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The following are translations of various interviews with the developers of F-Zero MV.
This first one can be found in the Nintendo Online Magazine (N.O.M) No. 31 that is hosted on the official japanese Nintendo site: http://www.nintendo.co.jp/nom/0103/032/index.html
Development Staff Interview
"F-ZERO FOR GAMEBOY ADVANCE"
"This is what you could call bragging about F-Zero"
Nintendo R&D 1
Director Isshin Shimizu
--How did development on the GBA version start?
Shimizu: In the middle of looking at the GBA hardware demo, you could see things that sort of looked like F-Zero. When we finished the first stage of that demo, I said to the demo creation team: "Shouldn't we make F-ZERO for GBA"? And just like that, the project began.
--The team who worked on the GBA version is different from the original game's team, right?
Shimizu: That's right. However, it was created using past experience-- I was part of the design team on the original SFC version.
--Oh, really!? Then this is like a remake from the original designer!
Shimizu: Yes. I was not involved with the 64 version, so this time I was a bit obsessive with the design, I think. It shows a lot of myself in it.
--How did the idea for the original F-ZERO come about?
Shimizu: In the era of disk systems I had already made racing games. After that, when the SFC was in development, I performed various functionality tests on the hardware. Among those tests were rotation tests using the D-Pad. There was an interesting experiment regarding acceleration in a direction when the accelerator was pressed. (Note: blast turning). From that experiment, the basic design for F-ZERO was born.
--And it was established as an antigravity racing game.
Shimizu: At first we were thinking we would have tires on the racers, but the problem is that the SFC could not magnify and shrink objects. For example on a normal circuit, looking at the machine from one side, it would look like a 3D object, but from a different angle the 3D would completely break down. We were thinking of ways to create the illusion of 3D, when someone suggested a near-future game in which "the cars float over a flat track and the ground is always beneath them". This was the start of the development, and so rather than being made from an initial game concept, the project was born from a technical necessity.
--What's the number 1 feature of the GBA version?
Shimzui: The technology in the GBA is much more advanced than the SFC, and the fine details have been tuned up especially. The atmosphere is very similar so you might say "Isn't this just the same game?" but it's not a remake of the original. Looking at the old version now it feels clunky compared to the GBA version. This version offers major upgrades to speed and control.
--So the GBA offers you the features the SFC didn't.
Shimizu: Yes. Because we couldn't do those things on the SFC, we placed the rotation animations in the ROM and made it read them 1 by 1. Doing that ate up a lot of the ROM so we had very little leftover for the other visuals. That's been vastly improved this time, and the machines visually operate more smoothly.
--The visuals themselves have evolved too, right?
Shimizu: The machines this time are proper 3D models that are represented in-game as pixels. The pixels can be finely corrected based on how we need them to look.
--Do you do that by hand still?
Shimizu: In the end yes. There were some fine corrections that needed to be done by hand rather than by computer. I myself did some corrections by hand.
--The courses are different from the SFC version as well. Deceleration feels a lot more severe now.
Shimizu: Well, it was severe in the previous game. In deceleration zones too depending on machine you take a little damage. There are mild changes to throughput as well; certain machines can jump far, others can't, and I hope players will investigate that. At the time of the SFC we couldn't program individual unit weights but this time each one is different with respect to weight.
--How did you go abpout making the courses?
Shimizu: Case by case. We didn't really plan them out on paper. First we started with a general course layout and then worked freely with it and developed the tools we thought necessary to make the courses work. Then we made them using those tools. This was the same as the SFC version. The SFC version was truly handmade, with fine adjustments to so-and-so part of the course here and there. To be able to make the courses as freely as possible we set up guards around the edges.
--Ah, the courses in F-ZERO have guard beams around them, so that makes them easier to plan out?
Shimizu: That's right. Although it may seem that we put them in there from the start to adhere to the F-ZERO world vision, we put them there to be able to better design courses, and later called them "Guard beams", but they weren't a part of the world vision from the beginning.
--That is unexpected! Sounds like you get all kinds of ideas from your projects.
Shimizu: Well, that's what real game design is all about you know!
--So this time you made the courses using a course editor.
Shimizu: Although, we did a lot of hand editing. I myself was very quick to do a lot of pixel editing.
--Adjusting the courses?
Shimizu: While test driving them I would fix things here and there. It took me some time to get the knack for it but within about 2 days I had made a course myself.
--That meant you probably had to go around the course hundreds of times.
Shimizu: It was more like tens of times. I would pay attention to problem parts and sort them out in my head. You have to learn by trial and error, and gradually the number of errors decreases.
--How many people on your team were doing adjustments?
Shimizu: Only me. It was faster that way. Of course, I was also receptive to ideas.
---It's good if it's also a game adults can enjoy
--Since it's a portable game, were you thinking about a young demographic?
Shimizu: Not in particular. It was the same with the SFC game. Kids want to be like adults you know. Elementary school kids want to be like middle schoolers, middle schoolers want to be like high schoolers. So from the start it was pretty much designed for high schoolers to think it was cool, and we weren't thinking too much about young kids. That's what I've insisted on since the start of development.
--"F-ZERO" is a simple game. This time, were you thinking "Let's put in more items" or "Let's increase the number of tricks"?
Shimizu: That's the case every time. Looking at the screen this time you might say "Isn't this the same as the SFC version?". But that was my intention. Our strategy was to aim at the people that played F-ZERO on the Super Famicom when they were younger and are now grown up. When F-ZERO X came out there was a lot of talk about "This isn't really F-ZERO". So this time we wanted players of the original to be interested in buying the game. We aimed to send people the message that "This is F-ZERO". For example I saw on a TV show there was a best-of CD for Shogo Hamada advertised to young people. The reason is because they may have heard their senior classmates sing his songs at karaoke and thought "That's a good song". In the same way for F-ZERO I think it'd be great if company workers decided to buy it and try it out, and spread gossip about it.
--F-ZERO is certainly something that will be handed down. By the way Mr. Shimizu, do you have any game tips for us?
Shimizu: Try to find a strategy that suits each machine. You can change the turning angle and such of each machine, so just constantly pressing buttons isn't necessarily a good thing.
--Finally, do you have any ideas for people who with to be game designers, Mr. Shimizu?
Shimizu: A game can't be just a game. It's important that the player can get something else out of it. Ordinarily everything is made according to planning. To turn a player into someone who shares playing with others, you need curiosity and an inquiring mind. If there's something interesting in a game, don't just say "That interesting", ask yourself "Why is that interesting?". That's what differentiates people who just play games, from game creators.
This second one can be found as part of a series of specials on the japanese famitsu website: http://www.famitsu.com/game/special/2001/03/22/f-zero_top.html
Interview commemorating the release of F-ZERO For Game Boy Advance
[This interview appears to have taken place on the same day the game was released, or shortly before]
--So to begin with we'd like to ask about when talk of F-ZERO for Game Boy Advance started.
Shimizu: Hmm, the year, I think it was 1999. Around October or November.
--This is the first game in the series on a portable platform. It premiered on the Super Famicom (SFC). Then there was a 64 version, but there was never an iteration on the original Game Boy. Is there a reason for that?
Shimizu: The original Game Boy's performance was not good enough to allow it.
--Saying that the Game Boy's performance was not good enough, you mean that the playstyle would have changed or the feeling of speed would have dropped, so it was out of the question?
Shimizu: It was absolutely out of the question.
--And those are the parts you are picky about.
Shimizu: That's right. If we had made it using the original Game Boy, it wouldn't have been F-ZERO. We didn't do it because it would have become a different racing game.
--We'd like to ask about the planning stages and allocation of roles for F-ZERO FOR GAMEBOY ADVANCE (hereafter F-ZERO). How was Nd Cube involved in this process?
Kouyama: To start with, we made the F-ZERO demo for promotional use with the Game Boy Advance. Around then is when Nintendo started talking about making an actual F-ZERO game for the platform, and expressed a strong desire to make it, so it was decided we would join onto the project.
Yamagami: At first Nintendo was considering if we could make the game in-house. However, no matter what the game is, there's always a lack of human resources. So we had to look for someone to collaborate with on the game. Having assessed that, we began early talks with Nd Cube who had by chance done the F-Zero demo. Then Shimizu was assigned as director over a team of Nd Cube staff, and over the period of a year the game was developed.
--And what was Kamiyama assigned to work on?
Shimizu: He was added onto the staff later, he was not part of the team at the start. Up until then we had had several people working on the machine design but we wanted someone with experience to synthesize the basic game graphics. Kamiyama provided us with the expertise in pixel art we needed, seeing as the F-ZERO version for GBA was, in the end, a 2D game. Up until the point he had also worked on various Game Boy titles as well.
--Did you entrust the graphic design direction to him?
Shimizu: I ended up doing the graphic design direction, and because I directly gave explicit instructions on pieces of artwork on an individual basis, in the end it was inefficient. With regard to that, the relationship was basically that I would give instructions to Kamiyama and he would divide the work among the staff, and then show the finished product to me.
--With regard to that, that's the way things usually work in-house?
Shimizu: Yes, basically.
Yamagami: It was like an extension of the company. Shimizu was Nintendo staff, and so Nintendo and Nd Cube people were going back and forth with each other with work, and we didn't want there to be communication issues.
Yamagami: And so because the companies were cooperating in this way we needed a mediator. That's where Mr. Kamiyama came in.
--So the project became F-ZERO for the Game Boy Advance. You must have done a lot of tests on the system's functionality for portable games. I don't understand the technical details very well, but I think there are some difficulties in translating a home console game into a portable game aren't there.
Yamagami: Absolutely. For example when working on machine design, we found out that the number of colors we could show on the GBA's LCD was different from the number of colors we could use on the computers used to make the 3D models. The GBA also can't show 3D polygons, the outputted 3D images of the racers had to be cut down significantly. Furthermore the size and number of colors had to be accomodated. Even under these limited circumstances we felt we had to provide realistic "F-ZERO machines" to our customers. To that end although we had some pretty tough problems, they were problems worthy of our attention.
Yamagami: Also, although I don't think Shimizu thinks it's hard, making the courses is difficult.
Yamagami: Actually, how many courses are there?
Yamagami: Although he says 22, we probably made over 100. At the start we made 20 and were on the fence about 1 or 2 more. For example just as if you increase the number of cars the depth of strategy increases, if we haphazardly just added whatever courses the risk of adding boring/stale courses was there.
Yamagami: Things like that happened a number of times, but because Shimizu loves "F-ZERO", I don't think it troubled him very much. (laugh)
--I see. (laugh)
Yamagami: But there really were some big issues. Up until the very end we were constantly changing how the machines worked. For example how long their boost times lasted.
Yamagami: I understood well the reasons for changing the courses. To speak of why, if there were obvious advantages or disadvantages, people would only use those, and so at a high level in order to balance things so people could use any machine in any course we added techniques to each course to allow people to compete evenly. Shimizu himself probably won't say so but I think this was quite difficult.
--I see, I see.
Shimizu: I was working so feverishly that I didn't comprehend that (laugh)
---The GBA's Surprises
--Let's talk about the other side. Were there any things during development where you were pleasantly surprised by the GBA's performance?
Shimizu: Well it certainly was full of surprises. "We can't do this with a portable machine?! And we can't do that either?!" were the sort of surprises we got. Because of that, we had to keep our desires for the actual game reasonable. That said, we had good outcomes because of contributing factors like the hardware itself being excellent, and possibly because the programmers who made the game development environment were excellent as well.
Yamagami: Because a portable gaming device provides you a personal screen, it's well suited to racing games. But, the previous model Game Boy's CPU capability was too low and could not handle rendering the track. On the contrary, because we could do that this time we were able to properly create an F-ZERO game. We were also able to do more fine calculations in the levels than in the SFC version and made a more fun game overall, and ended up with a game worthy of being a launch title for the Game Boy Advance. Although the GBA is just being introduced for the first time, I feel like we used a significant portion of its capability and made a very high-level game. Well, saying that myself is a little funny. (laugh)
--Well, to hear of such an amazing game being a launch title is great. Hearing about a launch title using so much of the system's capability is rare.
Yamagami: About that, I think it's going to make a real impression. Because with 1 cartridge, 4 people can play.
Shimizu: We couldn't use polygons, but excepting that there were few things we were not able to achieve, and so the finished product is very high quality. I think it's going to show people that all kinds of things can be done with portable game systems.
--And you can play it anywhere, even in a park.
Shimizu: That's right. In order to do something like this on the Famicom or Super Famicom you'd have to line up monitor after monitor and it really wouldn't be practical.
Shimizu: If you consider that, I think it's really amazing that you can compete with 4 people with everyone having their own screen.
Yamagami: And furthermore all you need is 1 cartridge for 4 people to play. Although you are limited to 1 course and car.
Yamagami: I think even playing with those limitations is every fun. Kids who don't have the cartridge they will definitely want to get one for themselves after seeing how fun it is.
Shimizu: Truthfully, "Nobody can complain about this amazing hardware" is what I thought. "Anybody who complains while making this game is a fool." (laugh)
--That's you defending your obsession with this game isn't it (laugh)
Shimizu: Yep. (laugh)
---Points of Interest
--We'd like to hear formally from each of you the things about the game you hope players notice. Starting with Mr. Kamiyama.
Kouyama: I really put my all into the graphics, even more than the SFC version, and they turned out really wonderful. I definitely hope people notice that.
--Indeed. Then, Mr. Yamagami?
Yamagami: There's a certain other racing game people think of when they think of Nintendo.
--Ah, Mario Kart.
Yamagami: I think F-ZERO goes to the opposite extreme that Mario Kart does. Mario Kart's appeal is using items strategically against your opponents. On the other hand, F-ZERO is a game to challenge yourself. You burn away your life 0.01 second at a time challenging your limits (laugh)
Yamagami: I really hope people have fun with Time Attack mode. If you hone your skills, your time will get better in response. It's a game that keeps up with the player to the very end. If you figure out one technique, you'll soon figure out more and more techniques one after the other. I want people to say "This is really a racing game!" with certainty.
--So at the end screen people won't be saying "Yes it's over, I finally cleared it." What about you Shimizu?
Shimizu: To give some examples, there are games that let you experience the fun of a safari rally, games that let you experience driving on an actual F1 course, or driving on a course like you might see in a car commercial. There are all kind of simulation games like that. But that's not quite what genre F-ZERO is. All the people who buy F-ZERO will have a personal experience with F-ZERO. Like a kind of "bond" between them. (laugh).
Shimizu: So what I mean is I want people who buy F-ZERO to have a personal experience with it unlike any other. There's nothing else like it. Those are my honest feelings to people who buy F-ZERO.
Yamagami: It really seems like lately all racing games have become simulation games.
Yamagami: What I want to say is that this is different, those aren't racing games. What people have been making recently aren't racing games. They're simulators.
--They're after realism.
Yamagami: That's right. Rather than a simulator, it's an F-ZERO world we crafted, and in that we put all kinds of tricks, and we want users to accept the challenges the game offers. By virtue of its rules it's a game-- not a simulator. And so that's why we want to show people that it's really a game. We're not trying to imitate anything, which bars it from being a simulator. This is a game.
Shimizu: It's a game made by a game designer.
Yamagami: A real game!
--Well that's about all for now, thank you everyone for your collected comments. I think the readers will definitely appreciate the hard work the developers put in. Thank you very much for coming here today.
After the interview a spokesman for the game hurried over to where we were preparing for a photograph shoot.
Spokesman: I did the planning for the single-word keyword for the weekly Famitsu, but...
--Ah, that is for this. The booklet. Did you have some question about the 3/30 booklet?
Spokesman: Oh not at all. In that booklet you chose symbols to represent games in there, and you chose 粋 [NOTE: character representing stylish, chic] to represent F-Zero. The 粋 in 小粋 [word for stylish].
Spokesman: I think they absolutely nailed the good feeling of this game being a "game made by game designers." Although it was a bit self flattering. I think it also meant it was a game "made with understanding of what people like" and in that sense the character 粋 [NOTE: same character, this also represents "understanding"] is perfect. I think it represents that it's made by people who understand that it's human nature to love games. (laugh).
[NOTE: To explain what he means, the character 粋 typically means things that are stylish, refined, etc in the sense of the word he used before 小粋 stylish. However, it has another meaning that means compassion, understanding, empathy etc. so he is saying that the character is doubly fitting because not only is F-ZERO a stylish game, but it was made by people who truly loved the game and understood what it is people loved about it]
--Y-you were really taking notes, weren't you (laugh)
Spokesman: Well it may seem like a pun, but this word 粋 seems to have originated from the word 意気 (spirit, heart). That's from a Japanese dictionary. So, when Shimizu talked about the enthusiasm of the development team, I think it also carries the meaning of "spirit/disposition". I think you captured in one character what it would take 100 letters to write. So maybe in the margin or underneath the interview you could include this explanation.
[NOTE: To expound on what he means here, you have to look at the pronunciation of the words in question. The character 粋 mentioned previously is pronounced いき "iki". The other word he mentioned 意気 is a much older word meaning "heart" or "spirit" is also pronounced the same way (いき iki) and it appears that 粋 may have been derived from it in more modern times. So he is saying that the character 粋 in addition to its common usages meaning "stylish" or "understanding", by virtue of it's derivation from 意気, that character 粋 also represents the "heart" or "spirit" of the development team. A very profound observation by the spokesman]
So after the interview with the developers and the spokesman's hotblooded lecture was finished, F-ZERO for Game Boy Advance was safely released on 3/21. Just how will the passion they poured into the game be transmitted to everyone?
This third one can be found in the official F-ZERO For GBA guide book (F‐ZERO FOR GAME BOY ADVANCE 任天堂公式ガイドブック) which was published by shogakukan (株式会社小学館) in 2001: http://wrvids.com/F-Zero_series/F-Zero/F-Zero%20Misc/Staff%20Interview%20Scans/FZMV/
Development Staff | Collected Comments
Question 1: What you're responsible for
Question 2: Your favorite machines and reasons why
Question 3: Your favorite character and reasons why
Question 4: Your favorite vehicle and reasons why
Question 5: Messages to the players
TIME!: Championship Circuit Best time
1) I'm in charge of direction, game design, course design, general other design direction (machines, backgrounds, etc).
2) Falcon Mk.II. I built the plastic model for it and also created the base model.
3) Kumiko "The Bullet". (Secret character). I like her because she's cute.
4) The Passol (Yamaha scooter model made 20 years ago). I liked it because it was really easy to zoom around like crazy on it (At that time, it was OK to ride a scooter with no helmet on).
5) From the bottom of my heart I thank everyone who buys it.
1) I'm in charge of graphic design.
2) The Stingray. The machine's design is nice, speed is decent, and the long flight distance when it jumps is good.
3) Megan. For one reason or another I think she's cool.
4) Ferrari. I've always wanted to ride in one someday.
5) The fun of unlocking machines through continuous wins in the Grand Prix mode and the feeling of speed gives you a great feeling of exhilaration.
1) I'm responsible for all printed materials (Game box, instruction manual design, character illustration design, general direction of all illustration).
2) Because the machine has a well-balanced design, Hot Violet. The air intake and engine parts look similar to limbs and lends the machine a feeling of stability. On top of that the purple/yellow fire pattern is cool.
3) If I had to give an answer it's Kumiko "The Bullet". It's because she was one of the most difficult when we were doing character illustrations. I made many changes to her design based on how I felt, and so she turned out to have my favorite face out of all the characters.
4) It's pretty ordinary but just a car or a bike. I used a bike when I was in college. I would skip class with my friends and we'd go up to Kyoto's northern mountains. All I'd think about all day was biking. When I became employed my main car changed from an RX-7 to a Lancer Evolution. Although I was tempted to drive fast as you only can in a car, I found that I could enjoy the atmosphere while driving safely. Driving really excites me. I also enjoy watching racing, I've watched the World Grand Prix for biking for a very long time and lately I've developed an interest in the WRC for car racing.
5) At any rate, it's a racing game with a fantastic feeling of speed. As the machine speeds up smoothly during racing, you can do tight cornering on the tracks. The machines behave faithfully to the controls and you can pursue opponents with split second accuracy. If you mess up it turns into a time loss but the feeling of exhilaration you get when catching up with a blast turn can be addicting. Above all please try not to play so much that your hands hurt. I fully expect you can immerse yourself in the world of F-ZERO.
1) I'm the producer.
2) Dirty Joker. Mainly because it's easy to use.
3) Nobody in particular.
4) Electric railway. It was always my dream in elementary school to be a railroad conductor for the national railway (laugh)
5) Because doing blast turns is easy to master, doing your best to the very end of the race and setting a new record is a great feeling that should be fully savored. Also as people face the different challenges in the tracks, I am sure they will discover some unexpected secrets for shortening lap times.
pretty good interview. sheds some light into how the game was made and it shows it was in most part a Nintendo-developed game (unlike the last 3) since i used to think it was handed to outside devs like the others but it seems the staff had a much more close relationship (and the director from the original game)
the only line that made me sad was that one about the people who thought of FZX "that isn't F-Zero". it looks like they went back to the SNES style because of that and people can't complain since it was the players themselves who made them go this way.
i wish there was more info about why decided to use completely new characters and stuff. one of the things most people who dislike this game latch onto is the fact the game doesn't have the usual F-Zero music/characters/tracks.
it also made me sad seeing those lines with Mario Kart since now Mario Kart is borrowing F-Zero elements and F-Zero is very dead.
|"Patience is useful in any moment"|
I'm a bit late to the party but I just wanted to say thank you for translating and sharing these articles. MV is my favourite F-Zero and one of my favourite games in general. It's really nice to find out a little more about it as there's really not that much info out there. As UchihaSasuke says, it would've been nice to find out more about the settings and characters though...
Again, thank you.
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