While going through the process of trial and error in making the Wii Wheel, you had lots of people hold and evaluate it. Does anything from that process stick out in your mind?
When we were recording, we realised it was good to have the voice actors actually play the game.
I see. They said their lines while actually playing the game.
This time, Miis appear as players, so we hired four male and four female voice actors. One of the female actors said that, while she does have a driver’s license, she doesn’t drive very much because she isn’t very good at it. She said this game was no problem, though. That was when I knew the game was going to be a success.
On the other hand, did you ever hear any opinions questioning the design?
The day after we sent the Wii Wheel to one of our overseas subsiduariarys, we got an e-mail right away asking if we could make it the game compatible with the controller for the GameCube, and wanted to know how the controls would be for the drifts and mini-turbos.
I understand that feeling. Change can be unsettling.
I told them not to worry because we had, of course, decided early on to make it compatible with the GameCube’s controller, and because once they used the Wii Wheel they’d see how fun it was.
So just with the controls of the Wii Wheel alone, you had absolute confidence.
Absolutely. That’s why we decided to show characters holding the Wii Wheel on the package. We really want people who think of conventional controllers as being difficult to try it out. When we made Mario Kart DS, my parents tried to play it together with their grandchild, but it was difficult for them to use the +Control Pad. They were saying, “This is hard!” I thought that was really too bad... It really drove home the need to make it even more user-friendly. So the Wii Wheel is a perfect fit for a broad audience.
But people who are used to conventional controllers will try to use the GameCube Controller or the Classic Controller in order to win matches or score good lap times, wouldn't they?
Yes, so we came up with a way of addressing that. We provided an incentive for using the Wii Wheel. When you battle someone you don’t know, and in the rankings as well, a Wii Wheel icon appears to the right of your nickname on the screen.
When someone using the GameCube controller gets passed by someone with the Wii Wheel icon, they’re really chagrined. But just like with the Mii Contest Channel for contests, where the number of parts for faces are limited, it’s more fun when there are restraints. When you can get a great time using the wheel, you’ve got a lot of bragging rights.
I bet there will be players who become Wii Wheel masters.
We spent long hours testing the game. Some of the staff members only use the Wii Wheel while they’re playing, and those people have climbed rather high in the rankings. And when you continue to use the wheel, you get a little treat... The wheel icon is white at first, but it changes to gold. We call it the Golden Wheel.
And if you cheat on the Wii Wheel by using a different controller, the icon will revert to white. Now, although the Wii Wheel is the main attraction, the motorbikes are also the main attraction.
Why did you decide to add motorbikes?
To be honest, there may have been some influence from my own hobbies. I love BMX bicycles and snowboarding. When we made the game for the DS, we wanted to put in some elements of extreme sports12 so the players could do some rough riding, but it was difficult to achieve in a handheld game. That’s why we decided to make it happen for the Wii.
That’s why there’s a course that has something like half-pipes.
Konno-san had been proposing ideas involving BMX bicycles ever since the GameCube version.
That idea was rejected flat out, because he doubted the idea of Mario riding a bicycle. (laughs) We were able to put the motorbike in the Wii game, and for a while we had even taken the “x” from “extreme” and were calling it “Mario Kart X”.
But the “X” had already been taken by Super Smash Bros.
Smash Bros. X (Super Smash Bros. Brawl in North America and Europe) was announced in 2006, but I’d decided on Mario Kart X a year before they did.
If I’d known that, when Sakurai-kun suggested Super Smash Bros. X, I might have stopped him. (laughs) By the way, Miyamoto-san, what did you think about the appearance of the motorbike this time?
I thought we could make the world of Mario a little more for boys, so I agreed right away about to adding an extreme-like element to the game.
What’s more, this time you can use the Wii Remote’s motion sensor to directly feel the intense action.
That’s why the motorbike is so inviting, and I think it’s suited to play with the Wii Remote. I shouldn’t say this too loudly, but personally I think not using the wheel when using motorbikes can be fun. Of course, using the Wii Wheel for the bike can also be fun, too, but you find yourself using it the way you would use the handles of a real bike! (laughs)
We performed a lot of tests fine tuning the motion sensor. The basic movement of the Wii Wheel is turning it, but you can also drive by tilting the Wii Remote to the right or left as you would with a real motorbike.
Some people may want to use it level, like the steering wheels of some large trucks.
We made it so that it won’t detect horizontal rotation. We learned from observing people who test-played the game, that a lot of people, rather than turning the Wii Wheel with their hands, use their whole body to move it drastically from side to side, so we adjusted it so it could react to those kinds of movement as well. This time we had asked a lot of people to test-play the game, and among them were people in their 50s and 60s. After playing the game, one of them said it reminded him of what it felt like when he used to ride a 750cc motorcycle years ago. He said using the Wii Wheel came so naturally that it brought back when he used to ride a motorcycle.
That speaks well of the developers.
I think that’s why the Wii Wheel has been getting good reviews.
On a different note, as touched upon earlier when we were discussing the voice talents, this is the first time Miis and Mario compete together.
We decided on that as we discussed this with Miyamoto-san. We thought that if no one but Miis appeared at the start, the game wouldn’t feel much like Mario Kart, so we made it so Miis can be chosen later on.
If Miis were out at the start, it would be called Mii Kart.
The programmer this time had also been working on the Mii Channel, so the work went smoothly.
Originally, that programmer for the Mii Channel was in the Mario Kart Wii team, but Miyamoto-san took him away to work on Miis.
But as a result of that, we were able to introduce a lot of cool features into Mario Kart Wii. The spectator stands are full of cheering Miis, and they can be seen in the course backgrounds. For example, the Yoshi sphinx may be on the track, but then all of a sudden he may be your father’s Mii. From a technological perspective, that wouldn’t be possible without fully understanding how the Miis work.
I see. In other words, Miyamoto-san was looking ahead to Mario Kart Wii when he had the programmer work on the Miis.
No, it was just coincidence. (laughs) Even if you’re not good at making your own Mii, you can get ones you like on the Mii Contest Channel. It’s fun to have full and boisterous spectator stands. But maybe we should have released it as Mii Kart instead? We could have surprised everyone by having Mario show up halfway through as a hidden character.
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