Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto appeared to give a talk this year at CEDEC 2018, ten years after his previous talk in 2008. The talk focused on taking a look back at the past 10 years, and apart from talking about the advent and popularity of free-to-play models, Miyamoto also talked about various games that he has had a hand in, such as Super Mario Maker, Super Mario Odyssey, and Super Mario Run. [Thanks, Gamer.ne!]
Here are the highlights:
On taking on the challenge of making the game’s fun about reaching goals
Miyamoto first dived into the topic of having players make their own goals in games. Back during the advent of video games, they were all about feeding coins into arcade machines and seeing how far you could get to a goal set by the developers. However, with the advent of the Famicom, which you could play anytime, Miyamoto realized that it was now possible for developers to not have to set a predetermined goal point.
One of the games to first let players decide their goal point was Super Mario 64, which while had the vague goal of collecting stars, mostly left it up to the player to collect as many as they wanted to. “One of the proposals for that game was to have the stage continue even after getting a star”, Miyamoto revealed. 20 years after Super Mario 64, Super Mario Odyssey was able to turn this into a reality.
Miyamoto then segwayed into the topic of games with a high of freedom, like Minecraft. Block building games have existed for a long time, and Miyamoto himself had tried out the concept at Nintendo, but couldn’t find a way to make it fun. It turned out that the concept of players setting goal points for themselves was the crux, and Miyamoto was especially blown away by a Youtube video of somebody who had made a convenience store in Minecraft. The fact that Minecraft also had a map sharing feature was also something that left a deep impression on him. Miyamoto showed a bit of regret at the fact that this game hadn’t come from Japan.
That being said, it’s not like Nintendo hasn’t made editor-type games. Starting with the Mario Artist series on the N64 Disk Drive, Super Mario Maker was also released in within the past 10 years. The goal of the game? To make the very process of creation the source of fun.
On the trials and errors in the making of Super Mario Run
One of Nintendo’s biggest actions in recent years is the creation of smartphone games for hardware made by other companies, which considerably increases the workload compared with familiar hardware. However, based on the rationale that it’s better to have as many people play Nintendo games as possible, the company decided to venture into the market.
One of Nintendo’s first games was Super Mario Run, which distills the Mario formula into the two actions of running and jumping. However, Miyamoto stated that there were two aspects of the game which were troublesome in development.
Firstly was the balancing of difficulty. The game was meant to gradually amp up in both challenge and satisfaction, but Miyamoto the veteran gamer requested it to be made a bit harder, steering away from the original plan. The result was that despite being made to be simple, many people were of the opinion that the game was ‘too difficult’.
In order to fix this problem, the ‘Remix 10’ mode was added – a game mode consisting of 10 short stages, and which could be cleared even if Mario lost lives. The goal of the mode was changed to aiming for high scores with perfect clears. Miyamoto showed regret at the fact that he and the dev team should have made Super Mario Run more like Remix 10 from the start.
The other cause of trouble was the pricing of the game. It was decided from the start that Super Mario Run was to be a fixed-cost game, which was more Nintendo-like. In the end, it was decided that Super Mario Run would be a one-off purchase, to be as close to a retail game as possible. That’s because to Miyamoto, Mario is about casually playing through a level once, then failing, and then focusing and beating the level on the second try. In order to facilitate this, progress shouldn’t be gated off with microtransactions.
Speaking on another Nintendo mobile game, Pokémon GO, Miyamoto talked about how he was taken aback by the game. During the reveal presentation 3 years ago, Miyamoto was present, but only observed a weak reaction. Yet after the game’s release, the game began to explode in popularity to the point of being a social phenomenon.
Truth be told, Miyamoto had harbored doubts about the gameplay, finding it too simple for a smartphone game. Yet that was the opinion of a retail game maker, and he missed the value in that simplicity. Nowadays, he rates the game quite highly.
On the problems of a game designer
Finally, Miyamoto ended the talk by showing off a memo written by him in the past, titled “The Anatomy of a Game Designer’s Problems”. It’s basically a list of problems that occur after staff and test groups show criticism and doubts over game design. The list reads:
1. Everyone says it’s not fun.
2. Even you yourself don’t know anymore, and you decide to come up with new concepts.
3. Coming up with new concepts takes time. You start to feel frustrated!
4. Even after looking at the results, it doesn’t strike you as fun –> partially return to number 2.
5. You start coming up with various concepts, and now can’t manage to bring the elements together.
6. Because you can’t string them together, it can’t become a refined idea. You get more frustrated, and your thinking becomes less flexible.
7. Return to Step 1.
Miyamoto ended off by saying that the best way to deal with these problems, in his experience, is to “thank the others for their harsh opinions”, and “no matter how you receive the criticisms, respond in a positive manner”. It’s not only a technical matter, but one of mindset, and that this helps with motivation.