Hideki Kamiya Talks: How The Wonderful 101 Became The Game It Is Today

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At the Penny Arcade Expo, we had the chance to have a few quick words with PlatinumGames’ Hideki Kamiya, who just wrapped up development of The Wonderful 101. During our conversation, Kamiya touched upon different aspects of the game’s development, including the original design with Nintendo characters, and how it grew into the title it is today.


The Wonderful 101 looks different now from the way it did a year ago. How has the game changed since you last showed it off a public event?


Hideki Kamiya, director: The game has been undergoing changes on a daily basis, being updated everyday. I don’t know at what state exactly the game was, at last year’s PAX build, but thinking to about a year ago, we were really still right in the middle of this trial-and-error process of going through a lot of steps to make it more interesting.


At the time, it wasn’t at the level we wanted it to be. It wasn’t exactly fun, so to really get something greater out of the gameplay, we were working through that. So, at the time you could really call it a temporary state, where we were trying to show off overall concept and aesthetic and whatnot. From then, day-by-day, we’ve been going through this process of trial-and-error, where we build up elements or completely throw out other elements.


For example, there’s a really fundamental part of the game, which is drawing different shapes [on the Wii U GamePad] which results in the Unite Morphs, and at one point, it was simply pressing a button. Pressing a button to make a sword or pressing a button to make a fist. It was just a matter of pressing an icon. And that’s an area that wasn’t as fun, and by implementing this system of drawing the Unite Morphs—making decisions like that through development—we made progress in making the game more interesting.


So, it’s not as if we’d decided from the beginning what the featureset or fundamental gameplay would be. It’s something that came together nicely as we went along.


There are 100 heroes in The Wonderful 101, but each one is unique and has a unique design. How did you go about making each one unique and was it challenging to come up with 100 unique characters?


So, the main character designer [is] Ms. Okura. The wide variety of characters is largely thanks to her. From the point where we decided on having a hundred characters, it was simple enough to start first with imagining we’ve got the colored heroes. We’ve got the red and blue and yellow and going on from there.


And so, naturally, I went on to thinking [how] we’ve got these other Wonderful-somethings. Thinking of different themes. Around baseball or whatever. Getting these ideas down on paper and then handing them off to Ms. Okura. And we talked about if these aren’t interesting or if these are designs we have to pursue, and I left it up to her to fill in and come up with interesting designs. So, I would say it’s mostly thanks to her effort.


On Bayonetta, Ms. Okura was the UI designer and she came up with a very unique and interesting design that was very appealing to me, so I made the special request to have her work on The Wonderful 101 as the main designer. She was also the designer on all of the enemies in The Wonderful 101, and in addition to doing the player characters and enemies—tasks that are usually split up between different designers, as they were in Okami and Bayonetta—she handled all of the design and it was a very impressive feat to be able to do that at such a high quality.


The Wonderful 101 appears to be heavily influenced by tokusatsu shows. What makes characters in those shows cool, and how did that influence the game?


Trying to identify what exactly it is about superheroes in those shows is hard to put into words. [That] stuff is just cool, but that coolness and style is injected into a lot of different elements of the game, such as design and story and so on.


In the very first draft of The Wonderful 101, Inaba-san said it had an all-star cast of Nintendo characters. Could you talk about the initial design and what characters you had?


Initially, the idea was proposed by [Platinum boss] Mr. Minami, to create a game featuring Nintendo characters or other popular characters together in one game. With the idea of putting characters like Mario and Link into the same game, you end up with a situation where fans of Mario are forced to play as Link.


It’s hard for all fans to enjoy all parts of the game evenly. So [the question was], how can I create a game where there’s an even enough emphasis to put on all the different characters? And the answer was that I could put all the different characters on the screen at the same time. That was the key thought that led to what The Wonderful 101 turned out to be.


What are the differences between a producer and a director at PlatinumGames? Do they have different responsibilities and do they divvy up the authority differently?


The difference is that producers serve more of a management role. Management logistics like staffing, scheduling, being responsible for completing the game as a product. More management-oriented. I’ve always been a director. My job is making the game. As director, an important distinction is that I’m the one on the ground floor making the game.


What’s the difference between Sega and Nintendo when it comes to their involvement in development support for the games you’ve made for them?


I can say there’s a lot of very small minor differences in the way the two companies operate. A lot of it is these small differences in corporate culture or processes or something, but generally, it’d be safe to say that both companies are able to respect PlatinumGames’ way of doing things, and largely left making the game [to us] and respecting the development of the game from that perspective.


What are the differences in size, between the Bayonetta 2 and The Wonderful 101 teams?


Of course, it depends at which stage of development a game is in. At this moment in time, it’s sort of meaningless to compare the two. Bayonetta 2 hasn’t necessarily reached its peak of development and when we get to that point, you would add staff. In that regard, it’s hard to say if one is bigger than the other. [It just] depends on where it’s at.


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