right. This was why I needed to win over the management at Kuju before presenting my idea to Nintendo.
I can imagine your colleagues were very taken aback when a team who’d been working on combat strategy games suddenly announced that they wanted to develop art training software.
Yes, they were. Anyway, we came up with a prototype for the software and managed to get our company’s approval before showing it to Terasaki-san.
Terasaki-san, the first person at Nintendo to be shown that prototype, would subsequently become the driving force behind the project’s development in his role as ‘Student A’.
What was it that convinced you to get so involved in this project?
Well, working at a games company, you’re surrounded by a lot of professional artists. I’m sure you can relate to what I’m saying, Iwata-san! (laughs)
Absolutely. We are surrounded by really gifted artists! (laughs)
When you’re in that kind of environment, you end up thinking ‘I just can’t draw!’
What did you study originally?
So circuit boards and...
No. Can’t draw them. I’ve always hated drawing.
You actively hated it? (laughs)
When I approached the prototype for Art Academy, I was extremely conscious of how poor I was at drawing, but I decided I would force myself to spend half an hour trying to create something using it. I got the developer to make it so the lessons were basically thirty minutes in length. Then I attempted to draw an apple, and what do you know? I actually managed it.
I remember you coming to me wanting to show off this apple that you’d drawn.
That’s right. I thought that if I was this happy to have managed to draw an apple, there would be plenty of other people out there who would feel the same way.
In the final version of the software, that lesson that Terasaki-san initially did entailed drawing a red apple. But for the prototype, it had been a green apple. So as far as we’re concerned, this green apple represented the green light to proceed with the project.
That’s a really good line, Tancred-sensei! (laughs)