The director of Splatoon explains the company’s unconventional approach to HD game development.
The shift to HD development took the entire industry by surprise, with many of the best development houses in the world falling victim to how unexpectedly resource and time intensive it turned out to be. The entire industry is still reeling from the shock of the jump to HD development, and to this day, it doesn’t feel like we have a handle on how to develop games satisfactorily.
The one exception to this has been Nintendo- Nintendo has managed to not only survive, but thrive in HD development. Its HD games have been among the very best that the company has put out in nearly a decade, with titles like Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, and Pikmin 3 being the standouts. As it turns out, Nintendo’s mastery over HD development has a reason, and it’s a reason rooted in its very corporate culture.
“As you say, HD development tends to need a lot more people due to the higher standards required,” said Nintendo’s Katsuya Eguchi, who directed the upcoming shooter Splatoon, in an interview to EDGE. “The question of how to secure the necessary programmers and designers is one common to all companies in the industry, and everyone has to find ways of dealing with it. For example, if you increase the number of staff, there will be a greater difference in skill levels between them, which makes managing quality control extremely important.
“However, what’s really critical is making sure that this increased number of staff aren’t doing any unnecessary work. It hurts to imagine just how many people’s work would be wasted if we had to redo something. Being able to judge what needs to be done is the key to making sure that people and time are not wasted. This applies not only to decisions about specific features after development has started, but also to the starting point itself – what kind of new game to make, for example. That is critical, and getting it wrong runs the risk of the whole project amounting to nothing.
“It’s normal that, when a company decides what to start developing, the opinions of the people at the top of the organisation are given the most weight. It makes sense because the people in those roles have had a lot of experience and success stories. However, Nintendo is an entertainment company, and good ideas for entertainment can come from anywhere… Young people are also more sensitive to new trends, developments and technologies that are appearing. We are trying to use the opinions of this younger generation even at the start of a project,” he concluded.
So, the long and short of this is, Nintendo does not let the corporate suits run the company and decide what gets developed, but rather, actual developers and gamers. That would certainly make a lot of sense, really.