E3 2008: Miyamoto conducts Wii Music, confirms Pikmin

Nintendo developer roundtable offers extended looks at Animal Crossing, Wii Music, and Wii Sports Resort; Zelda creator says new Pikmin in development.

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While the show-launching press conferences from Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft are traditionally the times for big reveals and surprise announcements at the E3 Media & Business Summit, Nintendo held something back in 2006. Instead of starting the show off with Super Smash Bros. Brawl and the shock news that Metal Gear Solid protagonist Solid Snake would be in the game, Nintendo saved that for a developers' roundtable later in the week.

This year's Nintendo press conference was surprisingly light on surprises. The publisher showcased Wii Sports Resort and announced Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, but spent much of the event focused on previously announced titles like Wii Music and Animal Crossing: City Folk.

So with Nintendo inviting select members of the press to another developers' roundtable tonight, is the company preparing to drop some jaws? All the invitation said is that "key developers will be on-hand to discuss Wii titles and host exclusive Q&A sessions." Find out the news as soon as we do by following the live blog!

[5:57] The attendees have filed into the theater on the second floor of the Los Angeles Convention Center and chatter fills the air. Four chairs sit on the stage in front of two big-screen TVs. Four Wiis are hooked up to the TVs, with a scattering of Wii Remotes on tables and a single Wii Balance Board with Remote and Nunchuk at the front of the stage.

[6:01] It's 6 p.m., but there are no signs of the show getting on the road just yet.

[6:03] Eric Walter with Nintendo PR addresses the crowd briefly, then turns it over to Bill Trinnen from Treehouse.

[6:03] Trinnen says he's going to go further into detail on the three key titles Nintendo is showing off at E3.

[6:04] First up will be Animal Crossing (Wii Sports Resort and Wii Music to follow), as Trinnen introduces Katsuya Eguchi to applause.

[6:05] "As you can see, my name is not Shigeru Miyamoto," Eguchi quips to laughter. He introduces Animal Crossing: City Folk, and then says he'll talk through a translator (who's also going to demonstrate the gameplay)."

[6:06] The game starts off in a town, with the player taking a bus to the game's new City section. Eguchi will concentrate on the game's new features today. On the way into the city, the player chats with (or is chatted at by) Kapp'n the bus driver for a few moments.

[6:08] They're bringing back events for the game, including Halloween, and Jingle the Reindeer for the holiday events. One of the things people liked about Animal Crossing was the collectible items like wallpaper, etc., so there's more of that in this game. In addition to furniture and wallpaper, players will receive new items through WiiConnect 24.

[6:10] It's time for a tour of the City, starting with the salon where players can change their hairstyles. There's also an auction house, and GracieGrace, the personal store of high-fashion designer Gracie. There's also a theater where players can watch comedy shows.

[6:11] The translator leaves the City, returning to the town, which has been dubbed "E3ville" for this demo. One interesting thing about the City, he notes, is that it's persistent and will allow interactions via the Wi-Fi Connection.

[6:14] Because it's a room mic that sits atop the TV, it might be a different experience than with a traditional headset mic. While Eguchi talks about all this, the translator is exploring the design customizing options. Eguchi said it will give players more ability to express themselves creatively.

[6:15] For shirts, players can now customize the front, back, and both sleeves to create their own designs. They'll also be able to create coordinated outfits with hats and other accessories.

[6:17] He changes the character's shirt and then leaves the design store. While running around, he takes an in-game screenshot and is given the option of saving it to an SD card or attach it to a message to send to friends.

[6:18] That's it for Eguchi's City Folk introduction, and it's time for questions from the audience.

[6:19] The first question is about online play in Animal Crossing: Wild World for the DS. When someone left a multiplayer session, everything had to be reset. Will that be fixed?

[6:20] Eguchi apologizes because they're using the same system, so that problem will remain. However, they are adding more function to the system by adding more things for people to do together, like go see concerts. He hopes that compensates for the issue.

[6:21] The next question is about plans for City Folk interactivity with the DS. Eguchi said that there's a move function to bring DS characters into the Wii version of the game.

[6:22] He also notes that things you purchased will be able to come with you, so you won't be coming into town with your pockets empty.

[6:23] And if gamers don't have Wi-Fi but still want to visit a friend's town, they can move the data on the DS and move it to that friend's Wii then visit the town that way.

[6:25] In Japan, they're also planning to have WiiConnect24 updates distributed through download stations by way of the DS. Quick clarification: Characters imported into the Wii version will not bring their items with them.

[6:26] The next question is about whether or not new items will be created for use with WiiConnect24, or if it will just unlock items already shipped on the game disc. Eguchi said it will be all-new content.

[6:27] A question is asked about whether or not the Wii version of the game will let users play Virtual Console titles, perhaps with their friends online. Unfortunately, Eguchi said it won't.

[6:29] The next question is if there are plans to integrate the game with the Weather Channel or other channels in order to get real-world weather in the game? Also, players in the southern hemisphere don't like how the seasons are inverted for them, so the attendee wants to know if that will that be fixed.

[6:32] Eguchi said they thought about Wii Channel interconnectivity, but said areas where there was a lot of inclement weather (or none at all) would not provide players there with enough variety in gameplay. Because they wanted to emphasize seasons in Animal Crossing, they decided not to go with that. As for the second question, the seasons are still inverted for gamers south of the equator.

[6:33] Next up is Wii Sports Resort. Eguchi noted how the game goes hand in hand with the Wii Remote precision attachment. For the sequel to Wii Sports, Eguchi said they wanted to get away from the standard-style sports shown in the original. They opted for events that reflected a sense of leisure.

[6:35] To start, there's a demo of Disc Dog, which asks the player whether they want to throw left-handed or right-handed. As shown in Nintendo's main press conference, the goal of the game is to toss a Frisbee near enough to a target that the player's virtual dog can catch it.

[6:36] Players can do a forehand or backhand throw, and Eguchi notes that it does take practice to throw the disc well as his demo-man misses a forehand toss.

[6:37] The game is a series of 10 throws, each with a maximum of 100 points. Some people within Nintendo have scored a perfect 1,000, Eguchi said.

[6:41] Wii MotionPlus helped make Power Cruising possible because it requires players to tilt the remote while twisting the throttle, which the original Wii Remote apparently isn't sensitive enough to properly decipher. Next up is Sword Play.

[6:41] The next event is "Power Cruising," the Jet Ski racer. It uses the Nunchuk extension. Players hold the controllers like they would the handles of a watercraft and shift their center of gravity left or right to control the craft (no Balance Board necessary--just tilt one "handlebar" higher than the other).

[6:42] Players hold the Wii Remote like the hilt of a sword and slice a number of objects dropped in front of them. Those items are then cut at the angle and speed that the player decides.

[6:44] The player holds the trigger on the Remote to guard, and can also play against an AI opponent.

[6:44] Successfully blocked attacks cause the opponent's sword to rebound and leave them vulnerable. It appears the only way to win is to knock the other player off the platform.

[6:44] Now it's question time again. The first inquiry is about whether or not third-party developers have had access to Wii MotionPlus before today.

[6:46] Eguchi says he honestly doesn't know since he just deals with first-party software. The next question is about what the technology is in MotionPlus that makes the 1-to-1 motion control possible, and will it limit multiplayer options if there aren't enough add-ons to go around.

[6:48] Eguchi's translator first apologizes because he's an engineer, then gets into the explanation. The MotionPlus adds an angle to the Remote's existing accelerometer data, which allows the system to interpret more complex motions.

[6:50] As for multiplayer, he reminds the attendee that Wii Sports Resort will come with one for free, and said there are some games that will allow players to pass the Wii Remote back and forth for multiplayer. However, some games will require multiple MotionPlus add-ons for multiplayer action.

[6:52] Eguchi is then asked what his inspiration for the resort setting was. He responds that when adding the MotionPlus to their game planning, the team brainstormed sports events they'd like to replicate and then asked how they could be packed into one grouping. Basically, they all fit naturally in a resort setting.

[6:55] Eguchi notes that when creating the original Wii Sports, the team wanted more than what they had, but felt what they already had was enough to be an enjoyable product. He said everyone who played Wii Sports came away with a good experience and they were happy with what they accomplished.

[6:56] They've continued to do demos with the airplane game (one of the earliest Wii demos), but haven't committed to anything yet.

[6:57] The next question is if Wii MotionPlus will be built into future Wii Remotes.

[6:58] Eguchi says Nintendo is always looking at the future and is considering both options right now. He doesn't have a definite answer, but it's something Nintendo is looking at.

[6:59] The last Wii Sports Resort question is that considering the MotionPlus' ability to detect minute motions, is there concern that this would lead to increased difficulty in gameplay.

[7:02] Eguchi said the developers are very aware of the issue and are keeping it in mind as they make the game. They always ask themselves if the increasingly complex uses of the MotionPlus are still easy to play. They want a low difficulty hurdle at the beginning and want depth to keep everyone happy.

[7:02] "The more you bite, the more flavor you get."

[7:02] That's it for Wii Sports Resort, and it's time to introduce Shigeru Miyamoto to the stage.

[7:03] Miyamoto first says he'll explain the game briefly for audience members seeing it for the first time.

[7:03] The game is Wii Music.

[7:05] Recapping what he noted in the media briefing, Miyamoto said music games typically require button presses to match musical notation, with the goal being to achieve a perfect rendition of each song.

[7:05] Miyamoto isn't saying that's not fun; he just wanted a different approach to the genre.

[7:05] He says he plays guitar himself, but he's terrified of playing in front of people because he might miss notes and make "bad noise."

[7:06] He's sure jazz musicians make a lot of mistakes, but their mistakes aren't really errors so much as ad-libs. As pro musicians, they know a lot of music theory to help that happen.

[7:07] So Miyamoto wanted to make software that would handle the theory part and allow people to play the music in their head just with a little rhythm. For the sake of the demo, he chooses to play "Yankee Doodle."

[7:09] The song has six parts: a bass, lead melody, harmony, and chord arrangements for guitars, a drum kit, and a tambourine. Players will be able to arrange their own versions of the songs.

[7:10] Miyamoto chooses to play the lead melody part and strums through a bit, playing it first as it was originally intended, then ad-libbing melody parts.

[7:10] He then changes the instrument on the lead melody part instantly, and begins playing the song with a xylophone, steel drums, and then a harpsichord.

[7:11] He does a bit of toy piano, then does a vocal track, which sounds like a Sim-style gibberish language.

[7:11] There's also tuba, and a "dog suit" instrument that plays the song with barking noises.

[7:13] Miyamoto goes with a vibraphone, then his translator picks a jaw harp for the harmony part and the two go back and forth to laughs from the audience.

[7:15] By fooling around with the instrument options on that selection screen, Miyamoto said players can be kept busy for hours. Once the instruments have been settled upon, they start the song for real.

[7:16] They do a quick example of a "real" performance of the Super Mario Bros. theme song with three people.

[7:17] Some of the developers' kids went to the office to play the game, and Miyamoto said he was thrilled to see they couldn't tear themselves away from it.

[7:18] He's especially excited about considering the game as a music education tool, and suggests half an elementary school music class could be dedicated to the game.

[7:19] Next up is a demo of the "drum kit." Using the Wii Balance Board, the developers replicate the two pedals of a drum kit.

[7:20] The right foot is the kick pedal for the bass drum, and the left is the hi-hat pedal. The left hand is the snare, and the right hand is the hi-hat symbol, or a snare if used with the B button. The A button or C button with the Nunchuk are cymbals, will the D pad hits the toms.

[7:21] A practiced Wii Music drummer busts out a solo for the crowd and receives a round of applause. Miyamoto said the drum mode also incorporates a lesson structure to teach people to play the drums within a few weeks.

[7:23] He hopes the game will get more kids interested in music, and then Eguchi comes up on stage. Eguchi notes that this will appeal to adults as well as kids, and talked about musicians coming in and creating their own arrangements of all six parts of different songs to create their own unique works.

[7:24] It's time for Wii Music questions, and the first one is whether or not the drum mode is a natural extension of the drums in Rhythm Tengoku for the Game Boy Advance, a title only released in Japan.

[7:24] Miyamoto said it's not related at all.

[7:25] The next question is about track selection, and whether Nintendo will use licensed tracks or strictly public domain and Nintendo-owned music.

[7:26] Among the 50 songs in the game, there will be a variety of public domain songs, but also a variety of popular licensed music.

[7:28] The question is whether or not Nintendo will be able to distribute new songs through WiiConnect24. Miyamoto consults briefly with Eguchi, then says the team isn't really thinking of digital content distribution at the moment. They're more concerned with using online to share creations.

[7:28] The next question is, "Is there a goal?" And if there isn't one, wouldn't it be better considered a toy?

[7:29] "Yes," Miyamoto said. "That's right. And that's why it's more interesting than a video game." The crowd applauds.

[7:29] The next question is about Wii Sports Resort's Jet Ski game and its similarity to WaveRace. Did the WaveRace team work on it? is there a new WaveRace on the way?

[7:30] Miyamoto said they have staff from that team on the project, and Eguchi himself directed WaveRace.

[7:31] Eguchi takes over and says the programmer in charge of the motion in the Jet Ski game is the same one from WaveRace 64, and he's going to work with new developers to make a game that surpasses WaveRace.

[7:32] Miyamoto says he can't talk about a sequel, but he thinks the Jet Ski mode in Wii Sports Resort will satisfy gamers with its depth.

[7:36] The next questioner asks about Nintendo's commitment to core titles, and asks if Miyamoto is still interested in making another Pikmin, something he's mentioned in the past.

[7:36] Eguchi asks what a "core user" is supposed to be. His own definition is someone who likes games, whatever they like to play. That's who he makes games for, and he says all games regardless of genre have the potential to appeal to the core, and the people who play his games are his core users.

[7:37] Miyamoto stands up and starts to leave the stage, which draws laughs. After sitting back down, he gets to the Pikmin question. He talks about sitting as close as possible to his staffers, some who worked on Zelda and Pikmin. He refers to Eguchi's answer and says "core games" is just as mercurial a term as "core gamers," then says they continue investigating all types of games.

[7:37] "So when it's time to announce such a title, I'll announce it. So please look forward to it."

[7:38] He adds, "We're making Pikmin."

[7:38] The crowd laughs. The next question is whether the drum kit in Wii Music is the only such instrument in the game.

[7:39] Miyamoto said it was, but all the instruments in the game will have some sort of tutorial or lesson mode so players can excel at it.

[7:40] The next question is about Wii Music using MotionPlus. Miyamoto said it doesn't at all, and the Balance Board is only used for one particular mode (the drum mode). Also, the attachment provides no additional functionality for previous games.

[7:42] That's it for the roundtable, and the host thanks Eguchi, Miyamoto, and their translators, as well as the extra musicians.

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