Recently, Nintendo released Sin & Punishment 2 for the Wii. To celebrate, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata sat down with the development team for the Sin & Punishment games to shed some light on the development history of the original and its sequel as part of a Creator’s Voice feature. This six-part interview will be released over the next few days on Siliconera, translated in its entirety. Here are the first two segments, covering topics ranging from the impetus between the creation of the first game and the development troubles that plagued the team in the early days.
Participating members (from left to right):
Satoru Iwata – President of Nintendo
Shingo Matsushita – Software Planning & Development Team
Yurie Hattori – Software Planning & Development Team
Hitoshi Yamagami – Software Planning & Development Team
Masato Maegawa – CEO of Treasure Corporation
Atsutomo Nakagawa – Director of Treasure Corporation
Yasushi Suzuki – Art Director
Translated from: Original feature on Japanese Wii site
The Start of Development is the N64 Controller
Iwata: Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to come today.
Maegawa: No no, thank you.
Iwata: The previous game1 sold for the Nintendo 64 is very familiar to those in the know, but I would like to tell more and more people just a little about “Sin & Punishment” – about what sort of people worked on it, what sort of charm the game has. Today, I had everyone come all the way over to Kyoto. I hope we have a great time today.
Maegawa: Same here.
Iwata: Now then, let’s start off with introductions from Treasure2.
2. Treasure = A development team created in 1992 to specialize in action and shooting games. They produced games such as “Mischief Makers,” “Ikaruga,” “Wario World,” as well as many others.
Maegawa: I’m Maegawa, the CEO of Treasure. I was the executive producer for “Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Earth.”
Nakagawa: I’m Nakagawa from Treasure. I’m director now, but I worked on the programming, planning, and many other parts of this game.
Suzuki: I’m the designer, Suzuki. At the time I was a member of Treasure, but now I’m freelance. Right now, I’m helping out as a supporting art director.
Iwata: Everyone here has once worked on the first game, right?
Iwata: I would like to ask about how the first game first started, how it came to be.
Maegawa: OK. The motivation for the game was the Nintendo 64 controller. At the time, Nintendo was proposing two ways to hold the controller: the left position and the right position3, but most games only supported the right position…
Iwata: “Mario 64”4 used the right position, so I guess everyone just went and followed suit.
4. “Mario 64” = “Super Mario 64.” It was sold at the same time as the Nintendo 64, and it was the first 3D Mario action game. It was sold in June of 1996.
Maegawa: That’s why we ended up talking about how the left position wasn’t used all that much, regardless of the fact that that it was possible for the left positioning to have its own controls.
Iwata: You can do some unique controls with it, but no one used it…
Maegawa: Yeah, no one used it. But it seemed like we could use it for some interesting controls, and so the development started.
Iwata: So the starting point for the development of “Sin & Punishment” was “We’re going to use the left position and make it work?”
Maegawa: That’s right. We thought, “Oh, we can move the target cursor with the analog stick and the player with the directional buttons” and use the left position controls that way.
Iwata: So? How did you actually start off development?
Maegawa: It turned out that having unique left position controls was unexpectedly very awkward for new players to approach.
Iwata: Because it’s never been done before.
Maegawa: The people at Nintendo said the same thing. Also, at the same time, the Controller Pak5 was attached to the Nintendo 64 controller, so we also talked about whether a sensor could be added. However, we started development with the left position and if we had added sensor compatibility at the time, we would have dragged out what was already a long developing time even longer. So we gave up on that at the time, but as time passed, the Wii came out…
Iwata: Quite a lot of time has passed (laughs).
Maegawa: Yes (laughs). When we saw the Wii Remote, we thought that this was exactly the type of sensor we were talking about at the time.
Iwata: Aah, I see.
Maegawa: And so, the one who instigated these two with “Let’s do ‘Sin & Punishment’ for the Wii!” was me.
Nakagawa & Suzuki: (nod in agreement)
Maegawa: And, you can aim by pointing the Wii Remote, you can control the player with the Nunchuk, so you can’t not do it! …which was the starting point for the current work…
Iwata: Ah, wait a second. Before we get started on the Wii, I would like to ask some questions about our initial topic (laughs).
Maegawa: OK (laughs).
Iwata: When did you start development of the N64 version?
Maegawa: It was in stores in 2000, so when was it…? We were originally planning on the previous work setting the stage for the near future in 2007. I remember talking about how “it will happen in 10 years,” so it was probably proposed in 1997.
Iwata: The near future in 2007? But that’s already passed! (laughs)
Maegawa: Yeah, it’s passed (laughs).
Iwata: The first “Sin & Punishment” game took quite a while to create for a game of its time. On top of that, the 64 was at the end of its selling period, so it was kind of like missing the last train out (laughs).
Maegawa: Sorry about that (laughs).
Iwata: No, I have experienced the difficulty of launching off with the 64 as well. At the time, I was the CEO of HAL Laboratory, and even though the Nintendo 64 came out in 1996, until “Smash”6 and “Pokemon Snap”7 came out in 1999, HAL Laboratory was focused on “putting out products” so we made no contributions at all. The reason for this was that, with the advent of the Nintendo 64, the structure of the games we’ve been using since the Super Famicom had greatly changed and we crashed into the wall of “how to use 3D,” and it was very hard for the team. I would like to hear a bit about what sort of trials and errors Treasure had gone through when, at the same time, you had written the proposal in 1997 and sold the game in 2000.
7. “Pokemon Snap” = a camera action game for the Nintendo 64 that was released in March of 1999.
Maegawa: It’s better if the programmer Nakagawa handles that…
Nakagawa: …OK. As Iwata-san said just now, when the Nintendo 64 came out, creating games went through a big change.
Iwata: It changed. It really did change.
Nakagawa: However, before the Nintendo 64 came out, other company’s systems already had something like an introduction to 3D. So the knowledge to creating games in 3D was also…
Iwata: They had a certain amount of knowledge already.
Nakagawa: …Yes. That’s why we thought we could work on the Nintendo 64 too. But, the Nintendo 64 … sure was something (bitter laughter).
Iwata: (laughs) It was a machine that was hard to create things for and didn’t work at all.
Nakagawa: Y-Yes. It didn’t work at all…
Maegawa: At the time, I was the main programmer, so I also understand Nakagawa’s experiences.
Nakagawa: What we did before the Nintendo 64 was, after all, only an introduction.
Nakagawa: But, the Nintendo 64 was a 3D machine to the core.
Iwata: Because the Silicon Graphics Co.8 architecture was just dropped into play. The Nintendo 64 had all sorts of limitations, but in the end, it was a 3D machine to the core. It’s just that, even if it was one to the core, there were those limitations, so it was hard to use and turned out to be a machine that didn’t work at all.
Nakagawa: Which is why, after having played around on these introductory systems (Editor’s note: possibly referring to SEGA Saturn?) for all this time and then suddenly having a professional machine dropped into our laps, we couldn’t get it to work at all for the first year…
Nakagawa: … (Silently stares off into the distance)
Iwata: It couldn’t work, and…?
Nakagawa: Sigh… (and gives a very big sigh)
Iwata: (laughs) That sigh just now contained many different emotions, didn’t it (laughs).
Nakagawa: (very big nod)
Iwata: Nakagawa-san, it seems that you’ve had such a hard time with the N64 that you can give such a big sigh, but can I hear more about this in detail?
Nakagawa: Yes. In the first place, a game where you point and shoot has the reticule moving in 2D, but…
Iwata: But the world is 3D.
Nakagawa: That’s right. Which was why we had to shoot 3D enemies with a 2D cursor, so we started off with “how do we do this?”
Nakagawa: On that point, we went through many trials and errors before finally somehow getting the bullets to hit the enemy.
Nakagawa: And then, next was… (a grimace)
Iwata: Next was…?
Nakagawa: The enemy’s attacks wouldn’t hit the player.
Iwata: So this time the enemy’s attacks can’t hit the player (laughs).
Nakagawa: If it were a game where the player wasn’t shown on the screen, then we could at the very least flub our way through, but we were creating a game where you could see the player, we couldn’t do such a thing.
Iwata: Because if it’s just a little off, it’ll feel unnatural and completely uncomfortable.
Nakagawa: That’s right. All my memories are filled with harsh memories like that… The bosses were the same too.
Nakagawa: Boss enemies have to be big and have this pressure coming from them, or else…
Iwata: They’re not bosses.
Nakagawa: Yes, they wouldn’t be bosses. But with 3D, there’s depth to the screen.
Iwata: It would be normal for bosses to be deeper in.
Nakagawa: But when we show it on the screen, it’s so small you think “Oh, that’s not a boss.” But in actuality, it’s really huge.
Iwata: Even if it’s really big, it looks really small.
Nakagawa: (with a bitter expression) That’s right…
Iwata: That must have been a lot of trouble (laughs).
Nakagawa: …It was. But in “Sin & Punishment,” you can attack by approaching the enemy, so we thought that, when this happens, the enemy’s enormous size will show itself. However, when you get closer, then it’s too big.
Nakagawa: (with a troubled expression) It couldn’t fit in the screen…
Iwata: You’d approach and you’d have no idea what the boss was at all.
Nakagawa: That’s right. The screen only shows up to the area right above the foot. So you think “This is a huge boss … or I think it is, but there’s only a foot.”
Iwata: It really caused you many painful memories.
Nakagawa: (quietly nods)
Iwata: When “Sin a& Punishment” came out, I thought it was a very ambitious game. I even felt “The Nintendo 64 can play things like this too?!” But Nakagawa-san, it seems like you love fighting challenges at your limit by nature, don’t you?
Nakagawa: I love it (distinctly).
Iwata: You do, don’t you.
Nakagawa: I do … it’s just that it’s also hard.
Maegawa: It’s been like this in the past too. From the Famicom era and on, we were fighting the limitations of the hardware.
Iwata: With the Famicom and the Super Famicom, pioneering and digging up ways to use the hardware without any specification documents were the joys of a programmer.
Iwata: Which was why, when you didn’t understand how other companies’ games did something, you’d be very vexed, and when others are surprised and go “Whaaaat?!” to your creations, you’d be very happy.
Maegawa: That’s right. Which was why with the Nintendo 64 we tried to create games that way too.
Iwata: And Nakagawa-san took up the challenge with those feelings…
Nakagawa: Yes. And then I crashed into this big, huge wall. It wasn’t just the programming that had problems. The designer also suffered.
Iwata: Suzuki-san as well?
Suzuki: Yes, with designing, I remember that textures9 especially caused us problems.
Iwata: Because the Nintendo 64 had an extremely severe limitation on the size of the textures. Which was why if you didn’t plan things and create the data well, the processing speed would just plummet.
Suzuki: Yeah. To gain processing speed, we’d do things like pull out bones10. It was like a fight to see just how many characteristics the limitations would allow.
Iwata: By the way, recently game development has had a trend of an enormous number of people involved, but Treasure is going against the flow and focuses on a powerful creation technique in a pretty narrowed-down team.
Maegawa: That’s right, yes.
Iwata: I also have the impression that at the time I had thought “Oh, a team with such limitations can create this!” when very powerful games were created.
Maegawa: Well, you see, we were really desperate…
Nakagawa & Suzuki: (nod eagerly)
Maegawa: In the first place, I have the policy of letting the staff create as they’d like… It’s just that if you have them make what they really like, you could have 30 people trying to make whatever they want and we wouldn’t be able to get around to all of their opinions. Everyone would say, “I want to do it this way” however they’d like. Truthfully, it’s not that we’re going, “Let’s go with fewer people and elite ideas” or something cool like that. It’s that we can’t make anything with more people.
Iwata: With so many people, you wouldn’t be able to get around to them all (laughs).
Maegawa: Yes. Which is why we have Nakagawa being both director and programmer, having to supervise everything or else we wouldn’t be able to make anything. That’s why, this time, our first step was starting with an extremely low number of people, creating just the core of the game with a minimum staff of two programmers and two designers. Of course, in the end, we ended up with a staff the size of which had never before seen in Treasure.
Iwata: When you had finished the core part at first, I had seen it, but even then I remember having a very good impression.
Maegawa: I’m sure Iwata-san knows very well, but, in the past with the Famicom, one person could do everything himself.
Iwata: Yes. Originally, there was 1 programmer, and the entire team was 3 people.
Nakagawa: Even now, Treasure is like that.
Maegawa: Our company works with a team of 3 people normally, even now. This way, we could really put what we want into the game. However, that doesn’t mean that my policy is “Create the game with few people!” In reality, as a company, we have only a few people as well…
Nakagawa & Suzuki: (nod in agreement)
Iwata: (laughs) But, to put it in a cool way, you want to leverage the energy used for different aspects in the best way possible for development.
Maegawa: You could also just say we’re doing whatever the heck we want (laughs).
All pictures and games mentioned are works of Nintendo. Siliconera was only responsible for translating the feature.