Hi, I'm Kawamoto of the Software Design & Development Department. As with the Forecast and News Channels, I worked as the director.

I'm Ito of the Software Design & Development Department. I was responsible for the overall programming.

I'm Matsushita from the Software Design & Development Department. I was in charge of the overall interface design.

Hi, I'm Sakaino, and I'm also from the Software Design & Development Department. I worked as the liaison that kept communication between our team and other development teams within the company, and also with Nintendo subsidiaries overseas.

The Photo Channel was originally incepted as one of the features that would interest the people who are sitting next to the person using the Wii Remote.

We thought that since Wii consoles have an SD card slot, it would be great if we could use that so people can watch pictures they have taken with their digital cameras.
*SD card is a memory card format widely used in digital cameras and cell phones.

At the very first stages of development, I created a demo version of exactly the way I thought a Photo Channel should be. In the demo, all the pictures were displayed at once, their order could be changed, and you could watch them in a slide show and put pixilation effects on them. I had an opportunity to do a presentation for Iwata-san; I applied a sepia effect to the photo of the developers, and played the song "Chijyou no Hoshi" by Miyuki Nakajima, and ran the presentation "Project X" style.1 The part where I added pixelating effects on the photo, was pretty well received.

The unique way the photos move; that was there from very early on in development.

That unique movement was first created in the Photo Channel.That was then utilized in the News Channel, where the words move in a similar way.

Ito-san really worked hard on the responsiveness of the way they move, like the way the pictures display and zoom in and out. The sense of speed of the way the pictures move turned out to be something like no other.

There is a lot of software for viewing pictures taken with digital cameras for the PC, but there aren't that many software that can display the pictures in a snap. So first, I wanted to make something that displays them faster than photo software on a PC, and looking at the responsiveness of the demo Kawamoto-san created had made me want to make something that was at least as fast for the final product.

Demos run fast because you can take out many features since it's only a demo version. There are a lot of restrictions when you try to make a full product, so I'm sure that the programming involved was very difficult.

Wii's machine power helped a lot. Unlike that of PCs, this responsiveness was possible because all of the machine's power can be focused to do just one task.

The graphic processor, which can display an incredible amount of pictures at the same time, played a major role as well. Who would have thought that a game console was actually suited for doing things like displaying a lot of pictures.

Like how fast it reads the SD card, and with how fast it recognizes and displays the pictures, I think we achieved a responsiveness that rivals that of a high-end PC. Since the channel was created from the concept that we wanted the people watching along with the person controlling it to have fun as well, we wanted the experience to be stress-free. We wanted it to be something with a great response that felt good to watch.

The first channel to use the Wii Remote's pointer feature was this Photo Channel. At that time, things like how the cursor should be used, how the menu button should be displayed, and the way the Wii Remote should be used were not determined at all. It felt like we were working without the lights on!

Everyone in the development staff went through so many discussions... I really figured out what it takes to bring something to life! (laughs) But once it was made, the Photo Channel's controls worked with the Wii Remote much better than we thought.

We put in features that were only made possible using the Wii Remote, like moving it forward and backwards, and twisting it around.

The sunglasses stamp is a really good example. When you take pictures of someone, there are times where the face isn't pictured straight against the frame, right? In that case, you want to place the sunglasses so it aligns with the person's face, and you'd also want to change its size to make it fit the face better. These were features that if it weren't for the Wii Remote where it made rotating and changing the size of things easy, we probably would not have put them in.

When you try to do this on a PC, you have to first set where the stamp should go, then zoom it, and rotate...it gets very complicated. The Wii Remote's cursor is similar to that of a mouse in the way they both move around the screen, but I think the interface ended up feeling very different. They have a different level of intuitiveness, so to speak.

The other major difference from a PC is the way several people can use it at the same time. The way everybody can play with it at once was there from early on. We decided to put that in there because we had so much fun doodling with it! (laughs)

People watching around you joining in saying how much they want to take part in it, everybody gathering around to doodle and solve puzzles... All these things make the experience fun.

It's fun...but to be honest, there were quite a bit of hurdles during programming! (laughs) During bug check, we received a lot of bugs about how things break when you press the buttons at the same time when you're using multiple remotes. Of course, they're all fixed now.

Since this channel's main feature was the photos, I wanted to display them as big as possible on the screen. So we paid a lot of attention to the way the buttons display. We wanted them to be easy to figure out, yet discreet.

At the early stages of development when I started on the design, I thought to myself, "I can use a screen this big anyway I want!" I wanted to make the pictures display as big as possible, but I also wanted to make the buttons easy to understand. Thinking that, I thought of placing the buttons on the very edge of the screen. As I was working on that, Kawamoto-san said to me, "no, the buttons can't go there."

Actually, if you place information on the very edge of the screen, depending on the TV those information may get cut off, and might not display on those TVs. Until then, I only had experience working on portable consoles like the Nintendo DS, so I didn't know about this at all. I was actually very surprised to find this out.

In the team, I was the only one who had experience working on a home console (for the TV). The part of the screen that can be viewed on any television is called a "safe frame", and when you make a video game for a home console, you're taught how absolutely no information should be displayed outside of the safe frame.

We actually had a TV that didn't display the words on the very edge of the screen, and I thought to myself, "oh, you really can't see them."

I continued placing the buttons with the safe frame in mind. I tried displaying the buttons in many ways, like displaying them as icons, and spelling the functions out on the buttons. In the end, we thought it would be easiest for people to understand the buttons' functions by writing what they did in words, like "Post", "Fun!", and "Next", and it ended up being the design that it is now.

Because we put words on the buttons, we had to make the overseas versions of the buttons with words as well. There were times where the words didn't fit on the buttons... But besides that, it was easy for us because we didn't have to worry about cultural differences like the way we did in the Forecast Channel.

At a certain point when the Channel started to take shape, we had people within the company try it out. As we were watching those people use it, we found some new discoveries...and we tuned the channel repeating these steps many times.

Even if you think "if this button was placed here with this word on it, people would get it", but if they really don't have a clue, they would not get near that button.

Besides being easy to understand, the buttons also had to get the people wanting to interact with them.

With words like "Zoom", we tried using different words at first to see what works best. The "Mood" button took a while for it to be finalized, too.

Another word that could be used to describe the "Mood" function is "Filter", but if we used that word, grandmas and grandpas may not get it. We wanted everyone to be able to use it as easily as possible, so we took extra care when we chose the word that were to be used.

Speaking about everybody being able to use it as easily as possible, we discussed a lot about the feature where the photo will zoom in when you press the A button while the cursor is on top of the photo, and how it goes back to its original size when you press the A button again. We discussed whether a different button should be used when going back.

But if we did that, the person cannot get the photo to return to the original size until he learns about all the buttons. I didn't want the users to lose their momentum. When you take a quick look at the Wii Remote, the only button it looks like it has is the A button. That is why I strongly believed that these functions should only be controlled by using the A button. This feature is passed on to the Forecast and the News Channels.

We also had a hard time decided on the shape of the cursor. It started out as a simple point, and then it looked like those red dots you see in presentations...

At one time it actually looked like a hair cross cursor of a rifle scope. But that seemed like you were firing at the pictures, which I didn't like very much.

So instead of firing, it turned to a pointing finger. When we changed the cursor to a finger and moved that over the photos, it looked like it was gesturing, as if it was asking "who's this?"

The finger cursor matched so well with the rotating and grabbing controls, it was adopted by the team that was developing Wii's main console features. As a result of going with the finger cursor, actions like grabbing the globe and spinning it became much easier to understand. Even in the Mii Channel, there's the movement where you grab your Mii using the hand.

The features used to "see" the photos were pretty much completed in the demo version. Everyone in the staff had a hard time figuring out what other element would make the Photo Channel more fun and exciting.

The absolute requirement was that the photos had to be on the center stage. If it was simply a matter of making a mini game, we can come up with an infinite number of ideas, but this was about coming up with something fun using the photos, which was proving to be a challenge.

After many discussions, the first thing we came up with was the Doodle feature, where you could draw on the pictures. This was actually a staff favorite, and for the longest time, everyday after about 5:30, we started doodling, and we were doing that for about two hours straight...

Played...I mean, we were testing the features! (laughs) At first, it wasn't able to turn or zoom, and the pens only came in about three sizes. We tuned this, by adding and deleting features.

The biggest things that changed from the demo version were the stamps and the Scissors tool.

With the Scissors tool, you can cut out an area from one picture and paste it onto another, and once we had this feature in, I got this picture of everybody at a party, and I pasted Ito-san's face on top of everybody that was in that picture. It wasn't just fun, it was, how can I put it...I'm sorry! (laughs)

Actually, a lot of work went into making the cut and paste feature look as natural as possible, so that it blends in with the background. These ideas were added on as we were playing with the features ourselves.

One day, Ito-san showed us the puzzle that he made, and we decided to add that in thinking that was another great way to have fun with the photos. Around that time, I played that a lot with Kawamoto-san. During work hours.

Because we were testing the features! (laughs) There's actually an Easter Egg puzzle mode where you can play with 192 pieces. When we tried it, how long did it take us?

When we tried it with the two of us, I think 40 minutes? We worked on it forever saying things to each other like "no, this doesn't go here." It was two guys in their 30s solving a puzzle together! (laughs)

Choosing the right kind of photos for the 192 pieces puzzle is very important. It's going to be a lot of work if you use a picture of a flower field. I suggest using something like a group picture of people you know.

You can also play the puzzle with multiple people. The strange thing is that if you play with two people, you get really productive, but somehow when there are three people playing, you tend to be not as productive. Things that you do thinking it's for the better, somehow gets in the other people's way.

You can also watch videos in the Photo Channel, and the video player has a lot of fun features packed inside. When I say something like this, I know people will come up and ask me "did you really not have enough time?" (laughs)

For example, I recommend the feature where you can play the video backwards. I'd like people to try it with videos like people eating, and kids going down the slide.

In this feature, the sound also plays backwards. I noticed this when I was working on the presentation video of Iwata-san, but when you play a video backwards of somebody talking, it sounds like they're speaking a different language. It's also fun when you write a word down and film a person reading it backwards. When you then play that video backwards, it actually sounds like they're reading it correctly.

And when you use the pixelating effect on the videos, the tone of the voices change, and all the sudden the video seems like it's a clip from one of the investigative report shows on TV where they're interviewing someone who wishes to remain anonymous! (laughs)
*The pixelating effect can be turned on by pressing up or down on the +Control Pad during video playback. When you press down on the +Control Pad during video playback, the tone of the audio will also change. The grade of the pixilation will change if you twist the Wii Remote while the effect is turned on.

I would also like people to try the Mood function. You can also play puzzles with the videos, too. Just like with the pictures, choosing the right kind of videos is the key.

The voice change feature was originally put in from a suggestion we received from somebody within the company, and we experimented with several different patterns. When we realized that we liked everything that we made, we decided to include all the variations in the Channel.
Now, playing a video backwards of somebody eating is funny, but please be careful because some people will find it to be really gross! (laughs)

Until now, I think there were a lot of you who didn't know what to do with all the pictures you've taken with your digital camera. The pictures keep piling up inside the PC, and while you print them out every once in a while, there really was no other way to view them. I think with the Photo Channel, we made something that works as an outlet for these digital camera pictures.

I think there's a lot of people who only look at pictures that they have taken with their digital cameras and cell phones on the screen of whatever they've taken them with. I really would like those people to use the Photo Channel to watch pictures on their TV.

It makes a difference being able to watch your pictures on the TV. A PC monitor is not made to be viewed by three or more people, and it's pretty hard trying to watch something with it with just two people. But when you see pictures on the living room TV, the entire family can enjoy the experience. When you watch a photo in that size, you can see things that you didn't know of before when you were looking at them with just the LCD screen on the digital camera.

There are people who bought a new digital camera because of the Photo Channel. At least from the people I know, there are about four people in the company that purchased a digital camera that uses an SD card. Knowing that makes me very happy.

The Photo Channel is something that everyone can interact with, and can be enjoyed whether it's being used just by one person or a group of people. I think looking at pictures is something that people enjoy naturally, regardless of their age or gender, and I think we made a product that anybody can relate to.

When you post a picture on the Wii Message Board, you're able to send pictures to your registered Wii friends. This feature widened the range of what the Photo Channel could do.

Let's say that there's a school Olympic, or your child just went to his or her first day of school. There's really not a whole lot of ways to show these pictures to grandma and grandpa who are living far away. Although cell phone screens are getting larger these days, they're still a little too small to look at pictures. And besides, can you blame a grandparent for wanting to see a picture of their grandchild as big as possible?

Right, if they can get past the big hurdle of setting up their Wii to connect to the Internet, grandparents can easily view pictures of their grandchildren taken in those special moments on that very same day.

When I go to my parent's house, I'll set up a Wii for them. I promise! (laughs)

Besides sending your pictures, it might also be fun to just post doodled pictures on the Message Board, hoping that your family would get a good laugh out of your creation.

By the way, for the people that don't have an SD card, you're still able to view photos along with the message it came with via the Internet from the "View Wii Message Board photos" option in the Photo Channel. I'd really like people to try that out and have fun.

The Slide Show feature was there from the demo version, and to be honest at first I was taking that feature for granted. I just thought the Slide Show was there just to show pictures in a row, and that's it. But once I made the feature, and made a Slide Show out of my family's pictures, I started crying as I was watching them. I was caught off guard with this myself, and I was like "oh man, I'm crying..."

Wow, we didn't know that...

There's no way I can tell anyone! (laughs) That was a time where I kept working late into the night, so I think that had something to do with it, but I was very surprised. The pictures flowed along with the music, and I was moved a lot more than I expected. I almost wanted to change the Photo Channel's concept to "Cry with Wii!" (laughs)

Crying about a game that you're working on is something that usually doesn't happen when you're developing a game that has a storyline. You already know what's going to happen.

All it did was display the pictures one at a time, but the combination of the pictures and the music came at just the right balance.

We were able to get great songs for the Channel as well. You can also play your favorite MP3 songs, too. By the way, thanks to the MP3 playback feature, I was able to work on this Channel while listening to my favorite songs! (laughs)

I think the picture being that of your family had a lot to do with it. Especially with the Slide Show, it's made so it subtly focuses on people's faces.

My kid's still small, so I tend to take a lot of pictures. I worked on the feature to make it marketable to other doting parents around the world.

You've been calling it the "doting parent feature!" (laughs) About the way it can zoom in on the pictures.

To be critical, the Channel can live without the zoom-in feature. But when you're asked "why do you want to make this part so big?", only a doting parent could say "because I want to zoom-in on my kid's face!" (laughs)

When we first started talking about displaying the date, I thought it wasn't needed because it would get in the picture's way.

But you'd want it to discreetly display on what month and day the picture was taken, so you can remember where you took it, right? In the end, I sort of bulldozed the feature in there...

Lately, people in the company are using the Photo Channel for meetings and presentations. They're utilizing the fast response speed and the doting parent's zoom-in feature. You can play videos at the same time, too. I was watching how it was used along with Sakaino-san, and they were using it really well. They even used the pixelating effect at the end to get some laughs! (laughs)

Once a doting parent feature, now a presentation tool! (laughs)

That cat's pretty fast, so it's pretty hard to catch her. It's almost like a game, and I think it's pretty fun.

Ito-san was always using pictures of cats during development. He's a cat-lover. So when we were deciding on how we should display the hints, the idea about using a cat for it came natural.

As a cat person, my motivation grew substantially the moment I heard that. When I found out that it was going to be a cat, I pleaded to work on it! (laughs)

Ito-san was really devoted about the cat. I made a sample of the cat running, and he came to me and said "cats doesn't run like this!" (laughs)

Seeing how much work went into it, we talked about also using it for the News Channel...and it made its way there before we knew it! (laughs)

Thinking that people might not notice the cat in the Photo Channel, we put the cat in a more obvious place for the News Channel.

It takes a little longer for the News Channel to begin. You can catch the cat all you want.

By the way, the cats in the Photo Channel and News Channel are brothers and sisters.

The cat in the Photo Channel is Rassie, the younger sister. Because in Japanese, she always ends her sentences with "~rashiiyo" (meaning "they say" or "I heard").

The News Channel one is Runda, taken from the way he ends his sentences with "~runda" (a boyish remark placed at the end of a sentence to emphasize its context).

Is that official?

I guess it's official now since we said it here! (laughs)

1. Project X is a popular TV documentary about Japanese inventors, and "Chijyou no Hoshi" was its theme song. This presentation is also mentioned in Volume 3 Part 5 of the Iwata Asks Interviews.