A portion of a Level Up interview with Phil Harrison…
LU: What do you think of Mii creator on Nintendo’s Wii, and the Miis in general?
PH: I think it’s a really great idea. I think the lo-fi execution is not for everyone.
LU: Interesting. I wasn’t at Will Wright’s talk yesterday, but he and his team working on Spore were talking about the cuteness factor vs. the high-tech factor. If I look at the menus in your games–take, for instance, SingStar–I could see how given Sony’s heritage in music and movies, the company as a whole might not be drawn to the Miis look and feel. But there’s a flip side to that, which has driven cartoons and animation: that at that level of abstraction, there’s more expressiveness that you can get as a result of the Miis being lo-fi and playful in their design.
PH: Well, your imagination fills in the blanks for you. You’re much more willing to forgive poor animation when the rendering is abstract. When you have a beautifully rendered, ultra-realistic face, if the eyebrow doesn’t move properly, it destroys–what’s the word, my brain’s stopped working–it destroys the suspension of disbelief. That’s where the money gets spent on next-generation games. You make the backgrounds photorealistic; suddenly the characters look stupid. You make the characters photorealistc; suddenly the animation looks stupid. You make the animation body-perfect; then you have to have the behaviors, the twitches, the idiosyncrasies. That’s where the money goes.
Taking the conversation back to Gears of War, what they did very intelligently, in my opinion, is put a glass ceiling on that. It’s still a very high glass ceiling, but they put a glass ceiling on it and said, “This is our look. This is going to be our rules set for the visual language of the game.” And that was very well-executed.
LU: Going back to the lo-fi aspect of the Miis, as you put it, what would you be more interested in seeing? What would be more attractive to you in terms of that avatar idea?
PH: If you are going to have an avatar which is your representative in a virtual world, it has to stand for more of your personality than some 2-D cartoons. So while I think that millions of people would be happy with cartoony looks, the planet at large probably isn’t. And it’s an experiment that will be played out very soon, actually.
There are more tidbits with Nintendo in this four part interview. Click over to check them out.