Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 11, 2016

Why I disagree with the Nintendo Development ‘Philosophy’

Check out this video:

 

I think it is full of shit. This is what Nintendo developers tell themselves. This is not reality though.

Nintendo wants to sell their IPs on various merchandise, on rollercoasters, etc. Yet, the magic of Mario had nothing to do with his ‘jump’. The content of the game, the mythology, all of it is the WHY. You can’t just have the gameplay element.

Take the space ship shooter, the shmup. We all know what its gameplay design is. Yet, let us replace the ship with a DOT. Replace all the enemy ships with DOTS. What do we have?

“An Atari 2600 game.”

That’s right! You are so right, reader.

Yar’s Revenge has excellent gameplay. While your character isn’t exactly a dot, it is much less detail than today’s games (editor’s note: this is an understatement). What I find interesting is that games like Yar’s Revenge did not just use dots. They did much characterization of the ship and those sound effects! Oh my goodness! You don’t see anything that sounds this good. I love that dark hum in the background. So ominous!

Image result for yar's revenge box

Now that is one hell of a cover.

Image result for yars revenge comic

Yar’s Revenge even had a comic book come with it. Why did it do this?

Most shmups have you as the super-badass-spaceship who is THE VERY LAST HOPE to save the Earth against an ENTIRE EVIL EMPIRE! Talk about hyping it all up. Every game does something like this. If the gameplay was the only thing that mattered, why not let it matter? Why all this nonsense? Why the comic books? Why the stories? Why the mythology?

The answer is that there needs to be a WHY to play the game. Games cannot rely on gameplay alone. They need a WHY. Mario must save the princess. That is why he is jumping on goombas.

What blows up the video is when you look at the creation process in other mediums. This is a craft. You work with your hands. Ironically, it is the hands that tell you where things should go, not your intellectual brain. A writer making a novel would do terrible if he made an outline and tried to stick with it. During the process of writing, the book may decide to go a different path, a more interesting path. “Are you saying the book has a mind of its own!” I do. This is the same with making music, TV shows, or even video games.

Malstrom rounds up all the game developers to sit before him Indian style as if they are at pre-school.

Gentlemen! Do the games you make end up being exactly like the outline and original design penned before you began?

*crickets*

Of course not! The process of craftsmanship means the craft finds the way.

What bothers me about this video, or rather, that this video is representative of Nintendo’s ‘high horse’ about themselves is that:

One, it gives the impression that Nintendo games are ‘magical’ and are ‘well loved’. Bullshit. Most people do not like Nintendo games anymore. If the Nintendo games are so great, then people would buy a Wii U or 3DS to get to them. No one is really that interested in Splatoon, Super Mario Sunshine, and other Nintendo games. Nintendo keeps acting that their software is the bee’s knees. It isn’t. Until Nintendo realizes that, they will not understand why their competition is trouncing them in creating more interesting software.

Two, it misses the ‘why’ we play games. Gameplay is the HOW. It is like the writing style or the musical tone. But the why would be the story of that book or the lyrics in a song. If songs are all about music, why do they have lyrics? There has to be a why to it.

There has to be a mythology to it.

The mythology is also the intellectual property. The jump of Mario is not. Other game companies can steal the jump and they did. But they cannot steal Mushroom Kingdom.

Also, I love the shooting stages in Super Mario Land.

Mario makes a great shmup! And Mario also helped create the cute-em-up genre. You won’t find the shmup nerds, in between sipping their glasses of wine between sessions of Radiant Silver Gun and Recca, ever think of that. No, but they will pay $5000 for a copy of Magical Quest.

Nintendo didn’t become famous for making gameplay. Nintendo became famous for making mythology. Mario and the Mushroom Kingdom. Zelda and Hyrule. Samus and the Metroids. The IPs are all about the mythologies, but Nintendo developers do not seem to understand that.

Nintendo is looking at this from a perspective as A -> B as opposed to B -> A. The A is the gameplay, the B is the form factor. I think it is this: A + B. You can travel further with two shoes on your feet than you can with just one. B isn’t a total slave to A, and A isn’t a total slave to B. They both influence each other.

It is like arguing that history wasn’t a factor in Shakespeare’s history plays. Of course it was. In some plays, like King Henry V, the history is so vast, that the play has trouble being able to do it. This is why the prologue is made and is apologizing.

Even worse, Shakespeare constantly broke the ‘rules and methods for playwrighting’ in his time in order to get the play to keep up with the content. Miyamoto is a clown compared to the Shakespeare.

People are looking at past classics and making conclusions about what makes great games. Instead, they should look at the larger universe of media and literature. The original game makers, those designers of those games we call classics, did not grow up with video games. They grew up with… the larger universe of media and literature. It is why you hear Mozart in Mario Brothers…

 

Toccata and Fugue in D minor…

 

Gyruss…

Lord of the Rings…

Ultima 3

 

How about Hinduism and Buddhism for Ultima IV?

Remember Alien?

Metroid wouldn’t be Metroid without it:

Or even R-type’s claim to fame needed Alien mythology:

Image result for r-type boss one

Part of the fun of a new video game is immersing yourself in its mythology. Just because game designers today are wusses who grew up with games and don’t understand the broader mythology underlying art and culture doesn’t mean it wasn’t a factor in creating great games. When was the last great gaming universe has Nintendo ever made? Exactly.

Image result for darth vader

Above: Shigeru Miyamoto and his clones are determined to wipe out the every idea that gaming and mythology has a connection.

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