"So how many people have actually had a chance to play Skyward Sword since the presentation this morning?" Shigeru Miyamoto asks.
Lots of hands go up.
"Now I'd like to ask a question to those people. How many of you, after playing, realised that what happened on stage was in fact wireless interference and had absolutely nothing to do with the game?"
Lots of hands go up. Then laughter. Then clapping.
So begins The Legend of Zelda portion of Nintendo's annual E3 post press conference round table session at the Los Angeles Convention Center. And it is a good place to begin, because Miyamoto's live demo of Skyward Sword was, frankly, embarrassing - one of the great E3 embarrassments, in fact. It was as if Miyamoto, the man who created Zelda, was playing the game for the first time.
Twitter, of course, had a field day. As Miyamoto's gestures with the MotionPlus-enabled Wii Remote fell on deaf ears, observers licked their lips and cracked their knuckles. Sarcasm... roll out!
As a huge Zelda fan, Miyamoto's explanation of the gaff is gloriously reassuring. It puts the issue to bed, allowing we fanboys to turn our excitable thoughts to other Hyrulian matters. Well, almost.
"I was thinking of playing the game again myself and recreating that same demo here this afternoon as a form of revenge for what happened this morning," Miyamoto says with a smile. "But it seems that those of you that have played the game have come to understand that it was in fact wireless interference."
During Miyamoto's in-depth round table discussion, the great man comes across as a funny, intelligent and charming man. His words hit the ears of his captivated audience like blown kisses. But he also carried all the enthusiasm of a young boy about to explore his first cave, or plant his first seed, or create his first Italian plumber. Miyamoto is rightly called a legend - and he is aware of his status within the industry - but he has not allowed his success to affect the way he speaks to the press. There is no arrogance. No dismissive sneers. Just a willingness to spread the good word of Wii and, more specifically, The Legend of Zelda.
Which is exactly what we're doing. Below you'll find the transcript of Miyamoto and producer Eiji Aonuma's discussion of Skyward Sword, which the two conduct as the game is being played on a huge television, in full. We haven't edited it, because it needs no editing. It's just two men having a chat in front of at least a hundred wide-eyed journalists who can't believe their luck. Enjoy.
Miyamoto: Instead of me playing, while we're talking - he's not nearly as good as I am [laughs], but Harrod from the Tree House at Nintendo will play while we're talking. That way you can focus and get an idea of the game. Make sure your cell phones and whatnot are... please turn them off! Thank you. We don't want to have the same excitement as we had this morning.
Aonuma: The development started with gameplay as its focus. Of course some of this is related directly to Wii MotionPlus - that's obviously the ability to wield your sword freely like this, and the ability to change items instantaneously. This is a mechanism we've been wanting to do with the Legend of Zelda series for a long time. One of the other things we did, and I think those of you who played probably already realised this, we made the map easier to follow. We made it harder to get lost. We really wanted to take a look at that. We hope it works well and we think it does. So make sure that you experience that on the show floor as well.
Miyamoto: One of the reasons people continue to come back to the Zelda franchise is because the core gameplay is something that inherently is fun. Gradually as we introduce more titles in the series, people often tend to fixate on, well you know, how many dungeons are there? What's the storyline? How does the story flow? And what's the focus of this story? But one of the things that we really wanted to do this time around is bring it back to, what is that core gameplay, and what is it that makes it fun, and how can we make it the most engaging gameplay experience that we possibly can?
This is true I think for many Zelda games in the past, and it's probably something that's true for a lot of other developers as well, but often-times when you're working on a game you first start off with an idea of what you want the game to look like and you spend a lot of time working on sketches or the concept art and trying to create that concept art in the game. Often-times there can be a big lag between when the graphics get done and when the game is finally put together and complete.
So last year, actually at this same event, an E3 round table, we showed a single piece of art in relation to this Zelda game. At that time the gameplay structure of the game was very far along and was almost complete, but the only thing we had in terms of graphics to show you was the single piece of art.
So I think particularly now with what we're showing, the gameplay is very complete. And then of course you're starting to see what the visual style is going to look like. In terms of where we're going now with development, we have a few more dungeons to create. We're looking at creating some more challenging bosses. But for the most part we're in the final stretch at this point. So I do feel that because the gameplay structure is so solid at this point that we are on a good pace and are going to be able to put it together relatively quickly. But because this particular style of development is something a little bit different from what we've done in the past, we're not entirely confident that we would be able to get the game done before the end of the year. I could have come out and said, we are going to try to hit this year. Instead we decided it would be better to just say, we are going to take up through the end of the year for development and we'll try to have the game ready as soon as we can next year.
Aonuma: I'd like to talk about something I think you're all interested in: that's the story. We'll also look at the graphical style of the game. In the trailer we showed you this one final scene, Link diving off that cliff into that giant sea of clouds, and it's obviously a very impactful scene. I was wondering how many of you saw it and how many of you remember that scene?
[Lots of hands go up.]
Aonuma: Thank you! That's a very important point in the storyline. Link, this time around, is a young man, who was born and raised in this floating land that is above the clouds. It's called Skyloft. Now it may sound really interesting and unique to be someone who lives on a floating island, but for Link, he doesn't think anything about it. It's just where he was born and where he grew up. It's just his normal place to live. However, one day there is an incident that reveals to him that there is another land beneath the clouds. The land that is beneath the clouds, this other world, is a place that is ruled by evil forces. It's a very dangerous place. But due to this incident that reveals the world to Link, he is forced to go into that world. One of the driving parts of the story is that Link has to travel back and forth between Skyloft and this other land.
The thing that leads Link on his adventure and takes him down to the other land is what has become the subtitle. It's the Skyward Sword. This is the artwork that we revealed last year and you can see that mysterious figure there behind Link. That is the Skyward Sword. When the Skyward Sword is giving Link help or advice or leading him it will transform and take on this appearance.
Now I think all of you may have suspected this, but this sword [points to the sword Link is wielding in the demo] is the Master Sword. So what exactly is the Skyward Sword? I think that's something you all have hopefully imagined for yourselves [laughs]! Okay, well I'll go ahead and just tell you straight out. The Skyward Sword becomes the Master Sword [laughs].
[Someone from the crowd shouts out "spoiler!"]
Aonuma: Sorry about that!
Miyamoto: If you collect three Skyward swords do you get the Master sword? [Audience laughs].
Aonuma: No, that's not the way it works [laughs]. So that's the basic storyline behind the title. Sky is also something that's very important to the game. If you take a look at the skies you can see these giant banks of clouds that cover these really beautiful vistas. It's obviously very impactful, and it's one of the things we wanted to highlight this time around. It's one of the reasons we've implemented the graphical style we have. I really, really like this art style a lot. How about you, Mr Miyamoto?
Miyamoto: Yeah I like it. It took just one step in the approval process and it got my okay. I think the art style is very unique. I'm a big fan of impressionism in the art world, so we've drawn some inspiration from that. The sky and the mountain you can see in the E3 demo have a definite Cézanne feel to them.
Because of the implementation of Wii MotionPlus sword controls, you have to pay close attention to the enemies, how they defend, what their weaknesses are. They're blocking with their swords or in the case of this scorpion enemy you can see, the pincers are opening at different angles. You have to be able to identify what those angles are or what those weaknesses are. That's something that's best illustrated to the player through the use of exaggerated-looking enemies. Trying to do that with a realistic art style simply doesn't work well, so one of the goals was to find an art style that would allow for this exaggerated creation of enemies and characters and things.
Aonuma: Of course, if I hadn't been told we had to revise the art style we would have been done a heck of a lot sooner [laughs].
Miyamoto: Yeah, if we had just used the same graphics from Twilight Princess the game would already be done.
Aonuma: That being said, we think there's a really great marriage between the gameplay and the graphic style, and there's still a lot of work we have to do. We're going to do a lot of polishing. Once we're done we're going to find a really good balance, a nice harmony between all of the different elements in the game.
Miyamoto: Even beyond the core gameplay and graphics, we're looking at other ways to change the structure of the Zelda game. I think typically you've seen something along the lines of going through a dungeon and getting an item. We have had of course this idea of different worlds in Zelda games before. We're paying a lot of attention to how we bring these worlds together. Even looking at different ways so just going through the dungeon creates a somewhat different structure from what we've seen in the past Zelda games. Of course if you look at the demo you may see a few question marks in the item list. I'm sure those are probably of interest or somewhat suspicious to some of you out there. So I hope you all look forward to it!
Mr. Aonuma is actually a victim of Ocarina of Time. That was the first game he was yanked out of another team, by me, to come and work on a game as a director. He does have from that time one horrible memory that's lasted with him for a long time, that he would like to try to put to rest and make amends for. I think he's going to tell you a little bit about that.
Aonuma: Please raise your hand if you played Ocarina of Time.
[Almost all hands go up. Laughs.]
Aonuma: And you've all played the Water Temple?
Aonuma: How many people thought, boy that was really tough? I've lived with that for the last ten odd years. But with Nintendo 3DS we have touch screen. One of the things I think was problematic or maybe troublesome for you when you were playing through the Water Temple was the fact that you had to take the iron boots off, put them back on, take them off, put them back on. The controls for doing it were very hard. What I'd like to do is lay this evil shame I have to rest by implementing the touch screen in such a way that it makes it very natural and smooth and easy to put those iron boots on and take them off.
Miyamoto: You'll be able to change your clothes much quicker, too.
Miyamoto: This is an actual important point for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword as well. It's a game we've been putting a lot of thought into, how can we make a transition from sword to item and back and forth between different items much more smooth and natural? Streamlining that whole interface has been a big point for us. It's a common product in both games.
Of course it has a slightly different play pattern from what you're probably used to. To change out items you're holding down the B button, selecting an item, and then pressing the A button to use it. I think maybe when people first try it out here at the show, they have a tendency to press the B button to select an item and try to shoot with the B button. But once you get used to that idea of B to select and A to use, it becomes very very streamlined and very smooth and all of a sudden everything clicks.
Of course I thought originally with just the Wii Remote, motion controls and the pointer, that we would be able to make a pretty fun Zelda game. But what we found was that when people were trying to point at the screen sometimes when you switch to that pointing control, it can be hard to find the cursor on screen, or have difficulty with the pointing. So what we decided to do this time is take advantage of the Wii MotionPlus. Very quickly, as soon as you activate the item, the Wii MotionPlus almost acts as a mouse in 3D space, and that's how you're controlling the cursor. You don't have to point at the screen.
One other point I'd like to make is, even apart from our mistake this morning with the wireless interference, is the fact that even just using pointer controls on the show floor is something that can easily pick up interference from lights and from the other systems. So we've turned off pointer functionality from this version. In the final version you'll play when you finally get it at home, what it'll do is take advantage of both Wii MotionPlus as well as the sensor bar, and use that for very smooth control. We're going to have it feel very seamless. So even if you do run into any kind of issues on the show floor you don't need to worry about that because once we get it off the show floor and reactivate the pointer it'll feel a lot better.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is due out exclusively on the Nintendo Wii next year.