Paper Mario: Sticker Star is developed in collaboration by three different developers. Nintendo performed the role of producer and publisher. Meanwhile, Intelligent Systems, who have worked on the Paper Mario games in the past, also returned for development of this game. Finally, Vanpool, the company that developed Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland, were involved as well.
The individuals in charge of overseeing the game have somewhat of a history with Mario RPGs, an Iwata Asks interview reveals. Nintendo’s Kensuke Tanabe, who was the producer on Sticker Star, was also involved with Super Mario RPG on the SNES, which was developed in collaboration with Squaresoft (now Square Enix). Meanwhile, the director of Sticker Star is Vanpool president, Taro Kudo, who also worked on Super Mario RPG while he was still employed at Squaresoft.
“At our first meeting, Square presented us an image of Mario wearing a cape, riding a horse, and holding a sword,” Tanabe recalls from his days on the Super Mario RPG project. Kudo adds that the idea behind this was to combine Square’s specialty, a “world of swords and sorcery,” with Super Mario. This concept was shot down by Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, who pointed out that Mario would probably be seen with a hammer rather than a sword.
Impressed with his work on Super Mario RPG, Nintendo called upon Kudo once again while developing Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64. By that time, Kudo had left the employ of Squaresoft, and would periodically visit Intelligent Systems, who were developing the Paper Mario game.
Paper Mario was the first Mario RPG to deal with the idea of paper-thin graphics. Intelligent Systems share that coming up with the final look for the game was incredibly hard. It was a new employee, Naohiko Aoyama, who came up with the art style that the game finally adopted. This is the original concept image he put together to convey his idea, submitted on March 15th, 1997:
The image itself is made up of 3D polygons, but is designed to look like a picture book. Aoyama served as the director on Paper Mario: Sticker Star on the Intelligent Systems side.