The reason I ask is because it can be sort of a double-edged sword. People love Nintendo games and Nintendo franchises, so you have that there, but as Bryce was saying, if you over-rely on it, it could end up keeping you keeping from making creative decisions.
YI: Yeah, as you mentioned, if you rely too much on those nostalgic elements, it really limits your ability to try new things, and then at that point you're hampering the game experience. And I guess you could say that it's pretty common for us to then go in and add some of those nostalgic elements once the game is in a position where adding all those elements won't interfere with the core game.
BD: A lot of the stuff we put in for nostalgic reasons was toward the end of the project. We had a long period of time where we were just experimenting with gameplay.
BH: It's used as polish rather than as core.
BD: It's kinda like, "Brian really wants this feature in the game because he thought a fan might've appreciated it in the first one." And that went in, like, four months ago. But throughout the development of the game, it was just, "Create new ideas." That's the one unique thing about Nintendo that I like -- they are always creating new ideas, but with familiar IP. It's always gameplay first.
What is the first thing you think about when you start a project? When you decided that, "Yes, we're going to make a new Luigi's Mansion," what did you say was important to launching this project from Nintendo's perspective?
YI: So, this doesn't just apply to this game, but one of the things from the very beginning that we've held high, of course, is the controls. The gameplay and the controls have to perform.
I don't know how exactly this project got off the ground, but I don't know if they came to you and said, "It's Luigi's Mansion!" But when you're having these initial conversations, what mattered?
BH: Yeah, I can explain that. I was mentioning to the last interviewer: It kind of started as we were working on a demo for a different project completely, and then it was a conference call just like this, and all of a sudden they said, "Hey, we're making Luigi's Mansion," and it needs to have those elements we talked about earlier, about the camera. "We want to experiment with a bunch of controls that highlight the features of the 3DS."
So, I think we did a pretty good job. The game is actually easier -- the ghost-fighting, which is one of the core mechanics -- I believe it's actually easier with the 3D set to on than it is with it off. And that just speaks to the beginning of the game: it was, 3D was an important asset, we knew we were gonna have a circle pad, so let's make a core mechanic that will be enhanced actually viewing it in 3D.
Again, each gameplay-first control experiment that happened had a different reason to start it. So, it's not so much with Nintendo you get a big design document and then you execute. It's: "Here's this toy, and we want you to make a game -- or just think of ideas that highlight its functionality that's unique." That's an important part that Ikebata-san and Nakada-san would always say: "Why is this device unique, and how can we make gameplay around that device?"
And then you start from there, and eventually there's plenty of experimenting, and you start handpicking the best ones. So, from their perspective it's gameplay first, to highlight their technology in unique ways that aren't possible on other systems.
BD: Internally, we have this idea of "proof of concepts," called POCs. We would make hundreds of these POCs, and not all of them would be used in the game. So, it's just a constant, rapid prototyping phase, and ideas come from that.
BH: It jells a little bit later. I think Nintendo's commitment to experimenting and prototyping is known, and there's a long prototyping phase, even overlapping into production, throughout.
YI: We were making changes on the game even leading right up into debug.
BH: We're supposed to keep that quiet! [laughs] Yeah, and one other thing -- that maybe Nakada-san and Ikebata-san can correct my language if it's wrong -- but when you're being mentored by Miyamoto-san, he kind of puts challenges out to you.
And when thinking of the game as a concept, it's either you have to be the best at that type of game, or you have to be a game where nobody can say something like, "Oh, that [game]'s like this [game]."
"So, what's Luigi's Mansion like?" "Well, Luigi's Mansion is like Luigi's Mansion." If you can get that tagline, he finds that compelling, and that's kind of his driving force -- that you own the space. You don't worry about market; you just build a game and see if people will like it.