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  • This is Shigeru Miyamoto.

  • If you've played video games any time in the past 30 years, you're probably familiar with his work.

  • "Donkey Kong", "Zelda", "Star Fox".

  • And then, of course, this guy: "It's a me, Mario!"

  • When Miyamoto makes games, he always tries to do things differently than other designers.

  • Here he is back in 1998, explaining why he wasn't focused on online gaming.

  • (Japanese) It's a trend. And I try to avoid all trends.

  • And why he wasn't adding small in-game purchases to "Mario" for iPhone in 2016.

  • (Japanese) Everyone was saying I had to do it... but I'm the kind of person who doesn't want to be told 'that's the way you do it'.

  • Miyamoto has helped define a lot of what makes a video game great.

  • So how does he do it?

  • (Japanese) I think that first is that a game needs a sense of accomplishment.

  • (Japanese) And you have to have a sense that you have done something, so that you get the sense of satisfaction of completing something.

  • In 1981, one of Miyamoto's first assignments at Nintendo was to design a replacement for a game called "Radar Scope".

  • It had performed poorly in the U.S., leaving the company with 2,000 unsold arcade units.

  • And this is what he came up with:

  • Miyamoto based the story on the love triangle in "Popeye" between a bad guy, a hero, and a damsel in distress.

  • But since Nintendo couldn't secure the rights to use those characters, Miyamoto replaced them with a gorilla, a carpenter, and his girlfriend.

  • In later games, that carpenter became a plumber.

  • And his named changed, from Mr. Video, to Jumpman, and then to Mario, after this guy, the landlord of a Nintendo warehouse. near Seattle.

  • This was one of the first times that a video game's plot and characters were designed before the programming.

  • (Japanese) Well, early on, the people who made video games, they were technologists, they were programmers, they were hardware designers.

  • (Japanese) But I wasn't. I was a designer, I studied industrial design, I was an artist, I drew pictures.

  • (Japanese) And so I think that it was in my generation that people who made video games really became designers rather than technologists.

  • That change in approach came at a key time for video games.

  • When "Donkey Kong" was first released in 1981, the video game market in North America was on the verge of collapse.

  • It was saturated with a lot of different consoles, and the boom in home computers made a lot of people question why they would want a separate device just to play games.

  • But the storytelling in games like "Super Mario Bros" and "The Legend of Zelda"—which you could only play on Nintendo's own hardwarehelped set them apart as best-sellers.

  • (Speaking Japanese) When I approach the design of my games, what I have to think about is how I'm showing a situation to a player, conveying to them what they're supposed to do.

  • In "Mario" you keep moving to the right to reach the end goal.

  • In "Donkey Kong" you keep climbing up to rescue the captured princess.

  • A lot of Miyamoto's genius can be seen in the first level of "Super Mario Bros".

  • This is probably the most iconic level in video game history.

  • It's designed to naturally teach you the game mechanics while you play.

  • If you look at a breakdown, there's a lot of really subtle design work going on here.

  • Though Mario is usually at the center of the screen, in this first scene he starts at the far left.

  • All the empty space to the right of him gives you a sense of where to go.

  • Now this character's look and movement suggest it's harmful.

  • But don't worry.

  • If you run into it, you'll just start the game over without much of a penalty.

  • Next, you see gold blocks with question marks.

  • These are made to look intriguing, and once you hit one, you're rewarded.

  • That then encourages you to hit the second block, which releases a mushroom.

  • Even if you're scared of what it might be, the positioning of the first obstacle makes it just about guaranteed that you're gonna run into this thing.

  • And once you do, Mario gets bigger and stronger.

  • And just like that, you've learned all the basic rules in the game without having to read a single word.

  • (Japanese) What else is there?

  • (Japanese) The last is the immersive quality of the game, being able to feel like it's a world you're immersed in, that you've become a hero.

  • (Japanese) That you've become brave. Even if you're actually crying.

  • Immersiveness in a video game has a lot to do with the controlsthe more precisely you can move your character, the more you feel like you're part of the story.

  • And Nintendo has always been a pioneer with controllers.

  • It was the first to have the classic setup of the directional pad on the left and buttons on the right.

  • The first to have left and right shoulder buttons.

  • The first to have a 360-degree thumbstick.

  • And the first to bring motion control to the mass market.

  • But with 2016's "Super Mario Run", Nintendo, for the first time, made a game for a controller it didn't design: the iPhone.

  • (Speaking Japanese) Over time, not as many people have been playing Mario games.

  • (Speaking Japanese) And we ask ourselves: Why have people stopped playingMario”?

  • (Speaking Japanese) And for people who played early and then stopped playing, oftentimes it's because the controls got too difficult.

  • The Wii U flopped when it came out in 2012, and Nintendo 3DS sales are far below those of its predecessor.

  • But the number of American gamers playing on mobile phones has doubled to more than 164 million between 2011 and 2015.

  • You can think ofSuper Mario Runas a shift from immersiveness to accessibility.

  • (Speaking Japanese) I think the end result is a game anyone can play, for first-time player to the most experienced ones.

  • And that's kind of been Miyamoto's design philosophy from the very start: make fun games that everybody can play.

  • The rest is in our hands.

  • (Japanese) These controls direct the characters, the better your eye-hand coordination, the better you do.

This is Shigeru Miyamoto.

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How the inventor of Mario designs a game

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    Winnie Liao posted on 2020/02/12
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