News Article

Masahiro Sakurai Outlines the Challenges of Smash Bros. Development

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

"It's important to remember that you can't take anything for granted."

It can be all too easy for critics and consumers, not just in video games but any entertainment medium, to casually disregard creative works without enough thought or consideration. Maybe it has one mechanic that isn't exactly as before, maybe Sonic's eyes have changed colour, or perhaps Super Mario 3D World has the audacity to not be Super Mario Galaxy 3. It's human nature to want specific things, but unfortunately in some cases its also natural to dismiss all-too-easily games that don't fit the exact templates in our own head.

It's certainly a pressure Nintendo faces with a lot of its games, with 30 years of game development legacy weighing heavily at times. It affects various brands, including — of course — the iconic Super Smash Bros., which is scheduled to arrive on the Wii U and 3DS in 2014. Masahiro Sakurai has used his regular Famitsu article to outline the challenges and stresses of completing a major game project, highlighting the amount of effort required.

When you think about three years like that, that's the amount of time between entering middle or high school and graduating from it [in Japan]. You have all these people working their fingers to the bone to complete just a single project. The games I make tend to be played for a long time, and whether I'm satisfied with the results or there are things I'm not happy with, it always takes a lot of time to make them.

Every time, you know, I try to the point where I think I can't go on any longer. For example, I think pretty much the limit when it comes to creating characters for a Smash Bros. is about 20, counting those from older games. We remake them completely each time, after all, and the teams and personnel and specs are all different. But we all go beyond what the work calls for because we want to do our best to retain fans of each character.

The Brawl team really put in a great effort. They remade all the original characters and added 18 completely new ones! Even with Melee before that, that game has over twice as many characters as the original. And that doesn't include online support and the assorted other features we've taken pains to complete under difficult circumstances. But the players don't know about how hard we work. That's not a problem because that's the case for any product, but it's important to remember that you can't take anything for granted.

Projects take a while, and you run into difficult and painful times. Some people have to bow out of it. To be honest, I've sometimes thought about what I'm earning for myself, going through all this life-changing struggle. But the pain I feel at the time goes away over time, and yet the game itself always remains. Players talk about the fun and so forth behind the game for years to come, and they still play it.

Oftentimes I'm asked by the overseas media if I feel any pressure when making a title like Smash Bros. Like I've written before, on a personal level, I don't feel anything like pressure. It's really fun work. Sometimes you have to resign yourself to the fact that things will work out the way they're meant to work out. But you need to funnel your regrets to the next project and work as hard as you can on that. The pain goes away, but your work always remains.

Sakurai-san has often spoken about the demands of his work, but this gives some further insight into roster building and Smash Bros. development. Let us know what you think of these comments below.


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User Comments (64)



Grubdog said:

Damn, he needs to block all this crap out. I feel sorry for him, the fans should be grateful for whatever they get.

"The pain goes away, but your work always remains." amazing quote.



NintyMan said:

Sakurai has a great work ethic. While he takes great pains to make his big games, even to the "brink of death" as he said before, he still has fun doing it. And his finished work becomes like a work of art that lasts years.

It stuns me just how huge of an effort Brawl was, with its big character roster, big soundtrack, and massive amount of unlockables. There's no telling how much hard work and dedication went into that game! It's still a game I play regularly today and logged hundreds of hours into over the years.



LordJumpMad said:

Stress comes with the job, and even more stress will come if the game becomes a flop.
He better hope not to take his consumers for granted.



Shworange said:

I dont know... heres what he said. "Every time, you know, I try to the point where I think I can't go on any longer. For example, I think pretty much the limit when it comes to creating characters for a Smash Bros. is about 20, counting those from older games."
20, counting characters used in older games. That sounds like only 20 to me, unless he miss-spoke. Heres who's confirmed for sure so far: 1) Wii fit trainer 2) Luigi 3) Villager 4) Mega Man 5) Samus 6) Link 7) Mario 8) Bowser 9) Kirby 10) Pit 11) Pikachu 12) Captain Olimar 13) Donkey Kong 14) Fox

If 20 is the correct number, there is 6 still unannounced. I would just assume peach and Zelda will be playable, or else another round of "Nintendo is sexist" talk will resume. That's four slots left. Thoughts? I'm still guessing Pacman will drop in.



NintyMan said:

@Shworange: It sounds to me like his 20 character limit is just the minimum amount for a new Smash Bros. game. It could go well beyond that if the team is dedicated enough, as Sakurai pointed out with Brawl. It doesn't mean that there can only be 20 characters. The team truly wants to please fans, so that's why these new games should have a roster bigger than just the minimum 20.



WiiUExposed said:

@Grubdog "grateful for whatever they get"
So we can't criticize bad games? You telling me that we couldn't complain about Sonic 2006? You telling me that Duke Nukem Forever is excused for its awful quality?



Adam said:

What is he doing in that picture and what is going on with his hands?



rjejr said:

"or perhaps Super Mario 3D World has the audacity to not be Super Mario Galaxy 3."

What has that got to do w/ anything? Those are 2 completely different game types. People are upset Retro has been working on DK rather than Metroid but that's irrelevant also. People were also upset Starfox Adventures wasn't a Starfox game. But I don't see how this guys hard work to make a good game is related to any of that.

Legend of Zelda 2 being a side-scrolling Pitfall type game might be a related issue though

Looking forward to Smash Bros., and to it hopefully getting a new name. Funny story - my kids have been playing a ton of Brawl this summer - many rainy days - and it's 1 of the myriad of reasons we haven't bought a Wii U yet b/c they can only play w/ their Wireless Wavebird-like controllers, not the Wiimotes. I don't fault Nintendo for not having the Gamecube ports, just saying. We'll have to get a WiiU for the new game, and they'll have to learn to use Wiimotes, but why rush it?



Detective_TeeJay said:

@Shworange I would prefer Luke fon Fabre to Pacman as the Namco representitive. What would Pacman even do? Tales of the Abyss also made a 3DS appearance, so that could boost sales, maybe. Though Pacman also had a 3DS appearance, plus those eShop titles. Still, it's Pacman. Luke just seems like he'd make a more ideal fighter to me.

@DestinyMan He said that 20 was the limit. That means that's the point where he absolutely can't make anymore, not the minimum.



Murduskull said:

@Shworange I'm sure he's tired, he didnt start working on this game yesterday lol. And he still has a few more months of developement, since it doesnt release till next year. I'm guessing another 8 months?



element187 said:

"perhaps Super Mario 3D World has the audacity to not be Super Mario Galaxy 3. It's human nature to want specific things, but unfortunately in some cases its also natural to dismiss all-too-easily games that don't fit the exact templates in our own head."

Thank you for that. I can say with great ease that gamers in general and Nintendo fans in particular being the worse, have a terrible sense of business/profit, they seem to think "because I like something, that means its popular and will sell massive amounts, Nintendo is stupid for not doing what I want them to do"

When the reality is Nintendo has all the numbers, they know what sells the most and what doesn't, and with launching a new console it would be silly for them to concentrate on titles that only sell a few hundred thousand copies (Metroid, F-Zero, Starfox) when all they need right now in the first 3 years is the big games (Mario, Mario Kart, Smash, DK, Zelda)

I like how every gamer is an arm chair CEO. Nintendo sucks because they wont listen to my brilliant ideas... if these people really knew what is best for any company they wouldn't be sitting around playing games they would be out there chasing their own CEO position. Its easy to sit back and throw insults at companies because they don't behave exactly like they want them to.

Most gamers on the internet complaining about things are usually marxist who seem to believe that companies sole reason for existing isn't making money or profits, these companies exist purely to stroke their own egoss and wait hand and foot on their wants and needs, and when a company chooses not to stroke their ego, they take to the internet to bash that company... GAF is a perfect example of this mindset. I never seen such vile hatred towards companies not named Sony. Its a group think Sony circle jerk.... that would probably be an appropriate new name for that forum.

TL;DR - It boils down entitled gamer syndrome... maybe its because I'm in my thirties now that I have a clearer picture of the world and business than I did when I was in my teens and 20's, and that these current day self-entitled gamers will grow up and understand business and economics a bit better as they approach their 30s and 40s.



Zup said:

@Caramel I think he means that the team feels exhausted after making 20 characters but then he implies that they go beyond that number for the fans.



rmeyer said:

Hi most of us don't get to make video games for a living, quit whining and get to it or let me replace you



ThomasBW84 said:

@rjejr That line was part of a whole paragraph related to a theme of understanding the work and effort that goes into game development. Picking one line and questioning its presence outwith the context makes little sense, I'm afraid. It's fine to disagree with the paragraph, of course.



Whopper744 said:

It's probably not easy on everybody to deal with how many 'fans' are so harsh sometimes. You really just can't make everyone happy, I think this guy has always done an outstanding job (besides the whole no cut scences thing) with every game of his I've played, and his team.
No offense to everybody, cause I'm a bit of a nerd myself obviously at times, but I think nerds can be the cruelest of critics with games, movies, comics, or whatever. They act like when something is changed slightly, like it's against their religion and reason to live, or if thigns mostly stay the same, they complain that it's the same old thing again. I think we all could work on trying to appreciate the things we have a little more, and maybe even be alittle excited for a revamp of a series from time to I got off on a rant. Sorry.



NintyMan said:

@Caramel: Fair point. He did say 20 characters is the limit for a Smash Bros. game based on the older games, but his team ends up outperforming expectations. I still don't think the character roster for these new games is going to be small, as some people seem to worry about. It's too early to be making such assumptions.



element187 said:

@rjejr its related because pleasing fans, especially Nintendo fans is almost impossible... Just look at all the meltdowns over Super Mario 3D World and a new Donkey Kong game.

You don't think Sakurai watched all of that unfold? He saw Koichi Hayashida pour his heart and soul in SMW3D and calls it the "culmination of all 3D Marios" and Nintendo "Fans" (I say that lightly) absolutely obliterated his work all over the internet. Koichi had to of been positively crushed to see that reaction.

So the pressure is on Sakurai to make a game that doesn't get that kind of reaction.... If this is the behavior of Nintendo "fans" then I need to come up with a different name for myself because I don't want to be lumped in with that group.



IxnayontheCK said:

This seems to be the theme with all game developers, ESPECIALLY Nintendo. They're all stretched so thin and work so hard that it creates a heavy mental strain. Their work is appreciated though!



BATRA said:

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Super Smash Bros. for 3DS are expected to launch in 2014. There will be no cross-platform play between the two. AND THIS IS FROM SAKURAI AND NOW IT SOUND LIKE WE MAY GET 20 CHARACTERS IN BOTH GAMES I WAS HOPING FOR 30 OR 40 BUT 20 IS SAD FOR THE GAME



Detective_TeeJay said:

@BATRA Do you realize how much work goes into one character? The model, the moveset, all the mechanics tweaking and beta testing involved to keep them balanced with the rest of the game. Not to mention all the extras and trophies (assuming there will be trophies) themed on that character's games, and stages and music. You see the stress this guy goes through to make this game. He puts everything he has into it and doesn't hold back. For goodness sake, have some consideration.



TingLz said:

This is why I take the following stance: instead of wanting many things in a game, I prefer Nintendo to surprise me with new things. I do have personal requests for games, but if they're not met, I just sigh and enjoy the game anyway.



BATRA said:




TingLz said:

@BATRA: Firstly, please turn off your Caps Lock or Shift button. Second, your statement goes against what he's been saying. It's not that easy to add in characters.



Rafie said:

I can see he (Sakurai-san) pours his heart and soul in every game he makes. That's evident. He hasn't had a bad game yet. I just hate that he has to go through such painful transitions and elevated pressure from the public to satisfy the public whilst making the game great. I'm behind the guy 100%. No pressure from me (as long as Jigglypuff comes back )



DarkKirby said:

Summery is: Making games is hard.

As hard as it may be, that's not an excuse for all the intentional anti competitive mechanics put into Brawl and how you have criticized people who take Smash games seriously as "playing the game wrong".



BATRA said:

i just been told that we may get about 40 characters in the game now well thats good news then happy now



TruthBeTold said:

I agree with the stance above that the statement meant something along the lines of adding 20 characters to this game is hard enough, yet we are expected to and push ourselves to do more. Obviously 20 characters isn't the max for a Smash Bros. game because that number has been surpassed in a majority of the series.



unrandomsam said:

@Warbeard Nearly everyone in Japan is hardworking.

(Across the board people from the UK and USA are outright lazy by comparison. Especially the management (Below board level where they still work quite hard). For a big game in the West the people making it might put in long hours but the management won't which is different in Japan where no one leaves before the boss but the boss is working just as long as everyone else). 12 hours every day is quite normal.

Probably why they make the best games in Japan. Stuff like family commitments take a back seat to what is best for the company.



Hale-Bopp said:

He works damn hard and when the day comes and he decides he's done making games, we'll all notice his absence.

Kid Icarus: Uprising is currently my most played 3DS game by far and I have a feeling that the new Smash Bros. is set to take a spot in the top 3 as well.

That being said, without Sakurai making Nintendo games, I don't think I'd appreciate owning a 3DS anywhere near as much as I do now. He's the difference.



Play-Doh_25 said:

@Shworange I think 20 characters was what he had at first thought was the max but then they decided to make way more. Seeing how there were 12 in the original, 25 in melee, and then 35 in brawl, I doubt they would only make 20 characters.



AVahne said:

Hm, I forgot how much of a toll this takes on him, even if it's something he loves to do. So even if the game remains as technically ugly in the final release as it is now, I'll still love it since it'll likely be very fun (and it'll be a good stress reliever...I think).
Now if I want a Nintendo game that's both fun AND pretty, there's Mario Kart 8



Caryslan said:

I think this game is hard on him since there is alot of pressure to get it right. Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and Wind Waker HD are all major titles that will sell, but the main killer apps that will move the Wii U in my opinion are Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros 4.

I think Super Smash Bros is an even more important game then even Mario Kart 8, and that's gotta really put pressure on him . Not to mention, Smash Bros' fanbase has splintered into different types of fans who want something different from the series. The Melee fans want a return to Melee's mechanics and gameplay, Brawl fans want this to be just like Brawl(especially since that may have been their first title in the series), while other fans just want to play casual matches on the crazy stages with items turned to max.

Not to mention the fact that people develop an attachment to a certain character, and everything goes downhill if their favorite character is cut. Look at how many people are still bitter over Roy and Mewtwo being cut in Brawl.

This game has alot of pressure on it to get things right, make fans happy, and be that killer app that starts selling Wii U's. I get the impression that the development environment is much different then what Brawl had.

I'm hoping for the best for both this game and Sakurai. I fully intend to get the 3DS version when it comes out. I just wish people would back off and let him finish the game. The man has enough pressure on him as it is. Do we really need to bash him because Wii Fit Trainer(who I like the idea of btw) is in the game rather then Geno? Keep in mind, none of us have played as her or know anything about her beyond a short video and screen shots. She could be a very fun character to play as.

We already have enough Mario reps as it is, do we really need to waste a spot on a character from a SNES RPG? I like Geno, but people need to understand that their wishlist is not always going to be fulfilled and their favorites may get cut due to time constraints. The Wii Fit Trainer represents the Wii, and rather then seeing the postives of her joining the roster, people bashed the choice. Again, without having had a chance to play as her.

Just let him make the game and judge it when it comes out. There is nothing like Smash Bros, and while I enjoyed PSABR, it does not even come close. Instead of complaing about some obscure Nintendo characters are not getting in or saying how much Wii Fit Trainer sucks without even playing as her, let the game get finished and reserve your judgements for when it comes out.

Will I be sad if Ike and Lucario get cut? Yeah, but the thought of playing as Mega Man makes up for that, and if Samus & Mario gets some good buffs I'll play as them as well.

Sakurai already has enough pressure and stress with this game. Let's take a step back and let him finish it rather then attacking every reveal and interview that he makes. So what if Luigi's moveset in pictures does not show the Poltergust? do we know for sure that it's not in the game? And even if it is not in the game, it's still Luigi! He'll still be a fun character to use!

And that's my point, give the game a chance to be finished. I hate to say this, but so many fans are cyncial and judgmental before something even has a chance to come out. It sound like Sakurai has listened to us on some things. Tripping is out, and the game seems to be faster then Brawl.

Just give it a chance, that's all I asking. I'm tired of all the negativity when it comes to stuff.



AntiGuy said:

Basically he is asking (pleading) us not to expect much... it must be a lot of pressure considering this game is the Wii U's only hope, not even Mario kart 8 or 3D World.. BUT THIS! they need to get this out as fast as possible, so all those ridiculous excuses about no CG movies or Susbpace game mode, etc. are because of the mighty need Nintendo has to release this game, nothing else...



Caryslan said:

@AntiGuy The loss of the CG movies is not really a big deal. They were funny and fun to watch, but they were basically filler and an attempt to bridge the gameplay of SSE with a "storyline" The fact that all of the characters in SSE never really talked meant we never got any dialogue with kills the point of a cutscene. SSE's cutscenes were fun to watch, but they were filler in the end.

As for the lack of Subspace, I'm a bit surprised everyone is up in arms about it. I personally loved Brawl's Subspace mode, but the overall impression I got was that the mode was a waste of time and the resources made to use could have been spent of other aspects of Brawl.



MeloMan said:

I think the other big thing is that he may not be making any more Smash games. Isn't Sora Ltd. closing its doors after this project is complete?



sinalefa said:


Whenever you come up with your new name (or definition), let me know so I can use it too. I do agree with you that your mindset tends to change with age.

Regarding Sakurai, he has been in the Smash Bros. (and videogame industry) for a long time. I know he is not perfect but I do trust his ability to do his best.



Williaint said:

Everyday, on the SmashBros Miiverse there are comments on how one person wants to see "this character", and thinks that if they get enough Yeah's, it will convince the Developers to put that character in the game.
This article points at how gamers (Or even just 'people') don't want anything new, but don't want anything old; anything in between isn't good enough. It means you can't please everyone... why should [a sequel] something be made, if it's just going to be criticized?

I couldn't have Said it better myself, had I made a trilogy of films on it. When the Tentative NEW Wii U LoZ is revealed, I'm sure it will be as big a hit as Mario Kart.



Detective_TeeJay said:

@Shworage Beceause it's inconsiderate and shows that you couodn't care less about Sakurai or his feelings. You're just going to sift out what little "useful" information about the game there is from his statements.



Inev said:

@element187 @Caryslan Your comments are a breath of fresh air in what is usually a swamp of contempt and pessimism. I feel the same, but sometimes it's best to step back and remember this is just the internet; nothing anyone says in these comment sections affects how Nintendo operates. At all.

Regarding especially toxic commenters, it's best to just let them stew in their own mean-spirited comments. Don't reply to what they say, or even acknowledge them, because all they're looking for is a reaction. You can give a well-made argument, but they'll never hear it; they'll just belittle you with the all-encompassing, insta-win "fanboy" insult.

TL,DR: Don't even bother with these comment sections, just read the news articles and play some video games.



Zombie_Barioth said:

Age probably has something to do with it, but then again older gamers make up a bigger part of the consumer-base so chances are they're responsible for a good chunk of these coments too.

I think a lot of it is the assumption that since we're the ones paying for their games the companies should be catering to us, but taken to an extreme. The thing is they don't realize that what someone wants and what they say or think they want aren't the same thing.

Its kinda funny, a lot of the people complaining about 3D world not being Galaxy 3 also probably complain about NSMB.



Shworange said:

Chill out. I wasn't putting words in his mouth. I'm taking an active interest in the game. Don't try to stir up drama that otherwise wouldn't be there.



Senate_Guard said:

I respect everything the man has to go through in order to make the best possible game he can.

IMO It was a bad move to make both a SSB Community AND posting pics of the day; because all it does is bring in the whiners and beggers for "X character to join or return."

It just goes to show that the worst a company can do is fully listen to its fans. We'd probably have Goku and Patrick Star in the roster if Nintendo did.



Shworange said:

You really are being silly. Nothing I said was remotely disrespectful towards him. However instead of backing away from your ridiculous statement, you keep on backtracking and doing laps on your inane point.



rjejr said:

@ThomasBW84 - "Picking one line and questioning its presence outwith the context makes little sense,"

I think it makes sense to question the inclusion of a sentence if it doesn't fit w/ the rest of the paragraph. Example:

I took a walk to the store to buy milk. The milk cost $3,89 per gallon. Maybe it has one mechanic that isn't exactly as before, maybe Sonic's eyes have changed colour, or perhaps Super Mario 3D World has the audacity to not be Super Mario Galaxy 3. I ran home after buying the milk because it was a hot day and I didn't want the milk to spoil.

See, that sentence makes no sense now.

I get the part about changing Sonics eye colour - I'm a big DMC fan but haven't played the reboot yet - but people being upset about getting a linear multiplayer Mario game when they wanted Galaxy 3 seems to me a completely different issue that didn't belong here and you just added it in out of anger.

TBH I think it was your use of the word "audacity" that caught my attention as much as the - in my opinion - flawed comparison. It felt like you were taking an unnecessary dig at Nintendo fans because you could even if it weren't relevant. Which was surprising because you have always written very well, almost scholarly, way above and beyond what is expected on a blog, sticking to the facts and not letting your personal thoughts get involved (unless the piece is titled Opinion or Talking Point or something). Think I'll refrain from letting my own feelings get involved in the future and just stick to the facts.



rjejr said:

@element187 - I'm not going to respond to your response to me - my response to TW above exhausted that topic for me - but to your lengthy expose' on Nintendo fans. I figure if you can knowledgeably comment on 20 yr. old b/c you are in your 30's I can comment on you b/c I'm in my 40s.

You do realize you are doing the exact same thing they are, right? Nintendo gamers are complaining b/c they aren't getting the games they want, you are complaining about Nintendo gamers b/c they aren't giving the comments you want. The entire internet is filled w/ complainers, everybody complains about everything. Do you expect Nintendo gamers to be happy they aren't getting Metroid and Galaxy 3? Even if they were happy they wouldn't write about it. It's easy to complain on the internet b/c you don't have to worry about somebody physically hitting you - parent or bully or significant other - but it's pointless to write something positive b/c you don't get any positive feedback either. The entire internet is a giant primal scream chamber where we can release our disappointments and then go be happy in the real world playing the games we have. Granted, 20 somethings are entitled little SOBs who are never happy, but expecting to find an internet full of gratitude from them is as idealistic and unlikely as the gamers expecting Nintendo to make the games they want.

In short - gamers don't understand business, you don't understand them. Maybe when you're in your 40s.

PS - I'm betting that Alf means you have a sense of humour.



Henmii said:

He better gives us a little bit more characters then there where in Brawl!

Am I asking that much?! I get the feeling that the game will be smaller then Brawl! Brawl was gigantic, so it doesn't have to be a lot bigger! But if the game is a lot less, content-wise, that's very bad!!



Araknie said:

"Sakurai-san has often spoken about the demands of his work, but this gives some further insight into roster building and Smash Bros. development. Let us know what you think of these comments below."

NO! This was an heartfelt demand to be quiet for a little bit about the game, just look at some comments here, don't ditch a serious reflession (for once) like that.

I'm disappointed by NL, it had a perfect start and at the end you just like said "who cares? we want the game!" no...



bassoongoon said:

That sounds like an insane amount of pressure! I do not think I could ever handle something like that.



gamerphil07 said:

One day man, One day I'l be able to do what he does. When I am older, I want to be as creative, hard working, intelligent an fun as him. I WANT TO MAKE GAMES LIKE HIM!! Sakurai is the best!!

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