After two generations at the center of Nintendo’s consoles, the Miis have apparently taken a backseat for Switch. You can still design a Nintendo-themed avatar on the portable hybrid system, but Nintendo games support them much less frequently, with token appearances in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate their most notable appearances. This has led many to believe that the age of the Miis is over, but a new discovery seems to show that Miis are secretly at the heart of one of Nintendo’s most beloved Switch games – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
. You wouldn’t necessarily know it at first glance.
On January 4th, the Mii modder HEYimHeroic published a discovery that appeared to confirm that Mii-like settings were used to create NPCs in Breath of the Wild, using modding to inject custom details of Miis into the game and seeing their familiar cartoon faces rendered as Hylians in Breath of the Wild’s art style. These results seem to prove that Breath of the Wild’s NPCs are a form of advanced Mii – a point the game code helps support by calling them “ UMiis. ”
Hi, Mii expert here. It turns out that the NPCs in TLoZ: BotW use an advanced version of the Mii format. This means that with modding you can inject Miis into the game. 🙂
Thinking of opening commissions for Mii injections, both screenshots / images of your Mii characters and mod downloads! pic.twitter.com/8NfVr4zyqA
– I’m Alice (@HEYimHeroic) January 4, 2021
HEYimHeroic has been researching Miis for about a year, starting an extensive study Wii Facts Plus Twitter Account and a library of all Miis created by Nintendo along the way. Speaking to me on Twitter, they explain to me that the Breath of the Wild modding community had speculated that Miis could be linked to Breath of the Wild NPCs since shortly after the game’s launch, even finding the UMii term related to NPCs when combing game files. However, that research seems to have died down in the years since: “The modders I spoke to assumed it was just a name, after a while, and that’s about where the similarities ended, ”says HEYimHeroic. “No one had ever tried to bring Miis into the game … and I did it out of pure curiosity!”
The breakthrough was realizing that UMiis share identifying values for certain parts of their build with traditional Miis: “Every type of mouth, eyes, hair, etc. all have some identifying value attached to them with the Miis. The most important thing here is that the UMiis also share the exact same ID values, so this part is probably the easiest – just copy and paste the Mii ID value into the UMii! HEYimHeroic then discovered that the Mii color values are taken from the modified Wii U versions of the avatars, rather than the original Mii Studio, and (with the help of an anonymous friend) found out how to convert and assign them correctly. . One of the most confusing things about Mii sizing is the existing values not always matching how they perform in Breath of the Wild. “More testing is needed,” explains the modder, “but we know enough about them to wear Miis most of the time!”
The result is that on December 30, HEYimHeroic managed to inject their own Mii design into the game and – with the help of a Breath of the Wild modding server – managed to create a UMii version of an existing Mii. . “Looking back, now that I know more about the format,” they explain, “I certainly could have improved myself more, but at the time, it was more than enough to convince people that the Miis and UMi aren’t that different after all. . “
What HEYimHeroic had discovered was that – aside from key characters like Link and Zelda – Nintendo had apparently used the UMii system to create all of the NPCs in the game. While non-human races such as Gorons use a set very limited of varying races, the Hylians and Sheikahs use many of the same types of backend values as the Miis in their creation. Each NPC appears to be custom built, rather than generated, which HEYimHeroic says means Nintendo used “a manual creation tool, like Mii Maker.” Or maybe… UMii Maker? “
Also, here are the full screenshots of the four Miis that I posted in this main tweet. pic.twitter.com/lAYScS43eF
– I’m Alice (@HEYimHeroic) January 4, 2021
While a formal UMii Maker exists, its differences to the classic Mii Maker are as interesting as its similarities. For example, the option to add moles to Miis is not supported for UMiis, and not all Mii hairstyles are replicated (although the game will automatically convert an unsupported hairstyle to a similar hairstyle). “The size, position and position of the mustache of the glasses is also removed,” adds HEYimHeroic. “These values are no longer set manually, but the game automatically determines them based on the rest of the face. For example, if you move the mouth lower on the face, the mustache will also automatically move lower on the face. “
Despite these changes, there seems to be a lot more nuance to how a UMii can be created compared to a Mii. “This is by far the most complex use of Miis to date,” HEYimHeroic explains when I ask if this is the most advanced version of Mii they have discovered. “In fact, it’s so complex that it’s still hard to call them ‘Miis’. Depending on how hard you define what a “Mii” is, you might say they aren’t even Miis at all! Previously, I thought the most interesting use of Miis was actually in Super Mario 3D Land, of all games, where some levels you get are based on your Mii’s favorite color. But that takes the cake!
At the time of writing, many of the new NPC creation features remain unknown, but HEYimHeroic is on a quest to document them. “For example,” explains the modder, “there are about 4 additional values that only exist to control NPC students. [And] there are only 12 favorite colors supported by Miis, but I have seen UMiis go up to 14, maybe more! […] There are a lot more color options than the game currently allows, so I’d really like to dig into them. Understanding some of the unknown values as well (like the 4 student values) would really allow fine detail to be edited, which would really add to the magic of the UMiis.
There is a long way to go, but there seems to be no doubt that the UMiis are indeed a step beyond the Miis as we know them. Which begs the question – is it possible to see UMiis used in other Nintendo games, or even create them ourselves in a non-modding setting? HEYimHeroic has bad news on this:
“Most likely, no. Well, we might see UMiis return in the Breath of the Wild sequel … but what about completely different games? No, there are too many [much] Here, it’s hard to imagine that the UMiis were designed for some sort of “ general purpose ” agreement. In fact, we think the name ‘UMii’ comes from [Breath of the Wild’s] internal name found in files: UKing. So the name “UMiis” could literally mean “Breath of the Wild Miis”, but there is no way to know for sure on that one!
If so, what about Miis in general? What does the world’s most famous Mii modder see as the future of Nintendo’s increasingly invisible mascots?
“Before finding all this, I wouldn’t have given you a very optimistic answer. But that was because I didn’t even know Nintendo was ready to turn Miis like this! I have a good feeling the Miis will at least make one appearance on the next platform, but I can say that Nintendo has no more reason to stay, which is very unfortunate. However, as long as they are willing to create things like UMiis that have a lot of Mii DNA in their files, I can eventually find workarounds and bring Miis into games that shouldn’t even have any. At least we still have Miis in one form or another.
Even if we are looking at the latest piece in the Mii evolution, it looks like a fitting tribute. The Miis are a big part of Nintendo’s recent past, becoming the friendly face of Nintendo gaming for over a decade, and thus becoming icons. They are as much a part of the visible history of the company as Mario or Link themselves. So it just seems like they’re an integral (albeit almost invisible) part of Nintendo’s biggest game of the same period.