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Is Miyamoto interfering too much with other teams' games? [roundtable]
 
Those who've been following Nintendo development lately know that Shigeru Miyamoto tends to "upend the tea table" at times. But for all the guy's solid contributions to Nintendo, a few of his recent interferences have left me scratching my head.

It seems to have started with Super Mario Galaxy 2. Rosalina's storybook in the original Galaxy was an element that a lot of players enjoyed (even if it would've been nice to be able to skip it), and while SMG2 gets to the action in a quicker way, many feel that some of the charm is lost when that extra bit of atmosphere/backstory is missing.

As it turns out, Miyamoto vetoed the idea of more story in Galaxy 2. A snippet:

But does he really agree with his boss, or has Koizumi just been overruled? In an interview with Wired.com in 2007, Koizumi said that he’s been trying to sneak bits of story into Mario and Zelda games for his entire career at Nintendo, even as Miyamoto has been trying to keep them out.

I told Miyamoto about what Koizumi had said, and he looked slightly taken aback.

“He said that?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I put a stop to that at the beginning, this time,” he said, and for emphasis punched the air with his fist.


Super Mario Galaxy's backstory added some development to Rosalina, but was it necessary? Shiggy says no.


Now, I realize that story in Mario is a bit of a split subject, as many players feel SMG2's focus on platforming led to an ultimately stronger game that had better pacing. But it wasn't until a few months later where another platformer released that had some Miyamoto interference...

After simply running back and forth for ten minutes and watching the animations of Donkey Kong turning around, Shigeru Miyamoto told Retro that it seemed like Donkey Kong was "blowing" when he created dust clouds. The "blow" mechanic used in Donkey Kong Country Returns was born from this off-handed remark.

As it turns out, Miyamoto told Retro to put the blowing mechanic into Donkey Kong Country Returns. As much as I loved the game, I think the blowing was far too stop-and-go and unnecessary when you already had a much more visceral (and DK-ish) move with the ground slap.

Eh.

The main reason for this thread, though, is the recent talk of Miyamoto's involvement with Paper Mario: Sticker Star. From the latest Iwata Asks...

Iwata: Miyamoto-san really persevered with Paper Mario this time. Exactly what was he particular about?

Tanabe: Aside from wanting us to change the atmosphere a lot, there were two main things that Miyamoto-san said from the start of the project—"It's fine without a story, so do we really need one?" and "As much as possible, complete it with only characters from the Super Mario world.

Iwata: That's a difficult task. In some ways that would be the exact opposite direction from recent games in the series.


And now the consistently hilarious Bowser has no lines at all.

Now, I know the guy created Mario, but the fact that he's poking his way into second party titles--RPGs, no less--and imposing some major rules like "No original characters" (PMSS has only a single one) and "Do we really need a story?" seems awfully invasive and myopic.

On a side note, Yokota (Galaxy's outstanding composer) wanted to fully orchestrate the OoT 3D soundtrack, and Kondo told him to simply make it sound identical to the N64 version.

So what do you guys think? Has Miyamoto gone mad with power? Is the rigid conservatism of Nintendo damaging the quality of its games?

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Posted: 11/29/12, 18:56:34  - Edited by 
 on: 11/29/12, 18:59:30
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Yeah, I think he is. And he has such clout within the company that his word is the law. I think he should step back, and fall comfortably into a designer role, for eShop games and the occasional retail release.
Posted: 11/29/12, 19:02:41
You forgot Twilight Princess. That game was a mess because Miyamoto was constantly changing everything. No wonder it lacks direction.

It's amazing to argue that a RPG series needs no story and no new character.

TriforceBun said:
Rosalina's storybook in the original Galaxy was an element that a lot of players enjoyed (even if it would've been nice to be able to skip it).
What do you mean? You actually have to go out of your way into the library to follow the storybook snippets, you can ignore them altogether, don't you?
Posted: 11/29/12, 19:10:10
I agree. Nintendo has a very stubborn attitude regarding a lot of things and Miyamoto definitely isn't helping.

And yeah the Rosalina storybook is totally skippable. Thank God because I hated it
Posted: 11/29/12, 19:16:58  - Edited by 
 on: 11/29/12, 19:18:08
Simbabbad said:

TriforceBun said:
Rosalina's storybook in the original Galaxy was an element that a lot of players enjoyed (even if it would've been nice to be able to skip it).
What do you mean? You actually have to go out of your way into the library to follow the storybook snippets, you can ignore them altogether, don't you?

That's true, but I was referring more to the idea that if players merely enter the library, they're forced to watch the entire thing (or at least what's been unlocked up to that point). It's easy to skip the library on subsequent playthroughs, but first-time players will likely wander in there a few times on their own.
Posted: 11/29/12, 19:27:41
Yeah, I think he is. At some point they have to let their other creators do their own things. Having him make suggestions and considering his input is one thing, but making it law that must be followed regardless of what the people actually working on the game want is too much.
Posted: 11/29/12, 19:30:07
Miyamoto's word is law...design is law...

I know I've heard that somewhere before, and I don't think it ended well.
Posted: 11/29/12, 19:32:40
I adore Miyamoto and usually agree with his input on games, so it is tough to answer. In cases like the original Metroid Prime, for example, it seems that the team really needed his guidance to help whip everything into shape... and I usually always agree with his opinion that less story is better. Usually always. In an RPG? Uhhh, not so much.

I do have to say, I preferred his role in the 80s and 90s, where he had more personal input on his own projects instead of having his hands in everything. I look forward to seeing him go back to such a role, as he has recently been talking about, perhaps still being asked to look games over and give advice when they are struggling.

One of the bummers about a lot of Nintendo's top talent is that they have been put into similar roles, overseeing things as a "producer" rather than being so directly involved. I don't like it. I gather that it is seen as a promotion and the idea is to mentor the younger staff and protect the future... but I'm a firm believer in the idea that somebody should keep doing what they are best at. Spielberg, while taking on a lot of producer roles, never stopped directing movies himself, and John Williams never stopped composing music. Let Miyamoto and Tezuka direct games again! Let Koji Kondo compose music!
Posted: 11/29/12, 19:33:47
Jeff Gurstmann did this hilarious monologue in one of the recent bombcasts about how somewhere in Nintendo's ranks there is a young designer who is "the one" (like Neo from the Matrix) who will eventually rise in the ranks and usurp Miyamoto and change the future of Nintendo by finally breaking away from their formulaic game designs and reinvigorating their major franchises, I LOLed.

But in all seriousness, I think having someone Miyamoto, who is a game design God, but from a different era, is a bit of a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because he's simply unwilling to compromise on stellar gameplay and impeccably polished game design, but it's also a curse because he's unwilling to let some of the younger people express themselves and shake-up some of their starting-to-get-tired formulas.

Nintendo is in a weird place right now, some of their games do need some serious refreshing, Zelda for example, I love OoT, but I don't want another OoT style game, we've had 4 in a row. If they did reinvent Zelda, change everything about it, maybe make it more open world like Elder Scrolls, or make Link a voiced character and add en elaborate cinematic story, it would really scary because they could screw it up and ruin everything we love (Other M, cough cough), but it would also be really exciting because it could be just as good as the old games yet not so predictable in the way it plays out. Imagining Nintendo creating a Mario game that felt as fresh as Mario 64, a Zelda game that felt as fresh as OoT, or a Metroid game that feels as fresh as Metroid Prime, makes me all giddy inside! But for that too happen, I do think Miyamoto will have to loosen the reigns a little, give the younger people a chance, maybe they mess it up... but it's worth the risk, IMO.
Posted: 11/29/12, 19:41:35
@TriforceBun

But it's pretty obvious from the start that this room is the "storybook" room. If you go to the trouble of returning to it, it's because you want to see the story.

If anything, the fat star character in Galaxy 2 was a lot more annoying.

Anyway, in general, I think an artist has to be free to do what he wants. Of course, since this is a team's work, guidance or help can be necessary, just like with movies, but if someone constantly messes with what you're trying to achieve, how can you have any sort of vision and express something that has real meaning and consistency for the audience?

Like you pointed, the latest decisions from Miyamoto feel frankly out of touch, in a "er... what" way. The blowing is sort of painful. Even the scans in Metroid (not Miyamoto's idea, as far as I know) are arguable.
Posted: 11/29/12, 19:43:20
I find it hard to believe that Miyamoto could derail games that have a strong vision in the first place, but then again, I'm no more familiar with Japanese corporate structure than you guys. Maybe it's "not the game director's place" to question him? Heh.

That bit about Paper Mario taken out of context sounds bad, but then the team did find ways to inject more personality into each Toad. Sometimes great things are borne out of imposed limitations.
Posted: 11/29/12, 19:56:56
Oh god, the blowing! I still think NOJ was behind the shake rolling too.

deathly_hallows said:
If they did reinvent Zelda, change everything about it, maybe make it more open world like Elder Scrolls

Good god no. God almighty. NO.

Still, I agree that more change would be nice.
Posted: 11/29/12, 19:57:49  - Edited by 
 on: 11/29/12, 19:58:19
@Zero

The comparison to Elder Scrolls isn't apt, but Skyward Sword was, ironically, one of the most segmented Zelda games ever. The whole thing felt like a series of connected rooms, which for a game set in the sky, in a series that used to be about exploration, is pretty disappointing.

I don't want everything to change, of course.
Posted: 11/29/12, 20:02:20
@Zero
Well that's just an example, I honestly don't know what it needs, if I did I'd be a genius. Whatever it is, I hope it's more like the NES Zelda, because that game felt the most mysterious and free to me, the newer games are too compartmentalized, I want more freedom to explore from the very beginning, no 5 hr. intro please, give me a sword and let me loose on the world!
Posted: 11/29/12, 20:03:38
Yeah, screw that open world noise. If anything, the overworlds in 3D Zelda games need to get smaller.

There's nothing I hate more than big empty spaces that exist only for the sake of being big empty spaces.

But yeah, Zelda needs something new alright. They could start with a new developer. Aonuma and his team can work on some new action adventure game. And that is how new franchises are born, Nintendo!
Posted: 11/29/12, 20:05:21  - Edited by 
 on: 11/29/12, 20:08:15
I will tell you this:

I started Paper Mario:SS with a huge grin on my face. I even enjoyed the level layout. Unfortunately, the absolute lack of a story, constant running from enemies and the billions of Toad NPCs made me take a break from the game. I am starting to get a Super Paper Mario vibe from it (aside from the ridiculously long text bubbles). On the contrary, the dialogue that is there is really funny. I wish there was more of it, and a more varied world.

To answer the question, yeah, I feel that Miyamoto, as amazing as he has been, needs to step back from other team's projects. Maybe they can work through gameplay mechanics more democratically, pushing aside the current dictatorship.

Edit - I liked Rosalina's story.
Posted: 11/29/12, 20:06:19  - Edited by 
 on: 11/29/12, 20:08:00
A Link to the Past 2. Not the story but the style, the top down view, the level design. That's what I want.
Posted: 11/29/12, 20:06:23
@Hinph
What about big full spaces, full of secrets, treasures, monsters, adventure, glory?

@Guillaume
I'd love that for the 3DS, for Wii U I think I'd like something with more vistas, I want to be able to see some crazy mountain or fortress in the distance and know that I can get there somehow.

EDIT: What about it's top down on the TV but then the tablet shows you a first person view of the world....
Posted: 11/29/12, 20:06:49  - Edited by 
 on: 11/29/12, 20:10:25
@Guillaume

I can get into that, with maybe a dash of LoZ thrown in for good measure.
Posted: 11/29/12, 20:07:38
@deathly_hallows

I guess I shouldn't be completely closed minded to the idea, but I'm not sure it is right for Zelda. I think the overworld design is a huge part of that formula, and they have done a piss poor job with it since the series went 3D.

I hope the Link to the Past remake/sequel thing does happen just so they can go back and study the overworld of that game, because it's brilliant... and you don't even need a horse or bird or boat or train to get around it in a reasonable time!
Posted: 11/29/12, 20:13:13
@Zero

Why the vehement opposition? Zelda needs to return to its exploration roots. An open world of sorts is one of the very few ways this can be achieved. Maybe the Elder Scrolls comparison was a bit much, since I think the next Zelda overworld shouldn't be as huge and directionless as Skyrim was, for example, but that's still an important stepping stone in returning Zelda to the quality it once was (without letting the franchise transform into something that no longer has any connection with what it was originally intended to be, that is).

On-topic: I also feel like Miyamoto has interfered too much in others' games. And it's also his desire to interfere that is causing some issues as well, evidenced by the fact that Miyamoto recently all but said that Retro would never get their hands on any of the big Nintendo franchises because he wouldn't be able to oversee their work because of the distance. I understand that he's possessive of his IPs. I can't blame him for that. But when you purposefully hand off those IPs for others to create their own stories and ideas in that universe, I don't think you need to be there every major step of the way to hold their hands.
Posted: 11/29/12, 21:38:50  - Edited by 
 on: 11/29/12, 21:45:16
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