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Chatting with the Nintendo designer who started out on Super Mario Bros and has worked on every Mario and Zelda game since then
How is the atmosphere inside Nintendo at the moment? How does it compare to the atmosphere 20 years ago, when the NES was so successful with mainstream gamers?
Takashi Tezuka: When I make a videogame, I have always been trying to feel the flux of time. We -- the development staff members -- have always been trying to create videogames that can be an indicator of the new wave of entertainment, and that attitude has not changed in the last 20 years. As the entire videogame industry grew, the sheer number of staff members needed to create a videogame also had to increase. We are now required to take care of a variety of different genres of software as efficiently as possible. Specifically, how we are making software has changed, so that, in most cases, we have some people dedicated to working on certain aspects of the entire work, instead of a few people working on the whole project.
Do you feel that Nintendo is returning to its gaming roots with Wii and DS?
Actually, I don't feel that Nintendo has ever deviated from its gaming roots. The style of expression has changed, but I feel the substance of entertainment that we try to provide has not changed significantly.
Of course, interests vary depending on which country, territory or time people live in. We always try to create some pleasant surprises, but how we can surprise people changes too, accordingly. We're always trying to pay close attention to the flux of time, but what doesn't change is that we're always trying to create brand new entertainment that can give pleasant surprises to people.
The hardware of Wii and DS have been designed so that they can encourage and inspire game creators to create brand new entertainment that does not necessarily exist as a linear extension of the past stream of videogame evolutions. As a result, though some of the games may make you feel that they have returned to their origins, in reality we have been able to create brand new genres of videogames. Wii, for example, has so far been able to generate a new wave by enabling more physical experiences instead of just aiming at the increasingly gorgeously looking graphics and beautiful sounds, I think.
How does designing games now compare with how you approached it 20 years ago? Are you consciously trying to think in the same way now as then, to appeal to the same kind of non-hardcore gamers? Or have things changed too much since then?
I have not significantly altered the way I design games. As a matter of fact, I have never consciously separated casual users and hardcore gamers when I design a game. For the past 20 years, I have always been trying to make games so that anyone -- as many people as possible -- can enjoy them.
How have working practices changed since the GameCube days, when larger teams were working on bigger, more elaborate projects?
Depending on the software, sometimes the total number of staff members is less than the ones needed for a GameCube game, and sometimes more people are required to work on a Wii game. Of course, we have been increasing our production know-how so, even when the total number of people involved is smaller, the total work volume may be bigger.
I'm afraid my answer is a little unspectacular, but we are emphasising the smoother communications and constructions of more efficient office working environments including development tools, on an ongoing basis. These down-to-Earth efforts always pay off.
Do you feel under more or less pressure now that the DS and Wii have been such a huge success?
I must say that I always feel the same level of pressure. Before, it was the pressure that we must successfully launch DS and Wii and create the momentum. Now, we are under the pressure that we must maintain it and expand it. Having said that, however, I cannot help but say that I love my job of making games from the bottom of my heart.