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So let's say you want to make a video game. Where do you even begin?
Some developers start with a story they want to tell, or a premise they want
to explore. Others start with some emotion they want the player to feel, like terror
or accomplishment.
Others still start by using the technology to simulate something, like a planet, or a
universe. And, of course, plenty of developers start by taking a game that already exists,
and adding in a few extra features.
But Nintendo is, predictably, quite different.
Whether it's making a brand new game or the latest entry in the long-running Super Mario
series, Nintendo always starts with the same goal: coming up with a new way to play.
So what you do in the game, and how you do it, is used as the catalyst to drive everything
else - from the design of the main character, to the way you deal with enemies, to the genre
of music on the soundtrack.
"That's how we make games at Nintendo," says Shigeru Miyamoto - creator of Mario,
Zelda, Pikmin, and more. "We get the fundamentals solid first, then do as much with that core
concept as our time and ambition will allow".
And so, in this episode of Game Maker's Toolkit, we're going to look at how one of the world's
greatest game developers finds success by prioristing play.
In many of its games, Nintendo starts by coming up with some interesting new action for the
main character to perform. The late Gunpei Yokoi,
said "I first take the character which you're going to control and replace them with a dot
as a placeholder, then I think about what kind of movement would be fun".
The most famous outcome of this way of thinking is this guy. You might know him as Mario,
but when he arrived on the scene he was simply known as Jumpman because this portly Italian
plumber is defined by his leap.
Not only does he have the most dynamic and expressive jump in all of gaming - 2D or 3D
- but his breakout game, Super Mario Bros, is all about the jump.
Mario leaps onto platforms and over pipes. He jumps into bricks to break them and blocks
to unleash power-ups. And that includes the fire flower which shoots at an annoying 45
degree angle meaning you have to jump to get a good shot. And the flagpole is always one
brick off the ground, so you have to jump to finish the level.
Miyamoto toyed with other ideas, including a shoot 'em up stage, but dropped them because
"we wanted to focus on jumping action".
Oh, and don't forget about jumping on enemies to kill them. That might seem like an obvious
way to dispatch foes as that's how Sonic, Aladdin, and scores of other platformer heroes
do it but - get this - no one did it before Mario.
Miyamoto came up with that by asking: what is the logical way to defeat an enemy in a
game about jumping?
There's a real advantage to forging a game around a strong main mechanic.
When you can interact with almost everything in the game by using this mechanic, Nintendo
can make a game where the player's range of actions is very small and easy to learn - but
the number of things they can interact with is huge.
When talking about Pikmin, Miyamoto said "the basic action that you conduct is very simple.
It's a matter of simply throwing the Pikmin at tasks and calling them back. And yet with
the Pikmins' abilities and the breadth of strategies available, it opens up broad possibilities
of how you can approach the gameplay".
Other examples of unique actions include shooting a water gun, firing ink, turning into a painting,
plucking things out of the ground, and using a vacuum cleaner.
In Luigi's Mansion for Gamecube, Luigi interacts with the world almost exclusively through
his vacuum cleaner. He can't even jump but where his brother overcomes every challenge
with a big springy leap, Luigi uses his hoover to solve puzzles, suck up ghosts, collect
loot, check for booby-trapped doors, and more.
So while some developers might say their game is about prejudice or ideology or the decline
of the American frontier, how many games are literally about using a vacuum cleaner?
And when Nintendo needs to add in extra mechanics, it can attach them to those main actions.
For example, Splatoon is primarily about shooting ink and swimming in ink - and so, you can
reload your gun or climb up a high wall by shooting ink on the floor and then swimming
in it. No extra buttons required.
God that's good.
Of course, not every game is built around some brand new mechanic. Nintendo is, after
all, not exactly known for making entirely new games and characters - or new IPs as the
industry calls them - and there are only so many things you can strap to the back of a Mario brother
But Nintendo games are still driven by new ways to play and so sometimes it's about putting
a new twist on an already established mechanic.
That might involve reinventing 2D gameplay in a 3D world, as we saw in Mario 64 and Zelda:
Ocarina of Time. It might be about putting those old mechanics in an interesting new
context, like Super Mario Galaxy which is still fundamentally about jumping - but now
in micro gravity. Or how Pikmin 3 is still about commanding Pikmin, but now with the
added stress of juggling three heroes.
And sometimes, Nintendo looks to come up with an interesting new system that governs how
you play - like the three day timer in Majora's Mask or the interconnected map of Metroid.
Whatever the case, there's got to be some new gameplay that can help drive things - or,
Nintendo says there's no point making the game.
When Miyamoto was told that fans wanted to see a new F-Zero game, he said "I'd like
to ask those people: Why F-Zero? What do you want that we haven't done before". To Miyamoto,
the thought of just making another racing game with more attractive graphics is unfathomable.
Nintendo designers are big fans of the design principle "form follows function", which basically
means that how something looks is determined by how that thing works. It's something that
Miyamoto likely picked up when studying industrial design at college.
And it's why boos blush when you look at them, and why enemies that charge at you in Super
Mario World look like quarterbacks, and it's why whenever Nintendo re-releases the original
Mario Bros it swaps turtles for Spinies because everyone keeps trying to jump on the damn
But Nintendo goes further than that, and uses the new gameplay at the heart of a game, to
determine almost every aspect of the presentation.
Once Splatoon's mechanics had been developed, producer Hisashi Nogami says "we then conceived
the characters and the world vision to match perfectly with the gameplay".
So if you ever got to play Splatoon during the prototyping phases, you would have controlled
a big white block. The designers came up with the squid kids afterwards, when they needed
to find a character that could swim in ink, and would clearly separate the inking and
swimming mechanics.
And entire characters can come about as extensions of the mechanics themselves - like Navi, who
is a personification of the z-targeting system in Ocarina of Time. Or this Lakitu, who carries
the new-fangled camera in Super Mario 64.
Or the Luma who hides in Mario's hat and shows the player when Mario's spin move is recharged.
In this way, gameplay needn't be abstract systems but organic parts of the game world.
Splatoon's producer also revealed that because shooting ink is a bit like spraying graffiti,
the game got its punk rock music and 90s aesthetic. Similarly, the only reason Super Mario Sunshine
is set on a tropical island is because the water pistol gameplay made the designers think
about summer.
The mechanic can even drive the narrative. Sorry to burst your bubble but the story in
the Zelda games isn't part of some grand overarching narrative but it's simply there "to bring
out the best of the fun and interesting gameplay elements", according to late Nintendo president,
Satoru Iwata.
A Link Between Worlds has a mad artist for an antagonist because Nintendo needed some
reason for why Link can turn into a painting. And even Ocarina of Time's beloved story came
from a process like this. Miyamoto wanted both young and teenage Link in the same game
so the writers had to come up with a time travel plot to make it happen.
This might seem like a crazy way to come up with a story, but it can help ensure that
there's a deep connection between what you do in the game, and what happens in the story.
Consider Yoshi's Island, which has a narrative about protecting baby Mario, and gameplay
mechanics about protecting baby Mario.
Most developers come at the other way round. They dream up stories, characters
and worlds, and then work backwards to figure out what gameplay mechanics might fit. It's
no surprise that they're rarely very successful.
But, okay, I shouldn't paint Nintendo as some game design gods and every other developer
as just getting it completely wrong. Though, maybe...
No, no. Nintendo gets it wrong sometimes. And other developers get it oh so right - indie
developers, for example, are particularly good at building their games around unique
gameplay. And I loved how the new Doom completely orbits around the melee mechanic - it's at
the heart of the combat system, it gives you health, and it ties into movement. You even
use the melee button to open doors, just like how Samus opens doors by shooting them. Doom might
be the most Nintendo game that Nintendo would never, ever make.
And then you get a game like Portal, which is so beautifully built one super smart bit
of interactivity that it's no surprise Miyamoto has said that game was "amazing".
Because for Nintendo, the way you play a game is simply more important than anything else.
So it's not just the jumping off point for a new project, but every other element - the
enemies, graphical style, locations, music, stories, and characters - are picked and produced
to frame the most fundamental aspect of a game.
And when every aspect of the game is suggesting the way you play it, it becomes effortless
to pick the game up and get stuck in. And so this is one big reason why Nintendo's games
often feel quite different to everything else on the market.
They're more playful and toylike than most other games. They're more accessible and inviting - but no less
complex. And, quite frankly, they're some of the most elegantly designed games ever
made. And so, even after missteps and miscalculations, we're there. Ready and waiting for whatever
this iconic Japanese developer comes up with next.
Hey there, thanks so much for watching. This episode was a pretty big undertaking but I
hope it sheds some new light on what makes Nintendo such a fascinating game developer.
I wanted to say a huge thank you for helping me reach 100,000 YouTube subscribers, and extend another
thank you to everyone who has taken the time to translate the subtitles on these videos
into other languages.
Game Maker's Toolkit is proudly funded by its fans, over on Patreon. Who don't just
get a fuzzy feeling in their tummy for helping support independent games criticism but also
tonnes of goodies like bonus videos, video recommendations, game reviews, and more. And
those donating 5 bucks get to see their name at the end of the video like... this!


Nintendo - Putting Play First | Game Maker's Toolkit

192 分類 收藏
Mayu Okuuchi 發佈於 2020 年 1 月 31 日
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