More About Wii...

Hi, I'm Kawamoto of the Software Development & Design Department. For the News Channel, I worked as the director.

 

I'm Matsushita, and I'm also from the Software Development & Design Department. I was responsible for the overall user interface design of the News Channel.

 

I am Fujikawa of the Research & Development Department. I'm in charge of the servers that distributes the news. I created the system where the news sent to us from the news source providers gets distributed to the News Channel.

My name is Suzuki, and I'm with the Software Planning & Development Department. I worked as the liaison that maintains communication between the internal development staff and the news source providers. The News Channel was scheduled to be launched simultaneously in North America, Europe and Japan, so maintaining communication with overseas news providers and overseas Nintendo subsidiaries also became one of my big responsibilities.

When development for the News Channel began, there were already hundreds of other news services around where people could get their news. If we tried to go against these services available on the Internet just by the amount and types of news that we could offer, there's no way we could compete. In the initial stages of development, we really had a hard time figuring out how to differentiate the News Channel with these other services.

Around the same time, a different team was working on the development of the Internet Channel. So that brought up concerns of how it may be enough for the users to just use the Internet Channel to check their news...

On top of that, when I heard that the Internet Channel can be downloaded to Wii for free until June of 2007, my mind went blank! (laughs) During the initial stages of development, there was a time where we were a little lost; we weren't able to find what was to be the trademark feature of the News Channel.

When the Slide Show feature was put in, that was when I had a firm conviction that we were on to something. Wii's original concept was so that it would add more channels to the TV, and the News Channel was developed so that it would look something close to how the headlines are displayed on a news program. And as we worked on the design,
it started to have its own style, and in the end I think we were successful in giving the News Channel its own characteristics that are different from other news services.

The Slide Show feature was originally developed because it was requested by NOA (Nintendo of America). At first, I really didn't understand its significance, but as I started working on it and tweaking the feature to fit my taste, the finished feature turned into one where you're also able to watch just that news category that you want to watch. During development, everyone in the team started to check the news on the News Channel. Everyone comes to work, and the first thing you do is turn on the News Channel.

When people in other teams saw that, they probably didn't think we were working. It looked like we were just watching the news! (laughs)

 

But because we were actually using it, we were able to see its flaws and discuss what needed to be done to fix them, and it was possible for us to put in the changes right away. For example, when we talked about how it would be better if you could be able to read the next news article using the left and right buttons on the +Control Pad, and how much better it would be if you could be able to change how long each news article is displayed during the Slide Show feature. Putting in these fixes as you're trying out the software is common when you're developing a video game, but doing something like this for an application was a new experience for me.

Also, with WiiConnect24, Wii consoles can download updated news regularly from the news server 24/7. This allowed the responsiveness of the News Channel to increase dramatically, and you can browse through the news one after the other very quickly. And with the way it feels when you display the next and previous articles using the +Control Pad, I think it ended up having a very different feel than that of the Internet Channel.

One other thing that we were able to clearly differentiate between the News Channel from the Internet Channel, was the way you can check the news as you spin the Globe.

Before working on the News Channel, I experimented making a software for the Nintendo DS where you could interact with a globe, but due to the hardware limitations of the DS, I wasn't able to get the globe to display at a satisfactory level. But I was certain the globe could be displayed perfectly on Wii, and when I tried it out, it work great just as I expected, as if all the pieces were coming together nicely. I first thought about using the globe thinking how great it would be if all the news happening all across the world could be displayed on a single globe.

I had many discussions with the content providers as to what would be the best way to have the news display on the correct places on the Globe. That proved to be very difficult, because the data format of the news data provided to us from the different providers such as Mainichi Newspaper, Nippon TV and overseas news source
providers are all different, and I had a hard time making them into a single format. The News Channel searches through each of the news articles to find the location of where they should be displayed on the Globe. The way the locations are written on each article is different so the feature's not perfect, but I think it works to a certain point.

When I first tried it out, it was fun just simply being able to turn the Globe. Add that with how the news articles are placed on the location where the news has occurred, it's now possible to figure out where a certain news story took place just by taking a quick glance at the Globe. Because of this, I think people are able to learn about new places that they didn't know of before, and I think this may be a good way for people to learn their geography.

When I saw a news article on Antarctica the other time, that made me very happy. When I saw that, I felt putting in the Globe was worthwhile.

 

This is a little hard for me to say, but towards the end of production, there was a bug where articles for Antarctica would disappear. It was fixed right before release, but I was very glad we were able to fix it. Especially right after launch, there actually was a news article that took place in Antarctica, so it was close! (laughs)

In developing a video game, I had experience working on a game that was to be launched in Japan and US at the same time. But for the News Channel, Europe now joined that list, and we developed the News Channel for all three regions simultaneously. With news articles, you can't just translate all the articles that are in Japanese. The news source providers are different, the news categories are different, and the data format the news source providers sends us, is of course, also different. Especially with the US and the European versions, they're more complicated than the Japanese version because the News Channel has to support all the different languages.

 

In that sense, I felt that it was completely different than developing a video game. There were three regions, so it felt more like making three different games at the same time. On top of that, the development of the Photo Channel and the Forecast Channel were also going on at the same time as well...

What was really hard for us, was figuring out what kind of a news service would feel natural for people living in the US and Europe. Being Japanese, what I thought was the standard way the news should be presented, was actually not a standard at all. I had many discussions with people living in those regions, asking them what would be best.

The cultural differences that came up were surprising. We were requested to display how long ago the news articles were released, and also to allow for more room for the text to be displayed in the article page.

Also, in the US and European news, you have to display the author of the news article. We didn't know that, so the News Channel was being developed without their names for a while until NOA (Nintendo of America) pointed that out to us. So we had a hard time adjusting things like the format to make room for the author's name.

From the point of view of the person that designs the server, the WiiConnect24 feature where the server communicates to Wii consoles all over the world without sleep, is actually a nightmare! (laughs) But to the customers, it's ideal for the news to already be downloaded to their Wii consoles when they check the news, so we teamed up with Akamai Technologies (a company that specialized in content delivery), because we wanted to make sure the news articles were delivered to the Wii consoles.

We're originally game developers, so we always feel that everything that we make needs to be fun. Even with the news, the blood running through our veins was telling us to make it fun! (laughs)

The reason we had all the news articles pile up on the Globe, was because we wanted to make it a fun and enjoyable experience.

There was this idea during development that it may be fun if Dad's Mii, created using the Mii Channel, would become the news caster to read all the news. We thought if Dad showed up as the news caster all the sudden, his kids might find that funny. But because subjects on some of the news articles may not be appropriate, this idea never saw the light of day...

I was careful in the design process to not make the overall design come out too strong. I mean, the star of the news is the articles, so I made sure that the designs were simple, and the text was easy to read. There is this feature where you can change the size of the text, but rather than just changing the text size, it was designed so that the line breaks would change along with it, so it would be easier to read the article. I think the way the text zooms in and out turned out really well. It's a lot of fun just looking at it.

The way the text zooms was there from the prototype. It can zoom in or out right away without the animation, but since that looked too boring, I utilized the program that I used in the Photo Channel to make it work for the text in the News Channel. When I put that in, the way it moved looked very new, like something I've never seen before.

Also, in the background of the Globe, you can see actual constellations like the Orion and the Big Dipper.

Just so we could do that, we got permission from the National Astronomical Observatory so we could use their star data. The surface temperature of the stars are reflected as well, so the reddish stars look red, and the bluish stars look blue. I think I went this far just so I can fulfill my personal taste! (laughs)

I was worried that the News Channel would end up becoming something that people who check their news and weather on the Internet regularly would not use, but I think it turned into something that has its own unique appeal. News articles are updated and stored on Wii all the time, and I would like as many people as possible to use it everyday. I hope people can give its responsiveness and its great sense of feel a try. Also, try pressing the A button during the Slide Show feature to take a look at some of the news articles that you're interested in. There may be some news that you would have never known of otherwise if you weren't using the News Channel.

This is a channel that I would like Moms and Dads, people who don't normally play games, to try out. Even if you don't watch the news regularly, it would be great if people would get interested in the news, by gazing through the Slide Show feature and interacting with the Globe.

Speaking about the Slide Show, I have a friend who checks the news on his bedroom PC when he gets home from work, because he doesn't want to wake up his family by the sound the TV makes. He told me that ever since he bought a Wii, he now checks the news using the Slide Show feature on the News Channel in the living room. And when he's doing that, he told me that he can also check to see what his family was doing with Wii that day using the Wii Message Board, and from that information, he's able to imagine how his family was playing Wii that day. In my house, I can tell that my wife's been playing Picross on Wii. It's fun just imagining how your loved ones were playing.

I definitely would like Mothers and Fathers to try it out, but I also would like the kids to try it. I think I would have liked geography if I had something like this when I was growing up. It'll be great if people can learn more about world geography using the News Channel.

The News Channel was made with the concept of it being used in the living room, so I would like everyone in the house to use it at the same time. Where a group of people is able to talk about a news topic that's being displayed on a screen, is something that doesn't happen on a PC. By using the News Channel in that kind of way, I hope it can help expand the range of communication that takes place in the living room.