I‘m Yamashita from the Entertainment Analysis and Development Division (EAD). I worked as the director for the Check Mii Out Channel.

My name is Nakajima and I‘m also from the EAD. I handled the software programming.

I‘m Koyama from the Network Development Department. For this project, I was responsible for server-related tasks.

I‘m Akimaru from the Network Development Department. I was in charge of programming the servers for this project.

The Check Mii Out Channel was born from a project where we wanted to make a channel that utilizes Miis. We had many ideas, but had trouble finding a way to bring them together. With a useful hint from (Shigeru) Miyamoto-san on constructing a channel based on contests, however, we were able to round up our ideas and move into the development stages.

Which was roughly one year ago.

Talk of the project reached my department, the Network Development Department, towards the beginning of the year (2007) around February or March.

Until that time, the project had been regulated to a small number of staff. Also, although the EAD had worked on projects utilizing the network—projects like Animal Crossing and Mario Kart DS—we hadn‘t had any experience working on projects that required collecting or processing data on a server.

Which meant that we were coming up with some pretty far-fetched ideas one after another. (laughs) Sometimes, we thought that the server was this magical chest that could transform anything we imagined into something real and tangible.

At that point, we turned to the Network Development Department to build the required server system. But, when I told Koyama-san what we were looking for, a troubled expression came over his face. I asked him if what I was asking was possible, but all he could muster was a “yes, but…” (laughs)

Though we had decided to start a contest using Miis, there was no way of figuring out how many posts we might get from all over the world as we hadn‘t tried anything like this in the past. If, for example, there was a flood of users, we might not be able to provide a constant level of service. I remember thinking that it wasn‘t going to be as easy as it sounded.

Also, since we would be responsible for Miis made by our users, we had to protect the data from being erased or damaged, meaning that our server would have to be operated with extreme care. But even at that point, when we first got wind of the project in March, we were planning for a June release.

I guess we hadn‘t considered all the ramifications! (laughs) The Everybody Votes Channel was already up and running at that time, so with this success under our belt and with network experts on our side, I figured we would be alright. Because the Check Mii Out Channel would have two areas, the Posting Plaza and the Contest Plaza, I thought we could get by with twice the labor required for the Everybody Votes Channel. Sounds simple, right?

Though servers for the Everybody Votes Channel are required to first compile votes and then to send the results, the load on the servers are not substantial, and the processing requirements are straightforward. For the Check Mii Out Channel, however, the server needed to be able to store users‘ Mii data and make it readily available for access. This meant that the server requirements would be more complicated.

The Posting Plaza didn‘t pose a serious problem, but the Contest Plaza required the capability not only to share Miis submitted by users for the purpose of judging, but also to display the contest results. It took us some time to decide on the best way to manage the server for this purpose.

While Koyama-san and his team were working hard on the core parts of the project, we just kept coming up with more and more ideas…asking them to make it possible for Wii Friends to sponsor user contests or for users to ask more talented Mii Artisans to make Miis for them…

At one point, the suggestions were coming like it was like the daily special at a restaurant. One day it would be “can we do this?” but the next it would be “how about we try this?”

I couldn‘t relax if I wasn‘t coming up with new ideas. We had tried some test-playing with about thirty people, but with few participants and few Miis, the Posting Plaza lacked excitement.

There were times when Yamashita-san would grow discouraged and ask whether or not we thought the project had gone off track! (laughs)

I was really worried about how many users we could expect once the service begun in November.

Since I was responsible for the server, I was nervous for different reasons. Until you actually go live, there‘s no way to predict the number of users, and I kept panicking about what might happen if Wii users from all over the world flooded the server.

Once services went live, however, we saw one user, then two…and then more and more as the night progressed. In just one night, there was a host of users, reminding me just how great the Internet can be.

This is something you just can‘t achieve with normal games, and the EAD was ecstatic. Though I‘m sure Koyama-san and his team were biting their nails! (laughs)

Without a doubt. We knew that you guys were happy, but we were on pins and needles as we kept a tight watch on the server. (laughs)

Originally, we decided to count the project a success if one to two percent of the users that downloaded the Check Mii Out Channel became a Mii Artisan and created and posted their own Miis.

When we took a look under the hood, however, we were surprised to find that approximately forty percent had posted their own Miis.

After all, before the project began, we were worried about what we would do if we couldn‘t fill all the spots in the Top 50. We thought we wouldn‘t be able to fill a hundred spots. (laughs)

Because the channel wouldn‘t populate with Miis in the Popular or Top 50 sections without any posted Miis, our developers designed several sample Miis to post before the service went live. The channel would have seemed pretty empty to its first users. I myself made a Mii of a grandma.

Which turned out to be a very popular Mii. (laughs) I thought she wouldn‘t last long online, but she managed to stay in the Top 50 for a while after the service went live.

I probably shouldn‘t say so since it was my own creation, but she was a tough competitor! (laughs) Personally, I tried to design a Mii that had no chance of becoming popular and was at a loss when my she became such a hit! (laughs)

When I‘m browsing through Miis though, I can‘t help but be impressed by the sheer creativity in many of the Miis I find and I often wonder where users are finding their inspiration.

Though the Posting Plaza was originally made for users to find and import Miis they like, there were some concerns that users would become mere Mii watchers and be too intimidated to post their own if the plaza was overrun with truly exceptional Miis. It appears, however, that users are testing their ability to create original Miis after being inspired by the work of others. The fact that designing Miis is so easy and that it takes as little as five minutes also helps.

Which is why it‘s so much fun to check out the Popular section and see what kind of Miis are being posted. During the planning stages of the project, we had decided to refresh entries every seven days. Because of feedback indicating this was too long to wait, however, we decided to change the interval to three days just before the service went live.

Once we went live though, we discovered that many users wanted to refresh entries on a basis of hours rather than days. Also, considering the sheer number of posts, I asked Koyama-san to change the system to refresh every several hours shortly after we went live.

I had really hoped to avoid putting more pressure on the server so soon after going live, but the customer is always right after all! (laughs) We also changed the method for displaying the Miis. For example, when we started the Popular section, we made it so that it places the top 50 Miis that were chosen from “Import Mii” or “I like it!” However, with more posts than we had anticipated, we changed the server program so people could see a large number of Miis that otherwise wouldn‘t have had the opportunity to make their debut.

Changing a program after it‘s gone to market is something that never happens when making a regular game. I remember Koyama-san telling me after services went live that crunch time was yet to come.

Well, tinkering with the server is standard operating procedure for me. By the time this interview goes live, things could be entirely different! (laughs)

We incorporated several options to readily locate interesting Miis. The Popular section provides access to Miis that are currently popular and the Top 50 calls up the fifty most popular Miis to date. The Grab Bag option appears to call up Miis randomly, but it actually mixes random Miis with recently posted Miis. During the early stages of development, we had separated these functions into two distinct options, “Rare Finds” and “Upcoming Miis”, but decided to combine them with Grab Bag and limit the number of required options.

One of the first things I would like the users to do after finding a Mii they liked from the Popular section would be to use the Call Friends option to compare other Miis. It‘s surprising how differently users express themselves, even when creating a Mii of the same character.

I was also glad that we enabled users to display their national flag on their Mii Artisan profile. Making it possible for users to find out who was making the outlandish creations they see online might bring them into contact with people from countries about which they know very little…making them feel even more connected with the global community.

There are times where you‘re not able to figure out the country name just by looking at the flag. So we made it possible to see the country‘s name by placing the cursor over the flag. With this feature, you can quiz yourself on your Geography knowledge! (laughs) There are several users, however, that wonder how it‘s possible to use the Call Friends option to call up other Miis when only their initials are displayed.

Although users can only see the initials of the Miis posted by Mii Artisans, the server is able to access nicknames and use that information to conduct a search.

We were surprised ourselves to discover how friends were being called after getting started, and I‘m really glad that we decided to add the Call Friends option.

Even though sometimes you look at a certain Mii and don‘t understand why that Mii is in that group of friends! (laughs)

Actually, we wanted users to be able to use nicknames when posting Miis rather than initials since they could use it for things like a fun way to give a one-word commentary on their creation. Enabling users to write whatever they wanted, however, could lead to various problems like people using names of friends they have in real life, or revealing other personal information. That‘s why we decided to use initials instead. But if it weren‘t for this feature, though, the Call Friends option would not have happened.

Speaking from the programming side, the Miis look very alert, and move very quickly when called onscreen, right?

With all the Miis being displayed onscreen, we thought it looked better if they moved in this way. However, as the Check Mii Out Channel is also connected to the Mii Channel, we wanted users to be able to manipulate Miis in a similar way, which is why we made it possible to pick up Miis by pressing the A and B Buttons simultaneously. Surprisingly though, it doesn‘t seem like many users have figured this out yet.

This makes it convenient, for example, to move Miis around and compare them in the Call Friends option. If users want to learn more about picking up Miis, they can also find information under the Help button.

What we‘re somewhat worried about, however, is whether or not some users might be hesitant to join because of our registration procedures. Users are first asked to register their Mii Artisan, but some people mistakenly believe that this Mii and their nickname will be made public.

I would like to reassure our users though. Even if you register a Mii Artisan, as long as you don‘t post a Mii, your nickname and Mii will not be made public. Hopefully this will encourage users to give it a try and collect Miis they like. They can also use the twelve-digit number in the profile column to share interesting Miis with their friends.

We originally planned to use Nintendo staff members as the only judges, but we thought users might feel more included and find it more entertaining if they were allowed to judge each others‘ entries.

The problem, however, was that there were far too many Miis for a single person, and looking through every single one would take days. Therefore, we made it so that one person will be the judge of just ten Miis at a time.

Think of it as a large bingo machine. The machine spits out ten balls, or Miis, at random, and these Miis are sent to those users that are interested in judging. The probability that a Mii will be viewed for judging is equal and the collective consensus* determines which Miis deserve distinction.

*Collective consensus: Mass participation and exchanges of opinion eventually create a representative consensus.

The original setup was to allow users to choose three Miis they liked from ten candidates. Iwata-san requested, however, that we make it possible for users to pass if they were unable to find any Miis they like from among the ten candidates, and we changed the system so users could look through groups of ten candidates until they found their three choices. As this change was made immediately before we went live, we scrambled to get this going!

Despite the fact that the Check Mii Out Channel has just started, I‘m thankful for the multitude of truly unique Miis and I am truly impressed by the creativity of our users. By placing the cursor over a Mii and holding the A button, you can rotate a Mii and view it from all angles…leading to some interesting discoveries. (laughs)

Personally, I‘ve collected a host of Miis from the Posting Plaza and my Mii Channel has become a pretty exciting place…bringing a new feel to games like Baseball in Wii Sports. Increasing the number of Miis also makes games like Wii Play and Wii Fit even more interesting.

The more Mii posts the more fun the Wii gets.

Which is why all of us are so excited to work on more games that utilize Miis.

The number of Miis currently residing in our server surpasses the population of a large city; far exceeding the number we could ever create at Nintendo. Furthermore, Miis being created all over the world will continue to flow into our server, increasing this population more and more each day. This is why I look forward to making a game in which we can use all these Miis. Such a game would be truly unique and its novelty would never wear off as new Miis would continue to surface all the time.

Well, let‘s get to it then! (laughs)