Post Script

In­ter­view: Takashi Tezuka, pro­ducer, Nintendo


Su­per Mario Maker pro­ducer Takashi Tezuka is cer­tainly the right man for the job: he’s been with Nintendo for over 30 years, and has had a hand in al­most ev­ery Su­per Mario game made. Here, he re­acts to the player-made lev­els he’s seen so far, and of­fers a few tasty de­sign morsels to bud­ding cre­ators.

You’ve had a chance to see player-made lev­els now the game’s avail­able to media. What’s stood out? I’ve been watch­ing lots of dif­fer­ent cour­ses on YouTube. It was quite a sur­prise how much fun it was to watch the videos, with­out even play­ing my­self. There are so many in­trigu­ing and in­ven­tive cour­ses, like one which you couldn’t beat if you picked up a mush­room. It’s been a huge mo­ti­va­tion for us de­vel­op­ers to do bet­ter.

It seems that many peo­ple are fo­cus­ing on mak­ing lev­els that are hard to beat, in­stead of sat­is­fy­ing to sim­ply play. Did you ex­pect that? When you de­sign lev­els for a prod­uct, you need to take into con­sid­er­a­tion a wide range of users. This lim­its the amount of ex­tremely dif­fi­cult cour­ses to only a fairly small part of the whole game. I ex­pected that the users who wanted to play more of the hard cour­ses would be at­tracted to Su­per Mario Maker, so it’s not sur­pris­ing to see that a lot of dif­fi­cult cour­ses are be­ing made.

There is a ten­dency for the cour­ses peo­ple make to be a lit­tle harder than they think they are. The cre­ator al­ready knows the de­sign, where they have placed their traps, and the best route to take. So it would gen­er­ally be eas­ier for them to play through than some­one try­ing it for the first time. As a re­sult, the course ends up be­ing more dif­fi­cult than the cre­ator meant it to be.

The de­ci­sion to stag­ger un­locks of var­i­ous sets of cre­ation tools didn’t go down very well in the west. Why not just have ev­ery­thing un­locked on day one? This de­ci­sion was part of our ba­sic pol­icy. We wanted the re­wards to in­crease as you be­came more fa­mil­iar with the game and to look for­ward to what would un­lock the next day. From our test­ing, we learned that if too much was avail­able all at once then many play­ers weren’t sure what they should do and didn’t have as much fun with the game. How­ever, I do un­der­stand the feel­ing of want­ing to un­lock things ear­lier. We’re plan­ning on re­leas­ing a patch that will al­low play­ers who cre­ate a lot of cour­ses to un­lock things more quickly.

Other than not feel­ing over­whelmed, what are the ben­e­fits to play­ers of this un­lock sys­tem? We wanted play­ers to ex­pe­ri­ence just how fun it is to be in­ven­tive and try to come up with some­thing ex­cit­ing within the re­stric­tions they face. This is pre­cisely the chal­lenge we deal with in game de­vel­op­ment. The act of push­ing your­self to come up with ideas on how to make the best use of lim­ited tools is in it­self a game, and I be­lieve there is great joy in the suc­cess you achieve through your ef­fort.

The game uses New Su­per Mario Bros U’s move­ment sys­tem, what­ever the pre­sen­ta­tion style. Did you try, or con­sider, in­clud­ing the physics of ev­ery ver­sion? In the end we used the New Su­per Mario Bros U sys­tem for all of the game styles. There was quite a lot of dis­cus­sion about this within the team. Staff who had strong at­tach­ment to the orig­i­nal games ex­pressed a strong de­sire to see im­ple­mented the same sys­tem they re­mem­bered. How­ever, when play­ers who are used to the mod­ern Mario physics tried play­ing with the old physics, they found it much more dif­fi­cult than they re­mem­bered. The orig­i­nal Su­per Mario Bros would only scroll to the right, so we ten­ta­tively made it so that it doesn’t scroll left in this game style. How­ever, many peo­ple on the team com­plained that it was less fun to play. Still, we have left in some unique as­pects to each game style, like how you can carry shells from Su­per Mario Bros 3 on­wards, but you can’t throw them up­wards un­til Su­per Mario World, and you can only wall-jump in New Su­per Mario Bros U.

Based on the lev­els you’ve seen so far, what ad­vice would you give to the com­mu­nity as a whole? When we are de­sign­ing lev­els for Mario games, we think about the bal­ance of the game as a whole. Play­ers must go through a large num­ber of cour­ses whose dif­fi­culty, themes and game­play need to be de­ter­mined as an in­te­gral part of a larger whole, rather than as one course that stands alone. When play­ing Su­per Mario Maker, you don’t need to make those con­sid­er­a­tions, so you are free to un­leash your cre­ativ­ity.

As I men­tioned ear­lier, since cre­ators know ev­ery­thing about the course they are mak­ing, the fi­nal out­come will tend to be harder for oth­ers to clear than in­tended. It’s im­por­tant to keep that in mind. Also, I rec­om­mend mak­ing re­ally short cour­ses, since this will help you un­der­stand the game bet­ter. I think the key ques­tion is for whom the course is in­tended. In the Mario games we are try­ing to please as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble, but in Su­per Mario Maker you are able to make your cour­ses for a more spe­cific au­di­ence, whether that is for ex­pert play­ers, your par­ents or your chil­dren. The best way to make a good course is to think about who will be play­ing it. The art­book that comes in­cluded with the game also con­tains lots of hints for good level de­sign and rec­om­mends videos to watch. I hope it will be a good start­ing point for peo­ple.

“The act of push­ing your­self to come up with ideas on how to make the best use of lim­ited tools is in it­self a game”

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