Futuristic Toys

—Tell me about the circumstances that led to development.

EnoIn 1999, I broke away from creating console video games and worked on platforms for vending machines and automatic ticket gates. Then in 2005, I just happened to come across a video of President Iwata's keynote speech, and I was blown away.

SatoThat would be when the Wii Remote was first announced.

Eno I printed out a picture of the Wii Remote and made my own out of paper. There weren't any development tools at that time, but I just gripped that flimsy homemade Wii Remote and thought, "now this would make for some interesting gaming." It was like, what's this grown man doing with a piece of paper? (laughs) That's when I decided to contact Nintendo, with the hopes that I could somehow make a game for Wii.

SatoEno-san, when I first met you I was working on a magic-related software for the DS, and you happened to be quite knowledgeable about magic, so that's all we talked about at first.

EnoI went through quite the trial-and-error process, and finally came up with some plans to show Sato-san. I sketched out a concept of "human beings dangling from three-dimensional shapes." The atmosphere I was going for was one of futuristic toys. I thought of cubes floating atop a desk, held there by some unknown force, and the player would throw dolls onto those three-dimensional shapes. That's the sort of gameplay I had in mind.

SatoEno-san and I talked about creating something that was innovative, yet simple, but also offered deep gameplay. When I looked at his sketch on that piece of paper, "innovative" was the first thing that came to mind. From the first time we met, and had that exciting conversation about magic, I knew we both had similar views as to what's interesting and I thought I'd like to work with him on a project.

—So "Innovative, simple, and deep" was your theme then.

Eno "Innovation" is not an easy task. Let me think about this for 10 seconds... For example, let's say you have a hero whose hair keeps growing longer and longer. As he moves and fights, his hair grows, and he fights enemies by swinging that long hair around. How does that sound for a game? And at the end, the entire screen is full of hair. (laughs) That may be innovative, but it's a little different than what Sato-san and I wanted to make. We share a similar philosophy of what's unique and fun, and I think that turned out to be a good thing.

SatoWhenever we got stuck while creating "You, Me and the Cubes" we asked two questions to get back on track - "is it original?" and "is it innovative?"

EnoAs for the "simplicity" and "depth" aspects, I was very fortunate to have left the game industry for a while. When I was making games for 5 to 10 years straight, I had a tendency to only focus on the particulars of "fun," and tended to have forgotten about what the players actually want. I think it's important to just be able to say "that looks fun" and really get excited about a game. I also think it's important that people want to play at a certain pace, whether it's once a day, or once every couple of days, even if they decide they want to read a manga instead of playing games one day. That pace is important so that the players will gradually get more and more drawn into the world they're playing in.

—What is unique about this game?

Eno The player can't directly control characters in this game. Interactivity is an important part of what makes gaming fun, and your average game design would have the player controlling the "Fallos" characters or "Cubes" which is a stage. But all the player can do in this game is throw the Fallos. The player does not have direct control of the screen. I think that's a new concept.

Sato Fallos move on their own with AI capabilities, and as they move on the cube, it will tilt in a certain direction. The point here is to skillfully solve whatever situation they find themselves in.

Eno Even though players just watch what happens after tossing Fallos onto the cubes, I think they'll feel a sense of responsibility as to where they tossed them. Players will be saddened if the Fallos they placed on a cube fall off, or might feel some sense of satisfaction if the Fallos help each other accomplish something.

—Was there anything particular that concerned you in releasing a game through Nintendo?

Eno I tried to express the fun factor from a different angle that is unique to my style, while also maintaining playability and quality. Of course, there is no point for me making a Mario game. I couldn't make anything like that anyways! (laughs)

Sato It would really be a waste to keep Eno-san's originality bottled up.

Eno We also had to adjust the warmth. In terms of temperature, 60.8 degrees was just about right - not too hot, not too cold. At first it had a harder edge, with the Fallos looking different, and their reactions a little colder. But then I thought, "If I just tweak it like this a little, people will really think it's fun," and made some adjustments. We raised the temperature a little by adding word bubbles to the Fallos and letting them speak, but if the game got a little too cozy and warm, we'd turn down the temperature by darkening the background, etc.

—What does the title "You, Me and the Cubes" mean exactly?

Eno It could be interpreted to mean that two players, "You, Me" play on "cube" shapes in the middle of the screen, or the "You" could represent the Fallos characters, with the "Me" as the player who throws them. The "cube" part refers to three-dimensional shapes on the screen, but it also refers to three-dimensional thinking - in terms of perspective and relationships.

Sato For me, when I want to determine whether a title will be well accepted or not, I see how my daughter reacts to it. She often likes the books that Eno-san recommends. The other day he told us about a book called "Vinyl Sheet Dancing in the Wind" (sold in Japan), and we thought that anything with Eno-san's stamp of approval should be a hit.

Eno I think that video games always share an interesting balance between being a "product" on the one hand, and "work of art" on the other. While video game content combines new technologies with a reflection of the times in a new light, the title is sort of an introductory greeting to players. If they hear "You, Me and the Cubes," it might get them interested and they might imagine what it's all about. But even if that image doesn't exactly fit the actual game, that's fine. Even if they don't remember the exact title, just something like "You, Me & what was it...?" I'll be happy if it leaves some sort of impression on them.

—I heard the game took a significant change of direction in terms of content.

Eno Yes. An example of that would be Sato-san and I playing together, and we can't get anywhere without playing as a team. But at the end, we'd have to go up against each other. That's the direction I wanted to take the game in. Instead of a game completely dedicated to either "team play" or "vs. play," I wanted the players to work together through the game, while keeping in mind that they'll eventually go up against each other.

Sato When Eno-san first said that he wanted a game where you "cooperate with each other while competing against each other at the same time," I had an idea of what he meant, but I was lost when that theme gradually started contradicting itself. But when thinking of how unique the concept is, I was more satisfied with the challenge of creating such a game than only focusing on "cooperation" or "competition" alone. And when we added some ideas to it from Eno-san and some of the staff members, it evolved into what it is today.

—Did you make any proposals about the specifics of the game contents, Sato-san?

Sato Almost none. I really thought it was best to leave the creativity up to Eno-san this time around. Once I made it clear that we wanted a fun, innovative video game, there was nothing for me to complain about to Eno-san as long as he strived to achieve that goal. I would have spoken up if he was only taking half-hearted efforts, but his direction was rock solid. Am I getting carried away with the flattery here? (laughs)

Eno It's not warm enough yet. (laughs)

Sato I don't think a lot of people know this around the world, but Eno-san is quite a thorough director.

Eno I'm not very good at giving vague directions. Whatever it is I'm working on, people always say, "I never imagined you'd be such a thorough director." (laughs) What kind of reputation is that... (laugh)

Sato Reputation is important. When at a party to celebrate the completion of the game's development, a key member of our team said, "I couldn't trust Eno-san at first, and I was doubtful of his direction. Because of that, development took much longer than it should have." (smiles)

Eno And he even said it was a "waste of time." (laughs) But then he said, "From the next project, I'll be able to trust you during development." His reflections and aspirations were, "I couldn't trust you this time, but I'll trust you next time." It felt like someone next to me was badmouthing my dead father right next to me or something. (laughs)

Sato Apparently only the sound staff trusted him from early on. Eno-san's been in charge of sound in the past, which probably made it easier to communicate.

—How did you get through the development process?

Eno We had about a dozen staff members, and everyone attended a meeting once or twice a week. We gave everyone a chance to express their opinions equally, regardless of who's in charge of what. People tend to think that method is a waste of time, and some were against it when development started getting busy. But that's the only way I can operate.

Sato On the surface it may seem like a waste of time, but it has significant merits. Especially when you're creating something new. It's vital to keep your ears and eyes open when Eno-san makes a judgment, so when the time comes you can say, "this is the way Eno-san did it the other day" and make your own judgments like that.

Eno Sometimes there are ideas that only can come out from somebody that's actually working on that specific part of the job. And other times people on the team would give me ideas I never could have thought of myself, or suggest that do something that I would have cancelled due to schedule restraints. In order to make a great game, I'm glad we fostered an environment where everyone could express their opinions openly. We put together all kinds of intricate ideas and finally completed the project.

—It seems the game turned out even better than what you originally had in mind.

Eno In my case, it's no fun if you can look at the specifications and see all the way to the goal. I may sound spoiled for this, but instead of just doing the job I'm told to do, or just supervising, I really want to make the most of the game creation process. When creating a video game with a famous story, a well-established system, or characters that everyone already knows about, it's sort of guaranteed to be fun. But "You, Me and the Cubes" is an original game that doesn't have that background. I don't think anyone can make a fun video game if they don't enjoy making them in the first place.

—So a game's fun factor depends on how much you can enjoy it yourself?

Eno Ever since I was a kid, I thought, "This looks interesting, so why not try it?" It's similar to that kind of feeling. It's important that everyone on the team thinks it sounds fun, so you can all create it together with that attitude. People think when it comes to planning that I really come up with something out of the ordinary when creating games, and while I don't deny that, I am thinking a great deal of the entire team being able to have fun in order to generate the motivation to reach a distant goal. I feel like a lot of things just happened by chance, but they melded together nicely for an excellent final result.

—I heard the game took a significant change of direction in terms of content.

Eno I felt quite a sense of responsibility doing this with a publisher such as Nintendo. Since I got back into the video game industry, I really didn't want to keep doing the same kind of stuff, so it was very stimulating for me to do an action game. That's the genre that Nintendo is making the most out of. But I never thought I'd be making a game for Nintendo after being out of the industry for 10 years! (laughs) It's been 20 years since I made a game for a Nintendo console, which was the Famicom (Nintendo Entertainment System) way back in the day, so it felt like a unique sense of fate for me to do this. It's kind of like I just climbed up out of a pipe (from Super Mario Bros.). I grow big, get small, and grow big again but just keep moving forward. But if there are a lot of coins under that pipe, I just might have to go down again. (laughs)




—(laughs) Any closing thoughts for our readers?

Sato I'd always ride the train home with Eno-san after our regular meetings, and for about a week I was trying to figure out interesting stuff we could talk about. I'd gone to see a David Copperfield show around that time, and his flying disk just happened to fly my way, and I got to go up on stage. I thought I had some pretty interesting material with that story, but then Eno-san topped it with his. Apparently he'd gone to the David Copperfield show right after that one, and his son got to go up on stage. When I heard that I felt like he had me beat. (laughs)

Eno When my son was chosen to help Copperfield with his magic trick, I'd never been so worried about him in my life. While I was watching it was like, "Is my boy gonna disappear"? (laughs)

—So what happened to your son after that?

Eno His job was to keep an eye on something, and it was an important role, but he didn't actually get to participate in the magic part. That was disappointing because I was expecting a lot.

—You really are a magic lover, aren't you.

Eno Especially Copperfield's shows. I go to see him every time he performs and he always moves me to tears at the end. The way he amazes the audience and makes them smile, I really think it's an incredible job. Unlike with movies, there's an interactive element in his shows. And the way he performs makes you feel like he might pick you next, which adds a little nervous excitement to the mix. As a game creator, I want to amaze people, make them laugh, and give them even more of a thrill than that. I want to make the best out of the entire process. Not just the game, but the process - from hearing about it to buying it. I want players to feel that joy and excitement of going over to a friend's house to play it. Those are the kinds of video games I want to make.



Kenji
ENO

 

Creation, Direction, Sound
From Yellow To Orange, Inc.




Hiroshi
SATO

Producer
Nintendo Co., Ltd.

You, Me, and the Cubes
Publisher : Nintendo
Genre : Physics-Based Action Puzzler
No. of players: : 1-2
Relese Date : September 21, 2009
Wii Points : 1,000
Controllers :

This WiiWare title is available on the Wii Shop Channel

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