Recently, I was granted the opportunity to interview Giles Goddard of Vitei Games. Mr. Goddard is a prolific video game developer who has worked on several big name Nintendo IPs. His work includes 1080 Snowboarding, contributions to Super Mario 64 and Steel Diver. After leaving Nintendo, Giles founded his own company based in Kyoto. Vitei Games has two offices — the ‘Frontroom’ and the “Backroom’. The Frontroom is essentially a 2nd party developer for Nintendo and has worked on projects such as Steel Diver and most recently, Tank Troopers. The Backroom is the experimental side of the company where employees work on VR software and prototypes.
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This interview was conducted June 19th, 2017 in the lobby of the Vitei Backroom in Kyoto. Bold text indicates statements or questions made by PushDustIn. The interview was transcribed and then sent to Giles Goddard and the Vitei Backroom team for approval.
Special thanks to Pauline Machabert of the Vitei Backroom for organizing this interview.
This interview represents over 12 hours of work. If you love what you see, please consider donating to the Source Gaming Patreon. We don’t run ads on this site, so the money we receive from donations is the only thing keeping this site up.
Page 1 — The First Foreign Employee of Nintendo
Page 2 — Working on the N64
Page 3 — Snowboarding in 64 Bits
Page 4 — N64DD, Doshin and Prototypes
Page 5 — Rock n’ Roll Wii and VR
Page 6 — Undersea Adventures on the 3DS and Smash
Page 7 — Bringing Tanks Online and Missed Opportunities
Page 8 — The Future of Vitei
Page 9 — Giles, The Enabler
Page 10 — The Future of Vitei and VR
After reading this interview, check out our interview with the Vitei Backroom.
Page 1 — The First Foreign Employee of Nintendo
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
I’m Giles Goddard and I have a company in Japan that makes games.
Originally you were working with Nintendo, and you worked there for a long time. I believe you worked on X, and then Star Fox.
I didn’t work on X, but I did work on Star Fox. I also worked on 1080 Snowboarding, Wild Trax [Stunt Race FX], Super Mario 64.
…you did the Mario’s face programming?
You worked a lot with the SFX chip and early 3D gaming. Was it a challenge to make something so vastly different from other console games on the market at the time?
Yeah, no one knew what they were doing. We were kind of pretending to know what we were doing…but no one really knew. So the challenge was to figure out what this new 3D thing was….how you could do 2D games in 3D. Obviously, the tech side of the chip was difficult, but the more difficult part was figuring out how to make games in 3D.
So how did you approach that?
Trial and error. We would try something, and play it. If it didn’t work then we would try something else. Nintendo is very good at that, you know. That’s how most of their games [are produced]…through intelligent trial and error. [They] try something, and it doesn’t work. Then they try something similar but different and they keep doing that until they hone in on what would be fun.
You were also one of the first foreign employees.
I think I was the first one.
What was that like…joining a traditional Japanese company?
I had already been there for two years. Working through Argonaut Software in the UK, but I had already been physically at Nintendo for almost two years by the time I joined Nintendo.
Ok, so at first you were a contract employee, and then [Nintendo] hired you full time.
Yeah. I think for awhile I was the first and last gaijin because…certainly from Argonaut, our boss changed the contract so people couldn’t be poached.
That makes sense. They didn’t want their talent leaving.
It wasn’t like Nintendo poached me or anything. It’s just that if you lived here for two years, your life back in the U.K. is not there anymore. So there wasn’t really much chance of me going back to the U.K. as is. Then, Argonaut didn’t have an office in Japan. So it just made sense to join Nintendo.
You kind of got your roots settled in here.
I was married by that point as well.
How different was it working at Nintendo after Argonaut?
Nintendo is a bit like a big school. You have a bell at 8:45, and a bell at 12 o’clock, and another bell at 1 and then another bell at 4 or 5. You have bells throughout the day to tell you exactly what you should be doing….it’s very Japanese. Nintendo is a very Japanese company. With Argonaut it was basically Jez San’s bedroom. [The studio] was in his house, the top three bedrooms were made into an office. So I went from that to a humongous big white office full of people in suits….