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?