Hi, I'm Nogami from the Entertainment Analysis and Development Department (EAD). I worked as one of the two directors for the Mii Channel.
I'm Takahashi from the Software Planning and Development Department (SPD). Along with Nogami-san, I worked as the director.
Hi, I'm Okamoto, and I'm also from SPD. I designed the parts for the Miis in the Mii Channel.
I'm Shiraiwa from EAD. I was responsible for the overall programming for the Mii Channel and the Mii characters.
In the Mii Channel, you can make characters called Miis. You're then able to take the Mii's you've created and use them in other games, but this concept of creating caricature characters of yourself and people you know so they can be used in video games, was a concept that (Shigeru) Miyamoto-san had for a very long time. Miyamoto-san's concept called the "Make someone you know project" came up several times in the past, but most of the past attempts never led to fruition. You can say that he was persistent, but you can also say that he was stubborn! (laughs)
His concept first saw the light of day as the
Mario Artist: Talent Studio for the Nintendo 64DD. It was a great title if you were able to manage its controls, but thinking in retrospect, I think the hurdle for that software was set a little too high for a lot of people. At the time of its release, the trend was to make things more feature-rich, and the software suffered from the controls being too complex.
The "Make someone you know project" lived on to the time when we were developing Wii Sports and Wii Play, which were both being developed for Wii. At this point, Miyamoto-san had renamed this project to the "Kokeshi Concept". Kokeshis, which are traditional Japanese dolls with a cylindrically shaped body and a round head, eventually became what is now known as Miis. The major difference that the Mii had compared to the past concepts, was that Miyamoto-san now had a clear goal where he wanted the Mii data to be transferable to the Wii Remote, where it then could be carried around. But in order to be able to put a Mii inside a Wii Remote, we had to keep the file size as small as possible. Because of that, our development task became much more complex, and I was having a hard time figuring out what to do.
At about the time we were working hard on the Kokeshi, another project that was completely different from ours was progressing within the company.
At SPD, where Okamoto-san and myself work, we were making software where you're able to register a lot of friends for the Nintendo DS. Within it, we were developing software that was sort of like a Fukuwarai (traditional Japanese face puzzle), where you place different parts of the face like eyes and nose on a drawing of a face, thinking people would get attached to it more if the software had a feature like that. At that time, we were completely unaware of the Kokeshi Concept.
At first, the Fukuwarai simply was about placing facial parts in pre-determined areas on the face. But as we were making all these faces of people, a concern came up that with the current features, we might not be able to make our boss, Sakamoto-san's face! (laughs)
Then, Sakamoto-san had personally told us to "make it so you can make non-normal faces like mine!" (laughs)
We were discussing how it would look more like Sakamoto-san if the nose were bigger, the mouth larger, the eyes droopier...and so forth.
Then an idea came along where you would be able to turn the parts' angles, move them around, and change their size. By being able to move the eyes' position in all directions, and by slightly changing the eyes' angles, the face looked strikingly closer to that person.
As I was designing the parts, I hadn't even thought about changing the parts' sizes at all, so I added on that new feature with doubts in my mind. But when I used it to make a caricature, it looked really good, and I thought if it worked this good it had to go in. From then on I worked on adjusting the feature.
After we made a bunch of facial data of people within the company, Sakamoto-san presented the software to Iwata-san. At that time, Iwata-san had heard from Miyamoto-san a number of times about how he wanted to be able to make everyone's faces, and he was also well aware that there were talks about implementing the Kokeshi Concept on Wii. So when he saw this software that was being created in a completely unrelated area from Miyamoto-san and his concept, he thought that this was exactly what Miyamoto-san was looking for, and he showed it to Miyamoto-san right away.
When Miyamoto-san saw the caricature software, something must have clicked in him; he approached and talked to me about that software. He came to me without warning, and all I could do was just ask him if I could see that software before anything else. That's when I went to go talk to Takahashi-san.
Nogami-san, who I've never worked with before, just came up and talked to me one day out of the blue! (laughs)
That's when I saw the caricature software being developed for the DS, and figured it out. I thought "so this is what Miyamoto-san wants to do!" I heard about this later, but it turns out that Iwata-san was also a little weary of hearing Miyamoto-san talk about the Kokeshi Concept, and he was thinking "kokeshi? Miyamoto-san, not those kokeshis again, please..." (laughs) But he always felt that since it was something Miyamoto-san has been talking about for such a long time, he thought that there was something special about it. And one day, he just happened to stumble upon the caricature software that Takahashi-san's team was working on, and he strongly felt that "this was it."
Right after he showed the software to Miyamoto-san, which at that point nothing about it had been set in stone, Iwata-san showcased the DS software on a TV screen in a meeting that was attended by a large group of people... Including the caricature of Iwata-san, we made caricatures of people completely without their permission, and I actually got worried that it was going to make a lot of people upset! (laughs) Caricatures don't always turn out to that person's liking, because they may not turn out to be the way that person envisioned themselves to be. But luckily, in the meeting they were well received.
Including myself, to the staff working at SPD, the Miyamoto-san led EAD where Nogami-san and Shiraiwa-san works, is a completely different world. We had always imagined that things in EAD were very punctual. On the other hand, the SPD where we work at, is a little different. It has a different mood. While the EAD develops big projects that take years to develop like The Legend of Zelda, we have a tendency to develop games like WarioWare: Smooth Moves, which are more impulsive and a little out of the ordinary! (laughs) At first when I was asked to show the software, I was actually worried that they might take away the entire project and claim it as their own! (laughs) However, as I was listening, it seemed like this whole thing was leading to a massive project.
After that discussion, it turned out that we would go to EAD to work on the Mii Channel for Wii.
Our boss sent us out saying "think of it as a part of your training!" (laughs)
At first, I was also working within EAD on a Wii experiment that was completely unrelated with what Nogami-san was doing. Then one day, my boss brought along a DS, and showed me the caricature software that Takahashi-san's team had made. As I was watching it saying "they're making some interesting stuff, aren't they?", he told me "well, we have to build this into Wii..."
Ah, another person who became involved with this project without being fully aware of what's going on! (laughs)
Including Takahashi-san and Okamoto-san, the people we teamed up with from SPD were all very young. This was the first time that I was one of the oldest people in a project team, so I was actually worried in the beginning. In past projects when there was a senior member above me, if somebody came up to me and asked something I didn't know of, I was just able to tell them to go ask that person in charge. But as I became the senior member of the team, I had to be the one to clearly explain everything because now, everyone came to me when they had any questions. It was now my responsibility if the staff didn't know something that they were supposed to. I learned that understanding something for yourself, is very different from understanding something enough that you're able to explain it to others.
Ever since SPD was created at Nintendo, this was the first time where they worked this closely with EAD in a joint project. Now, Takahashi-san just said how we were punctual...I agree that we do have that nature, but actually, Miyamoto-san likes things that are out of the ordinary, too! (laughs)
The first time I saw the caricature software that Takahashi-san's team was working on...I use the phrase "walking on a very thin line" a lot, but I felt that this was something if the balance were to change even just slightly, it might lose the positive traits that it had. I felt that to make this really come to life, we had to be extremely careful in what we did. I also felt that we needed to raise the picture quality, since this was going to be viewed on large screens like a TV, which are much more larger than the screens on a DS.
During development, there was a concern that this may not be able to recreate a non-Japanese person's face. We once made a face of one of the NOA (Nintendo of America) executives, and when Iwata-san showed that face when he went over to the US, it was a big hit. So at the time, I thought that this was going to work out.
However, after that had happened, there was an occasion where the executives from NOA (Nintendo of America) and NOE (Nintendo of Europe) visited Japan, and Miyamoto-san had asked us to make their caricatures because he was going to show those to them the next day. Miyamoto-san took the faces that I had made to the meeting, but he came back saying "they didn't like it at all..."
Thinking back, what Iwata-san showed in the US was the DS version, which didn't have a whole lot of detail. That may have worked for the better, because that made people use their imagination to fill in those details for their liking. But the Wii version that Miyamoto-san used showed the lines very clearly, and unless you really work on the details, the face will actually emphasize the parts that don't look like that person.
After that, I asked our contact at NOA (Nintendo of America) and NOE (Nintendo of Europe) if they could send me their pictures, and I continued to fine-tune it by asking a lot of questions to them, like "what kinds of eyes, noses and hairstyles should we add to make the faces easier to make?"
Once we started to get concerned about the details, people started to wonder things like how there may not be enough parts, and how it may need to better express all the various people's faces.
It's just that there is no single part that would resolve everything. If we answered to all the requests for new parts, there just would be too many parts. Besides, I felt that if there were too many parts to choose from, people may not be able to get into it, and it may become difficult to use.
There was also the requirement that the data had to fit inside a Wii Remote so it could be carried around, so we worked up to the last minute on trying to make the same parts usable in many ways, so the data won't get too large by having to add extra parts.
I also agreed in not adding too many parts, so I responded to some of the requests by saying "I won't make that part because I don't think we need it." (laughs)
Even then, we received new parts requests from everywhere, and I can't remember how many times I had to turn those requests down! (laughs)
And with the expressions, it also became one of our goals to cut it down and make the data as small as possible. For example, the action where they close their eyes; it works by turning all of the eye types into a line, but someone said that they wanted to make a closed eye pattern for all the available eye types. We decided against it because if we did that, the amount of the programming involved, and the overall file size would just become too huge.
As we aimed to make it simple, pretty much all the elements that were made in the DS version were brought to life. Like the way they raise their eyebrows and eyes when they get mad. These animations are pretty basic, but I think it turned out really well.
We received opinions from people with artistic talents, about how they wanted more color variations, and how they wanted a color chart so that they're able to choose from any color they want when they're deciding on things like the hair color. But I felt that if we used a color chart, it would become too complicated for ordinary people. I mean, the Mii Channel was created to be something that can be used by the entire family. That's why it became the way it is now.
When you make a feature where the players are able to create something on their own, I can say from past experiences that only about one in ten, if not, only one out of fifty people would ever use it. Only those with artistic talents and experience would spend time to make such a thing. From that perspective, I think the Mii Channel is something that is used extremely often by our customers.
With the design involved in the Mii Channel, it was more important in deciding what we could take out, rather than adding things in. I think we were fortunate that many of our staff were naturals at taking unnecessary elements out, and how we were all able to share the same values when it came to deciding what was less important. As a result, I think it became something that can be casually used by all kinds of people.
The idea of having the Miis travel (via the Wii console) was there from very early on. For example in Wii Sports, a Mii of a friend that you've played with before can be watching your game as one of the spectators, and in Wii Music (scheduled for release in 2007 in Japan), we thought it would be great if somebody you know were in your orchestra. We've been thinking of ways to make these things happen for a very long time.
Once you make a Mii in the Mii Channel, that Mii will be placed in the Mii Plaza. Miis sent from other Wii consoles will be placed in the Mii Plaza too, but sometimes they'll pop up in the Mii Parade.
Miis will also travel from your friend's friends, and their friends. The more Wii Friends you have, the more you can mingle with other people.
I'm often asked on how people can add more Miis to the Mii Parade. When you select "Travel", it says right there on the screen "To attract traveling Miis, set up your network connection, turn WiiConnect24 on, and register lots of Wii Friends.", but it looks like not many people actually read the fine print! (laughs)
Initially, the Mii capacity in the Mii Parade only allowed for a hundred Miis to be in the parade, just like in the Mii Plaza. But one day, Miyamoto-san came up and said
"let)s make 10,000 Miis appear in the Parade" just out of the blue! (laughs) Setting it to only have a hundred Miis, versus setting it to host 10,000 are completely different things, so all this was giving me a headache.
For about a week, we really had a hard time trying to figure it out... When you're talking 10,000, we had to have a massive amount of Miis ready. Then somebody came up with an idea to make Miis that people have erased show up every once in a while. So all the Miis the customers have erased, will still be stored invisibly.
So we had all the deleted Mii characters appear in the Parade, but then all the bad Miis that people messed up on started joining the Parade... That didn't look good at all.
Because we went through these things, at first it wasn't called the Mii Parade, but we were calling it "Sneak-in Plaza". It had a dark background, and it even looked a little depressing! (laughs)
But we decided that the term "Sneak-in" was too negative, and we were going to make things much brighter. We then made the background rainbow colors, and changed the name to Mii Parade. We eventually deleted the feature where the deleted Mii would reappear, and the Miis that now appear were those made by your Wii Friends, showing up on people's Wii using WiiConnect24.
Also, with the way the Miis travel, we held quite a heated debate on whether to have all the created Miis travel anywhere they pleased, or should it be that only allowed Miis could travel to certain consoles.
For example, there are parents that don't want caricatures of their child going places on their own, and there are parents who would prefer them going places as much as possible. We really had a hard time trying to accommodate all these different people's values!
In the end, we made it so you are able to change the Travel settings on every Wii, and you can also change the Mingle setting for all individual Miis.
I use Wii at home, and I was thrilled when a Mii arrived from my friend for the first time. I would really like our customers to use WiiConnect24 to Mingle their Miis. You first need to change the settings though, the Travel setting is set to "Don't Travel" by default, so that needs to be changed to "Travel", and each of the Mii's setting needs to be changed to "Mingle".
Right. I would like to express that you're not using the full potential of the Miis unless you make them travel between your friends.
What's so fun about the Mii Parade is that someone created all the Miis that are there. Even if they're by people who you've never met, they were created by someone. That means live data is constantly being accumulated in the Mii Parade.
They say that you can be connected to anybody in the world within six people, so maybe some of the Miis have traveled half way around the world.
One more thing; there's another way for Miis to arrive to your Wii. (In Japan only at this time), Nintendo sometimes sends out messages to our customers' Wiis, and you can attach and send a Mii with these messages. Just recently, we sent our customers in Japan Miis of the Japanese celebrities Sanma Akashiya and Shuzo Matsuoka. For those of you that live in Japan, please try connecting your Wii to the Internet if you haven't received them yet.
Takahashi-san's team wasted no time in using the Miis for the Everybody Votes Channel, but I think that Channel works because it uses Miis.
I agree. If you're just going to vote, simply displaying the people's name would have worked just fine, but it felt like that wasn't enough. When we tried it with Miis though, we were convinced that it worked so good there would be no better way to do this, and we moved ahead in developing it using Miis.
I would like to make plans for as many games as possible that use Miis. So at this point, I would really like our customers to make as many Miis as possible to get ready for those games.
For me, as this was the very first software that I was responsible for since I started working for Nintendo, being able to finish this by having so many people help me out along the way made me very happy.
Pictures made by a single designer appearing in all these different places doesn't happen very often. Thinking how Okamoto-san's work will appear in even more titles in the future, it truly has been a precious experience.
As for me, I'm extremely happy that I was able to work with people in another department, and how we were able to work in such a great atmosphere up till the very end. And I'm also very happy to know that Miyamoto-san's persistence finally came to fruition as the Mii Channel. Looking at it now, I can't imagine a Wii without it.