How was what you had at last year’s E3 different from the final product, in terms of the game elements?
We had a few versions before presenting at E3. The superheroes were fairly scattered around in the version we had then, and there were some strategy13 elements to it as well. Also, we put a lot of emphasis on having the heroes bump into something to make a shape, and there was a time when their unite attacks weren’t the focus like they are now.13. Strategy: A genre of simulation games.
At that time, the first impression a lot of people had of the game was that it seemed something like Pikmin14, when in fact they’re completely different games.14. Pikmin: An action game where you search for treasure while bringing strange creatures called Pikmin with you. The first game was released for Nintendo GameCube in Japan in October 2001, and in Europe in June 2002. The latest game in the series, Pikmin 3, was released for Wii U in July 2013.
It is a game where you bring a large group of characters around with you, so we tried a lot of different things to see what the possibilities were. We would make the game and dismantle it again and again, to try and figure out what pieces to put together to get the right gameplay.
It didn’t feel very good; it was as if we were running wild. We knew we had the foundation of the game, but we couldn’t use that to lead us to anything worthwhile.
But as far as Nintendo was concerned, since it was our first time collaborating with PlatinumGames, I think there was a time where we must have thought, “PlatinumGames have shown that they can get results themselves, so we should respect them and discover their value,” and so we took a step back and watched over them in a way.
There was that time. Although there came a point where we had to say something. So we had a lot of meetings about how to approach Kamiya-san directly.
Kamiya-san, how did you feel about Yamagami-san and Matsushita-san closing in?
Originally, I had somehow imagined that those requests would come in more systematically. I thought the requests that would come in would be very business-like.
Really? That was your image of Nintendo?
I thought you guys were going to reach out to me saying something like, “We did some user research and these are the results we got, so we want you to change it so it fits this.”
Like, “Marketing data proves you should go this way.”
Right. So I was surprised. This should have been obvious, but I was a little surprised at how human you guys were.
So your original image of Nintendo was of something that wasn’t human? (laughs)
And then on our side, we had a preconceived notion that Kamiya-san was scary. We still had a strong impression of him from how miffed he seemed the first time we met him, and of how he was on Twitter. But the more we met him, and saw how Kamiya-san reacted like “Oh, that makes sense” to things that we said on the spot, we realised that we just needed to be honest with him. And so we started to get closer after that.
If you have misgivings about something a person is telling you, you can just ask “Why is that?” then and there, and deepen your understanding. But you can’t have a conversation with data.
When people bring you data, it’s not actually their opinion, so there’s no point in arguing with them.
That’s right. So that was a good thing. And most of what they were saying was completely right.
But if I think about it now, if they had told me straight out, “When is this going to get any good?” I might have become discouraged and the project might have ended then and there.
We waited because we believed in you! (laughs) The development environment for Wii U wasn’t even done then, so I think that was part of what was making things difficult.
The development environment for Wii U wasn’t exactly ideal early on, so I’m sure that caused quite a hardship on you.
No, that didn’t affect it that much. The game was boring entirely because of our skill level.
So it was around the beginning of this year that the game you thought was so boring went through some big changes?
That’s right. If the only thing that a game where you have a lot of characters has got going for it is that a punch gets bigger when you attack, that’s not a whole lot different than having one character that can throw big punches. You can combine the characters’ strength to throw big punches, but I’ve been thinking that there was no point unless we could also incorporate a fighting style that really made use of the multiple characters.
That makes sense.
(turning to Matsushita-san) It was sometime at the end of last year that we added Climb Attack 15, where each person starts climbing up when you attack an enemy, wasn’t it? 15. Climb Attack: An attack where the heroes climb on an enemy to inflict damage. The attack can temporarily immobilise an enemy if the heroes keep climbing up on it.
That’s right. And somewhere around last fall, all the features we’d made until then were wiped out and the game was barely playable.
What happened there?
Until then we had a game balance where we distinguished between weak attacks and powerful attacks: the heroes separately attacking an enemy was the weak attack, and the heroes uniting together to attack was the strong attack. Then all of a sudden, we made a version of the game where there were no weak attacks.
That’s a big change. What were you trying to accomplish?
The basic method of fighting is to daunt your enemies by sending the heroes out and making them cling on, but if that’s all you do, you can’t create a big punch. I wanted to make a situation where you needed some sort of tactics.
Oh, and that’s where having multiple characters gets meaning.
That’s right. We added that choice early this year. We should have already had that part done when we entered into production, but we weren’t clear on what to do with it so we kept on working that way.
If you compare what we have now with what we had at last year’s E3, it was about 70 out of 100.
By the end of last year, we were already making the final tweaks to the game balance, and we were all thinking the state at that time was what we were going to finish with. So we all got in a bit of a panic, like “What’s happening!?”
Our development staff was on the same page as Matsushita-san, of course. We were all thinking, “We’ve already come this far, is it going to be alright to make such a huge change?”
I’m sure that must have put the team into a panic. After all, they have to take apart what they thought was nearly complete.
It was worrisome. And that kept happening from the last half into the final stages of development.
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