Reagan sits down with Nintendo's Takashi Tezuka
It’s not every day that you’re invited to have a one-on-one exclusive interview with someone that has had a hand in creating some of the best titles of your gaming life. With a 30 year career within Nintendo, there’s a good chance that Tezuka-san (also known as Ten-Ten) has had a hand in creating all of your favourite Nintendo titles.
Sitting down with Takashi Tezuka and his translator was both intimidating and inspiring… and he was quite the fan of my Banjo Kazooie t-shirt.
First, thank you so much for letting us have this meeting and interview. I hear it’s a rare occasion so I’m very honoured to be here.
The first thing I’d like to ask about is the inspiration behind choosing wool as the material and the style for Yoshi’s Woolly World.
While I was working on New Mario I had a chance to play Kirby’s Epic Yarn and I really admired the aesthetic sense of the dev team who made that game. At the time I had been working on Mario for a while and I had always been thinking about creating the next Yoshi game but couldn’t find the time to do so. After playing Kirby’s Epic Yarn I thought why not make a Yoshi game with Good Feel [developers of Kirby’s Epic Yarn] using a yarn aesthetic. So that was where it all started.
Is it intended to be a sequel or a series that we may see other franchises take?
No, it’s not a yarn series [laughs]. The concept wasn’t that we’d just make yarn games using different characters. I wanted to make a Yoshi action game and I just loved the yarn aesthetic so I thought, well, let’s make a Yoshi game using that, including craft materials, to make a whole new Yoshi experience.
How much research went into the look and feel of the yarn, and how much of that differs to what we saw in Kirby’s Epic Yarn?
Well, we did a lot of trial and error, and so, as you know, Good Feel made Kirby’s Epic Yarn, so we started by trying a similar aesthetic with a single strand of yarn. Kirby has a fairly simple shape but Yoshi is a little more complicated. He has more curves and different shapes involved, so it was hard to express him in that same way. We made all sorts of Yoshis using different materials and stuff.
So you’ve actually created him?
It was a combination, we had things and just some were designs. When we finally landed on the idea of a knitted yarn toy then we went into making our own physical versions. Everybody at Good Feel, male and female, took up knitting and crochet to make prototypes.
Nice. Fans would grow crazy to get their hands on a yarn Yoshi. Are there any plans on having them in stores or releasing the patterns for craft makers at a cost? Because my wife would love the pattern.
I can’t tell you about any plans under development right now but personally, of course, I would love to do those things.
Is there anything we haven’t seen in Yoshi’s Woolly World that may be kept secret to be revealed at a later date, or has what we seen encapsulated the entirety of the game?
[Laughs] No we haven’t announced everything. To give you a hint, it has something to with the “wonder wool”. There are three in every course, and they’re all different colours, and we’re going to use that to do something. [Laughs]
Is one of the big boss fights a giant pair of scissors?
You mean because it goes “cut cut snip snip”?
I’ll take that as a no.
This is the first co-operative Yoshi game, has that been a challenge for Nintendo and is it an online experience?
So, back in the day it was technically very difficult to have two Yoshi’s on screen at the same time. Now that we have the Wii U and the power of the Wii U we were finally able to realise that. Multiplayer will be local only.
Okay, moving onto Mario Maker, what was the influence behind deciding to give the player the power to create levels, instead of just creating a new Mario game for the Wii U?
There’s two parts to this. On my dev team we have a tools team that focuses on creating tools for us and they were working on a course editor using the gamepad. The members of this team don’t actually create courses in their day to day job but they had so much fun doing it that they brought the idea to me. They proposed that we make it into some sort of game. I didn’t have an answer for them right away, at the time.
In the mean time I was also thinking about creating Mario Paint using the gamepad, but I was just sitting with that idea for a while because I was concerned that drawing was intimidating for some people, so it wasn't something that everybody could easily get into. There are people who are naturally good at drawing, and people who aren’t so good.
But on the other hand, creating a Mario course you just use different combinations of objects that are already there, so it’s a lot more accessible for people. So when I said I wanted to make Mario Paint what I really wanted to do was to use the gamepad to make something, not necessarily drawing or painting. As you may already know, Mario Paint wasn’t just a painting tool, it was something that you had a lot of fun with just interacting with the tool and discovering new things.
From there I thought I could take the Mario course editor and take the fun creative elements from Mario Paint without the joy of using the software itself and experimenting with things to make the Mario Maker that you see now. I don’t think of Mario Maker as a course editor, it’s a toy to me, where you use your imagination and experiment making things.
Has it been hard to create a medium for players to share the courses or toys they create? Did it have to be built from the ground up or has there been something else (like a store) that has been worked on that Nintendo has been creating for other titles?
That’s actually something that we’re working on now. We actually have a lot of different options, but we’re trying to figure out what would be the best for this game. We could use Miiverse as a platform, possibly export videos to YouTube or we can have something built straight into Mario Maker, and we’re just evaluating our options right now.
Would there be the capabilities to view attached videos uploaded to YouTube from inside Mario Maker to look at a run through before downloading a course?
Among many, many things we’re considering, we do have some of those ideas, but we just haven’t made any decisions about what we’re actually going to do.
Too early on, yes?
Yeah, yeah, that’s right.
We’ve seen in the demo we have the old school NES style Mario Bros., and we have the Wii U Mario Bros. style. Is there likely to be other styles added to Mario Maker in the form of the Mario Bros. 3 or the GameBoy titles?
We have tons of ideas, but it’s still early we just haven’t decided. But we are considering all of those things. We were considering having more, of what we call “skins” or “art styles”, for the E3 version but we thought it might be too complicated and so we chose to only show two.
A lot of people, including Nintendo shareholders, bring up the idea of developing things for the mobile market. Have there been any thoughts about creating something where you edit the levels on a mobile device, but only being able to play them on the Wii U? Has there been any plans or thoughts about mobile integration?
We’re just making for the Wii U.
At the moment all we’ve seen is the course creation, is there going to be more to Mario Maker or will it just be about the creation and sharing of levels?
First, I’d like to say that we’re thinking about music. We haven’t decided exactly how far we’d like to go with it, but in any case we do want to make a simple way to have fun creating your own music. The people working on Mario Maker, they want to do a lot of things with this tool. They’re having fun with it themselves, so we’re thinking of a lot of things. Actually, we have so many ideas that we’re having a hard time narrowing down what we actually want to put in this game.
In a lot of games that have user-created worlds, they have communities with the ability to rate levels and have the developers selecting their favourites. Will Nintendo follow suit or will they be hands-off with the growing of communities?
We’re not that far just yet. As I said earlier, we’re just trying to figure out what’s best for this title.
Is there going to be the ability to have multiplayer/co-op like what we see in New Super Mario Bros Wii and Wii U? If not, will there be different selectable characters?
Yes, I would like to use other characters, for one, and as far as multiplayer, I’m pretty set on probably not. What’s important about this game is the creation part, and we really want to focus on that.
That’s all the questions I have for those two titles, I have a question just for myself as a big fan of a multitude of games Tezuka-san has worked on. Is there any hope for a Mario Sunshine sequel or a 3DS remake of Majora’s Mask?
[laughs] This is my personal opinion, let’s start with that.
It can be off the record if you like.
I mean, of course I wish we could. I personally would like to enjoy those again but I don’t have any information.
Okay! Well thank you very much for your time Tezuka-san.
Header image credit: Nintendo Enthusiast