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Hideki Konno Discusses Mario Kart 7 and its Development

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Blue shells aren't going anywhere

Mario Kart 7 is now well established as one of the games to own on 3DS, contributing to an important revival for the handheld in the Holiday period. We'd wager a lot of gamers are still revving up their karts for some racing, which says a lot for the series' appeal to gamers of varying experience levels. IGN has conducted an email interview with Hideki Konno, producer of MK7 and also a prominent figure in the development of the 3DS itself, and we've picked up a couple of interesting tidbits of information.

Gamers who followed the build-up to the title's release, or those who paid attention to the credits, will be aware that Retro Studios played a prominent role in the project. Retro is best known for the Metroid Prime Trilogy and Donkey Kong Country Returns, but Konno has revealed the extent of its involvement.

We asked Retro Studios to help with the track design because at the end of 2010, Retro Studios had just finished developing Donkey Kong Country Returns, and we were faced with a development staff shortage. It was a very fortunate coincidence for the Mario Kart series.

Retro Studios and Nintendo each designed about half of the courses. I think that EAD and Retro Studios were able to cooperate and work productively to create a high-quality product. I am very grateful for the work that everyone at Retro Studios accomplished.

A major theme of the interview was also the importance of multiplayer to the franchise and how that influences development priorities. For those blue-shell haters out there, you may want to look away as Konno explains the creation of power-ups, the importance of items and the intended impact that they have on a race.

Stated simply, we play the game over and over again and adjust it as we go. When we create a new item, we do our best to imagine in detail what kind of effect that item will have on players at different positions in the race. Then, as we make the game, we play it repeatedly with a variety of different people to check whether the effects that we imagined are actually realized. Since we have to play over and over again, you could say that it's difficult. But I think that this is a vital process for game production.

I believe that Mario Kart is enjoyed by a wide range of players, including both new and veteran gamers. Ideally, we would like to allow players of different experience levels to play Mario Kart together. We don't want to create a game in which more experienced players will always win; we want to create a game in which when less experienced players are lucky, they can win too sometimes. That's why we use items to add an element of chance to the game. I think it's fun to play Mario Kart as if you were checking your horoscope. Even if your luck isn't good today, it might turn around tomorrow if you keep trying.

On the other hand, we have added the ability to limit the items that are available in local and online multiplayer games so that players can also enjoy races that are less influenced by luck.

On the subject of character specific power-ups, familiar to fans of Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, there was a suitably cryptic response on whether they would make a comeback.

The character-specific items from Mario Kart: Double Dash!! were definitely appealing. However, these items make it difficult to balance the game and ensure that the game program runs smoothly, so we chose not to include them in Mario Kart 7. Whether this mechanic will return in future installments is not a question that I can answer right now.

What do you think of Konno's comments on Retro's involvement, and those all important issues of power-ups and balancing races?


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User Comments (15)



Corbs said:

I don't like challenges in video games, as a general rule, that cannot be avoided or beaten. To me, that's not much fun and that's how I categorize the blue shells in Mario Kart. I want a game that requires skill, not luck.



NintyMan said:

That was mighty good for Nintendo that Retro Studios gave them a helping hand, and the tracks really paid off. I enjoy the new tracks more than the retro ones, and that's saying something. I think MK7 has the best new tracks since Double Dash!! at least and 64 at most.

People won't like Konno basically said that luck is a must for Mario Kart, but then again, Mario Kart has always been about wild and unexpectable races.



SkywardLink98 said:

I always laugh when someone pulls ahead of me just to get hit by a blue shell. I guess we could use that to avoid the blue shells, when you see someone has it slow down so you are in second place when they throw it.



Malkeor said:

Well Retro's involvement was already well described in the Iwata's Asks in high detail with both parties. Very good reads btw I encourage people to read them if they don't already.
It's great to see Retro pitching in with helping. They are turning out to be one of Nintendo's most important studios.

As for items I mean that's what makes it part of the fun, it what makes Nintendo who they are and you have a blast playing within the chaos of the track.

I think limiting items, having the option rather, is a good idea for the competitive crowd, especially those during tourneys. There should always be an option for these type of things; just like how there is an option to turn off/on items in Super Smash Bros.



WingedSnagret said:

I've become very skilled at slamming the brakes as soon as I see that sombody has a blue shell. Few things are more satisfying then for someone to drive ahead of you only to get blasted 5 seconds later!



metafaniel said:

@WingedFish Yeah it's quite useful to do that BUT being able to dodge an All-Mighty Blue Shell with a Mushroom it's EPIC! Being able to do this offline it's quite easy but online, people are just mercyless huhuhu.
I've been able to do it twice and it's quite satisfying!!
But I've never been able to dodge it with a simple mini boost! =S



TheN64Dude said:

During development when "The Lucky 7" was leaked I thought it would be a character specific item.



Ras said:

I really love this quote: "I think it's fun to play Mario Kart as if you were checking your horoscope. Even if your luck isn't good today, it might turn around tomorrow if you keep trying." Tagline worthy stuff. I try to take the annoying luck aspects of MK in stride. It is quite telling to me that, for the most part, the Bullet Bill players end up right back in the position they accelerated from (though, it can be useful to catch back up with if you are hit by a ton of shells and can't catch a break).



Linkuini said:

Sometimes, one player gets so far ahead of the racers behind them that they can get a decisive lead while the players behind them hassle each other. Without the blue shell, they could fall asleep at the wheel and still finish first. With the blue shell, they have to keep driving like a pro just in case one of them comes and gives the other players a chance to catch up, maintaining a tense race.

At other times, two racers will be neck-and-neck, using any items they get to make each other uncomfortable and doing whatever it takes to avoid being drafted. Without the blue shell, players in this position would sweat over every move and place an even greater value on emerging victorious from the race. When a blue shell comes during the final lap when players are in this situation, though, they know who's going to win at that point: the one in second. The tension is gone as soon as they hear the blue shell, and it stays gone for the rest of the race. More than simply the element of chance, it's the sense that the rest of what occurs during the race doesn't matter that makes me hate the blue shell sometimes. It's not always this way, as I said, but when it is, I don't even get mad anymore, I just get indifferent. And you might say that's even worse.



SpaghettiToastBook said:

@Corbs You CAN avoid spiny shells, by using a mushroom/star/bullet bill, letting 2nd place pass you, or having a large enough lead (which is easier in this game due to the lack of FIBs).



shake_zula said:

What are FIBs and how does having a large enough lead help? Does the blue shell only travel so far?

Also, does it always hit whoever is in first place when it "arrives", or does it target whoever is leading when it's fired, even if they then drop to 2nd or 3rd place while the shell is en-route?

Personally I don't like the blue shell, for the same reason as Corbs. Occasionally you pick up a mushroom in second place, overtake and have it ready, but it's rare. If you're getting a star or Bullet Bill then you're pretty far behind and need to use it immediately.

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