Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Reading: Making Mario 64

mario64With a month left in 2010, gamers (and publishers) continue to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Mario, the super plumber whose two-and-a-half decade battle against an evil dinosaur-turtle-thing has spanned multiple generations of gamers and gaming hardware.

Mario’s ubiquity rivals that of other beloved cartoon mascots like Mickey Mouse and Roger Rabbit (and all out trumps also-rans like France’s Asterix and Obelix), and it’s always fun to revisit his history given his immense impact on gaming culture.

Anyone who's ever played Super Mario 64 knows what it meant for the industry.  It ushered in the three-dimensional, character-driven platformer – a genre that’s still having trouble living up to the plumber’s initial success. 

This 2001 interview  with Giles Goddard (republished on Mark Green’s blog Pixelatron) provides an excellent snapshot of an industry on the verge of a breakthrough.  Goddard was one of fifteen people (only fifteen!) who made Mario 64, and his comments shine a light on the gaming behemoth’s process.  The primary focus?  How Mario moves:

“99% of the game is concerned with [Mario’s movement]. Most of Miyamoto’s time is spent on that, and the movement of the camera. The majority of the other characters and animation are done with Yamada-san and [inaudible], these design the movement of the bosses and the levels and so on, whereas Miyamoto just stands in the background, obviously making suggestions. But his main job is to sit down with the programmers and play with controls and camera and shape the way that the way the game *feels*. That is fundamental to the entire game.”

One thing you always hear about Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto is his devotion to how a game plays.  The controls, the animation.  Turns out it’s the truth, and that’s why we’re still playing Mario games twenty five years later.