‘The truth is I wanted to remove the entire system’
An old interview with Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto, which covers the Ocarina of Time Navi situation, among a few other things, just popped up thanks to a new translation.
The massive interview, done in 1999 as part of the Japanese strategy guide (and translated by shmuplations), is rather enlightening, and features a candid Miyamoto at the mid-stage of his career, shortly after the release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. As a reminder, Miyamoto was the producer on the project, with a combined directorial team of five people, one of which was Eiji Aonuma. Although it reached legendary status almost directly after launch, there are some lingering issues that people have with it: both at the time (which I can recall vividly, I was there, Gandalf!), and whenever it’s re-released.
The interview sheds some light on that, and the big highlight is the Ocarina of Time Navi takes: and Miyamoto had some hot ones in 1999! He comes out of the gate saying “I think the way we give hints is still a little too unfriendly,” when asked about how Ocarina of Time handles puzzles, eventually working his way to Navi, noting that she is “the biggest weakpoint of Ocarina of Time.” It’s not just an errant comment, either.
Miyamoto delves into why he thinks his way, and chats about the nature of tutorial systems in games as a whole, explaining that it’s “incredibly difficult to design a system that gives proper advice,” and that “to do it right,” you’d need to essentially develop two games. He further clarifies his thoughts: “If you read Navi’s text, she says the same things over and over. I know it makes it sound bad, but we purposely left her at a kind of “stupid” level. I think if we’d tried to make Navi’s hints more sophisticated, that “stupidity” would have actually stood out even more. The truth is I wanted to remove the entire system, but that would have been even more unfriendly to players. You can think of Navi as being there for players who stop playing for a month or so, who then pick the game back up and want to remember what they were supposed to do. It’s a brazen excuse, I know. (laughs).”
Eventually he concedes that there’s no perfect system, and that the amount of hints players need “vary from person to person.” And hey, the Navi system wasn’t all that bad, I get what they were going for; but Majora’s Mask did it better, so they clearly learned something there. The entire interview is worth reading, for tidbits like it taking “three whole years” to develop Ocarina of Time, and that even though he was “producer,” Miyamoto was “mostly just monitoring everyone’s work,” and was “very laid-back” (which explains why he didn’t vehemently interfere with Navi’s design).
That said, what’s the deal with Fi in the original release of Skyward Sword?! Talk about saying the same things over and over.