Next Level Games on Working With Nintendo to Create Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
Posted by Andy Green
Miyamoto demanded a multiplayer experience to rival Mario Kart
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is being released on the 3DS at the end of this month. It's been developed by the Canadian studio Next Level Games, the team behind a host of Nintendo games such as Punch-Out!!, Mario Smash Football and Mario Strikers Charged. There's no doubt that landing the Luigi's Mansion job was the biggest coup for the company, and as you'd expect Nintendo was closely involved in the project all the way through.
In an interview with Kotaku, gameplay engineer Brian Davis and director Bryce Holliday from Next Level Games revealed what it was like to work with Nintendo, and the process involved with making one of this year's most anticipated releases.
As usual with Nintendo the whole process was shrouded with mystery, and Holliday recalled the video call that revealed to the studio what it was going to be working on:
We were developing something in secret, like we usually do working with Nintendo. There was a conference call very similar to this one where it was kind of announced to us that we would stop working on what we were currently doing and start - they even added a little drum roll - to work on Luigi's Mansion.
When work started on the game, Next Level knew nothing about the system it was building it for - leaving it with quite a difficult task. The studio pitched a few things to Nintendo, including a detective game, until it was eventually told a little more about the overall framework.
Naturally, when making a game with Nintendo there are going to be some rules that need adhering to, especially when starring one of the company's most iconic characters.
Next Level revealed that one of the biggest restrictions it had placed on it was that Luigi was not allowed to jump under any circumstances. Yoshihito Ikebata, the supervisor for Luigi, was also in on the interview along with Ryuichi Nakada, and he explained that this particular rule came from the previous game, whereby Luigi never left the ground. It seems fairly natural for a Luigi's Mansion title to use this method of gameplay, as the atmosphere would drastically change if Mario's brother could just bounce himself around the eerie mansions.
There were also rules surrounding Luigi's little helper, Toad. According to Davis, Toad was to look like he was enjoying himself when around Luigi, so when the little blighter isn't by the leading man's side he looks frightened; all so that players feel connected to him on an emotional level.
Another challenge set by Nintendo came from Shigeru Miyamoto himself, as Davis explained:
Miyamoto-san actually challenged us to say that this multiplayer will only be in the game if people will constantly play it, similar to Mario Kart.
Apparently multiplayer is something Nintendo, and Miyamoto in particular, wanted included in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, as the original GameCube title missed out on it. There were experiments done and Ikebata confirmed that Miyamoto had "very positive impressions" on the multiplayer aspect in the original.
Hideki Konno, the director of Luigi's Mansion, had strong feelings about bringing in a multiplayer aspect for the sequel, so the decision was made from the very beginning that it would be implemented.
Next Level Games was given over three years to develop Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, and it was clear from the start that Nintendo wanted the game to be much longer than the original, which was seen as too short by many. Holliday recounted his meetings with Miyamoto:
Miyamoto himself would play the game even a year into development and say, 'No we need to keep adding more. Let's keep experimenting with new gameplay ideas.' So [there was] almost 16, 18 months of, I would say, prototyping phases of just let's just try a slide game, let's try ballooning, let's try different things with the vacuum.
We threw away a lot, maybe enough to make another game, but it's that kind of commitment to experimenting that was trying to satisfy his need to add a lot of value to the game. And I think the multiplayer eventually ended up being that value-add component.
Nakada, who also helped supervise the game's development, admitted that he had thought Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon was finished several times:
Throughout the three-year development time there were a number of points where we stopped and were like, 'Well, we're done. This is good to go.' But there were places that we found that were good enough that we actually wanted to take advantage of them a bit more and expand upon those discoveries throughout the development. So that's another factor as to why it took three years.
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is actually finished now, so Nakada can breathe a sigh of relief. It will be released on 24th and 28th March in North America and Europe respectively and features both online and local multiplayer.
Are you looking forward to getting to grips with Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon? What are your thoughts on the multiplayer aspect? Let us know in the comments section below.