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beantas

The Design Behind Super Mario Bros

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What makes Super Mario Bros fun? (the first one made for the NES and arcade). What was the reasoning behind the design decisions that went into it? I'm sure there won't be any structure to this thread so just throw stuff out there. Essentially your only true goal through the entire game is to get from level start to level end. One of the ways that this goal is made more fun is the mountain and flagpole at the end of every non-boss level. By making a skillful jump from the mountain to the top of the flagpole, you can gain bonus points. It creates a ritual that becomes a sort of reward and celebration for completing the level. It's also a way to show off jumping skill. Also, I suppose the mountain is a sort of corny metaphor for the entire level. Well there's one small part of the game's design. What else? [edited by - beantas on October 22, 2002 7:21:10 PM]

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The whole pipe factor. The idea that any one of the pipes could be an entrance into a hidden area or a home for a bad guy.
Also the fact that when you were powered up you were strong enough to break the blocks, giving you an obvious advantage over being small Mario. And then there was the fire flower that gave you fire shooting capabilities.
And when you ran you could jump further and run over small gaps, but it would also make you slide on the ground if you weren't careful with the controls, thus making walking a good option to when you wanted to be more precise.

"The human mind is limited only by the bounds which we impose upon ourselves." -iNfuSeD

[edited by - iNfuSeD on October 22, 2002 7:24:58 PM]

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Excellent engine structure. It was slick and you could easily learn to control it. Games like Sonic or Doom were also like this. Good physics and responsive controls can really increase the fun factor.

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I always liked the hidden power-ups. The first time you were going through the game, you had to check every normal brick to see if it had a power-up. If you were even more patient, you would check for invisible powerups. Of course, I didn''t get into SMB until after most everyone else, so I had a Nintendo Power to show me where they were. It was still fun.

Another thing that made it fun was how the music would speed up when the time ticked down to the last minute.

£§

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Effective power up structure.

Little mario was exactly one block in size, but couldn''t do much

Large mario was not only twice as tall but could smash blocks that little mario only could "bump"...additionaly large mario acted like a "safty buffer"...as long as he didn''t fall down a hole, if damaged he just reverted back to little mario.

flower power...an effective power up above big mario was the ability for him to toss fireballs...effective but limited in that he was only able to toss them in a downward direction...but they bounced nicely.

additionaly there were a variety of enemies...little mushrooms...turtles with the added ability to kick thier overturned shells...spiked back enemies gave a clear picture that they were invinceable against mario''s jump...but could still be killed by both fire and block bashing from below (additionaly big mario exibited a weakness in this area as he would smash the blocks...opening a hole from above)...the simple rules allowed a lot of variety of gameplay options in how one was able to beat the enemies (there was always at least two different ways to beat the enemies or at least hold them at bay).

perfect control feel...notice how "lose" they feel...not in a lazy way...you still had very tight control...but there was a tiny bit of slack in it, which allowed you to react to the game in a more smooth and gracefull way...you can notice this by just changeing direction from left to right and back again...it doesn''t happen instantly because mario seems to generate some friction...this allows you NOT to over react to the game...but it isn''t so great that it doesn''t feel natural...also notice that if you hold the jump button down even after landing, that mario won''t jump again until you release the button and press it again (seems lots of games in those days (and some today) missed this...hold the button down and the character won''t quit hopping around )...in short the controls perfectly complemented the games pace.

very intuitive level design with a nice generious difficulty slope...notice that if you reach a ledge, but cannot see the other side, a quick run&jump is all you need to clear it...meening no frustraiting suprises (no haveing to make a massive jump onto a tiny little block, requireing you to be perfect with just how you jump)...the game was quite generious in this reguard...if left with a wide open hole (and no clear idea of what lies across)...you could safely jump as hard as possable and still find enough room to land on (a lot of platforms games made after didn''t do this right)...

The game also had a lot of little secrits...from the ''warp zones'' to the "continuios 1-up" trick...there was always something to discover.

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Story:
Since this was way back in the day, the lack of any real plot wasn''t really seen as a downfall, but the norm.

Character:
Mario became very iconic, but I think this is only because it was a fun game(yes, I know SMB wasn''t the first Mario game). But Mario is something that is easily identified with, unlike a lot of modern games where you play as some undead killing machine.

The powerups were a great idea IMHO. I don''t know if games had them much before SMB, but tehy became very prevalent, very quickly afterwords(okay so I''m guessing, I was like 4 years old in the NES days). I think that it relates to the idea of character advancment in RPGs in hom it appeals to gamers. Myself, I like the Mario way better just because it doesnt require me to play for hours on end.

Bizarreness:
Mushroom people? Flying Turtles? Miyamoto games seem to take pretty severe departures from realism. I think that this frees him up to make them a lot more fun.

Keeps you guessing:
Is there a piranha plat in the next pipe? Will it take me anywhere? Does that block hold my much-needed fire flower?

Collecting:
Miyamoto took this to an extreme when he made Pokemon later on, but in Mario there is the lure of coins all over to collect. It really added to the fun when you saw you were already at 70 or so and started thinking about getting that 1-up!

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A simple path through the game. (But not only one)
Fast to get something done, finishing a level, finding interseting powerups...

The main idea behind Mario is discovering stuff.


-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-

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One of the things I really enjoyed about Super Mario Bros was the simple left to right design. You always knew where you were going, there was no having to collect thousands of different items to progress. It was a simple case of getting to the end of the course. This alone probably wouldn''t have made the game great, but with the inclusion of bonus levels and warps I found that I felt whilst playing through it that there was tons to discover without feeling that if I wonder off too far I''ll end up lost and frustrated.

I liked the flag idea at the end how once you''d figured out the pattern you could always give yourself maximum points and with the fireworks going off you had a visual indication that you had just performed realyl well!

An interesting part of the design was the inclusion that you would face off against Bowser at the end of each world. I generally don''t like facing the same boss more than once (if he''s dead he''s dead type of thing). Still it worked pretty well in giving you a consistent boss to face so you knew how to take him down, what to expect in those final screens etc.. So I guess consistency of design is one of the strong points of SMB, in the first level you are presented with many of the types of challenges that you''ll face, koopas, goombas etc and how jumping on shells with know the koopa flying!

Damn fine game.

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Looking for secret areas created replay value. And trying to get EVERY COIN in a level.

The tileset made it a fantasy world in a majestic setting, and Mario was, what, some sort of public servant? Kind of the everyman character in a way, I guess. Especially for teenagers who didn''t have jobs yet.

The concept of powering up to a larger Mario was kind of like Popeye eating his spinach or something. Getting knocked back down to tiny Mario made it seem magical.

I''m not sure where they came up with the idea of turtles, except that if you bop them once you get a shell, and you could carry the shell, and kick it and throw it (in later versions, which was a nice game dynamic).

Even though the idea of a princess in a kingdom with mushrooms, turtles and a plumber just doesn''t make sense immediately, for some reason it all just fit.

The music was catchy, too.

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Out of interest, did you all prefer the original graphics or the slightly jazzed up graphics of the SNES version (Mario-AllStars I think).

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I liked the graphics in Super Mario 3 best, actually.

The one graphics part of Super Mario World (#4) that I hated was those little bat things that would attack from the ceilings in the caves. Couldn''t even tell what they were, they looked like flying pickles or something.

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Just a quick note before I head home, with Mario levelling up there''s a significant change in the characters appearance and abilities (smash blocks / throw fire balls). In most RPG''s all that would change for your character is some stats, and weapon changes are mostly cosmetic. With SMB being levelled up allows you to find different ways through the level in some cases. I think that''s something that''s not used as much these days, whether Mario was big or not depended on whether the player had got a mushroom. It wasn''t given to the player at a certain point and allow him/her to continue with the game but was a reward the player could find and would allow them to take a hit.

With these types of bonuses you can reward the player (graphically and in gameplay options) for great play (like the fireworks at the end of the level). This way the player can really feel that they have acheived something and can add to the magical feel of the game.

Anyway it''s just a thought...

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I like the graphics of Super Mario Sunshine (Nintendo GameCube) the best

I''ve the chance to have it, it rocks

-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-

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Also note that you could complete each and every level without ever powering up to big mario...

The game Donkey Kong introduced Mario...Mario then came back in the arcade game "Mario Brothers" (which also introduced Luigi) which for some reason is all but forgotten, even though it was a very good game.

In "Mario brothers" players had one screen to work from (no scrolling ) there are a series of platforms resembleing the layout of "Joust"...Mario and/or Luigi (it was a two player at the same time type game) could jump up from under the platform to knock the section of platform up slightly (just like little mario does in SUPER Mario brothers released a few years later)...at the screen edges of these platforms sits a tunnel which spat out a series of enemies...includeing the turtle (actually most of the enemies seen in SUPER appeared in this game)...the object was to simply defeat the enemies from entering into the two tunnels at the bottom of the screen...its a pretty simple game made difficult by the fact that the platforms seem to be made of ice or something slick.

Also I don''t think Miyamoto had anything to do with Pokemon (which first appeared on the gameboy, during the time Mario 64 was in development) altho Miyamoto typicaly does a lot more "overseeing" these days on several projects at once, then one specific game (outside of Mario and Link). Miyamoto also had nothing to do with Metroid, which was designed by the same fellow that helped create the Gameboy system (as well as Virtual Boy, but lets not go into that )...I''m not trying to "dis''" Miyamoto (I think he is THE game design god...the best of the best!)...but he often gets credit for things that he didn''t do (and has never said he did in interviews...he is a very modest and honest man...very deserveing of the respect given to him :D )...

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Feel and Variety
Both were already discussed so I won''t go into too much detail but you guys probably seriously underestimate how important great feel is to a game. That Mario slid the right amount. That Mario''s jumps were natural (even if in real life physically impossible). That perfect little bounce off of enemies that he jumped on. Small details, perhaps, but deceivingly important in my opinion.

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Oh, guess I was wrong about Pokemon. Oh well, all them Japs look the same (just kidding!).

But I guess Pikmin(he DID do that one didn''t he?) would work as a replacement example.
The whole game was about collecting food, spaceship parts and bizarre little creatures.

Another cool thing about Mario, was that since it was played by just about everybody, you could talk about it weth just about anyone(well, anyone with an NES).

And it didn''t involve chicks with huge tits, or guns, or gore, or any real violence to speak of. Making it something that parents wouldn''t object to so much.

hmm...how much longer before we have brainstormed enough and need to think about how this should impact OUR game design.

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quote:
Original post by GameCreator
Feel and Variety
Both were already discussed so I won''t go into too much detail but you guys probably seriously underestimate how important great feel is to a game. That Mario slid the right amount. That Mario''s jumps were natural (even if in real life physically impossible). That perfect little bounce off of enemies that he jumped on. Small details, perhaps, but deceivingly important in my opinion.


I think this portion of game design is where instinct and intuition come into play. This gameplay mechanic stuff is harder to quantify and break down into simple processes and techniques. I would guess that this part of design is a matter of tweaking numbers and stats after implementation has been completed to a certain point. Which is probably why some companies don''t get this part right, since it has to happen near the end of the development cycle.

The unfortunate thing is this stuff can be based on opinion. I loved everything about Deus Ex except its feel. The guns felt awkward and clunky, the interface didn''t feel right, and it was frustrating for me to play the game. Lots of other people apparently didn''t think so.

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i dunno if anyone else has said this but whatever.

I think what made it so fun compared to most other platform games was that is it focused on jumping from platform to platform, and made it difficult. the beign able to go faster, sliping when you jump going fast on the landing, minimal prescence of enemys.

Alot of platform games mostly focused on lots of strong enemys well sortov forgetting the platform aspect. Mario was mostly tricky jumping lines that involeved speed modulation, precision jumping techniques, andmodulating the amout youll slip. The enemys were quite simple and they could be good (when you need to bounce off their backs) or bad. But it was like platform in its purest form, not much of that other crap. Some other platform games did really in making it a real platform game, like sonic (which also was huge). Mario was also simple, no special moves or whatever. If you go fast its hard, if you go slow you run out of time. The levels werent confusing to get through or anything, they werent really long either. Donkey kong was allright platforming, with the vine swinging and stuff, but not great. Mario the 2 things you did were modulate your speed and how much you will slip, the most common way of dying is not from an enemy, but falling into the abyss.

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so I guess you could say that in SMB if you did die it was through your own fault and that you felt you''d made the mistake and not that the game was being unfair?

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quote:
Original post by Kugels
hmm...how much longer before we have brainstormed enough and need to think about how this should impact OUR game design.


I think a lot of these ideas are fundamental enough that they should already be thought of when making any game. Rewarding exploration, creating long-term goals, collecting items, game mechanics that feel good, etc.

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I love the Super Mario games (the 2D ones, I haven''t played the 3D ones). I think the reason it was such fun was that, unlike practically every console game, it was not frustrating. There were few or no puzzles and rarely would an individual area be particularly hard. And jumping on enemies is alot more interactive than shooting them - you''re touching them, and you respond to them by bouncing up after you jump on them. Shooting is passive.

Also it''s far easier to aim a jump in a side-view game than a gun. In 3D, it is far easier aiming a gun than a jump, yet Miyamoto(sp?) failed to realize this when adding jumping puzzles to Mario64 and Sunshine because it''s extremely difficult and frustrating attempting to judge distance in 3D to aim your jumps correctly.

I''ve been thinking of making a Mario-esque game with the 3D engine I''m doing, though I''d have to come up with a scheme that works well in 3D.

~CGameProgrammer( );

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quote:
Original post by CGameProgrammer
Also it''s far easier to aim a jump in a side-view game than a gun. In 3D, it is far easier aiming a gun than a jump, yet Miyamoto(sp?) failed to realize this when adding jumping puzzles to Mario64 and Sunshine because it''s extremely difficult and frustrating attempting to judge distance in 3D to aim your jumps correctly.

3D jumping puzzles can be more difficult and more frustrating than 2D jumping puzzles but it isn''t so much so that it should be done away with. I think 3D jumping puzzles are more complex, which means the added depth tends to turn off casual gamers while attracting more hardcore gamers.

Which brings up an interesting question. Will 2D games always exist despite more powerful hardware, just to appease casual gamers? So far, with the GBA and shareware games, it seems true.

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The GBA is not more powerful hardware. 2D games exist for it because it''s a horrible platform for 3D games.

However I feel strongly that 2D will last forever, even though it will increasingly be drawn with "3D" graphics. Download the Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project demo. It''s a 2D game that doesn''t use the mouse at all - totally traditional gameplay. Arrow keys, jumping, etc. It''s quite fun. But the graphics are 3D. I would love to see a Super Mario Bros. type 2D game using 3D graphics.

~CGameProgrammer( );

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