Fans and critics agree that Nintendo didn’t have the greatest E3 event this year, but at least a beautiful piece of art shown in it filled us with nostalgia. Master creator Shigeru Miyamoto, the man behind Donkey Kong, Zelda and Super Mario Bros explained during a presentation on the new Super Mario maker how the plumber’s levels were created way back when, in graph paper.
30 years ago, creating a Super Mario Bros level was not the same process as it is now, and game creators had to get creative. The upcoming Wii U title Mario Maker is, partly, an homage to those early days of the plumber – but the point was truly driven home when they showed these extremely detailed designs that are an extremely valuable relic from the olden days by now.
Miyamoto explained that back in the day, in order to create the Mario levels they used graph paper, which were then shown to the programmers and designers. If there were any errors, they had to go back to these graphs, and mark the modifications they were supposed to make.
“changes had to be minimal because of the design and code limitations. Once a level had been built, it wasn’t that easy to modify it. The “magic” and personality of each of the mythical Super Mario levels has a really simple beginning”, explained Miyamoto.
Miyamoto also mentioned that part of the design just came from drawing levels that he’d just like to play himself, by just letting himself go on pure impulse and creativity. The big exception was the first level of the game, which was thought of as a tutorial for the rest of the game, where they spent several hours thinking and designing each of the elements. The idea was to throw the play into a playground where they would intuitively figure out the game mechanics based on what they saw. The goombas and mushroom placement on the levels were very deliberate, for example: the mushroom is hard to avoid and the goombas, designed so the player would instantly figure out he had to either eliminate them or get out of their way.
Mario Maker is a simplification of those years. With tools that ease the creation of levels via both software and hardware (the Wii U control is perfect for this), the idea is to turn the player into Shigeru Miyamoto and unleash their creativity.