“Pushing the Limit” Sakurai’s Famitsu Column Vol. 138

surpassing-the-last

In this essay, Sakurai lays bare some of the difficulties in creating these games—it’s hard, stressful work that never seems to end. Of course, it can also be very rewarding, but Sakurai wants those interested in joining the game development industry to realize that they have a LOT of hard work ahead of them!

Originally published: October 30th, 2014.

Note: Do not repost the full translation. Please use the first two paragraphs and link to this translation. For additional information, please read this post. This translation is for fan use only, and may not accurately reflect the opinions of Masahiro Sakurai.

Right now, there is just a little time left until the release of Smash Bros. for Wii U. I’ve been looking back on the content of the game while completing the Challenges and training my amiibo.

Smash is huge. Even for a Nintendo title, its size is overwhelming. These are the 4th and 5th entries* in the series, and it’s certain they’ll do well on the market, so it’s likely that fans just assume there will be another one. However, it’s a miracle that we can even make this happen.

(4th and 5th entriesSmash for 3DS is the fourth in the series, while Smash for Wii U will be fifth. Will the next be Smash 6?)

These games are enormous. They’re complicated and contain a large number of fighters, and there’s nothing out there similar enough to be a fair comparison.  Even if you remove one of the characters, you would be hard-pressed to find another game that was built from the ground up with this much complex content. On a per fighter basis, each fighter in the 3DS version would cost about 100 yen. Add in the modes, music, trophies, etc. and the total price is a bargain. I am of course aware that there are games with a higher amount of sheer physical material, like Grand Theft Auto, but still.

We can pull this off due to monetary support from Nintendo and the efforts of the development team. We especially kept down the price of the 3DS version*, and I think that allows players to get more than their money’s worth. I truly appreciate the efforts of the staff and everyone connected with this game.  

(Kept down the price of the 3DS version*

Portable titles are not really cheaper to create than their console counterparts. The price of cartridge creation adds up, too. The idea that the 3DS version is a bargain is the result of much strategic planning.)

But, of course, projects like these often require that we saddle people with as much work as they can possible handle—especially the director. Smash destroys any chance of maintaining a personal life. The bigger the project, the more stuff requires my attention; since there are two versions of the game involved here, I naturally have to keep a close eye on both of them. It’s far too much for a single director to handle. I’ve made a lot of games, including Smash, but this definitely is the busiest I’ve ever been. Every day I cope with whatever situations arise, while also ensuring that I take proper care of myself so as to not ruin my health. I understand why people think that the series will continue forever. If I were a fan, I’d probably think the same way.

However, after an entry has already pushed us to the limit of what we can bear, how are we supposed to create its successor? And how would we proceed if we have to build that new game from the ground up with a brand new development team? A game won’t complete itself if left alone. A game must have a reason to succeed, but we can no longer assume success based on our determination or sheer willpower alone.

Working on Smash is difficult, and each entry is more taxing than the last. We ought to be grateful we can spend so much money to create this game and freely use many famous Japanese characters and other content—and that so many people worldwide are going to play this game. I feel really lucky to be able to do this job, although perhaps it’s more like the job chose me.

However, I sometimes wonder: what were we humans born to do? My work is so difficult and all-encompassing that it affects how I view my purpose in life. But, assuming I somehow get the chance to work on another Smash game, I think I’d do something about the huge workload. If I cut any characters, of course I’d get complaints, but we reached our limit quite some time ago, so something’s gotta give.

Even when we’re finished, I can’t rest. There are still things I need to do. I want to pause and think of what I should do next, but it’s pretty hard to find the time. I know it’s probably not the smartest choice to write something like this. However, I decided to write what I was honestly thinking since I thought it might provide insight for those interested in the games industry and possibly looking to join it. Let me be clear: I’m not depressed  or burned out. I’m healthy, I feel positive about the future, and I haven’t lost heart, but making Smash Bros. was beyond difficult.

(Extra Info)

amiibo

Figurines that have game data registered within them. If you scan an amiibo on the Wii U Gamepad, they’ll turn into an “amiibo Fighter” with a unique way of fighting. You can change their fighting style by training them.

Challenges

If you complete certain challenges, new challenge spaces will appear on the board and you’ll receive special equipment and trophies. When you complete one challenge, you can see hints for the spaces directly around it. The 3DS and Wii U versions have different challenges.

Looking Back:

–And the bar has been set higher. You said “there won’t be another Smash,” yet here you are—your next project was the next Smash!

Sakurai: At least for now, I’m not getting any requests to make the next game…yet.

–As soon as we hear the first hint of the next Nintendo system, it seems many start looking forward to the next Smash.

Sakurai: I’m really puzzled. I know that it’s not impossible to keep making it this way. I know there are many games out there made with a ton of effort, but Smash is just on another level.

–Because everyone knows that the first one was really fun, so…

Sakurai: If anything, we were almost too generous with content in Melee and Brawl.

–The content of the games seems to increase in proportion to the game. This may be due to your hard-working nature.

Sakurai: The Smash games have the effect of raising the standard for everything for Nintendo. Honestly, they put me in a rather tough position.

Marie
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5 comments

  1. Just read this article and I can’t help but feel that if there is a Smash coming to the Nintendo Switch, it won’t be a ground-up build but rather an enhanced port of the Wii U edition, so that Sakurai and the development team can focus on new content while still meeting a reasonable timeline to support the new console. Perhaps thats just wishful thinking on my part, but I think Sakurai wouldn’t be happy with a straight port, regardless of the fact it means a heavier workload for him and his team.

    1. Well Sakurai is crazy obsessed with details. He worked on a stage for a year straight. A port with some new content is not out of the realm of possibility.

  2. Regarding “something’s gotta give”:

    Smash 64 was, of course, a budget title without much confidence behind it.
    Melee was restrained by its short development cycle.
    Brawl was restrained by all the effort that went into Subspace Emissary.
    Smash 4 was restrained by the team working on two games at once.

    So if the next Smash game (after the rumored Switch port) doesn’t have to contend with any of the above factors, the workload should naturally be a bit easier. If you reuse the already strong Smash Wii U/Switch character assets instead of rebuilding them, it’s probably easier still. Unless some new wrinkle develops, I can easily see the next game’s development being set to Hard or Very Hard rather than Intense.

  3. “However, I sometimes wonder: what were we humans born to do”

    Hello unexpected existential crisis, we meet again.

    Sakurai honestly sounds exhausted here. When developing a series like Smash, the fans will expect each one to be bigger and better than the last, and it looks like trying to match those expectations is really draining. I’m reminded of his stance on sequels too, which is particularly relevant now; Smash 4 has only been out for about 2 years and it feels like we’ve been talking about a sequel ever since we heard about the NX. Seems like it’s always on to the next one with this series.

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