A portion of a Glixel interview with Nintendo's Hisashi Nogami and Shintaro Sato...
G: We spoke to Reggie Fils-Aimé recently about how important competition is becoming to Nintendo. Splatoon seems to be at the heart of that – was that always the core inspiration?
Hisashi Nogami: Well, you know, competition is really important to Splatoon 2, and it's a core element of the game. Our idea of the competitive game that we're making is that we first offer a set of content to the players and give them the tools for play – the stages and the weapons – and then the players themselves determine what sort of play they're going to create using those tools. We watch that and keep an eye on it, and then make adjustments if necessary. We have a back and forth with the community.
We take a lot of care to ensure that equality and fairness – making sure that players perceive that they're all on the same fair playing field – is very important. And, you know, as we're combining all of these elements into this competitive experience, if we do it with an eye to fairness, we'll only widen that circle of people who can jump in and enjoy it.
One style of making games at Nintendo is what you can see with Super Mario Odyssey – you have a set of content that is made for a player to enjoy. That's wha we have a lot of respect for and feels very important. However, the type of play experience that we're creating with Splatoon is something that we view more as a playground. You know, players are on the playground, and it's a bit of a conversation, a back and forth, with the content we create and the reactions from the players. And that's a choice that we have to make between the Odyssey style of game creation and the competitive style of game we're making.
G: We spoke to Arms producer Kosuke Yabuki recently, and he mentioned that there's a real culture of prototyping at Nintendo. What was the process like for Splatoon? Were there previous ideas that you worked on and ultimately dismissed?
Hisashi Nogami: Prototyping was really important for Splatoon, and I think actually it was at the prototyping stage that we had the core gameplay that ended up surviving into the final game.
This was originally a prototype that Mr. Sato created, and the way it originally looked was you would have a grey playing field with four simple cube-like characters on each team – so, four black cubes against four white cubes. They would shoot their own color of ink at each other and compete for turf.
This doesn't mean that we had all the actions you can do in the game mapped out, or the final look of the characters as squids, but it was already possible to see where your allies were, or whether an an opponent was attacking your territory. You also had a clear idea of what you needed to do to win, and that in trying to secure victory you could be discovered by your opponent. This was all something we found really fun, and it was all discovered and implemented during that prototype stage.
So, you know, in our Nintendo way of making games, we wanted to layer on abilities, sets of weapons with their own characteristics, and build out from this prototype that we had. It was really important for us to make sure we protected and kept that core prototype idea, and that we didn't lose sight of it while we continued to layer on and build out the game into the final product.
G: A lot of people have talked about the real potential for this as an international esport. Was that ever on your mind when you were making it, or was it something that emerged later with the first game, and was it something that was considered while making the sequel?
Hisashi Nogami: Well, I think "esports" is a term that actually encapsulates a lot of different meanings. You know, it could be something as simple as friends getting together to play a tournament online or it could be a tournament where prizes are involved, where sponsors jump in and you actually have pro game players involved. That said, being an esport wasn't something that we were ever really considering or aiming for when developing the game. We want to strongly encourage that sense of competition among players – we really want to make a game for players who are seriously interested in competition. After the release of Splatoon 1 we were definitely aware of a community that rose up, people who put together serious teams that were interested in a competitive tournament. And so we've included some systems in Splatoon 2 that acknowledge and encourage that type of competitive play among that more serious group of players.
Shintaro Sato: We definitely recommend getting eight people together in a local wireless setting, and you can play to your heart's content that way. But for those players that want to make sure that there is no lag we've also included the ability to connect eight Nintendo Switches via LAN play.
We also added a spectator mode so that players can have someone who is controlling the camera during their match from a variety of different perspectives, and then that match play can be recorded, potentially, and posted online to be shared with the wider community.
There's also a new mode in Splatoon 2 called League Battle. This will be a mode that players can play either in groups of two or four, and it will present you with a two-hour period in which your group competes with other groups to see how many points you can earn. Because the results of that League Battle play will be displayed in a ranking at the end of every two-hour period, we can give players goals to strive for, and hope to encourage them to keep competing and pushing.
Hisashi Nogami: And, you know, hopefully even players who aren't participating in that top level will find these developments interesting and enjoy viewing them from the outside.
So, part of your question was whether we had been thinking about esports or competitive gaming from the time of Splatoon 1 – well, while we had the confidence that we were making a game that would answer the needs of the more competitive player, we also realized that if we were going to have competitive play, it would need to be supported by a great community. We're really grateful that we've had a good response from that community, and after seeing it grow, that gave us the confidence we needed to add these additional elements that encourage competitive play in Splatoon 2.
And I think the World Splatoon Invitational that we held at E3 was basically the result and evidence of the community engagement that we've been so grateful to get. So, with all of the support that we've gotten from those players, that serves as fuel for us going forward, and encourages us to make sure we can answer the needs that they have.