Nintendo's living legend talks about the oncoming revolution in game control.
Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's living legend, has seen next-generation systems come and go. He saw the NES replace the Atari generation. When the Super NES replaced the NES, Miyamoto may still have been a relatively unknown personality, but the characters and games he created were among the most bankable properties in the entertainment world.
Four years later, as the PlayStation and Saturn ushered in the next generation, Miyamoto's name was no longer a secret. He appeared in mainstream magazines and became the gaming world's first genuine celebrity.
In his latest interview with GameSpy, Miyamoto took off his game designer hat and spoke about making controllers. Miyamoto helped design the controller for the N64 -- the first controller to feature an analog stick. He helped design the controller for the GameCube. Now he is currently working on the Revolution controller.
As games become more complex, Miyamoto worries whether or not game controllers are following suit.
"The idea that somebody might look at the Revolution controller and think, 'Oh, this is too much for me' is something that I would really regret. That is something I would love to avoid if I can," says Miyamoto.
"The controllers for this generation do not look fun to use. You don't look at any of the controllers and think, 'Wow, I want to play [with] this.' You look at these controllers and think, 'Oh my God, it looks so difficult.' That scares people away.
"Actually, at Nintendo, we're not even sure which is better. Is the + control pad the better way to, go or is the analog stick the better way to go? I haven't really been able to decide which is best."
Shigeru Miyamoto has long specialized in making family friendly games. The PlayStation 2 controller may scare off younger players, but it has not deterred older players. The Xbox controller ran into some criticism because of size, but its layout went largely unnoticed -- though the smaller white and black buttons were somewhat criticized.
The GameCube controller, with its distinctly shaped buttons, probably was the easiest of the controller to use. When asked about this, Miyamoto expresses surprise that Sony and Microsoft did not adopt this innovation. Sony certainly borrowed the analog stick from the N64 controller.
Miyamoto is obviously happy with the GameCube controller, but he admits it is not perfect. "Using the analog and the L and R shoulder buttons was maybe a little hard for the younger players. We were not able to use that functionality very well in games either. On this next one [Revolution], we're really looking at solving some of those problems.
"With the GameCube, we originally thought we'd be able to use the functionality of the L and R buttons to create some really unique things. In the end we just made basic games and didn't really utilize the full potential, but with the Revolution we're hoping to do is utilize the interface to create more interesting and unique games…."
Asked to clarify, Miyamoto explains that he is simply referring to using the shoulder buttons. "We're looking at utilizing the functionality of the Revolution and its user interface to create really unique gaming experiences."
Miyamoto has two goals for his Revolution controller design. He states them quite succinctly.
"What we really want to do is create something that's not frightening to the user that is usable for a Zelda-type game. We're going to have to figure out a way to marry both those ideas."
Miyamoto says that Nintendo has created such a controller. Asked about all the secrecy surrounding the new controller design, he says, "Graphic chips are one thing. Those are hard to imitate. But if we showed our controller, we'd be revealing way too much. It's very easy to copy. We really want to present our interface, the controller, with software as a package."
It is worth pointing out that with the exception of analog sticks (a Nintendo innovation) and an internal solenoid, PlayStation controllers have not seen any drastic changes. The Xbox and Xbox 360 controllers are fairly similar. Nintendo, on the other hand, has dramatically changed its control pads with every generation.