The most successful game designer of all time, the chief creative mind behind Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and a slew of other cultural institutions, wants to make a game a little more like Doom or Call of Duty.
“I actually do kind of want to make a first-person shooter,” he told me in Los Angeles last week, “but I don’t have time.”
Someone, please give him some time.
Shigeru Miyamoto has never made violent video games, at least not in the blood-and-guts sense we see with most modern first-person shooters. Violence in terms of a plumber stomping on top of cartoonish turtles? Sure. But not the kind of violence one associates with Modern Warfare or Battlefield.
Not surprisingly, it doesn’t even seem like Miyamoto’s dream FPS would be particularly violent — or that violence would be the focal point of it. He seems more enamoured by the experience of seeing a new world through gaming’s favourite camera angle.
“Rather than necessarily the question of ‘What kind of weapon do I have?’ in a first person shooter or ‘What kind of effect does that have on an enemy?’, I think that the structure of a first-person shooter is something that’s very interesting,” he said through a translator. “Having that 3D space that in theory you are in and being able to look around and explore that — particularly being able to do that in conjunction with another person — is very interesting.”
The topic of Miyamoto making an FPS emerged accidentally during our interview at E3, sprouting from a question I posed to him about why Nintendo felt it was important to announce at the big show in L.A. that this fall’s Wii U would support two of its screen-based GamePad controllers.
Miyamoto initially thought I was really wondering why Nintendo would state that the machine could “only” run two. “I don’t think we’re ever going to be at a point where we’ll say it will support four GamePads, but two gamepads is something people wanted,” he said.
His translator clarified that I was asking why even mentioning the support for two — something, to be clear, that I’d said was important for gamers — was something Nintendo thought was important to gamers. I wanted his take on the relevance of two GamePads tied to one Wii U game. His fresh answer: “Well, if you’re playing a first-person shooter and you have the game up on the television screen and you have your subscreen below [in the GamePad controller],within that game world you’re able to turn in all directions around you.” (The effect would be similar to the Wii U game Nintendo Land‘s placement of its Zelda archer player as existing inside a virtual world; if you are playing as the archer, you see the game world through the GamePad’s screen and can move the GamePad around the room you’re playing in, using it as a viewfinder that lets you see the virtual world sort of transposed on the room you’re in.)
Miyamoto continued about his idea of an FPS in which the player views their game world through the screen on the GamePad: “Obviously that would be very fun,” he said. “If you have two people doing that in the same room, that could create a very fun and unique gameplay experience.” Ergo, two GamePads are useful. And also, ergo, that’s the kind of FPS he’d have a good time making.
In a wonderful bit of gaming-mastermind synchronicity, it just so happens that the co-creator of Doom, John Carmack, was at E3 to showcase a head-mounted display he’s programming for first-person shooters. Miyamoto’s and Carmack’s concepts are similar. While Miyamoto’s involves a screen you hold in your hands; Carmack’s involves one that covers your eyes. In both cases, the player is then free to move around and experience an FPS as if they are inside the shooter’s world, looking up in order to see the ceiling of the virtual world above them, tilting their head down to see the virtual world’s floor and turning around to see an enemy sneaking behind them. Like Miyamoto, Carmack seems excited about the idea that more than one player in a room could be using this kind of tech in a multiplayer shooter. Maybe Miyamoto and Carmack should team up. (Carmack talks about all of this in this dozen-minute video.)
Shigeru Miyamoto has done a tiny bit of FPS work before. He had final say in the first, acclaimed GameCube game Metroid Prime game which was designed in collaboration by Nintendo’s team in Texas, Retro Studios and the company’s Kyoto HQ. That game is largely seen as Retro’s creation. It’s certainly not seen as the first-person shooter made by the man who made Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong.
Photo: Chris Pizzello/AP. Gun added with Photoshop by Mike Fahey.