Shigeru Miyamoto has designed dozens of the most popular video games in the world: Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros, and the Legend of Zelda among them. In this video by Vox, Miyamoto shares how he thinks about game design.
This is one of the first times that a video game’s plot and characters were designed before the programming. [Miyamoto:] “Well, early on, the people who made video games, they were technologists, they were programmers, they were hardware designers. But I wasn’t. I was a designer, I studied industrial design, I was an artist, I drew pictures. And so I think that it was in my generation that people who made video games really became designers rather than technologists.”
Also worth watching is this video by Game Maker’s Toolkit about how Nintendo builds everything in their games around a fun and unique play mechanic.
It seems to me that these two videos slightly contradict each other, although maybe you’ll disagree.
“Evets Kainzow” is “Steve Wozniak” spelled backwards.
Update: Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley made his way into the high score list in the magazine twice in 1990; once for Strider and again for Ninja Gaiden II (alongside Steve Wozniak’s massive GB Tetris score).
In November, Nintendo is coming out with a mini NES gaming system that includes 30 games and a classic controller. Among the games are Legend of Zelda, Dr. Mario, Bubble Bobble, all three Super Mario Bros., Excitebike, Castlevania, and Metroid. It hooks to your TV with HDMI and will cost $60.1
Update: Amazon says the NES Classic will go on sale on November 11 at 5pm ET. One-click ordering will be disabled, so make sure your current CC and address are in there and practice that checkout routine. Quantities will be extremely limited, so you best act quickly.
Taking inflation into account, the original NES Deluxe System (with R.O.B. the robot) sold in 1985 cost $664 in 2016 dollars. When it was released in 1987, Legend of Zelda retailed for $111 in 2016 dollars. Zelda was one of the more expensive games and some of the games included with the Classic Edition came out later, but say a typical game is $80 in 2016 dollars. That’s $3000 worth of games and system crammed into something that fits in your hand and costs $60. Moore’s Law!↩
Scott Lininger and Mike Magee built a fully playable WebGL version of the original Legend of Zelda, which came out 30 years ago. Works in any modern web browser. Not sure how long this is going to be up, but it’ll be fun while it lasts.
Legendary designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka broke down the first level of the game for Eurogamer. (My favorite part? The subtle way that Mario is designed to have “weight,” and how this affects the player’s identification with and affection for the character.)
The original instruction booklet for Super Mario Bros. details how “the quiet, peace-loving Mushroom People were turned into mere stones, bricks and even field horse-hair plants.” That means every brick you break in the game is killing an innocent mushroom person that would have been saved once Princess Toadstool “return[ed] them to their normal selves.”
Digg has a video on the character’s evolution (including cameo appearances in other Nintendo games):
Samir al-Mutfi’s “Syrian Super Mario” reimagines the game with obstacles faced by Syrian refugees. (Grimly, the player has 22,500,000 lives to lose.)
In talking about an upcoming game (more on that in a bit), Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka discuss the process they used in designing the levels for the original Super Mario Bros. Much of the design work happened on graph paper.1
Back in the day, we had to create everything by hand. To design courses, we would actually draw them one at a time on to these sheets of graph paper. We’d then hand our drawings to the programmers, who would code them into a build.
Here’s the full video discussion:
Now, about that game… Super Mario Maker is an upcoming title for Wii U that lets you create your own Super Mario Bros levels with elements from a bunch of different Mario games. So cool…I might actually have to get a Wii U for this.
This is pretty much the same process I used when designing levels for Lode Runner back in the day.↩
Using Motorola, Nokia, and Nintendo as examples, Tero Kuittinen explains how dominant tech companies are lulled into “a comfy trip to the grave” by huge but ultimately short-lived successes before new paradigms take over.
For years, Nintendo has believed it could reject smartphone and tablet apps, yet still flourish. The reason for this delusion is familiar — it’s the toxic Last Blockbuster Syndrome that doomed the consumer electronics divisions of Motorola in 2004 and Nokia in 2007. Often at the start of a massive trend shift in consumer electronics, dominant dinosaurs get one massive hit built on a nearly obsolete paradigm, and that allows them to be lulled into a comfy trip to the grave.
The best example from the past few years is when Motorola, Nokia, and RIM were flying high with their phone products when the iPhone came along and changed the game.
And just like that, the North American videogame industry ground to a halt. Hardware companies (like Atari) went bankrupt, software companies (like Sega) were sold for pennies on the dollar, and retailers (like Sears) vowed never to go into the business again. Meanwhile, Nintendo quietly glided through the bloody waters on a gorilla-shaped raft. The continuing cash flow from Donkey Kong enabled Arakawa, Stone, Judy, and Lincoln to dream of a new world order, one where NOA miraculously resurrected the industry and Nintendo reigned supreme. Not now, perhaps, but one day soon.
Harris is also working on a documentary based on the book. And Sony is making a “feature-film” adaptation of the book as well. Cool!
In this video, Bo Jackson’s historic quarter-long run against the Patriots is recreated on Tecmo Super Bowl almost exactly. I tried to figure out how many yards he actually ran, but I can’t count that high or fast. Apparently a Tecmo quarter lasts about 1:54 when the clock is allowed to run.
Miyamoto, who is responsible for creating or overseeing the creation of Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, and many other games, is stepping down from his role as manager of Nintendo’s Entertainment Analysis and Development branch to work with a smaller team on smaller games with much shorter timelines.
“What I really want to do is be in the forefront of game development once again myself,” Miyamoto said. “Probably working on a smaller project with even younger developers. Or I might be interested in making something that I can make myself, by myself. Something really small.”
“This is absolutely not true,” said a spokeswoman for Nintendo. “There seems to have been a misunderstanding. He has said all along that he wants to train the younger generation. “He has no intention of stepping down. Please do not be concerned.”
Labels corresponding to address values have been added to every line to make the code easier to follow for beginners interested in understanding the inner workings of a Nintendo game. The labels also make the code easier to debug if it is modified. At this time, the source code is still a work in progress but it is much farther along than the original document. The title page is completely documented. The intro routine, end routine, password scheme and sound engine are described in detail. About a third of the game engine is detailed and about half of each game area page.
Project Cafe, or the Wii 2 as everyone else is calling it, is Nintendo’s next gaming box. IGN has some details:
According to sources with knowledge of the project, Nintendo’s next console could have a retail price of anywhere between $350 and $400 based on manufacturing costs, and will ship from Taiwanese manufacturer, Foxconn, this October, putting the earliest possible retail release anywhere between mid-October and early November.
In his games, Miyamoto has always tried to re-create his childhood wonderment, if not always the actual experiences that gave rise to it, since the experiences themselves may be harder to come by in a paved and partitioned world. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” he told me one day. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation. I wish that children nowadays could have similar experiences, but it’s not very easy.”
In a recent interview for the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., Mario’s baby daddy Shigeru Miyamoto revealed that the infinite 1-up trick was included in the game on purpose but that the minus world was a bug.
“We did code the game so that a trick like that would be possible,” Miyamoto revealed. “We tested it out extensively to figure out how possible pulling the trick off should be and came up with how it is now, but people turned out to be a lot better at pulling the trick off for ages on end than we thought.” What about the famed Minus World? “That’s a bug, yes, but it’s not like it crashes the game, so it’s really kind of a feature, too!”
I highly recommend you use Google Chrome to play JSNES. Thanks to its high performance canvas element, and a clever optimisation by Connor Dunn, it runs at full speed on modern computers. Mac builds are also available. Otherwise, it just about runs on Firefox 3.5 or Safari 4, but it’s hardly playable.
Features include four-player collaborative play (!!) and something called “demo play”.
The game will also be the first game on the Wii to feature “demo play”, where players will be able to pause the game, let the game complete the level for them, and resume play at any time by unpausing.
In my house, this was called the “give the controller to my 11-year-old cousin and let him show you how it’s done” feature. I both hated and loved that feature. (via object of my obsession)
Punch-Out is coming to the Wii (@ Amazon)…the teaser commercial features Isiah Whitlock, Jr., who played Clay Davis on The Wire, as Little Mac’s trainer. It’s worth watching to hear Whitlock’s comparison of comebacks and yo-yos. (thx, rob)
Tetris didn’t start with the Game Boy, of course (Pajitnov created it for the PC in 1985), but the Game Boy made it mainstream. Ultimately, Tetris proved so popular that it quickly drove sales of Nintendo’s handheld console into the millions. Tetris’s grown-up gameplay also attracted adults to Nintendo’s new platform, expanding Game Boy’s potential audience beyond the usual adolescent NES set.
Somewhere, I still have an original Game Boy with a Tetris cart wedged into it.
“Actually I think it’s pretty good,” she said. “You can definitely get a workout. When I started doing it, I realized all the activities were pretty much on point. There were some things I didn’t like, like the alignment in a couple of places. But over all, I thought they did a good job and this will be a good tool for people who can’t make it to the gym.”
The Wii Balance Board will be released in the US and Canada early next week.
Ooh, there’s going to be a Dr. Mario game available for the Wii at some point, playable over the network. It’s already downloadable via WiiWare in Japan…which should not be confused with the Virtual Console downloadable games even though the difference is really confusing.
This game has been announced as supporting the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. This will feature online racing and battle modes, both of which are capable of up to 12 simultaneous players. It has also been confirmed that there will be online leagues, with international and local rankings. This will take place from within an entirely separate Wii Channel. This channel will also feature the option of sending saved time-trial ghost data.
A pair of videos showing off Wii Fit, a balance board device for the Wii. Looks pretty interesting, although if it’s marketed as exercise equipment, I fear it may not do so well. The board and a Wiimote in each hand could make for a pretty convincing skiing experience.
Update: Hmm, the Honda Fit and Wii Fit logos look pretty similar. (thx, dave)
The latest installment of Super Mario has received plenty of notice for its revolutionary style of gameplay. But just as striking is the intricacy of its sound design. One convention of the game is a Pull Star, a floating anchor that Mario can grab with some sort of magical, musical force which, when activated emits a creepy, almost theremin-like wail, wavering just a bit before solemnly sliding down in pitch. This sound is one of those elemental formulas for touching an emotional soft spot. The other day I was playing a level with a series of Pull Stars in succession and my girlfriend implored me to stop, as it was making her sad, and not only because I’m a grown man playing a child’s video game. Here is an example of the Wailing Pull Star (and a taste of the very Vangelis-like score scattered throughout the game).
Also: via Boing Boing Gadgets, footage from a live orchestra scoring session for the game. Mario’s creator, Shigeru Miyamoto sits aside and supervises.
Also also: I noticed that the menu for selecting levels to play is a musical instrument in its own right, allowing the player to create melody with chord changes and everything. It’s a subtle touch.
He explained that no matter how large you make the playing field, if you walk long enough you will run into a wall, and that will make you turn around, which makes the camera turn around and runs the risk of making the player lost. With a sphere, Mario can run all he wants without falling or hitting a wall… a useful concept for getting players totally absorbed in the moment. Koizumi added that the best thing about spherical worlds is the “unity of surface,” and the “connectedness.” Neither will the player get lost easily, or need to adjust the camera - by using spheres, Koizumi said, they had created a game field that never ended.
They also talk about the Galaxy’s two-player (well, 1.5-player really) feature, which is a really nice way of getting a second passive player involved in what is essentially a one-player game. (via snarkmarket)
An appreciation of the Real Super Mario Bros 2. The game was released in Japan in 1986 but was considered too difficult/weird for US gamers and a different Mario 2 (based on a Japanese game called Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic) was released to the US.
In most games, you trust that the designer is guiding you, through the usual signposts and landmarks, in the direction that you ought to go. In the Real Super Mario Bros. 2, you have no such faith. Here, Miyamoto is not God but the devil. Maybe he really was depressed while making it — I kept wanting to ask him, Why have you forsaken me? The online reviewer who sizes up the game as “a giant puzzle and practical joke” isn’t far off.
The whole upshot is that RSMB2 is now available on the Wii Virtual Console as Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels. And for the record, I loved SMB2.