“I Answer Some Questions” Sakurai Famitsu column vol. 461-464, on Ice Climbers, clones, and Smash Run

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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 Masahiro Sakurai. The following is a selection from Masahiro Sakurai’s book: Think About Making the Video Games 2. If you enjoyed this article, I would strongly encourage you to support Sakurai by buying his books. If you have any questions about this article, please contact the administrator.

Note: in cases where the text is underlined, additional explanation is provided. These explanations were not in the original Famitsu column, but appear in Sakurai’s book.

iceclimbers

Think About the Video Games, vol. 461-464, October 2014.

Q: How did you decide the enemies for Smash Run?

I used the following criteria:

  • can be used as a generic enemy
  • not a heavy strain on the 3DS processing power
  • has traits unique to that character
  • overall balance based on size and strength (large, small, weak, strong)
  • relatively low hours of manpower necessary
  • characters from the available stable of franchises

can be used as a generic enemy: For example, it would be strange to use Dark Link or the Flying Man as mooks.

Based on these criteria, humanoid enemies would require a lot of work and aren’t well-suited for inclusion. But I tried to include some anyway.

The reason why there are many enemies from “Kid Icarus: Uprising” is because they were original models specially designed for the 3DS, had their own uniqueness, and were easy to make as a result of being used previously. Thus they fit many of the requirements and were a perfect fit. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to have that many enemies.

Q: xx isn’t in the game?

Even if I cram in as many fighters as I can, there are some people who are focused on the few who didn’t make it back. Among them are the Ice Climbers, who were playable during development on the Wii U. However, moving the two as a pair required significant processing power. The 3DS was already being pushed to its limit, and I couldn’t get them to work no matter how hard I tried, so I gave up on them. The other fighters had to be whittled and pared down until I could get them to work, so it was simply unavoidable.

I couldn’t get them to work no matter how hard I tried: I removed as many joints as I possibly could, and even when I removed certain effects, like gravity, they still wouldn’t work. Olimar and his Pikmin were also extremely difficult, but I managed to at least get them to work.

Also, characters and series that have no plans for future releases, or a low possibility of future releases, inevitably will be considered lower priority. Furthermore, transferring them from Melee would be difficult because the original data is old.

Q: Why were Zelda and Sheik, Samus and Zero Suit Samus separated?

Basically, it comes down to the limitations of the 3DS. It is a portable device, and no matter how you slice it, having two characters “coexist” at once is impossible. Pokémon Trainer is three characters, so it’s even more impossible. However, there are times when limitations can work in your favor. Transformation-type fighters had some flaws where their characterization or strategies were vague, so now I think they’re much more clear.

Q: Who is your main?

I don’t have any character in particular. However, this time around I do favor the heavy characters more.

Q: Why release on two different consoles?

To accentuate the different types of fun you can experience from mobile and home consoles…well, that’s enough banal statements. As one crucial reason, I must bring up the fact that I am a freelance developer, and I don’t have my own team or studio. If  “Smash Brothers” is to be made, my involvement is key, but as I have no employees, my staff changes every time. This time it was Namco Bandai Games. Again, HAL Laboratories has not been involved since Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and even then they were only involved in a part of the music. They are not involved with Smash for 3DS/ Wii U in any way. This means there is almost no technical knowledge or previous production knowledge at all. It’s a completely different development situation than the same studio working on a sequel.

as I have no employees: Sora is a studio that exists so I can contract myself out to companies. Brawl was developed and completed by soliciting staff to Takadanobaba [1], but they are just team placed under Nintendo’s jurisdiction.

Even if it looks the same, it’s all made from the ground up. If I made a home console version, and then wanted to make a portable version, keeping the team together would be difficult. By working on both at the same time, I was able to offer both to the players at the same time.

Q: How did you decide on which clones [2] to add?

There are three clones on the roster. Initially they were created as alternates [3], but during development they started to develop their own individual traits related to balancing, so we ended up making them different characters in order to separate their records [4]. However, it was of the utmost importance that the workload on the project was not increased. They wouldn’t make it in if balancing had to be done from the start, so they were balanced relative to their original [5].

Lucina is Marth but with different properties on her sword. Dark Pit is nearly identical to Pit, but his side-B and Final Smash are different, so they ended up becoming separate character records. If Doctor Mario was the exact same as Mario, it would probably upset fans of the old Doctor Mario, so we included customs that can be used to make him more like he was in the past, if you would like.

To make an analogy, it’s as if you were prepared a luxurious, extravagant meal where the cost wasn’t a factor, and on top of that, you were served a free, worthwhile dessert. If this happened at a restaurant, I don’t think any patrons would make a ruckus and say, “change this to the main course!!”

However, this does happen with Smash. I understand that children may not understand the situation, which might be unavoidable. But can you please leave decisions regarding production to me? No matter how you think about it, it’s already a game that’s a bargain.

Balanced relative to their original

Normally, each fighter battles a variety of other characters, and we use these results as feedback for how to continue balancing a character. However, adding even one more extra fighter increases the number of battles that must be done against the entire cast, and it increases the amount of playtesting necessary by a lot. By balancing the clones to have almost the same strength as the original character, we’re reducing the workload necessary.
Normally, each fighter battles a variety of other characters, and we use these results as feedback for how to continue balancing a character. However, adding even one more extra fighter increases the number of battles that must be done against the entire cast, and it increases the amount of playtesting necessary by a lot. By balancing the clones to have almost the same strength as the original character, we’re reducing the workload necessary.



Footnotes
1. Takadanobaba is a town in Tokyo.

2. Sakurai’s wording is “model-swap characters.” I used “clones” because that’s just the jargon that’s commonly used.

3. By “alternates” I mean a character that’s an alternate skin for a different character, like the Koopa Kids and Alph.

4. I took special care to translate this sentence as straightforward as possible. I just wanted to point out that this sentence is pretty weird in Japanese as well, as it seems to imply that differences in balance appeared during development even while the intent was to keep the characters as alternates, and not clones. So it’s possible at some point, alternates had very slightly different movesets, but eventually they ended up becoming too different and ended up as separate characters altogether.

5. Sakurai’s original wording, most literally, is “balanced relatively,” as 相対的 means “relative.” However, his specific wording in that sentence is used as the header for the photo caption, where he goes into more detail about that phrase. Given that context, I translated that sentence as “balanced relative to their original,” which is more readable and coherent.

Soma

Soma

Translation Team Leader at Source Gaming
I translate things, with the occasional written article here or there. My main game is Melee, so I’m pretty out of the loop when it comes to Smash 4 speculation and such.
Soma
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2 comments

  1. I find it odd how Sakurai works, but I guess he has his reasons.

    The 3ds version is awesome, but I can’t help but think about the disappointment that could’ve been resolved without it’s existence.

    But I do enjoy this article. Still wondering what happened with the Young Link trophy, like it disappeared out of nowhere.

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