Message From God – Developer Interview

Posted By at 12:45 AM on Sunday March 17, 2013

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The following interview originally appeared in Star Fox: Mission File Printout (ISBN 4-09-102424-6), an official Nintendo guidebook published by Shogakukan in 1993. It was archived by psycommando.

Message From God – Developer Interview

A 3D environment with a strong presence.
A backstory that stimulates the power of players’ imaginations.
The world of Star Fox was created by Miyamoto’s familiar team of elites.
In addition, the staff of a talented English software company known as Argonaut, perhaps familiar to some readers, participated on every front.
Read what the developers have to say, and deepen your enjoyment of the game!!

Shigeru Miyamoto

Birthdate: November 16th, 1952

Blood Type: Possibly A?

Previous Work: Producer on Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Kart, etc.

Role in Star Fox: I guess you could say my role was “workplace supervisor”. I went around to see what the team was working on, sometimes lessening the workload of staff with too much on their plate, sometimes piling work on. I think Star Fox was the game that created the most work, in that regard.

Most Troublesome: It took us 2 years to create the basic system manufacturing chip (the Super FX). The development of the game itself took 1 year. Star Fox marked the first time we sought the participation of English developers. Communicating with them didn’t go so well in early development. But after 2 months or so, they came to understand the Japanese-flavored English spoken by our Japanese staff, and work began to go more smoothly.

What He Wants You to See: The visuals in past games have resembled stage plays. And by that, I mean players view the game as though they were an audience seated in a theatre, watching the stage. And then there are films, with a more advanced perspective. The audience’s point of view in a movie can be changed via the perspective of the camera, which has the power of free movement. The perspective in Star Fox sits halfway between that of a play and that of a movie. If you consider the fact that you can control the camera yourself, you can experience the world of the game in a less detached manner than you would if you were watching a movie.

Katsuya Eguchi

Birthdate: April 7th, 1965

Blood Type: B

Previous Work: Level creator on Super Mario World, Super Mario Brothers 3, etc.

Role in Star Fox: My role was deciding on the rules and configuration of the overall game, as well as gathering the opinions of the staff, making executive decisions, and then directing each staff member accordingly. Aside from that, I also programmed course data and animations for some of the enemies.

Most Troublesome: The number of times we spoke to the foreign staff was the greatest. At first, we worked together using a translator, but eventually we began talking directly, careful to communicate our intentions. My family said they sometimes heard me speaking English in my sleep…

What He Wants You to See: I want players to observe the world of Star Fox from an insider’s point of view. I’d also like them to find themselves unconsciously moving their bodies along with the controller as they play the game.

Yoichi Yamada

Birthdate: April 1st, 1964

Blood Type: A

Previous Work: The early Super Nintendo test program. The planning of The Legend of Zelda overworld and (4 of the) dungeons.

Role in Star Fox: I would think up animations for each enemy, then create a document with the specifications and hand that off to the programmers and designers. Aside from that, I was also responsible for deciding on the timing regarding when obstacles and enemies would appear, then inputting that data.

Most Troublesome: It was difficult to balance the amusement that comes from carefully aiming and firing at enemies and defeating things in succession, the careful depiction of enemy animations, the tempo as the game unfolded, the feel of avoiding obstacles, and the enjoyable sense created by the game’s quick scrolling.

What He Wants You to See: I’d like players to take note of the sense of distance between objects that’s made possible by a 3D polygon game, as well as the liveliness of the animations. Also, I want people to get a taste of the fun you can have flying around in a 3D environment.

Tsuyoshi Watanabe

Birthdate: March 13th, 1968

Blood Type: O

Previous Work: Background design on The Legend of Zelda.

Role in Star Fox: I was responsible for character design on everything that was going to be animated with polygons, including Arwings, enemies, and structures.

Most Troublesome: You have no choice but to create simple shapes when you draw things with polygons, so if you go in trying to make something pretty, you’ll quickly find yourself caught. For that reason, I struggled with the question of how much personality I should put into the things I created. I’d do research on creatures such as the stingrays and whales that appear in Sector Y by watching videos or looking them up in the encyclopedia. Once, a fight broke out amongst the staff about whether stingrays’ tails bend or not. [Laughs]

What He Wants You to See: How far-off enemies and structures appear, blurred by the light. I want players to really get a sense of the void of space and the planets as they play through the game.

Takaya Imamura

Birthdate: April 10th, 1966

Blood Type: A

Previous Work: Character and graphic design on F-Zero, The Legend of Zelda, etc.

Role in Star Fox: I worked on the graphics that weren’t drawn using polygons. The design of the planets, as well as Fox and his team, for example. I was also given the responsibility of designing the atmosphere of Star Fox, among other things.

Most Troublesome: Deciding how many of the graphics should be drawn with polygons. We went through successive periods of trial and error, not really getting things to match. There were several polygon colour modes (darkness, twilight, etc.), and the basic colours were totally different from stage to stage, so balancing them against the backgrounds was especially difficult. That being said, Watanabe and I have a similar outlook when it comes to science-fiction, so we never conflicted with each other.

What He Wants You to See: It’s pretty tragic when your allies are defeated, so players ought to realize at some point that they’ve begun to feel empathy towards them.

Koji Kondo

Birthdate: August 13th, 1961

Blood Type: O

Previous Work: Sound composer on the Super Mario series, The Legend of Zelda, etc.

Role in Star Fox: I did the sound programming all by myself.

Most Troublesome: It was necessary to conduct meetings with the English staff, in order to say things, like, hey, if an enemy comes in from the right side of the screen, you use this code, otherwise, use this. Things I’d normally explain verbally, I instead had to write down on paper and pass the message along in English, so communication was a bit troublesome.

What He Wants You to See: Because Star Fox is a 3D game, I took a bunch of things into consideration, such as the effect of distance on the sound of explosions and passing objects. Also, the reflection that the atmosphere around the ship would have on the sound of the engine, depending on whether the ship was in space or flying over a planet. I want players to get a sense of Star Fox’s levity and presence through the game’s sound.

Hajime Hirasawa

Birthdate: March 26th, 1967

Blood Type: AB

Previous Work: Sound composer on Super Scope 6 (SNES), Time Twist, Etc.

Role in Star Fox: I was responsible for sampling the music and sound effects.

Most Troublesome: The SNES has 8 channels, so it was hard work trying to pack them full of orchestral sounds, especially during gameplay. We had to work in a variety of sound effects, including the sound of the ships in flight, the blasters, and the explosions, so that only left around 4 channels to work with.

What He Wants You to See: My job was to collect samples and give them to Kondo. However, I was worried because I found myself unable to obtain a splashing sound effect for the water that appears on Fortuna in Level 3. I even got to the point where I was considering making Imamura hold the mic while I dove into a pool. I think knowing trivia like that increases the game’s depth. [Laughs]

Giles Goddard

Birthdate: March 30th, 1971

Blood Type: ABC (Presented as written.)

Previous Work: Starglider 2 (Macintosh), Days of Thunder (IBM-PC), Birds of Prey (Amiga)

Role in Star Fox: I worked on the animations for the enemies and the player’s Arwing, as well as the flight formation screen at the end of each stage, the game’s intro, and the screen inside the base.

Most Troublesome: It was tough to decide how to animate characters like the jumping robot enemies and Andross.

What He Wants You to See: The boss character I like best is Phantron, who appears on Venom in Level 1. If you make him angry, he’ll occasionally do something weird. Try it out!

Peter Warnes*

Birthdate: January 19th, 1961

Blood Type: O

Previous Work: Starglider 2 (Amiga), Birds of Prey (Amiga)

Role in Star Fox: Designing the Super FX chip, programming the 3D graphics system.

Most Troublesome: Making the 3D graphics system run as fast as possible. That’s how we got the game to run smoothly, and the controls to respond quickly to player input.

What He Wants You to See: Pay attention to the comets flying across the map screen. Take a look at how the glittering of each planet changes in real-time depending on the position of the comet. This is something that was made possible by the Super FX chip.

Dylan Cuthbert

Birthdate: February 18th, 1972

Blood Type: Green (Presented as written.)

Previous Work: Programmed X on the Game Boy, as well as Starglider 2 (IBM-PC).

Role in Star Fox: Animating all the 3D objects in the overworld, as well as the end credits screen.

Most Troublesome: Preventing the game from crashing.

What He Wants You to See: The secret goals and black holes.

Carl N. Graham*

Birthdate: September 22nd, 1960

Blood Type: N/A

Previous Work: Star Trek, Smash (Tandy TRS-80)

Role in Star Fox: I worked on the Super FX chip design, in addition to writing the program that handles the exchange between the Super FX chip and the Super Nintendo itself, and the program that displays the images drawn by the chip.

Most Troublesome: I put a huge amount of effort into making sure that Star Fox, the first Super FX game, runs as smoothly and quickly as possible.

What He Wants You to See: The size and speed of the 3D graphics.

Krister Wombell

Birthdate: August 18th, 1975

Blood Type: A

Previous Work: N/A

Role in Star Fox: Background data, overall engineering.

Most Troublesome: The week or two before Star Fox’s release. We were extremely busy with the final push.

What He Wants You to See: The end of the bonus stage.

*It wasn’t possible to obtain pictures of Peter Warnes or Carl N. Graham, as they had already returned to England.

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6 Responses

  1. Whoa. Given how dated it is by today’s standards, it’s easy to forget just how much new ground was broken by the original Star Fox in terms of audio and visual presentation. This is the first time, really, that I’ve gotten a closer look at the game’s development process.

    Thanks for sharing this, GlitterBerri!

  2. DZComposer says:

    Thanks for doing this! Nice to see some of this translated.

    Any chance you could translate the story pages with the Benimaru Itoh drawings (P. 4-7) and the “Flight Recorder” pages (p. 29, 45, 62)?

    • DZComposer says:

      Those page numbers are by image filename on our SF-O scans you linked above rather than the actual page numbers, BTW.

    • GlitterBerri says:

      I’ll take a look. Is there anything else of note floating around in the Star Fox community that needs to be translated? I sent an email to psycommando thanking him for archiving the interview and asking him the same question, but he hasn’t responded yet. I might be interested in helping out, depending on whether it tickles my fancy. :)

  3. […] The interviews are courtesy of one “GlitterBerri“, who kindly translated the Japanese originals from this archive of images. The images are scans of a 1993 guidebook called “Star Fox: Mission File Printout”. […]

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