March 19, 1998 - Although developed at the Japanese headquarters of Nintendo Corporate Limited (NCL) in Kyoto, at the center of the 1080° Snowboarding team is actually a pair of English programmers, Giles Goddard and Colin Reed. Our sister publication, Next Generation, featured an interview with Giles Goddard in its February issue. Here it is:
Q: How long have you been working on 1080° Snowboarding?
NCL: We started work in April or May of 1997.
Q: So this is only nine months' work? That's incredible ...
NCL: We're very fast workers [smiles].
Q: Where's the game being developed?
NCL: We're working out of NCL's headquarters in Kyoto, Japan.
Q: Who's on the team?
NCL: It's a mish-mash really. There are two programmers, myself and Colin Reed, and we both worked on Wild Trax for Argonaut. I also worked on StarFox. We have a designer who worked on the WaveRace project and our director is from Namco, where he worked on Tekken 2. Shigeru Miyamoto is the producer.
Q: When is the game scheduled for completion? NCL: Our deadline is February of 1998, and we'll definitely make it on time [ed: the game was indeed released in Japan in February]. As of today, all we have to do is put in three more characters and add some more maps, and then we're done.
Q: Everyone's very impressed with the way it looks. Can you tell us a little about what's going on under the hood?
NCL: The 3D engine is, of course, the original N64 engine, but then we're doing various tricks. For example, the characters are "skinned" so there are no joints between the polygons. Also, all the character animations are interpolations between animation and inverse kinematics. So basically, when your character hits something in the game, his body is modified according to what you hit, from what direction, and at what speed.
Q: Are you using any motion-captured animation at all?
NCL: At the moment, there's no motion capture in it, no. But the motion is really smooth because we interpolate between frames and we have the inverse kinematics in there so it has that motion capture feel.
Q: To what extent is it an accurate snowboarding simulation? Are the tricks in the game based on real snowboarding tricks, and to what extent is the interaction between the snowboard and the course terrain based on real-world physics?
NCL: As far as the tricks are concerned, the animation needs quite a bit of tweaking -- the tricks are a bit dodgy at the moment. But as for the board dynamics, we basically modeled a real board with all the edge friction and underside friction and so on. So, yes, the game does all of the applications to replicate the real physics of a real board. So when you're skating down in the game and, say, catch the edge of your board down a tree trunk, the game handles all of the calculations in realtime -- it's not using any hardwired solutions or anything like that.
Q: To what extent have you sacrificed simulation accuracy for arcade thrills and gameplay?
NCL: Only a little. It definitely comes down on the simulation side of the fence. But having said that, there are certainly a lot of little fudges in there that make it more of an enjoyable arcade-style experience.
Q: What features will be in the final version?
NCL: There will be six courses, plus a training course and a half pipe. There will also be seven or eight characters and a two-player mode.
Q: What do you make of the other snowboarding games in development for N64? Are you worried at all?
NCL: Um, I can't really talk about this. Let's just say that we haven't seen too much competition. We're not sweating too much.
Q: Do you snowboard yourself?
NCL: I'm a snowboarder, and a couple of the artists are snowboarders, and what we're most enthusiastic about is the "feel" of the game. We know that this is what we've got to get right and that this is the most important thing. We're trying to make it as real as possible, as opposed to going for the classic, cute, Nintendo look. You can even tell by the music that this isn't your average Nintendo game.
Q: How did you get started at Nintendo? And how difficult is it for a Western game programmer to be accepted in Japan?
NCL: The first time I went to Nintendo I was working for Argonaut on StarFox. As for being accepted by Nintendo, it takes a lot of luck, I suppose. Certainly, they don't go around freely employing Gaijin [Japanese slang for "foreigners"] programmers or indeed, any other programmers not straight out of Japanese universities. But it's a matter of being at the right place at the right time and getting a reputation for yourself. Then, once they trust you, you're in. And from that point on, they'll continue to look after you, no matter the quality of what you produce. It's a Japanese thing.
For more on 1080 Snowboarding, be sure to check out Next Generation Issue 38.
Also visit Next Generation Online