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Marko Hein, Nintendo

by Nick Haywood on 2 September 2005, 00:00

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Marko Hein, Nintendo

Nintendo and Nintendogs…a Revolution?

Marko Hein – Nintendo Head of European Developer Business

At GDCE, the Game Developers Conference Europe, I managed to corner Marko Hein from Nintendo and chat to him about Nintendogs and even a touch of ‘revolutionary’ stuff…

For those of you that don’t know, Nintendogs is the latest game from Nintendo set to make full use of the DS’ capabilities. To describe Nintendogs as a Tamagochi style of game is a little misleading, as Nintendogs isn’t just about rearing a pet… Nintendo have tried to make it as similar to owning a real dog as possible, but without the wet dog smell, bottom sniffing and puddles on the kitchen floor.

As Marko explains:

"What is revolutionary about Nintendogs is the control interface… It really is hands-free, using real voice recognition. When you first choose a dog from all the breeds available, you use the touch screen to pet it and stroke it, and while you’re doing this, the game prompts you to give your dog a name. You can call it anything and the game will ask you a few times to repeat the name, so it records your voice and the sound to then associate that sound with the dog’s name… After while you’ll be able to open up the DS, turn the game on and call your dog, who’ll then come over. You can interact with your dog purely by using your voice without even having to have the DS in your hands…"

So rather than having to say a set list of commands and trying to get the game to recognise a word, the game uses true voice recognition software to assign the sound you make to the action you wish your dog to perform. To do this initially, the game will ask you to use the stylus on the touchscreen, and then say a word you want associated with that action. This is very similar to real life, where in training a dog to sit you’d push down on it’s backside whilst saying the word ‘Sit’… You can just as easily use another word if you fancied, or even complete gibberish, just as long as you remember what that sound was…

The voice recognition has made localising the game very easy, as only the text needed to be converted for different languages. For example, Mario Party 5 had a huge amount of text and vocals, all of which needed to be localized for each country the game was being released in. Conversely, Nintendogs dogs all bark… a universal language.

But the game isn’t just about rearing, feeding, training and playing with a pet dog… but we’ll let Marko tell you about that:

"You can train your dog to do tricks, such as sit up, beg, play dead… but you can also train your dog and enter it in competitions. You can do hurdles or those Frisbee catching competitions and winning the competitions lets you spend the proceeds on lots of items for your dog; collars, leads, bowls, balls… and there are a load of hidden items which you get for doing specific tasks. One of the really cool features is the sleep mode. Say I am running Nintendogs and I close my Ds, putting it into sleep mode. Now, if someone else is within WIFI range and is also running Nintendogs with their DS in sleep mode, our dogs will bark at each other! If I want, I can then open up the DS and if the other person does the same, our dogs can meet each other. We can use this to trade items we have too, with the dogs swapping the items and bringing them back to you!"