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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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